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July 6, 2022

Back to Work: Examining Labor Narratives During Welfare Reform & the Pandemic

Welfare reform in the 90’s and the recent pandemic may seem like radically different moments in history but they share a few things in common, namely back to work labor narratives that:

  • are overly reliant on frameworks of personal responsibility
  • prioritize work over health and wellbeing
  • perpetuate policies, practices, and beliefs that are racist, sexist, classist, and ableist

Tune in to hear from three brilliant guests sharing their stories and expertise on:

  • the history and impact of welfare reform in the 90’s
  • navigating return to work during the pandemic
  • the medicine and wisdom of disability justice in imagining new ways to work and live


Sydnie Mosley is an artist-activist and educator who works with communities to organize for gender and racial justice through experiential dance performance with her dance-theater collective Sydnie L. Mosley Dances. She wrote an article in Dance Magazine entitled "I Have No Desire to Produce a Performance, Live or Livestreamed, Until the Pandemic Is Over. I’ll Wait." Listen to her full interview on Patreon (running time: 01:32:43)

Diana Romero is an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Social Sciences and director of the Maternal, Child, Reproductive and Sexual Health specialization (MCRSH) at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in New York City. Listen to her full interview on Patreon (running time: 01:29:51)

Nikki Brown-Booker is the Program Officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. As a person with a disability and a biracial woman, she has devoted her work to advancing rights at the intersection of disability justice and racial justice. Listen to her full interview on Patreon (running time: 00:56:24)

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Creator, Host and HBIC: Taja Lindley

Audio Engineering by Lilah Larson

Music by Emma Alabaster who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer

Additional Music Production by Chip Belton

Vocals by Patience Sings

Mixing and Mastering by Chip Belton

Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster

Logo and Graphic Design Templates by Homegirl HQ

This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustle and supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project

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Producer’s Note: The Black Women's Dept. of Labor is produced as a podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of transcription software and human transcribers, and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting by contacting us.

[00:00:00] Patience Sings: My labor's the foundation. Life at the intersections. I am my own creation. I do not dream of work.

[00:00:20] Sydnie Mosley: At the top of 2020 people were scared. 

[00:00:22] Nikki Brown-Booker: Health and wellness needs to be prioritized.

[00:00:25] Diana Romero: They would still be expected to work irrespective of the state of their health.

[00:00:28] Nikki Brown-Booker: People with disabilities have been saying, why aren't people allowed to work at home?

[00:00:35] Patience Sings: Black women the foundation. Life at the intersections. Source of divine creations. Now listen, now converse.

[00:00:49] Sydnie Mosley: I do not believe in whatever this return to work or return to normalcy is. 

[00:00:55] Diana Romero: A federal program about addressing poverty, but did not have any poverty goals.

[00:01:02] Nikki Brown-Booker: Every body is valuable. 

[00:01:03] Patience Sings: Using our labor for more than wages. Our bliss our rage, they're both contagious. Beyond the grind. We move through time. Joy is the compass we live in our purpose. Telling our own stories, birthing new possibilities.

[00:01:30] Taja Lindley: You are listening to the Black Women's Dept. of Labor, a project and podcast by yours truly, Taja Lindley, where we examine the intersections of race, gender, and the double entendre of labor to work and to give birth. 

[00:01:43] Taja Lindley: All right y'all! It's officially my birth month! And like I mentioned, in the last episode, it's also the two year anniversary of the podcast. To celebrate we're taking a quick break from production and we'll return with the final few episodes of the season in August. And honestly, after the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, this period of rest feels right on time. 

[00:02:05] Taja Lindley: In the words of the poet, Lucille Clifton, "won't you celebrate with me what I have shaped into a kind of life?" And by celebrate, I'm talking about supporting this podcast. 

[00:02:15] Taja Lindley: This project is made possible by listeners like you. Your listenership and your donations, keep this work going. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you for taking time to listen to this labor of love. 

[00:02:28] Taja Lindley: Thank you for subscribing to this show on your favorite podcast platform.

[00:02:32] Taja Lindley: Thank you to everyone who has donated to the podcast. 

[00:02:35] Taja Lindley: Thank you to everyone who has signed up for our newsletter and follows us on social media. 

[00:02:39] Taja Lindley: Thank you for recommending and sharing this podcast with your friends, communities, and colleagues. 

[00:02:45] Taja Lindley: Thank you for purchasing the podcast music.

[00:02:47] Taja Lindley: Your support is deeply appreciated and I'm so humbled and moved by the folks who continue to tune in and help keep this work going. 

[00:02:56] Taja Lindley: If you're new to this podcast, please consider joining our growing community of supporters. You can choose any of the monetary and non-monetary ways that I just mentioned. 

[00:03:05] Taja Lindley: Now, in this episode, we're reflecting on back to work labor narratives, namely examining the parallels between welfare reform in the nineties and the recent rush to reopen during the pandemic. 

[00:03:17] Taja Lindley: These may seem like radically different moments in history, but they have a few things in common, like being overly reliant on frameworks of personal responsibility, prioritizing work over health and wellbeing, and perpetuating narratives that are racist, sexist, classist, and ableist. 

[00:03:33] Taja Lindley: Towards the end of this episode, we'll consider the medicine and wisdom that disability justice has to offer us as we imagine new and equitable futures for us to live into. 

[00:03:48] Taja Lindley: Meet Diana Romero: an Associate Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in New York City. 

[00:03:55] Taja Lindley: Professor Romero is a Puerto Rican native New Yorker, and it was her experiences of poverty and discrimination that led her to study public health. And it was during her studies that it became clear that welfare reform would be a big part of her work. 

[00:04:08] Diana Romero: I was a graduate student in public health. I was very interested in disparities. And maybe that term wasn't even as popular or common as it is today. But I was really interested in how certain groups and particularly those who are lower income and poor suffer disproportionately when it comes to health problems. 

[00:04:27] Diana Romero: As a graduate student, working on my doctoral studies and experiencing these dramatic changes in welfare policy, I think that's, you know, when I, I realized that this was a field that I wanted to continue to study.

[00:04:41] Taja Lindley: So what is welfare? Well, there are a few ways to answer that question. 

[00:04:45] Taja Lindley: What usually comes to mind when people hear the word "welfare" are food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Unemployment insurance. WIC. Disability benefits. And Social Security or SSI. 

[00:04:59] Taja Lindley: These programs come with varying degrees of stigma and empathy, largely driven by who is imagined to have those benefits. 

[00:05:07] Taja Lindley: When we're talking about welfare, we could also be referring to corporate welfare, namely the grants, tax breaks, or other special treatment that corporations receive. This kind of welfare is not nearly as stigmatized as the welfare given to poor, low income and disabled folks. 

