Black mothers: our community, our strength

This Black History month let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible women behind the scenes – Black mothers.

I owe an incredible lot to the sacrifices made by my own mother, Sheryl Brady, who passed away far too soon after her battle with lung cancer. She was a Black mother with an incredible vision and passion for me to succeed and she carried this out while facing her own battles day to day.

Black children and youth have historically and, in cases now, currently are not expected to thrive and do well in our education system, and many scholars have and continue to work to address this (Dr. George Dei, UofT; Dr. Njoki Wane, UofT; Dr. Carl James, York; Dr. Erica Lawson, Western; Dr. Alana Butler, Queens). The advocacy work to address systemic barriers is often taken on by Black mothers, like my own.

My mother took it upon herself to ensure that I would have the same educational opportunities and pathways as other students, but this created extra work for her, to not only raise me, but to continuously fight to ensure I was treated fairly. Without her effort, I would not have continued my education past high-school and onto the post-secondary and graduate levels.

My story, though, is not unique. Instead, it is the story of many Black and newcomer students, where our mothers muster up the courage to correct a broken system. Importantly, my mother did not only advocate for me, but also for other children and youth and members of our community. Historically, Black mothers have often come together to address injustices through a community approach.

In fact, Black women do not need to be biological mothers in order to take on care of members of their community, this is known as ‘other-mothering’ or ‘community parenting’ stemming from African values where it “takes a village”. We see this today in the community programs, after school activities, advocacy groups, breakfast programs and other initiatives developed to create greater access of Black and racialized youth.

There are countless Black mothers – far too many to name who take on this important work right here in our community. Moving forward, as we celebrate Black History Month, take a moment to acknowledge a Black mother or community parent that you know who is fighting for a better and more equitable future for generations to come.

I dedicate this article to my mother, Sheryl Brady (August 7, 1970 – May 2, 2015)

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