2018 - Ongoing
New York City, New York, United States; Massachusetts, United States
My parents fell in love while planning a 60,000-person demonstration in 1976. Their friends joked that it would never last––my mom was a Marxist, my dad an Anarcho-Communist–but they’ve been married for 40 years. The story of their activism is the story of me.
My project describes the legacy of their participation in radical leftist groups like Weatherman, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and the Native American Solidarity Committee, seeking to overthrow imperialism through organizing and revolution.
In this time of renewed social uprising we look to earlier movements for insight. What does this history mean now? What is to be done? This project is a universal narrative of familial reckoning and an unusual story about the pressures, hypocrisy and hope of a radical upbringing.
These photographs of my parents’ archive, snapshots and lives depict activism and family life from an intimate distance. They explain a cultural history and what it meant to grow up inside it.
Activism was all around me growing up: war tax resisters, Take Back the Night rallies, anti-nuke marches, anti-Apartheid bumper stickers. I wasn’t allowed a Barbie; my brother was. Peaches and Cream: peach chiffon skirt; sparkly iridescent top; big, sexist breasts.
Our family unit was its own political movement, culture and belief system. “Each according to their need; each according to their ability,” my mom wrote beautifully and taped above our door. Adapted to be non-sexist, Marx’s words were even applied to family arguments.
My parents’ way left no room for anything else. Their utopian dreams of Marxist-Leninism, feminist rigor and fairness are compelling but intensely rigid.
I needed to figure out how to be my own person and my own activist, taking what I’ve learned but introducing flexibility. It’s the challenge we all face: raising the next generation according to our beliefs, but leaving room for them to form their own.
Raised to be vigilant and emotionally astute, I became a photographer. Here I put this watching to use: commenting on my upbringing, I replicate the beauty in my family and dispose of what I do not need.
50 years after the founding of Weatherman, my father is proud of his history, but not uncritical: “I believe that my work then was important and helped to save lives. But my tactics were, at best, arrogant, and at worst, very destructive.” This past moves me even as it feels oppressive. How could anyone live up to these expectations? Do I want to? Which parts will I keep, and what will I discard?
This heritage is critical now, as the working lives of this complicated generation come to a close amidst massive societal upheaval. My parents have navigated hard times before. What did their actions mean for society and for me? What can we learn from them?