[00:05:22] Taja Lindley: For the purposes of this episode, when we're talking about welfare, we're referring to cash assistance for people in poverty. 

[00:05:29] Taja Lindley: This public benefit has an interesting history in the U.S. and I asked Professor Romero to give us a quick history lesson. 

[00:05:36] Diana Romero: When Roosevelt was President in the 1930s, some landmark legislation, the Social Security Act in 1935 was passed. And that was really the first real establishment of welfare benefits for the poor in this country. 

[00:05:52] Diana Romero: Prior to that, it was sort of charitable support you know, a hodgepodge system across the country in different states and communities. So 1935 you had the Social Security Act and that established ADC or Aid to Dependent Children. That was part of the New Deal. Roosevelt's New Deal.

[00:06:10] Diana Romero: The key thing there, it was about helping children dealing with poverty.

[00:06:15] Diana Romero: Fast forward to the 1960s under President Johnson and the Great Society, uh, initiative that he had, he also had the war on poverty.

[00:06:24] Diana Romero: So there you had the first significant change to welfare in this country. And the significant piece for me is that it went from Aid to Dependent Children to AFDC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. So there, there was a recognition that children don't live by themselves, that they are in a larger context of family. And so it allowed for, you know, support for them in a family setting. And it resulted in an increase in funding and more coverage of people living in poverty, more provision of benefits to people living in poverty. 

[00:06:59] Diana Romero: But then you had by the eighties, Reagan came in and it was pretty much sort of winding things back. So a retrenchment, a demonization of people who needed welfare support. The stereotypical comment that he would make around "welfare queens." 

[00:07:15] Taja Lindley: During his presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan popularized the concept of a quote unquote welfare queen: a derogatory term used in the United States to refer to women who allegedly misused or collected excessive welfare payments through fraud, child endangerment or manipulation. 

[00:07:32] Taja Lindley: Essentially, the welfare queen was imagined to be a Black mother who was cheating taxpayers out of their money to irresponsibly spend it on herself. A mother who did not care for her children and instead got pregnant for the purposes of increasing amounts of public assistance. 

[00:07:47] Taja Lindley: This is a gross misrepresentation of Black women and of people on welfare. 

[00:07:52] Diana Romero: And so that began the retrenchment of welfare funding, which brought us then into the mid 90s when, uh, welfare reform under Clinton took place. Over 60 years after its institution, it was really wound back dramatically starting in the mid 1990s up to the present day.

[00:08:13] Diana Romero: From the time when welfare was first established, it was pretty much a federal program. So there was a basic set of requirements and expectations and eligibility, and that applied pretty much for all of the states. 

[00:08:28] Diana Romero: When welfare reform in the mid 1990s was passed, uh, the program that was put in place and replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children was TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

[00:08:40] Diana Romero: There were a couple of key provisions of that. 

[00:08:43] Diana Romero: Firstly, that it's temporary and that the approach taken was sort of one of federalism. It was a devolution from the federal government down to the states. 

[00:08:55] Diana Romero: And what essentially that meant was that it was no longer states would receive funds from the federal government as needed over the course of a fiscal year, for example. But instead TANF dollars were distributed to states in block grants, annual block grants, and when the money was up, the money was up. 

[00:09:14] Diana Romero: So it was up to each state to manage the block grant that they got and they got a lot more leverage and autonomy in how they administered the programs. And they were even able to institute a lot of their own rules and policies separate from what the federal government required.

[00:09:34] Diana Romero: Essentially, the federal government was requiring very few key requirements, the main one having to do with work participation, but for the most part states could now require, implement and distribute funds in a wide range of ways unlike ever before. And so we pretty much had more than 50 different welfare programs in the country.

[00:09:58] Taja Lindley: You're going to be hearing the acronym TANF a lot, which again stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. So when we talk about welfare reform and the cash assistance grants that people get today, we're talking about TANF. 

[00:10:11] Taja Lindley: And remember, welfare reform abolished the federal entitlement to cash assistance. Like Professor Romero said, the key word is temporary. The creation of TANF came with time limits for how long people could receive cash assistance, which means it was more concerned with how long people use the benefit and less concerned with providing benefits for people's needs. 

[00:10:32] Taja Lindley: Shifting to a block grant didn't help matters either because the amount given to the states was a fixed amount of money instead of providing federal funds that matched the states' needs. 

[00:10:42] Taja Lindley: Welfare reform is also rooted in an assumption that people can and should earn a living through their wages. We'll talk more in a bit about the emphasis on work and why this is a problematic and ableist approach. 

[00:10:54] Taja Lindley: But before we do, let's get into who actually uses welfare. 

[00:10:58] Diana Romero: Historically, participation has been largely driven by women or female participation.

[00:11:06] Diana Romero: The first programs were only eligible to families that had children and they were designed to help mothers who either were parenting single or had been widowed. And so by and large, the programs were very much skewed toward female participation. 

[00:11:23] Diana Romero: The last round of changes, which were in the mid 1990s welfare reform, did allow for couples to apply for and potentially be eligible for cash assistance in TANF. 

[00:11:38] Taja Lindley: So, depending on how we count people, we get different pictures of who is on cash assistance. We can look at the head or heads of household only, or everyone in the family, including children. By and large, the head of households tend to be people who identify as women. 

[00:11:52] Diana Romero: As far as health is concerned, there have been many studies that have shown that individuals participating in welfare programs tend to have a disproportionate burden of disease and health problems and relatively poor health. This tends not to be data that is collected nationally.

[00:12:12] Taja Lindley: Because this is not data that is collected across all states in a uniform way, we can't get into the finer details about the intersections between health and welfare, though there are researchers who do studies that help to paint the picture. 

[00:12:25] Taja Lindley: If we look at race, the data of who uses cash assistance is different than the Black welfare queen that President Reagan proliferated and burned into the American imagination. 

[00:12:35] Diana Romero: In raw numbers, people who identify as white have continued to be the larger proportion of recipients of cash assistance. 

[00:12:43] Diana Romero: Proportionate to population, it is different. So there tended to be disproportionally more individuals who identify as Black and Latino receiving cash assistance relative to their representation in the country. 

[00:12:59] Diana Romero: You know, there's two realities there. One is that people of color still represent a minority of those benefiting from these programs. But at the same time we need the programs more for, you know, a whole host of issues around structural racism and economic opportunity.

[00:13:18] Taja Lindley: So let's recap because I want to make sure everyone gets this. 

[00:13:21] Taja Lindley: Most people on welfare are white. 

[00:13:24] Taja Lindley: But when we break down the percentages of people on welfare based on race. And then we compare that to the percentage of people of each race in the U.S., the percentages are not the same. 

