What It’s Like To Be A Mom In The Movement
Words: Ev Petgrave
It takes a village to be a politically involved and activism-focused mom, says one Georgia-based activist.
Black women have been a powerful force in many political and social movements. We were heavily involved in the formation of the Black Panther Party. We marched alongside white feminists before beginning our own Black Feminist Movement, and we created today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
Yet even with all our involvement, Black women were (and still are) overlooked and underappreciated in social justice movements. Despite this, many continue to fight for equal rights for women and men of every color to create a better world for everyone, especially their children if they’re a mom.
Nia Sade Walker, author of Young Black Fearless: The 7 Step Guide To Activism, is one of those fighters. Being a mother adds a unique perspective to being an activist, Walker says.
“We feel for other women who have lost children, homes, families, and financial stability to this system,” she explains. “We bring sisterhood, encouragement, and support. [And] as we learn, we teach our babies and they experience everything with us first hand.”
An active member of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter, Walker “got tired of complaining about the lack of justice and support people of color were receiving in all aspects of our lives, whether it was in cases of police brutality, employment, education, or in the use of government services,” she says. Becoming a mother at 18 didn’t deter her from being an activist, or from owning a publishing company at 19 and founding a nonprofit at 20.
When she isn’t busy being the chairwoman of the Youth and Young Adult Council; co-chair of the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics; and co-chair of the NAACP’s Freedom Fund Committee, she’s running for commissioner of Clayton County in Georgia.
“I am running because there is no one to represent the 18-32 demographic in my county, and we are the majority here,” she says. “I saw the need for there to be a voice for the young age group, so I've decided to step up to the plate and be the leader for that group.” If elected, she’ll make history as the youngest ever elected commissioner in the state at 22.
We asked Walker to share her thoughts on balancing motherhood and activism.
How did you become interested in activism?
As a requirement for my undergraduate degree, I had to complete an internship. The opportunity to intern with the NAACP came up and it changed everything. From that internship, my motivation skyrocketed into a lifestyle I never knew I'd see. Through the NAACP, I became the lead organizer for the Clayton and Dekalb County Coalitions for Justice and Police Accountability. It is through the coalition that I became affiliated with Black Lives Matter Atlanta. [Even though] I am not a member, I do organize with the members of Black Lives Matter Atlanta regularly.
What type of effect do you think women have in political movements?
I think for the most part, women bring the logic to the movement. [Laughs] Yes, we bring passion and emotion, but when it comes to making sound decisions for the benefit of everyone, women are just better at it. We're the backbone, the voice, and the glue that holds it all together.
Who are some of your role models?
My NAACP branch president Synamon Baldwin because she is unbought and unbossed. She encompasses all the power and respect I hope to attain as I continue to learn the political and social justice arenas. Also, my big sister [and] mentor Anana Harris Parris is a role model for me because even though she is a die-hard activist and grassroots organizer, she understands and teaches the importance of self-care and preserving our physical and mental health to be effective in doing the work that we do. She does it so effortlessly and with class. She'll show up with her face beat, in African garments, dressed to the tee, and no one would ever know she stayed up at the courthouse all night for justice. Those two women are who I aspire to be in my own right.
How do you manage being a mother and fighting injustice?
There were so many of us mothers who had our children with us when fighting the powers that be [in Atlanta], that we went ahead and formed an organization called "The Revolutionary Moms Club." It actually started as a joke by one of our brothers in the movement and ended up turning into something bigger than us. We encourage other mothers to bring their children when we are fighting the system because we understand the power in our number; we always need as many people as possible, children included.
#RMC is our support group and safe haven. If one of us is arrested during protest, the village has our kids. We have each other's front and back. So really, that village mindset is what makes it easy to be a mom within the movement.
Do you sometimes feel that you have to choose between being a woman, a mother, and an activist?
Never. I am all three, every second of my life. I used to feel guilty for not getting my son home at a "decent" hour with all the meetings and demonstrations we have daily, but that's what #RMC was created for: to work together in making sure our revolutionary kids still get the needed attention and care they deserve.
What advice do you have for women who want to enter politics or activism?
My advice would be to know the differences between activists and politicians. Anyone entering politics has to understand that there are no permanent friends or foes in this business… When it comes to activism, my motto is, “If the self-proclaimed ‘activists’ you surround yourself with don't feel like family, then you may need to reconsider who you are fighting the system with.” Activism uses the heart muscle. Politics uses the brain.
What do you hope to teach your son?
I pray that through what he sees and experiences with me daily out here in this movement, [he learns] to never settle for mediocrity. Not to be someone who will roll over and just take whatever anyone gives him that isn't right, just, or fair. I hope he learns the true meaning of fighting the power through social justice demonstrations and also in the political arena through elected officials. I think I'm doing a pretty great job. He knows we don't run from opposition or oppression, instead we … look it square in the face with the will and determination to fight and win.
What do you hope to teach other mothers and women?
The very same thing I want to teach my son: not to roll over and take whatever is handed to us, but to fight back if that's what it takes! Also, mothers need to know that it actually does good when they include their children. Bring the kids. Join #RMC! For women, we need to be reminded that we aren't crazy and that we are passionate about what is right...so go with it! Don't ever get complacent just because "it didn't happen to you," whatever "it" may be.
This is part of our Phenomenal Women series. Read on for more about some amazing women.
Ev Petgrave is is a poet and writer traveling the world with her 4 year old in tow. She enjoys writing about race and women’s issues. To see Ev’s work, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @underpriv.