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it’s very frustrating being a girl and trying to flirt with other girls like. you tell them, ur cute. ‘Aw thank you’ no. no i’m being gay with you. homo intended. damn it
Survival. That’s why we had to go on welfare. And that’s why we can’t get off welfare now. Not us women. Not until we do something about liberating poor women in this country.
Because up until now we’ve been raised to expect to work, all our lives, for nothing. Because we are the worst educated, the least-skilled, and the lowest-paid people there are. Because we have to be almost totally responsible for our children. Because we are regarded by everybody as dependents. That’s why we are on welfare. And that’s why we stay on it.
Welfare is the most prejudiced institution in this country, even more than marriage, which it tries to imitate. Let me explain that a little.
Ninety-nine percent of welfare families are headed by women. There is no man around. In half the states there can’t be men around because A.F.D.C. (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) says if there is an “able-bodied” man around, then you can’t be on welfare. If the kids are going to eat, and the man can’t get a job, then he’s got to go.
Welfare is like a super-sexist marriage. You trade in a man for the man. But you can’t divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants. But in that case, he keeps the kids, not you.The man runs everything. In ordinary marriage, sex is supposed to be for your husband. On A.F.D.C., you’re not supposed to have any sex at all. You give up control of your own body. It’s a condition of aid. You may even have to agree to get your tubes tied so you can never have more children just to avoid being cut off welfare.
The man, the welfare system, controls your money. He tells you what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost. If things—rent, for instance—really cost more than he says they do, it’s just too bad for you. He’s always right.
—Johnnie Tillmon, excerpt from “Welfare Is A Women’s Issue" (1972)
"I believe in rhetoric to a certain extent. But you can only rhetoricize so long and then you have to deal with the fact. Now, I can do as much rhetoricizing as the next person. But sometimes I had to start a mess to get to the facts.”
—Johnnie Tillmon, in her interview with Brian Lanker, for his portrait of her in I Dream A World (1972)
“I politely took off my coat, handed my bag to my attorney, and went and had me a fist city on that man’s head. He didn’t hit me back or nothin’, but he ran. Never had been called that by a white person out of all the thirty-five years I lived in Little Rock and Arkansas. But many years ago I had decided that’s what I was going to do.”
—Johnnie Tillmon, on the first time she was called n*****, in Brian Lanker’s I Dream A World (1972)
johnnie tillmon was founding chair (and, by 1972, director) of the national welfare rights organization. tillmon lived in watts, for a majority of her life, while traveling to nearly a thousand cities, bringing dignity to social and political change.
image credit: daily kos. read more on tillmon there.
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