[00:13:34] Taja Lindley: So for example, if Black folks make up less than 15% of the American population, but more than 15% of people on welfare are Black, that is the disproportionate representation Professor Romero is talking about. 

[00:13:47] Taja Lindley: And this is why welfare programs are an important issue for this podcast. 

[00:13:51] Taja Lindley: So even though most people on welfare are white, the stakes of welfare are different based on race. And here is why. 

[00:13:58] Diana Romero: At its highest point, we were at slightly over 5 million families receiving cash assistance in the mid 1990s around 1994. And as of just a couple of years ago, I think the data were from 2018 or 2019, we had 1.1 million families. So, you know, as you can see right there, it's dropped by about 80%. The caseload has gone dramatically down.

[00:14:21] Diana Romero: That's not to say that we've pretty much eradicated poverty. That's to say that the policies that were implemented, there were, uh, strong incentives to reducing the caseload. 

[00:14:33] Diana Romero: Let me go back to like 1995 when welfare reform was implemented. About 6% of the white population were receiving cash assistance. If you fast forward to about 2010 you had about 4% of white individuals receiving cash assistance. So it dropped down from about 6% to 4%. 

[00:14:53] Diana Romero: But when you look at the Black population, it went down from about 27% to 13%. 

[00:14:59] Diana Romero: So what you see is that the percentage of the white population receiving cash assistance dropped by about a third, whereas the percentage of, uh, the Black population receiving cash assistance dropped by about half.

[00:15:12] Diana Romero: So either more individuals who identify as Black no longer were in poverty or no longer able to receive cash assistance. 

[00:15:23] Diana Romero: It begged the question: did people miraculously escape poverty and all of a sudden have increases in their income or was something else going on? And certainly the economic data did not support this amazing emergence from poverty, but more so associated with this whole host of really draconian policies and requirements that were incorporated into welfare legislation.

[00:15:45] Taja Lindley: Before we get into some of the policies, let's talk about the spirit and the intention of welfare reform in the mid 1990s. 

[00:15:51] Diana Romero: The preamble to the welfare legislation has four elements to it that if you read it without knowing it was in the welfare legislation, you would think that this is sort of the mission of a religious institution, because it really highlighted the importance of two parent families, implied in that as heterosexual families, and that as they called it "out of wedlock" births should be avoided at all costs. And that it is the responsibility of adults to be able to work and to be able to support and take care of their own families. And that is how this legislation begins. 

[00:16:28] Diana Romero: You know, millions and millions of federal dollars and state dollars were used to counsel poor young people on you know how to avoid childbearing if you're single and poor and receiving cash assistance, on getting married and how to have successful marriages, heterosexual marriages in which children could be raised.

[00:16:53] Diana Romero: Again, sort of all feeds into this somewhat extensive set of contradictory policies in a program in a federal program that is ostensibly about addressing poverty, but did not have any poverty goals.

[00:17:10] Taja Lindley: So welfare reform in the 90s created TANF, a program more concerned about behavior modification, namely marriage promotion, reducing out of wedlock childbearing, and getting people to work, instead of tackling the structural and systemic causes of poverty. 

[00:17:25] Taja Lindley: This is a double entendre of labor moment where the government is surveilling and creating policy around work and birth. 

[00:17:31] Taja Lindley: It was able to do this because it centered the framework of personal responsibility. 

[00:17:35] Diana Romero: The concept of responsibility among the poor was front and center when it came to welfare reform in the mid 1990s. In fact, the legislation itself is named the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, affectionately known as PRWORA. 

[00:17:56] Diana Romero: The words "responsibility" and "work" appeared in some form, some combination in probably every one of the 50 states, including DC 51, programs, across the country.

[00:18:09] Diana Romero: The philosophy or the ethos behind the legislation was that it is everyone's responsibility to support themselves and that the government would only go so far in helping people to help themselves. And work was considered the foundation of that. 

[00:18:27] Diana Romero: Among the few requirements that the federal government required from states were certain levels of participation in work activities that anyone receiving TANF in any of the states needed to comply with. And so states had to report, to this day, still have to report to the federal government their work participation rates among their caseload. 

[00:18:48] Diana Romero: But philosophically this notion of responsibility ran very deep. Not just around work, but around other aspects of the lives of poor people, sad to say. 

[00:19:01] Diana Romero: So for example, work requirements were called "workfare" but you also had other requirements. Some had to do with the care of school-aged children. If, um, recipients of TANF might've had to demonstrate that they had taken their children for a well-child visits. That their vaccinations were up to date. 

[00:19:24] Diana Romero: And if they were not able to demonstrate that, they would be sanctioned and lose some or all of their cash assistance for a designated period of time, until they, you know, remedied that situation. 

[00:19:38] Diana Romero: What that didn't take into account was that the work requirements were such that oftentimes these parents had to report to work sites in order to be compliant and be able to continue to receive their cash assistance.

[00:19:53] Diana Romero: But these were not- they were not recognized as real jobs. They did not come with benefits like paid time off or sick leave much less time off to take children to a doctor's visit. 

[00:20:04] Diana Romero: So in complying with one requirement like the work requirement or workfare, they may not have been able to comply with another requirement, which is being able to, either take their kids or at least document, show documentation that they were keeping up with health requirements for their children.

[00:20:23] Taja Lindley: So when federal welfare reform in the 90s abolished the entitlement to welfare, it created these work for your benefit requirements. This was rooted in a false assumption and enraging stereotype that people are poor simply because they don't want to work. 

[00:20:39] Taja Lindley: And this is also rooted in a false assumption that people are poor because of their irresponsible childbearing. We'll get to that piece in a moment. 

[00:20:47] Taja Lindley: And it's worth noting here, too, that some of these quote unquote jobs were union jobs. 

[00:20:52] Taja Lindley: My first full-time job was working as a Policy and Research Fellow with Community Voices Heard, a membership led New York based organization doing grassroots economic justice work. My policy research supported the welfare campaign.

[00:21:04] Taja Lindley: CVH was able to build alliances with local unions because workfare workers, meaning people who work in exchange for their welfare benefits, were working alongside union workers in the parks and the subway. They were doing unionized jobs without the pay, benefits, and representation that comes with unions, AKA labor exploitation. 

[00:21:23] Taja Lindley: To add insult to injury, workfare was not a pipeline to permanent employment. Workfare was not something you could put on your resume and the places that hired workfare workers were not necessarily interested in hiring them full time. 

[00:21:36] Taja Lindley: So under the guise of putting poor people to work, these work requirements were more punitive than helpful. Meaning these work requirements were designed as a consequence for asking the state for help. It's as if workfare was designed to punish poor people for being poor, which is aligned with the ethos of welfare reform, namely personal responsibility. 

