Volume 8, No. 1 December 2020/January 2021
In this issue
  • Interview with essential worker Anna Green
  • Report on Illinois NOW conference
  • An appreciation of Florynce (Flo) Kennedy
Meet Anna Green: Child Care Educator and Activist

by Jackie Kirley
“I am sometimes called a ‘child whisperer’.” So said Anna Marie Green, a child care educator who this April will have worked in child care for 21 years. Anna has an uncanny ability to discern why a child is crying. Her charges at the Howard Area Family Center in Rogers Park range in age from 6 weeks to 3 years. She remains with a single group of 8 infants and toddlers until they age out of the program and then begins with a new group. Groups remain intact; it is rare for a child to leave before age 3. “Continuity of care” describes her philosophy as well as the Center’s. 

Previously, Anna worked with infants from 6 weeks to 16 months at the Ada S. McKinley Center at 79th and Western. She remained for 16 years until the center closed in 2013. Earlier she did a brief internship at another center but rejected it because the ratio of children to teachers was too high, something that Anna says means the center does not value the educator. 

Anna earned an A.A.S. in Child Development at Olive Harvey College. Her intention had been to study business but she took some child development courses (“It was fate.”) and she changed her major. She continues to take courses, mostly at the City Colleges, to keep up with the field. The courses can also qualify for the 15 hours of training per year mandated by the State of Illinois. Presumably some of these course credits could be applied to a bachelor’s degree. 

After the McKinley Center closed, she experienced a terrible year, at times even having trouble putting food on the table. Then she found her current job at the Howard Area Family Center that is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). [In 2018, less than 10% of child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens achieved this recognition.] “It means quality,” Anna says. The Center maintains a 4 to 1 student to teacher ratio and also has Family Support Workers who work with the families.

As head teacher, in addition to caring for children, Anna leads the other adults in creating a working team that can function as a unit. The work load is heavy. In addition to attending to the children, the staff has extensive paperwork to complete: writing a plan for the next day’s activities, taking attendance, recording each child’s activities. She also consults parents in their homes or virtually. As head teacher it is her responsibility to maintain the 4 to 1 ratio in case another staff member has to leave early. Anna’s work day stretches from 7:30am to 4:30pm however it’s a rare day that she can actually leave by 4:30.

Her pay? Initially, she earned $7.16 per hour; then for 5 to 6 years, it increased to $9.00 per hour. After that, between $10 and $11 per hour and most recently $12 per hour. I exclaimed, “You don’t even make $15 per hour!” With hands out and shoulders hunched (we were on Zoom), she responded, “After all these years!” Her job does have health care and dental insurance; a certain amount is deducted from her check for her part in paying for it. 

What are the major problems in child care work? Child care workers are not paid fairly. They are constantly working with short ratios. There should be at least 3 teachers in a classroom but usually there are only 2 and an assistant. They don’t have adequate time for paperwork, and there is no tuition reimbursement for child care educators to continue their formal education. “Is there a lot of turnover?”  “Yes! In the last 30 days we’ve lost at least 6 people.”  

If Anna could wave a magic wand, salaries would start at $30,000 to $35,000. There would be at least 3 adults in every class with a 4th person to facilitate when extra support was needed. 

Centers would have a designated break room so that teachers and others could gather with food because it enhances people’s enjoyment. “It brings joy.” Child care would be free from birth to age 5 so that parents would not have to worry about juggling co-payments with car notes and mortgages, and finally, every parent would take 3 – 4 child development courses so they could understand a child’s needs.

Anna’s presence, energy, and enthusiasm has meant that she’s been tapped to work – unpaid – with two other organizations, her union, SEIU (Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Indiana Illinois Missouri/Kansas) and United Working Families. When SEIU was trying to organize Ada S. McKinley, she was appointed as a steward to negotiate with management, a position involving some risk – a risk she accepted. Her only daughter was grown and self-sufficient and Anna felt she herself could recover if she lost her job. She has had 3 internships with the union and worked, for example, on the Fight for $15. United Working Families trained her in grass-roots work supporting endorsed candidates. She has campaigned going door-to-door, attending meetings and speaking to community members about why the endorsed candidate is appropriate for the job.

Interviewing her, one senses her passion for the work she does. Twice during our interviews, Anna exclaimed, “Everything I do I love!”  Would that our society showed its appreciation more.

Unleashing Our Future: A Feminist Vision For a More Just World 

by Sue Straus
This was the theme of the November 21st, 2020 Illinois State National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference that I attended virtually. The upheaval this year prompted by the COVID pandemic has highlighted profound income inequality. At the same time, events pointing to the systematic racism prevalent around the world took place (New Zealand to the United states had incidents of injury and death of unarmed minority people carried out by their local police). Additionally, the events leading up to the United States election and since show us that we are at the crossroads of deciding whether we will have a world in which human equality is fostered or repressed. To decide on how to make life better, we need to examine where our official government policy has taken us, and how to commit to improving such policy and/or taking action personally. 

