Lifting As We Climb: mater mea's Vision For 2017
Words: Anthonia Akitunde
mater mea has a new direction thanks to some words of wisdom found in the past.
Happy New Year, everyone! I can’t believe it’s already 2017—2016 was a total blur.
One 2016 moment that stands out for me just happened two weeks ago. It completely changed the way I think about my life’s purpose, and in turn has changed mater mea’s direction and mission. Let me tell you about it:
My fiancé surprised me on my birthday with a trip to D.C. to see the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. It was such a thoughtful present, and getting a chance to see this grand and unprecedented monument to Black history and excellence felt especially poignant in the wake of the election.
Two days later, we get to the museum and it’s like Disneyworld for the Woke and Those Aspiring to Be More Woke. Everyone must have gotten the same memo as we did to start from the bottom of the museum and work their way up, because once we got in, we found ourselves waiting in line behind 100+ other giddy patrons. As we waited, I wondered what I would see when I finally reached the exhibit. How would this museum tell our sprawling and still-evolving story?
Beautifully and with a care and focus that was overwhelming in its depth and breadth—we spent two half days at the museum, and still didn’t make a dent in it. The bottom floor creates a historical context for Black people’s experiences in America, starting with slavery and taking you through centuries of abuse and mistreatment, but also resistance and resilience in the form of all-Black towns, civic organizations, activism, spirituality, and culture.
What stayed with me the most, though, was the support Black women gave each other through social organizations and private relationships. It was embodied in a purple banner hanging in a glass case. On it, once-yellow letters declared the National Association of Colored Women’s motto: Lifting as We Climb.
Lifting as We Climb.
Those words from 1896 struck me in the present.
That’s what I want mater mea to do, I thought. That’s the type of community I want to build.
mater mea was originally created to fill a void in the media representation of Black working women. The women we profiled were women I admired for living authentically and figuring out how to have an enviable career (often self-made) and family. While many of our past moms were well-known for their work, they were all successful by any measure of that word.
But recently—thanks largely to the responses I got from our first-ever reader survey—I’ve realized that the 2012 mission no longer applies to the current needs of our audience. You all have very real and pressing questions that need answers, or, at the very least, a community of women to say “Girl, me too.” Questions like:
What’s the best way to advocate for my child’s education in a diverse but less-than-great public school—or in a great school where theirs is the only brown face around?
How can I manage the logistics and cost of childcare?
How can I enjoy my life while being a present mother and working a 9-5 I don’t love but need?
How can I best support my child with special needs?
How can I put myself and my family in a better place financially?
These are just a few of the topics that you’ve told me are keeping you up at night. I want to better serve you by using my passion for sharing stories and asking people questions to provide that type of support. Because I’ve realized that facilitating that type of exchange is what moves me the most. It’s what makes me happiest, and I think it’s the best use of my talents.
This will require a bit of realignment and more conversations with many of you who have so graciously offered your insight and help. In the meantime, I want to give you a sneak peek at what this new mater mea will look like so (1) you can share your thoughts and (2) I can hold myself accountable to this vision:
More articles tackling everyday questions both heavy (see above) and light (What are the best hair products for kids with natural hair?). mater mea will get you the answers you need from industry experts and moms who know from first-hand experience—we want to be your go-to resource for advice and support.
More interviews with women who work 9-5 jobs and are not entrepreneurs or side hustlers. I learned through the survey that the majority of you (52%) have 9-5s and zero interest in quitting your job to start your own business. You’ll be hearing from more women like you.
More discussions on marriage and single motherhood. While 61% of those surveyed are married and want more real talk about marriage, we also got a lot of requests for more pieces targeting the unique challenges single moms face.
More opportunities for conversations both online through social media and in the real world through intimate (to start!) events. No more one-sided conversations! What I enjoy most about mater mea are the discussions I’ve been able to have through it, and I want to bring that exchange to you all more often.
More geographic diversity in who we profile and the topics we cover. We’re moving beyond the New York City-area to hear about life in other parts of the country and world.
More resources and tools you can use in your everyday life to help you live and parent better. This is something I want to roll out later this year—and I’m still getting a sense of what it will look like—but it’s in the works!
More joy. I think it’s easy to focus on the hard parts of being Black, a woman, and/or a mother—struggle has been a part of our narrative for such a long time, it can be difficult to shrug off. But as much as I want mater mea to be a source of comfort when the struggle gets too real, I also don’t want to stray too far from our original tagline: Celebrating motherhood. I’ll find a way to balance the hard stuff with moments of levity and happiness found in Black Kid Joy, Black Girl Magic, and Black Excellence.
Keep an eye out for these changes in the coming weeks, and please reach out and let me know your thoughts on this new direction. I’m really excited about the possibility this new year has in store for all of us!
Anthonia Akitunde is the founder of mater mea.