[00:21:55] Taja Lindley: The personal responsibility framework falls short because it fails to grapple with social responsibility, namely accounting for and remedying the structural and systemic inequity that makes poverty possible. 

[00:22:07] Taja Lindley: Now, let's get more into the weeds of these work requirements. 

[00:22:10] Diana Romero: And when I say work requirements, it started at about 20 hours per month and continued to be increased over time so that I think in most cases it was about 80 hours per month or 20 hours per week.

[00:22:24] Diana Romero: And oftentimes it was reported by advocates in different states that there were ongoing battles to try to get exemptions from work participation for various health related circumstances. 

[00:22:38] Diana Romero: Getting exemptions from work requirements has been very difficult. After conducting a fairly extensive study around women's experiences in welfare particularly in families where there were children with chronic health conditions, so essentially mothers of children with chronic health conditions who were participating in welfare or at least eligible for welfare. And we found sort of significant impact of their responsibilities around taking care of their children that had chronic health problems in terms of their being able to also comply with work requirements.

[00:23:16] Diana Romero: Now, at the same time, we found that they themselves as mothers who were eligible for cash assistance, so by definition poor, that they themselves had relatively higher rates of a whole host of health issues, not only chronic health issues, like, you know, hypertension, asthma but also mental health as well as exposure to intimate partner violence or other forms of violence.

[00:23:40] Taja Lindley: I want to make sure you caught that: the number of hours for work requirements have increased over time. 

[00:23:46] Taja Lindley: From the start, it was clear that monthly cash benefits were below the federal minimum wage. Increasing the number of hours for workfare did not change this. Additionally, there are other requirements and demands that people on welfare have to comply with. But getting time off to meet those other requirements is challenging and damn near impossible. 

[00:24:07] Taja Lindley: To add fuel to this trash fire, people with health conditions as well as parents of children with health conditions, had to choose between their health needs and compliance with work requirements. Let that sink in. 

[00:24:18] Taja Lindley: Surely, given this conundrum, federal legislators would have some compassion and make some changes to their policy, right? 

[00:24:26] Taja Lindley: Wrong.

[00:24:27] Diana Romero: When we tried to bring these findings to Congress, one of our goals was to present our data so that maybe they can be used to inform exemptions from work-related requirements. 

[00:24:40] Diana Romero: The folks we were working with were not at all optimistic that making the case for poor women's health as an exemption from work would at all be successful. 

[00:24:53] Diana Romero: Essentially, poor single mothers were not a sympathetic case and probably underpinning that is the disproportionate representation of women of color in the welfare context.

[00:25:07] Diana Romero: So we couldn't go forward with trying to advocate for changes to the work participation policies on the basis of the women themselves and their health. But what we were able to do was make a case for their role as the mothers of children with health problems. 

[00:25:25] Diana Romero: So instead what the, uh, policymakers felt was that we could try to advocate for the fact that these mothers had to take care of children with chronic health conditions. The ask was that maybe that could be an exemption from a work requirement and their care of their child could be viewed as complying with work.

[00:25:47] Diana Romero: So, you know, on the one hand the health of children could at least be viewed as a justifiable reason why their mothers might not be expected to work outside of the home and might be allowed to work in the home, taking care of their child.

[00:26:05] Diana Romero: But their own health, the health of the women themselves, wasn't viewed as being potentially successful in allowing them to get some modification to their work participation. They would still be expected to work irrespective of the, the state of their health, essentially.

[00:26:22] Taja Lindley: Federal welfare's concerns about responsibility did not acknowledge or take into account the labor of parenting, the labor of caring for one's health and wellbeing and that of their child. We can see that same sentiment reflected in other policy and practices beyond welfare, including the pandemic back to work labor narratives that we'll get into in a bit. 

[00:26:43] Taja Lindley: And it's worth noting that this lack of care, concern and compassion for poor people's health also apply to the experiences of people who just gave birth. 

[00:26:51] Diana Romero: One of the really egregious aspects of the work requirements in welfare reform has been the requirements by some states that women who have recently given birth return to work or workfare in very, very short periods of time.

[00:27:11] Diana Romero: We came across states that required a return to workfare participation in as little as four or six weeks postpartum. And the, further insult there was that one of the other kinds of jobs that workfare participants were likely sort of slotted into, in addition to ones that I mentioned around sort of municipal jobs, like cleaning parks and subways and the like, another big category of workfare job placements were in childcare.

[00:27:44] Diana Romero: So you actually had, once again, this incredible contradiction in that a new mother of a newborn barely a month or month and a half old would now be required to leave care of her own child, report back to her workfare placement, which in some cases could have very likely have been in a childcare setting, taking care of other people's children.

[00:28:07] Taja Lindley: This sounds very familiar. Leaving your children to take care of other people's kids under threat of economic violence. Sounds parallel to conditions under slavery if you ask me. In fact, members and leaders of the Community Voices Heard welfare campaign refer to New York's workfare program as slavery. Certainly, the conditions are not exactly the same but you see the parallels. 

[00:28:32] Taja Lindley: It's already egregious that the average paid leave for postpartum folks is too little time across the United States, especially compared to other so-called developed countries. It is even less, in some states, if you're on welfare.

[00:28:46] Taja Lindley: While the TANF federal grant ushered in work requirements, it is also finding its way into other federally funded programs. 

[00:28:53] Diana Romero: Very recently, maybe in the last year or two the federal government gave states the ability to now attach work requirements to Medicaid receipt. So aside from TANF and welfare, you know, we are now in a situation where work participation can be considered a condition for receipt of Medicaid.

[00:29:14] Diana Romero: And similar to the work requirements with TANF, was set up in an incremental fashion. So that over- from the initiation over an extended period of time, increasingly more work, as in number of hours per week or per month, would be expected for people to maintain their Medicaid benefits. 

[00:29:33] Diana Romero: If you think about people who need health insurance and are part of a group that is, you know, lower income and poor, which tend to have disproportionately higher rates of disease and problems with health. To attach onto that work requirements so that they can receive health insurance would seem again contradictory. 

[00:29:52] Taja Lindley: Work requirements for Medicaid vary by state. 

[00:29:55] Taja Lindley: And it's worth noting here that requiring people to work for health benefits is not uncommon in the United States where we do not have federal universal healthcare. But this time during the pandemic really highlighted why and how employer based health insurance is not adequate or sufficient. 

[00:30:16] Taja Lindley: You'll remember from our first episode entitled "Gendered As Laborers," Professor Dorothy Roberts brought our attention to the introduction of family caps also known as child exclusion policies during welfare reform in the 90s. Essentially coercing, poor people from having more children. 

[00:30:31] Diana Romero: States could decide that they would not increase or augment the cash assistance grant to a family if, while they were receiving cash assistance, the female in the household had given birth to a child. 