To welcome the participants of the conference Illinois State NOW president, Laura Greene Welch stated, “We recognize that Illinois sits on the site where 11 Indigenous nations once resided." (November was Native American Heritage Month.) Although Illinois has no reservations, Chicago holds the 3rd largest urban population of Native Americans in the U. S. To find your area’s Indigenous nations’ heritage, go to www.native-land.ca.

Workshop I: “Inequalities that COVID has laid bare”. Facilitator—Becky Powers, president of Chicago NOW, and Spinal Cord Injury Coordinator and the LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator at Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Speakers: U. S. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D - 14); Wendy Pollack, Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Linda Rivas, Las Americas Immigrants Advisory Center; and Kimberly Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

  • Underwood stated that in the next Congress her priority is to focus on the improvement of the health of women and children (she spoke of the high death rate of babies and mothers in the U. S.).

  • Pollack stated that her organization will continue to focus on employment issues women face (pay equity, the service and essential workers where women are the large percentage of workers in these jobs).

  • Rivas’s organization based in El Paso, Texas will continue to work with the coalition that has come into existence for immigration rights, health issues for immigrants and refugees, DACA, and to stop the separation of families.

  • Wasserman’s organization will also work in a coalition looking to end profits over people’s health in her community. She urged us to protest warehouses being built in the poor communities which have caused poor air quality due to the number of trucks coming into the neighborhood.  This issue has caused health concerns, and as COVID is a respiratory disease, contributes to the higher mortality rate in poorer communities.

Keynote Speaker—National NOW Vice-president, Bear Atwood, who is also a civil rights lawyer in Jackson, Mississippi, spoke on the upheaval of leadership within National NOW and the resignation of former President, Toni Van Pelt.  Atwood further explained that Christian Nunes then became President of National NOW after having previously served as Vice-president. She also spoke of a training session and how the staff is functioning under COVID-caused restrictions. Atwood’s vision for the Biden/Harris era revolves around 1. Ending the Global Gag Rule. 2. Demand that the ERA’s ratification by Virginia be officially recorded and recognized as the 28th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. 3. Restoration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Workshop II: “Election 2020, Now What?”
Facilitator—Paloma Delgadillo, Chapter Development VP - Illinois NOW, an analytical team head at Edison Software Development, and a member of the National NOW Racial Justice Task Force. Speakers: U. S. Congresswomen - elect, Marie Newman (D - 3); Robin Dusek, She Votes Illinois; and Michelle Hernandez, ACLU of Illinois.

  • Delgadillo and Dusek spoke on the need for education of voters regarding registration requirements in their area, all positions being voted on from the down ballot positions such as judges, local commissions and propositions.

  • Newman pointed out the inequities that Gerrymandered districts create, other forms of suppression of voting rights. She also hopes to form alliances across the aisle in Congress.

  • Hernandez emphasized the importance of working in a coalition over issues on the local level,leading to specific proposals to bring to the table of power.

Besides these issues the conference also had entertainment from one of the winners of the Young Feminist Award handed out this year, poet Yahtzani “Zani” Gonzalez, and a book discussion of “Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot” (2020) by Mikki Kendall which was facilitated by Nabilah Talib, Director, Educator and Training at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.
Florynce Kennedy: Black Feminist, Activist and Attorney
by Helen Ramirez-Odell

Florynce Kennedy was born in 1916 and died on December 21, 2000. Her father was a Pullman porter and her parents taught her to challenge white supremacy. She became one of the few Black women lawyers in the 1950s, became an early member of the National Organization for Women which was founded in 1966, and helped to repeal New York’s restrictive abortion laws.

Flo was active in Chicago when she participated in the first National Conference for New Politics at the Palmer House in 1967. Her feminism was closely related to the Black power struggle to end white supremacy, and she was acutely aware of the sexism of male Black power advocates and the racism of white feminists. In the 1960s Black power radicals saw women as auxiliary to the Black power movement and many of the men regarded feminism as divisive. Flo believed racism and sexism in American society were inextricably intertwined and the alliance of feminists and Black power advocates would be a strong force in ending oppression. She fought hard for women and challenged racism in white feminist organizations and advocated ending all forms of oppression. She left NOW in 1968 when she became outraged at its leadership for not supporting progressive goals considered radical at that time. Flo became a founding member of the National Black Feminist Organization in the early 70s.

Flo was often pictured wearing a cowboy hat and was known for her strong language. Early in her career she remarked “Here I am a woman attorney being told I can’t practice law in slacks by a judge dressed in drag.” She said that “racism will always be worse than sexism until we find feminists shot in bed like Mark Clark and Fred Hampton (Black Panthers).” She often quoted  Mother Jones: “Don’t agonize – organize!”

Sherie M. Randolph is the author of “Flo Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical” and called her a bridge to other organizers.
Working Women's History Project

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