CareForce One Travelogues is a film series that features the artist Marisa Morán Jahn, her son, and their friend Anjum Asharia as they travel from NYC to Miami in their 1967 station wagon (the CareForce One), learning about solutions to the care crisis while they undergo a car crisis. Set to release as weekly episodes starting May 1st (International Workers Day) on ITVS/PBS Digital’s new channel, Indie Lens Storycast, the film series is part of a larger project called CareForce, which amplifies the voices of America’s fastest growing workforce – caregivers.
We’ve asked Jahn to share some of her road trip stories, here she introduces us to five amazing women she met along the way.
Meeting Ai-Jen Poo + Motel Pancakes in Our Nation’s Capital
I’ve always had a crush on DC for its pomp and policy wonks. Bringing Choco to DC meant that this was the first time I actually did sight-seeing. We gave names to the dinos at the Smithsonian (“Boris the Rex”, “Boo-boo Butt the Anklyosaurus”, “Stacy the Steg”), ate hot dogs on the lawn adjacent the obelisk, and cartwheeled at the National Monument. There I pointed out the plaques for the 50 states, mentioning that only 7 of them had laws providing basic rights for domestic workers — a fact which seemed crazy to him (right)? And behind each state passing laws to overturn centuries of discrimination are individual women he met on the road such as Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Founder of Caring Across Generations. After helping to pass the first set of laws granting other workers basic rights (days of rest, overtime wage) in our home state, New York, in 2010, she has gone on support the leadership of other women around the nation who are passing progressive legislation where they live. You may have seen her at the Golden Globes walking the red carpet with Meryl Streep to support and end to sexual harassment for women across industries. Ai-jen collaborates with the CareForce team as a strategist for our art and film projects like CareForce One Travelogues.
Cynthia Fox At the Helm in Durham North Carolina
Most people hesitate when we ask them if they want to drive our big ole antique 13 foot station wagon. Not so Cynthia Fox, a worker-leader with the National Domestic Workers Alliance North Carolina chapter, who hopped right in and took command.
Based in Durham, North Carolina, Cynthia Fox is survivor of domestic abuse who advocates for the right and dignity to mental health access and caregiving for all, including incarcerated peoples. A charismatic figure in her community which is historically under-resourced, Cynthia draws a connection between caregiving and the high rates of incarceration in her historically under-resourced, predominantly Black community: caregiving is one of the first job that lower-income women without access to higher education can turn to. In fact, About 28 percent of employed black women work in the service sector, caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities (source: Slate). At the same time, Durham is a community where the police regularly round up these very individuals in order to meet their monthly “arrest quota.” Reforming enforcement quotas, raising a living wage for caregivers, and providing vocational training for black women such as her peers, are among the solutions to shift the dial on how we support working families and those who need care.
MJ and June
Meeting Elly Goetz + Roasting Marshmallows at Benevolence Farm
Both Anjum and I are from brown immigrant families that don’t get the idea of camping in plein air. I remember going on my first camping trip in college when I was dating a fisherpunk who showed me how to catch and live off fish and foraged food — two skills that have since eroded since moving to the Big Apple.
On this trip, I wanted to share the terror and delight of camping with Anjum and Choco. We took a pit stop to visit my old pal Elly Goetz, who runs “Benevolence Farm” that provides vocational agricultural skills and life skills to women who are re-entering society after being in prison. With Elly and a few women there, we roasted marshmallows, pitched a tent, and ran around for an evening before hopping back to head further South. I pointed out to Choco that in the 1930s and 1940s, Southern lawmakers intentionally excluded farm workers and domestic workers were from receiving the same rights as other workers because they were predominantly African-American. Many of these race-based laws still persist today and the growing alliance between agricultural workers and domestic workers helps press forward these legal victories.
Image: Marisa Morán Jahn (left) with Miami Workers Center’s Marcia Olivo (right)
Marcia Olivo + Star Fruit in Florida
Remember that part above about my foraging skills? At a motel in Florida, I “foraged” star fruit from a tree on the patio. Choco was impressed by his mama way up high.
We also took a drive with Marcia Olivo, Executive Director of Miami Worker Center, who shared with us the challenges particular to domestic workers in Florida, a purple state where workers have few protections. With weak job security and threats to their immigration status, domestic workers experience a high turnover rate — and yet this takes place in a state where one fifth of the population is about to retire. To provide quality care for aging Floridians and babyboomers, the state will need to pass legislation to support both domestic workers and the families they care for.
Meeting The Pearlsons, June Barrett, + Coconuts Only Come to the Deserving
As a carpool of three, what kept us in our best behavior despite breakdowns (the car, Choco, and me — notice Anjum’s even temper?) was that we would have a coconut in Miami when we got there. CareForce one a-sputtering, we made it to Miami, sequestered a coconut and a hammer, then ran to the beach to celebrate!
The next day we met with the Pearlsons, an elderly couple whose team of 7 caregivers provide around-the-clock care. The Pearlsons are a model employer couple who provide paid time off, paid sick days, and support superhero caregiver June Barrett in her activism as she speaks across the nation about issues pressing to domestic workers today — immigration reform, greater socioeconomic security, and legal protection for those facing sexual harassment.
Ray Pearlson and caregivers
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