[00:30:47] Diana Romero: States that adopted the family cap were penalizing an individual for reproducing. The rhetoric was we're not going to pay you to have more children. 

[00:30:56] Diana Romero: And so almost half, 24 states in the country, adopted the family cap policy. The first one to do so sadly was New Jersey prior to welfare reform when the federal government was allowing states to experiment with policies. So New Jersey was the first and there were a few others to follow before it became, you know, a federal thing in 1996. 

[00:31:19] Diana Romero: New Jersey actually did an experiment to see what the impact was of having this family cap policy. They subjected some people in the caseload to the policy. They did not increase their cash grant, even if they had additional children. And then they had the other part of the caseload not subject to the policy. 

[00:31:36] Diana Romero: And after several years the analysis showed that being subject to the family cap was associated with individuals being more likely to report using contraception and less likely to have given birth, but actually more likely to have abortions. 

[00:31:54] Diana Romero: And if we sort of just look at this objectively, at here's a policy, and what does one expect from the policy? One can presume that the policy makers wanted poor women to use contraception more, to have fewer babies. And therefore in their view, they would be supporting fewer poor people. 

[00:32:15] Diana Romero: Well, in this New Jersey experiment they got higher rates of contraceptive use and they got fewer births to poor women, but they also got more abortion. And that was inconsistent with the conservative values that we're putting forward this policy in the first place.

[00:32:34] Diana Romero: So when this report came out and advocates tried to show these probably unintended consequences of a policy like this for policymakers who were probably largely opposed to abortion, they conveniently chose to pretty much bury the report and not focus on that. 

[00:32:55] Diana Romero: Now to be clear this was largely a symbolic move. Some will say, okay, there were some financial aspects to it that motivated the state. A state like New Jersey on average, the incremental amount per month for someone who had another child would have been somewhere about maybe $62 more a month. But then you had states like Mississippi, where it was $28 more a month. 

[00:33:19] Diana Romero: And then there was this argument that, well, this will discourage poor women who need public assistance from having more children. They were very upfront about what their goals were, but the question was: would a woman in Mississippi, for example, think about I want to have another child and then I'm going to do so because I'm going to get $28 more from the state?

[00:33:40] Diana Romero: Probably not. 

[00:33:41] Diana Romero: So, bringing it to the present day, the family cap is still in place. The family cap is alive and well in 12 states. You know, the lowest grant in the country as of maybe about a year ago, was in Mississippi at $170 a month for a family of three.

[00:33:58] Diana Romero: So linking the family cap, right? A policy that penalizes poor women for having children and says, we're not gonna provide any additional money in your grant, even though you now have another family member, but penalizing them on an already paltry amount of assistance, like $170, is sort of insult upon injury because there's absolutely no way that a family of three can survive on that grant.

[00:34:28] Taja Lindley: I was reminded of welfare reform in the 90s as I witnessed the rush to return to quote unquote normal and to get back to work during the pandemic. 

[00:34:36] Taja Lindley: Much like the work requirements for welfare, we have witnessed the prioritization of work over people's health. And much of the underlying framework for this is rooted in personal responsibility. That the state is not responsible for your financial wellbeing. You are. Even during a worldwide pandemic. 

[00:34:53] Taja Lindley: In 2021, we saw over two dozen states prematurely end federal unemployment resources that were extended during the pandemic. Many governors of these states said it was because of workforce shortages and that ending public benefits early would get people back into the workforce. The state of Arizona, for example, even offered people a $2,000 back to work bonus. 

[00:35:16] Taja Lindley: Many of my friends, colleagues, and peers publicly speculated that when the CDC shortened the recommended isolation time, that it was largely motivated by economic concerns, not public health. 

[00:35:27] Taja Lindley: Between remote work options and public assistance, this pandemic has clarified for many folks how they want to work and how they want to live. If you've read an article about our current economy, you've probably come across things like the great resignation. Or journalists making sense of why employers are having such a hard time getting their employees back into the office. I've even seen editorials with tips for employers to entice and encourage people to get back to their cubicles and find value in commuting to the office again. 

[00:35:55] Taja Lindley: To be clear, there were many folks who did not have the opportunity to work remotely or to collect unemployment benefits. Essential workers during this time were still showing up to their jobs. 

[00:36:05] Taja Lindley: And even with this wide range of experiences, I think it's safe to say that the issues at the intersection of work and health has been top of mind for many folks across the nation and across the globe, especially if your participation in the workforce is how you make ends meet. 

[00:36:20] Taja Lindley: As an artist, I can tell you firsthand that not only is our work creative, but we also have to be creative about our paid work. For many of us, we do not have full-time jobs. So the pandemic hit us differently.

[00:36:31] Taja Lindley: Meet Sydnie Mosley, an artist-activist, educator, and the founder of the dance theater collective Sydnie L. Mosley Dances, also known as SLM Dances. 

[00:36:41] Sydnie Mosley: SLM dances started in 2010. I was 25. I had just finished my graduate work at the University of Iowa. I knew that I wanted to start a dance company. 

[00:36:54] Sydnie Mosley: And I was seeing a lot of work and meeting a lot of people and asking them like, how are you making a life in dance work? And then I saw a performance and it wasn't good. And I had this moment of like, what am I waiting for? If people are on stage putting that up and they getting paid for it, I could do this. 

[00:37:19] Taja Lindley: SLM Dances is a New York City-based collective that works in communities to organize for gender and racial justice through experiential dance performance. 

[00:37:27] Sydnie Mosley: The vision of SLM Dances has evolved to not only be a space for creating work where the people most impacted by the issues can then create responses and can organize around it through their performance work, but then to also become a creative home for Black folks of all genders, of all generations, of all abilities.

[00:37:56] Sydnie Mosley: And so part of what is driving me and driving the work is also trying to figure out how to build an institution that can actually truly support a creative home for Black artists who generally cannot sustain a life in dance and a life in performance art because it is not a financially viable pursuit.

[00:38:18] Taja Lindley: And if you're unfamiliar with the art and culture field, you may be wondering: how does someone make a life in dance work? What is the labor of art making? And how does a dancer with a dance company make enough money to live in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.? 

[00:38:33] Sydnie Mosley: I actually am fully "employed" and I'm putting "employed" in air quotes by SLM dances in this current moment, but that employment is severely underemployed. And only in the last two years, two years, have I been earning all of my income through SLM Dances. I've gotten super duper clear that I want to make all my money through SLM Dances, even if that means that I'm real broke.

[00:39:03] Sydnie Mosley: The work that SLM Dances does to earn money includes speaking and facilitation, artist residencies, K through 12 education programming or community education programming, like teaching line dancing at a senior center.

[00:39:20] Sydnie Mosley: So those are different ways that we earn income in addition to grants, in addition to donations by individual supporters and one-on-one consulting that I do with other artists.

