The Welfare Queens

Last night, I photographed the welfareQueens, a San Francisco project, at the office of Poor Magazine for Make/Shift. In their own words:

“Through intentional use of the highly problematic objectifying label/stereotype of ‘welfare queen’, originally coined by Ronald Reagan as an extremely derogatory reference to poor mothers who were receiving cash aid from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the welfare QUEENS project will re-contextualize the word and who it refers to in the framework of a post welfare reform, increasing stratified American society. This society makes it illegal to be poor; this society does not recognize, support or legitimize the “work” involved in raising children; and this society is quick to accuse poor mothers of the crime of being poor rather than recognize the heroism of their survival.

Through the creation of a play, movie, publication and education project of the same name, a group of mothers, daughters, sons and fathers who have survived, struggled and dealt with this ongoing oppression will tell their stories, enact their struggles and realize their dreams of survival, thrival and resistance.

The team of very low-income, poets, writers, and storytellers who are or have been on welfare, struggled as working poor, immigrant or homeless parents, sons or daughters, will write, co-direct and act in this play in an ensemble cast. The team is led by poverty justice organizer, poet, journalist, co-founder of POOR Magazine/PoorNewsNetwork, and author of the recently published memoir, Criminal of Poverty – Growing up Homeless in America, Lisa Gray-Garcia aka Tiny.”

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