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Raising Brooklyn

Raising Brooklyn: Nannies, Childcare, and Caribbeans Creating Community

Tamara Mose Brown
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Raising Brooklyn
    Book Description:

    Stroll through any public park in Brooklyn on a weekday afternoon and you will see black women with white children at every turn. Many of these women are of Caribbean descent, and they have long been a crucial component of New York's economy, providing childcare for white middle- and upper-middleclass families. Raising Brooklyn offers an in-depth look at the daily lives of these childcare providers, examining the important roles they play in the families whose children they help to raise. Tamara Mose Brown spent three years immersed in these Brooklyn communities: in public parks, public libraries, and living as a fellow resident among their employers, and her intimate tour of the public spaces of gentrified Brooklyn deepens our understanding of how these women use their collective lives to combat the isolation felt during the workday as a domestic worker.Though at first glance these childcare providers appear isolated and exploited - and this is the case for many - Mose Brown shows that their daily interactions in the social spaces they create allow their collective lives and cultural identities to flourish. Raising Brooklyn demonstrates how these daily interactions form a continuous expression of cultural preservation as a weapon against difficult working conditions, examining how this process unfolds through the use of cell phones, food sharing, and informal economic systems. Ultimately, Raising Brooklyn places the organization of domestic workers within the framework of a social justice movement, creating a dialogue between workers who don't believe their exploitative work conditions will change and an organization whose members believe change can come about through public displays of solidarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0935-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction The Neighborhood
    (pp. 1-22)

    Most mornings around 9:30 a.m., after eating breakfast, showering, getting dressed, and giving a quick send-off to my husband, I feed my kids, get them dressed, and prepare a diaper bag, then walk my one-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in their double jog stroller across the highway bridge and another five blocks to the park. As I arrive at the second block, after walking by a local bakery, I pass a three-foot-high Mother of Mary statue embedded in the front stoop of a brownstone home that prompts me to say a “Hail Mary.” Like the good Catholic my mother always...

  6. 1 West Indians Raising New York
    (pp. 23-36)

    One day in 2007 I sat at my dining room table with Jennie, a thirty-four-year-old childcare provider from Grenada, while the girl she cared for and my two children played in the living room together. Jennie and I were engaging in one of our formal interviews after two years of observation. Although we interrupted the interview several times to make sure that the children weren’t getting into trouble as they moved from the living area to the bedrooms, we were able to speak deeply about Jennie’s work as a childcare provider and how it had affected her outlook on the...

  7. 2 Public Parks and Social Spaces Surveillance and the Creation of Communities
    (pp. 37-70)

    Moving along the sidewalks of gentrified Brooklyn, I found myself wondering, Who is watching me? There I was, a black woman pushing two children in an unbranded stroller I had bought off Craigslist, unlike the Bugaboo and Phil and Teds overpriced strollers that had become a staple in the neighborhoods I frequented. Were people watching me in the same way that childcare providers were being watched each day? Further, the isolation I felt once my husband left our home, was this the same isolation felt by the women I had decided to study? I began this book with the intention...

  8. 3 Indoor Public Play Spaces
    (pp. 71-80)

    Public spaces are not only outdoors in parks and on sidewalks; they also include public libraries and smaller spaces where children’s lessons take place. I soon discovered that many of Brooklyn’s open-to-the-public lessons that were meant for, as stated in the title, “Mommy and Me” were actually being held for, and thus should have been titled, “Sitter and Me.” These lessons were paid for by parents of the children who attended. Enrolling my daughter in a children’s tumbling class seemed like the socially appropriate thing to do since it seemed as if everyone else in my circle of friends with...

  9. 4 A Taste of Home How Food Creates Community
    (pp. 81-100)

    You have to listen to the Woman with the Pepper Sauce because she is Boss!” This is the first thing I heard as I entered the park through the black iron gates leading to the infant playground. The woman making this statement was a childcare provider from St. Vincent in her mid-sixties who wore glasses and had long cascading braids tied at the back of her head with a blue-and-white-patterned headscarf. She was directing her statement to four other West Indian sitters who were comfortably situated at one of the park benches directly in front of the swing set where...

  10. 5 Mobility for the Nonmobile Cell Phones, Technology, and Childcare
    (pp. 101-118)

    As we walked toward the park—Debbie with Taylor, the child she cared for, and I with my son, Matisse—Debbie stood still in front of the public library to check her cell phone. The phone’s red light was flashing. There were three messages awaiting her. Debbie explained that Molly, who was working that day, was to meet her at the library before storytime to tell her what she was doing for the day, so she was expecting Molly’s call. Debbie added just before listening to the messages that “if it was too cold, Molly said that we could go...

  11. 6 Where’s My Money? How Susus Bridge the Financial Gap
    (pp. 119-130)

    One late morning in the summer of 2006, as I was walking from the park back to my home with Molly, who in her sixties walks briskly and with authority, and Michelle (who was in her stroller), Molly asked me if I knew anything about a “susu” (pronounced “sousou”). Not having a clue as to what she could be talking about, and not recognizing the term in my West Indian colloquial vocabulary, I immediately admitted that I did not. She began to explain that it was something that she and the other babysitters did together as an informal way of...

  12. 7 Organizing Resistance The Case of Domestic Workers United
    (pp. 131-150)

    My initial interaction with the nonprofit group Domestic Workers United (DWU) was a telephone interview with Darlene, the childcare provider from Barbados mentioned at the beginning of this book, who was in her mid-fifties and had been raised in England with a high school-equivalent education. I had connected with Darlene through an employer of two domestic workers. Darlene was at first skeptical of my intentions as a researcher since DWU received requests for interviews on a regular basis. She made clear to me that in return for information I would have to volunteer some time phone banking for the organization...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 151-158)

    “People don’t care about us, they care about what we can do for them. They want us to do all of the work while they get paid good wages for the work they do outside the house. That is not decency. We just want to be appreciated for the work we do. Pay us so that we can live a decent life. Help us to get our documents, or help us when our children need us to tend to them. . . . Don’t punish us because we have a life outside of working for you. We all want this,...

  14. Appendix A: Methods
    (pp. 159-172)
  15. Appendix B: Demographic Information
    (pp. 173-180)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 181-192)
  17. References
    (pp. 193-204)
  18. Index
    (pp. 205-211)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 212-212)