[00:39:34] Sydnie Mosley: In previous lifetimes, um, so prior to that, I was doing a mix of consulting and producing.

[00:39:43] Sydnie Mosley: In a previous lifetime before that, I was a teaching artist. 

[00:39:48] Sydnie Mosley: So pre pandemic, it was really the juggle, the hustle of managing those consulting jobs, as well as making my SLM Dances work. It was difficult. And beginning at the top of 2019, I started to intentionally let go of some of those consulting jobs. 

[00:40:11] Sydnie Mosley: A lot of the consulting work that I was doing, I cared about it too much. I was only taking on projects and working with other artists and cultural workers that I really loved and really supported. And then I would doula their projects and then not have any energy left for myself.

[00:40:31] Sydnie Mosley: And I really need that time and space to be able to immerse myself in the world that I'm trying to conjure. 

[00:40:40] Sydnie Mosley: And that was a difficult choice for me. To say, okay, Sydnie, you can't keep doing this if you're trying to invest in yourself, you have to invest in yourself.

[00:40:53] Sydnie Mosley: And that this investment in self yes, is absolutely an intentional choice, but it's also kind of what is required. Because there are very few funders who are going to take a chance on you, if you don't have a track record. I'll also say that I didn't get my first grant until five years in of showing my work.

[00:41:14] Sydnie Mosley: So as much as it is a choice, I'm going to self produce my first few shows, at the same time, almost nobody is going to give you money to produce something if you've never produced something before.

[00:41:25] Taja Lindley: I asked Sydnie to be on this episode for two reasons. First, because of her performance work that grapples with art and culture economies. 

[00:41:32] Sydnie Mosley: In 2015, SLM Dances developed a performance work called Body Business. And the specific intention of Body Business was to lift up the economic realities of being a dance artist in New York City. And through that storytelling to create a sense of relationship and empathy for what the artist experience is in order to organize, build, advocate in whatever ways are necessary for better economic and working conditions for artists. 

[00:42:06] Taja Lindley: The second reason I asked Sydnie to join us for this episode is because of an article she wrote in March of 2021 entitled "I Have No Desire to Produce A Performance Live or Livestreamed Until the Pandemic is Over. I'll Wait." 

[00:42:19] Sydnie Mosley: Part of my point in that article that I published is that the work that I desire to make, it is in-person work. There is no virtual version. There's no exact virtual translation of that work. So either you see it in person or you don't. And, and so, something that a lot of people were navigating earlier on in the pandemic was like, what's my virtual pivot?

[00:42:44] Sydnie Mosley: And I wasn't really trying to pivot. I'm not trying to pivot. You know, what I'm doing now is something different. It's an addition to, but it's not a replacement for. That feels like a really important distinction to make. 

[00:42:59] Sydnie Mosley: And then the challenge remains, how do we safely get back into an in studio rehearsal practice so that we can stage an in-person performance? Um, that feels safe. That feels like everyone, the performers, the production staff, and the audience members will feel cared for. 

[00:43:19] Sydnie Mosley: We as a collective have sat down and talked about like, what do we, each of us as individuals and as a group, feel comfortable with in terms of sharing space with one another so that we can come up with a practice that accounts for the risks of this moment, but also allows us to do the fullest vision of what this work is.

[00:43:42] Taja Lindley: Sydnie has also been very clear on these social media streets about her discomfort and disappointment in how folks have been navigating and emerging from this pandemic without care, consideration, and compassion. Both in what she has witnessed in art and culture at large and in her day to day work.

[00:43:57] Sydnie Mosley: I generally do not believe in whatever this return to work or return to normalcy is. I do not believe in it. 

[00:44:07] Sydnie Mosley: It has meant for me personally, that I continue to turn down performance jobs, because I do not believe that the employers, these are dance companies, have my care and health and safety at top of mind.

[00:44:25] Sydnie Mosley: Because the invitations to perform say, "Hi Sydnie. We would like to invite you to perform as a part of this project. Here are the dates. Here's the pay. Please let us know if you can do it." 

[00:44:38] Sydnie Mosley: And so then I have to write back and say, "What will be the COVID safety protocols in place? Who all will be a part of this? How frequently will there be testing?" 

[00:44:48] Sydnie Mosley: I have to ask all of those questions and then they come back to me with- sometimes with answers, sometimes without answers. Sometimes the answer is, oh, we'll just be doing whatever the city or the state requires at that time. 

[00:45:04] Sydnie Mosley: The fact that first of all, I have to ask. And then second of all, that you don't have a clear and detail answer for me when I do ask, lets me know that you haven't thought about it. 

[00:45:14] Sydnie Mosley: And other tensions that have come up have been around the, the wide range in which people have gone back into dance spaces in terms of rehearsals and performances and things like that.

[00:45:30] Sydnie Mosley: So, whereas I'm still on the extremely cautious and we're still doing virtual rehearsal, right. Meanwhile, there's full Broadway productions up, full operas at the Met.

[00:45:46] Sydnie Mosley: And so there has been tension for dancers who have been itching to get back into the studio. Some dancers who I've worked with, who've had a very hard time not being in the studio and have had to make some different choices and priorities because jumping back into the studio is not a priority for us. Yes, we are working on it, but we're trying to do that in the most intentional and safe way as possible. 

[00:46:12] Sydnie Mosley: I will also say that so many of our artists do support themselves as teaching artists, which means a lot of them are back teaching in person, in in-person studios and in-person school. That actually gives me even more pause about rehearsing in person because of the number of people that I know that they're in contact with on a regular basis. Right. 

[00:46:35] Sydnie Mosley: So there's a lot of tension between kind of what people are required to do just as a baseline to continue their lives, to make money, to pay their rent. 

[00:46:47] Sydnie Mosley: And I know that I personally had the privilege of being able to work from home entirely remotely, that I live by myself. That has put me in a position of being very calculated about how I interact with people, how I reenter spaces, what public spaces I go into.

[00:47:08] Taja Lindley: Sydnie's cautious moves also translate into how she is leading SLM Dances and creating work during this time. 

[00:47:14] Sydnie Mosley: SLM Dances already had a practice of virtual meetings. The biggest shift for us was just shifting our regular studio rehearsals to the virtual space. 

[00:47:26] Sydnie Mosley: So I did continue to honor the contracts that I have with the artists that I collaborate with and paid them through the entire pandemic and continue to. And my visioning partner, one of my visioning partners, co-leadership. I told them, I was like, listen, we going to pay people until there's nothing left in the bank account. They were like, you know, for the sustainability of the organization perhaps we should not do that. But that's the train I was on. Like, if we got some money in the bank and people are not getting paid from anything else, then we going to pay these people. 

