A Tribute to the Pillars of Strength – Celebrating Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the extraordinary women who have shaped our lives through their unwavering love, wisdom, and resilience. It’s a day filled with appreciation for the countless sacrifices made by mothers worldwide. I wanted to create space to pay homage to the women who not only raised their children with little resources but instilled in them the richness of unconditional love and joy. Their love and wisdom have guided us through life’s challenges, and we are forever grateful for their presence.

For those who do not know, the story of Mother’s Day has complicated beginnings – I encourage those that are unfamiliar to read Anna Jarvis’s life story and think about the commercialization of days that are intended to have a deeper purpose and meaning. Originally founded by Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century as a way to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children, the day has evolved, but its essence remains the same. Across the United States, and indeed around the world, once a year we reflect on the impact of mothers (although,, let’s be honest, mother’s day is everyday), with a special tilt of the cap to those who have led their families as single or custodial parents. Among them, countless mothers in America have stood as leaders and trendsetters, embodying strength and grace in the face of adversity. Their resilience is a testament to the human spirit and a source of inspiration for us all.

Growing up in a low-income area of the Bronx, I was fortunate to be raised by strong, independent, spiritually grounded Black women. Despite the economic challenges we lived through, my home was a fortress of love, joy, and Black Women magic. I never fully grasped the economic past and station of my family until later in life (until college, to be specific, and then later moving to a suburb in North Jersey), because my grandmother, aunt, and mother ensured that our home was rich in what truly mattered. One generation later, their hard work has produced children who are doing pretty ok for themselves. We thank them. When life threw curveballs growing up, I witnessed the profound resilience of these women to persevere and uplift others even during their darkest moments. I hear about the terrible meanness of others preying upon my mother’s kind heart but that did not break her spirit. I learned later in life of the physical abuse endured by aunts and cousins at the hands of men who were struggling with their own personal demons and fell short of being the protectors they could have been. Their grit and unwavering spirit have profoundly shaped who I am today. I am forever grateful and I pas those lessons and support forward as best as I can.

The images in this post reflect the mosaic of my experiences and the faces of these remarkable women. The mother’s day photo collage pays tribute to the matriarch of my family, my grandma, whose legacy continues to guide us. It honors Aunty Trish, who embraced me as her own and took me in as a wayward teenager with kindness that knows no bounds! It celebrates an exceptional woman, a friend, and life life partner – who astonishes me with her care, intelligence, and resilience; I am proud to be her Chakotay. Mama Bryant, who brought me into this world and nurtured me through my early years, laid the foundation of my being with her profound empathy, humor, and love.

Today, we also celebrate those incredible individuals who serve as mothers in the broadest sense. These are the teachers, neighbors, family friends, and mentors who step into mothering roles, offering guidance, support, and care. Their influence is immeasurable, nurturing the potential in young lives with a passion that transcends biological ties. They exemplify the idea that the essence of motherhood is not confined to a direct lineage but is expressed through the love and wisdom shared with the next generation.

Dr. Larry J. Walker’s work, “We Are Family: How othermothering and support systems can improve mental health outcomes among African American males at HBCUs,” underscores the vital role of non-biological mothers in the mental health and well-being of young adults. Othermothering, as Dr. Walker articulates, is a form of communal care that extends beyond traditional family boundaries. It is deeply rooted in the practices of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) where educators and administrators embody an extended family’s nurturing and guiding force. This approach is pivotal in creating a supportive environment that addresses the socio-emotional and academic needs of students, fostering a community that nurtures success against the backdrop of both historical burdens and contemporary challenges.

This and every Mother’s Day, let us acknowledge those celebrated traditionally and the single mothers performing daily feats that are nothing short of superheroic. Give them a call and tell them how much they mean to you and others. They make the world a better place through their dedication and the roles they fulfill so passionately. Your efforts do not go unnoticed by my colleagues, friends, family members, and every single mother out there. Thank you for your sacrifices, your love, and the lessons you impart, which continue to inspire and shape generations.

In closing, let us remember the words of Maya Angelou, who said, “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” This Mother’s Day, we honor the hurricane-like force of all mothers—those incredible women who teach, guide, and drive us forward in life.

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.”

– Maya Angelou
Reflective Questions
  1. How has the role of your mother influenced the person you are today?
  2. What is one lesson you’ve learned from a mother figure that you carry with you in daily life?

Walker, L. J. (2018). We Are Family: How othermothering and support systems can improve mental health outcomes among African American males at HBCUs. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 7(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.2979/spectrum.7.1.01

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