Mother’s Day cards and other holiday merchandise have long lacked the diversity that reflects the true makeup of this country. Just try finding a card for your chosen mother, your queer mama(s) of color, play-mama, or your masculine-of-center mother. But there are people working to change that!
Strong Families is staffed by Forward Together and both organizations recognize that Mother’s Day oversights are reflective of the blind eye that public policy turns toward those parents who fall outside of the middle class, heterosexual, nuclear family norm. “Mamas Day” is just one of many of Strong Families’ initiatives that addresses the challenges experienced by families on the margins.
The “Mamas Day” website shares the stories of forty mamas who don’t necessarily fit the mother script. Gloria Malone is one of them—a young woman who got involved with Strong Families through her own blog, TeenMomNYC. Malone’s own story counters the narratives that usually circulate about young mothers, especially young mothers of color. According to Malone, teenage pregnancy happens for a variety of reasons, many of which have little to do with the characters of the teens involved. Malone has been inspiring other young mamas with her bravery since 2011, as her blog shares information about healthcare, education (see this scholarship she posted for low-income mamas ), and public policies. For Malone, “Mamas Day” is “a month long of Janelle Monae’s ‘Ghetto Woman’ playing in my head nonstop. It’s a celebration and acknowledgment of the imperfect work we do.” Malone has been doing lots of work lately, as she will graduate from college on May 27th, with her daughter by her side and credits her community with helping her through challenging times. “Mamahood is an act of community and an act of supporting, uplifting, and embracing those around us. I have found these types of relationships in Forward Together, Forward Together’s Echoing Ida writing group, as well as the #NoTeenShame young mamas advocacy group I am part of.””
Gloria Malone is one of many mama writers who takes part in Echoing Ida, the brainchild of Alicia Walters, Movement Building Director at Forward Together. According to Walters, the Echoing Ida collective “creates opportunities for Black women to share their perspectives on critical issues from maternal health to voting rights.” Members of the writing group have published over 100 pieces on almost 30 sites since 2012.
“’Mamas Day’ lifts up those mamas that you don’t see on the typical Hallmark card,” said Walters. “Honoring the diversity of mamahood is a first step. When people acknowledge the wonderful, powerful mothering of those struggling with poverty, raising their grandchildren, or facing the challenges of immigrating, then their needs will be seen as equally important. When we recognize all mamas, we start to change the conversation about what mamas need to thrive.”
Walters’s involvement in Mamas Day is due to the way she sensed her own single mother’s stress. “A single mother with three children, there was little rest, lots of work, and even more love. I took every opportunity to thank her and especially loved bringing her breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day.” Walters also acknowledges that she was raised in a community, and this structure helps her to see parenting in the context of community. “Being a mama is a lot of work and we need to create conditions in our families, communities and in our policies that provide support to the mamas and their families, especially those who have less access to resources.”
Building community through partnership is central to the mission of Strongfamilies, and SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW is one of many partnering organizations. Quita Tinsley attended the RAD Youth Summit hosted by Strong Families in 2012, and her subsequent work for Medicaid expansion in Georgia and Affordable Care Youth Enrollment Day led to her involvement with Strong Families.
The Mamas Day campaign is important to Tinsley because of her investment in the rights of LGBTQ parents. “Second parent adoption and marriage policies that discriminate against same sex couples definitely need to change,” Tinsley said. “LGBTQ families should be able to legally choose our families in the same way that our heterosexual counterparts are allowed.” Tinsley’s activist work also focuses on legalizing other family planning choices. “I would like to see a change in anti-abortion laws that seek to close reproductive health clinics. As someone from rural Georgia, I know the importance of these clinics for folks to make educated decisions about their reproductive health.”
Like other members of Stong Families, Tinsley believes that Mamas Day is an important step toward making changes in public policies that affect underserved mamas. “Honoring Mamas puts their stories and their needs in the forefront. And this to me lets people know what they can do to create the change that is needed.”