[00:48:04] Sydnie Mosley: What ended up happening in our rehearsal process was letting go of any intentions around like creating an artistic product in this moment and we turned our rehearsal time to consistent yoga practice, which we already had. 

[00:48:21] Sydnie Mosley: And you know, what do you all need right now? You know, at the top of 2020 people were scared. They were like, I don't know, you know, what I need in terms of- need to be doing in terms of keeping my immune system up. And so we invited an herbalist to come and just do some like basic self-care, hygiene, plant medicine things.

[00:48:40] Sydnie Mosley: We invited someone to come and talk about financial wellness. We invited someone to come and talk about trauma informed facilitation. So we really uh, transformed how we spent our time to take care of each other. 

[00:48:56] Sydnie Mosley: We transformed our creative project to literally making phone calls and sending care packages to the elder community that we were doing a community engagement project with. We thought we were going to put on a show with them. And what we ended up doing was calling them on a regular basis, sending them gifts via mail. 

[00:49:19] Sydnie Mosley: And then we created a online website that really invited people into the research of the creative project that we're developing right now, which is called Purple. 

[00:49:30] Sydnie Mosley: And as a first step back into live work now are actually have curated an art exhibition. That has felt like a good first step back into live in person art making, as opposed to putting on like a full fledged show on a stage where everybody is dancing and doing all of the things, right? 

[00:49:54] Sydnie Mosley: So we've really been baby steps figuring out what we want to do, how we want to be, how we want to take care of each other and reframing what the artistic product is.

[00:50:05] Taja Lindley: I really appreciate how SLM Dances chose to navigate this time. And I wish that other businesses, organizations, and even our governments did the same. 

[00:50:14] Taja Lindley: SLM Dances took time to slow down, meet the needs of the people who are part of the collective, and then re-imagined and redefined what their work looked like. 

[00:50:23] Taja Lindley: It looked like rest. It looked like self care. It looked like community care. It looked like sharing responsibilities. 

[00:50:30] Taja Lindley: All the while maintaining a commitment to live in-person performance and having the patience with when and how that would take shape and form. 

[00:50:38] Taja Lindley: In fall of 2021, SLM Dances put together their first in-person event. 

[00:50:43] Sydnie Mosley: We're putting up this gallery exhibition and there will be some pop-up performances that are solos and duets.

[00:50:50] Sydnie Mosley: And then in the gallery space, it's timed entry, 10 person capacity with social distancing. 

[00:50:59] Sydnie Mosley: So there's some real clear parameters around people's safety in the space. And what I am offering in terms of performance with these solos and duets is very different than the large scale evening length performances that are ultimately what I desire to produce.

[00:51:24] Taja Lindley: As Sydnie mentioned, she is on the extremely cautious side during this time. 

[00:51:29] Taja Lindley: Many folks are figuring out how to work, how to travel, and how to gather after to what we've experienced for the last two plus years. And what that looks like will vary from person to person, family to family, and neighborhood neighborhood. 

[00:51:41] Taja Lindley: While, I don't think it's a one size fits all approach about how we move forward, I certainly hope that we will do so with care and with compassion for one another. And that we maintain our commitment to not return to normal. To imagine new ways to live and work. Namely, to move beyond a hyper-focus on personal responsibility. 

[00:51:59] Taja Lindley: How does our interdependence with one another shape the reality we live in and the future we want to live into? 

[00:52:05] Taja Lindley: This is where disability justice frameworks and practices have so much to teach us. 

[00:52:10] Nikki Brown-Booker: When I think about disability justice it's actually in some ways, very, very simple to me. It's like every body is valuable. Every physical body. Every mental condition. Everybody is a valuable contributor to our society. It doesn't matter if they can't see, can't hear, can't talk, can't walk, they still have value and they're still able to participate in our society.

[00:52:37] Nikki Brown-Booker: So to me, disability justice is really about acknowledging that and making the world a place where people actually really value a person for who they are, no matter what circumstance they have. It's really basic. It's nothing fancier than that. 

[00:52:53] Taja Lindley: That's Nikki Brown-Booker, a Program Officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy. As a person with a disability and as a biracial woman, she has devoted her work to advancing rights at the intersection of disability justice and racial justice. 

[00:53:08] Taja Lindley: When I asked Nikki to share more about how disability justice can help us make sense of this time, here's what she offered. 

[00:53:15] Nikki Brown-Booker: Honestly, people with disabilities have been saying, why aren't people allowed to work at home if they can do it? If someone's doing data entry, they can do that at home. Why do they need to go into an office to do that work? 

[00:53:26] Nikki Brown-Booker: And I think the pandemic has really proven that point. There's so many types of jobs and work that can be done remotely at home. And I'm really hoping that as we come out of this pandemic, that governments and companies really see how much work that can be done at home, because honestly that's always going to be good for people with disabilities.

[00:53:51] Nikki Brown-Booker: And that really opens up the job market for people with disabilities, who in the past have been like turned down for jobs because it's like, well, you can't get into our office or our office isn't accessible, even though it they're supposed to actually make their office accessible. 

[00:54:07] Nikki Brown-Booker: I'm really hoping that workplaces can really see how important this shift in the labor market is and how that actually really opens them up to having a bigger pool of employees and many of which will be people with disabilities.

[00:54:23] Nikki Brown-Booker: I feel like the rush to reopen is about like getting people, you know, back out into the workforce, back out into the grocery stores, back out into like the shopping malls, or, you know all those things that had to close down as a result of COVID. 

[00:54:40] Nikki Brown-Booker: For some people I really felt for them like, I got my first hair cut about two months ago in like over a year. I've talked to my hairdresser and it was really hard on her. She had to open and close like three times before she's now finally able to really stay open. Financially, very devastating for her. It was really, really hard for her. You know, she had to figure out ways to shift, to, you know, make money in other ways. So, you know, for her, I totally, I really understand why, you know, we really want to get people back to work, you know, as quickly as possible or back out into the world.

[00:55:17] Nikki Brown-Booker: But I also feel like there are so many things that are just motivated by money that we don't necessarily have to rush to get back into like the high rises, into the big buildings and the big corporations getting all of their employees back to work, particularly if they're not really putting in really good safety protocols.

[00:55:35] Taja Lindley: I appreciate the distinction Nikki makes here between getting back to work as an entrepreneur versus as an employee for big business. 

[00:55:43] Taja Lindley: We grappled with that a bit in Sydnie's story. I'm grappling with that in my own life as an artist entrepreneur. And many other small businesses across the nation have been grappling with that question too. 

[00:55:53] Taja Lindley: This time that we're living in has really demonstrated the importance of a social safety net and that when the government fails us, we rely on each other for support. I'm thinking specifically about mutual aid because mutual aid initiatives are a really great example of our interdependence and the ways in which we rely on and support one another. 

