Black Mamas as Muses

Black mamas across the nation are being honored this year with Forward Together’s eighth annual “Mamas Day” celebration with a focus on a Black Mamas Revival pledge to support building a world where all Black mamas thrive and maintain their right to parent. This year’s theme is in response to the many ways Black mamas and motherhood have been under attack specifically when dealing with criminalization, maternal health and reproductive autonomy. Forward Together has partnered with five artists of the African diaspora to design cards that reflect what Black mamahood means to them; two of them opened up to Ms. about their own mamas in the stories below.

Black mamas have nurtured, and grown, nations and liberation movements. They’ve been the trailblazers in every civilization that’s been privileged to have them. Black mamas are the creators of organizing tactics—the same tactics that fuel and inspire this current moment of the movement.

Black mamas have created the foundation for so much good in this world. It’s imperative that we show our gratitude. Representing the receiving and giving ends of Black mamahood, as a daughter and a mother, we know the value of community and how we must support and nurture communities that are specifically for and of Black mamas.

As artists who’ve partnered with Forward Together for this year’s #MamasDay, we consider joining this campaign an opportunity to honor and celebrate the Black mamas in our lives. These are the stories of our mamas, our movements and our lives.

Iman Geddy

As the daughter of a Somali immigrant, I often marveled at how my mother was able to successfully support me and my brothers as a single mother. When she left her home she lost her community and support system that was built into her culture. As a child who watched her struggle with this, I was determined to find my own community and forge an extended family that expanded heteronormative notions of kinship.

Black mamas represent everything we hope to see in community. Despite everything they do on an individual basis, Black mamas will be the first to tell you their strength is collective. Although frequently burdened with the stereotype of being “Superwoman” who’s called on to save everyone else, the very nature of Black mamahood is communal by defying individualistic accolades in favor of collective advancement. In a society that prizes individualism and personal gain, Black mamahood maintains bonds that transcend kinship and patriarchal hierarchies while offering a model of humanity that is unmatched. Because of this, Black mamas deserve our collective trust.

Black women saved my life, womanism saved my life. When I first arrived to the U.S., I found it increasingly hard to trust myself because my instincts and lived experiences seemed to be in direct opposition to the status quo, this self-denial led to a great deal of grief. My newfound exposure to womanist thinkers, organizers and writers helped me learn to face and overcome patriarchal systems of oppression. Womanism gave concrete language to my mother’s practical wisdom and allowed me to bridge the internal gap I felt between my life as a young immigrant in a new country and the life I left behind in my home country.

In trying times and even in times of joy, I recall the long legacy of Black queer and trans women around the world who have nurtured movements and predicted the future in their unending wisdom, without the expectation of any reward other than that of our collective awakening. It is because of this, and so many other reasons, it’s our duty to celebrate Black mamas this year, every year and in every way.

Francis Mead

As a Black mixed-heritage mother and artist, my lived experience is a part of everything I create, and the intention behind my art always is to honor my people—Black mothers and femmes especially. It was an honor to be able to do that for this year’s Mamas Day.

Working on this campaign was meaningful to me because it’s so important to honor Black mamas as we are powerful, resilient, magical beings, who have nurtured, raised, protected, inspired and healed the people since always. Through the hardest conditions of colonization, white supremacy and patriarchy—which has been incredibly violent on all fronts to Black womxn and people—we rise, because of this, we deserve to be celebrated.

My experience as a Black mama is so significant to me because I’ve been able to connect with my personal power and a higher divine power that guides me and my child in a way that I never had before, it is truly a special thing to help another spirit grow free in this world. And though being a Black mama is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, I’d give Black mamas the gift of rest and space for self-care because the world expects us to heal others without giving us space to care for and heal ourselves.

While I don’t attached myself to too many labels, I believe in liberation and decolonization, that includes resisting white supremacy and patriarchy. This is a way for me to honor Black mamas. Womanism and Black feminism are huge influences in my life and art, I honor and will always identify with Black feminism and its roots in decolonial rebellion as well as contemporary Black feminism who paved the way for us all to be free.

Iman Geddy is a black femme illustrator whose art transforms extravagant colors and high contrast tones into a creative force that limits the agonies of doubt and hesitation. With ancestral roots in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, she now lives in Atlanta, where she is currently working on an animated short film that explores our collective ideas around identity and community within a Reproductive Justice framework.

Francis Mead is an illustrator, painter, dreamer and queer Black mama rooted in Oakland, Ca. Ever since she can remember, she made art to connect with herself, her peoples and the spirits that guide her. Her creative business, Illustrated Truths, seeks to uplift the dreams, history and magic of people of color—honoring divine femme energy, decolonial resistance and queer love in particular as a way to inspire and liberate her peoples and the earth.

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