[00:56:10] Taja Lindley: You'll be hearing from Nikki again later this season. But for this episode, I want to leave you with these words that she offered about integrating disability justice into how we imagine ourselves into new futures.

[00:56:21] Nikki Brown-Booker: We're so conditioned to like, go, go, go, go, go all the time. We have to be productive. It's all, all about productivity. It's all about like taking care of yourself. It's all about not taking care of each other. That's what capitalism is all about. It's like, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Be productive. Work hard. All of those things.

[00:56:41] Nikki Brown-Booker: In a lot of ways, those ideas are really ableist ideas. Ableism is really about the fact that if you don't fit into this box of being hyper productive and extremely self-reliant then somehow there's something wrong with you. 

[00:56:58] Nikki Brown-Booker: I think we have learned through the pandemic that going into an office and working like, you know, 60 hours in order to like show how productive or how good of a worker you are or to like show to your boss that you're a good employee. We need to let go of that.

[00:57:16] Nikki Brown-Booker: And that health and wellness needs to be prioritized. And that the economy needs to understand that working less is really okay. That in some ways you actually become more productive if you're not working like 60 hours a week and exhausting yourself, you know that we don't need to, we don't need to do all of that. It's not necessary. 

[00:57:39] Nikki Brown-Booker: And that if you are spending time with your family and feeling relaxed and getting enough sleep, and really feeling healthy, that you're actually a more productive person overall. That you're actually able to work better and be more productive. 

[00:57:55] Nikki Brown-Booker: And I think that the idea that we don't have to like be stuck in our little cubicles and um, the world doesn't have to look like that. You can transform a workplace. You can have hybrid workplaces where people work one day in the office and four days at home, or three days with office two days at home, whatever.

[00:58:16] Nikki Brown-Booker: That those kind of work norms can be thrown out the window and the world still moves forward. That's a framework that really comes from disability justice. That we just need to think about how we are living in this world in a way that works for everybody.

[00:58:30] Taja Lindley: I love that. 

[00:58:31] Taja Lindley: I'll also add that we deserve rest, play, and quality time with loved ones even if it doesn't make us more productive. That simply being human is enough. 

[00:58:40] Taja Lindley: And like Nikki said, we need to reframe how we conceptualize productivity and divest from a capitalist economy that is more concerned with our output than our wellbeing. That is more concerned with hyper self-reliance, rather than nurturing our connections. We all deserve dignity and respect, regardless of our employment status or how much money we make. 

[00:58:59] Taja Lindley: I hope that what we've collectively and individually experienced since 2020 leads us into a future where our needs are met without having to grind ourselves to dust. 

[00:59:08] Taja Lindley: Speaking of which, this is a friendly reminder that we'll be taking a break in July and we'll return in August with the final episodes of the season. 

[00:59:18] Taja Lindley: I give thanks for your time, attention and listenership. 

[00:59:21] Taja Lindley: If you are enjoying your experience, tell a friend and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts or on our website. 

[00:59:28] Taja Lindley: If you'd like to share your story or perspective with us, write us a message or leave us a voicemail at BlackWomens 

[00:59:34] Taja Lindley: Find us on Instagram @BlackWomensLabor and sign up for our newsletter to receive project updates in your inbox. 

[00:59:41] Taja Lindley: And support this work y'all at TajaLindley where you will be able to access exclusive content and full length interviews with each of our guests including everyone you heard from in this episode. 

[00:59:54] Taja Lindley: You can also support this podcast by dropping some coins in our PayPal or purchasing the podcast music on ColoredGirlsHustle. 

[01:00:02] Taja Lindley: This podcast is created and hosted by yours truly, Taja Lindley, also known as the HBIC. 

[01:00:09] Taja Lindley: Audio engineering by Lilah Larson. 

[01:00:11] Taja Lindley: Music by Emma Alabaster who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer. 

[01:00:16] Taja Lindley: Additional music production by Chip Belton. 

[01:00:18] Taja Lindley: Vocals by Patience Sings. 

[01:00:20] Taja Lindley: Mixing and mastering by Chip Belton. 

[01:00:23] Taja Lindley: Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster. 

[01:00:26] Taja Lindley: Logo and graphic design templates by Homegirl HQ. 

[01:00:29] Taja Lindley: This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustle and supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. 

Sydnie MosleyProfile Photo

Sydnie Mosley


Sydnie L. Mosley is an artist-activist and educator who works with communities to organize for gender and racial justice through experiential dance performance with her dance-theater collective Sydnie L. Mosley Dances. She is a Bessie Award-winning performer who danced with Christal Brown’s INSPIRIT, improvises with the skeleton architecture collective, and continues to appear as a guest artist with the Brooklyn Ballet. Among her recognitions and funding, she received a special citation from Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for using her talents in dance to fuel social change. An advocate for the field, she sits on the Dance/NYC Advisory Committee. Her writing has appeared in Essence, Dance Magazine, and the Brooklyn Rail.

Photographer: Jamie McLean

Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on
Interview length: 01:20:21

Diana RomeroProfile Photo

Diana Romero

Associate Professor of Community Health and Social Sciences

Diana Romero is Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Social Sciences and director of the Maternal, Child, Reproductive and Sexual Health specialization (MCRSH) at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy in New York City.

Some of her recent projects include research on integration of reproductive health services in primary care, including the role of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC); safety-net health care utilization among uninsured immigrants in NYC; exploration of establishment of a wellness and prevention Trust in Brooklyn, NY; a qualitative study of East Harlem adolescents and their life goals in the context of personal relationships, risk of pregnancy and STIs; state analyses of welfare family cap policies; and a large-scale mixed-methods evaluation of a physician training program for advocacy around abortion and other reproductive health issues. Dr. Romero is a member of the NYC Department of Health advisory board for the CDC Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), has served on the FDA Obstetrics and Gynecological Devices Advisory Panel, as well as on the Board of Directors of several non-profit research and advocacy organizations addressing reproduction, gender and health. She teaches graduate courses in research methods, community health, and reproductive and sexual health policy.

Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on
Interview length: 01:29:51

Nikki Brown-BookerProfile Photo

Nikki Brown-Booker

Program Officer

Nikki Brown-Booker is the Program Officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy.

As a person with a disability and a biracial woman, she has devoted her work to advancing rights at the intersection of disability justice and racial justice. The daughter of a domestic worker who immigrated from the Philippines and a professional chef and a long-term SEIU member, Nikki was taught from a young age that justice is a human right. Nikki was the Executive Director for Easy Does It Emergency Services, a nonprofit that provides emergency services for people with disabilities and seniors in Berkeley, California. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Nikki continues to organize with Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network, and helped pass the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on
Interview length: 00:56:24