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The Other Faces of Mother’s Day

May 11, 2012 5:34 pm Leave a comment By  | Via , , , A+ / A-

This Mother’s Day, some mothers won’t see their faces on the big screen or in mainstream ads — or even enjoy Hallmark cards, breakfast in bed or lavish gifts. Instead, they will take the opportunity to speak up for a cause they care about — whether it’s an issue, a social change, or their own child.

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, some in New York’s ethnic and local media celebrated these mothers.

Colorlines introduced us to Forward Together, a group of mothers and activists based in Oakland, California, has had enough of not finding Mother’s Day cards that feature women from different backgrounds. With the help of eight artists, they want to “shift the narrative of ‘how people think about family,” said its communications coordinator.

Screenshot of Mama's Day cards website

Mother's Day cards for mothers not found in mainstream stores. (Screenshot of mamasday.org)

Fed up with the mainstream image of mothers as domestic, middle class, and white, they’ve made a real effort over the past two years to celebrate who they call “mamas on the margins”: all those single, queer, immigrant, and young mothers whose stories are often glossed over by corporate card makers.

“I can’t find a Mother’s Day card that looks at our identities in a way that is sentimental for me and my mom,” says Shanelle Matthews, communications coordinator at Forward Together, an Oakland-based organization that’s leading the e-Card drive through its Strong Families initiative. Matthews grew up as one of three kids in a single-parent black household, and wants to celebrate her mother’s hard work. “This campaign is personally close to be because I can finally say something to my mom on Mother’s Day that’s actually of cultural relevance and value.”

Currently, the cards are only available online.

Some mothers will take the opportunity of Mother’s Day to make a point, Amsterdam News reported. A group of minority mothers will protest police violence in their neighborhoods this Mother’s Day at 1 p.m. at East 158th Street and 3rd Avenue in the Bronx.

“Sunday will be all about outrage,” said Jodie Nicole, an organizer with Mothers Resisting Racist Policing.

She continued:

“It’s about releasing that pent-up energy that comes from internalizing the understanding that the police can perpetuate whatever they want against your self, your community and your kids,” Said Nicole. “We bottle all of this inside and implode in on ourselves. Sunday, we need to be able to have these honest conversations out in the open, and not let all of this get pent up inside us.”

Mothers Resisting Racist Policing will be joined by other groups and protesters in a borough-wide Mother’s Day of Action addressing “police brutality, mass incarceration, war & immigrant justice.”

Meanwhile, some mothers plan to protest the violence within their communities, reports Diario de México (in Spanish).

Fed up: Mexicans hope for police action to stop the increase of gangs. (Photo from Diario de México)

“All residents have an obligation to want communities free of crime. Throughout the years, we have seen incidents that have affected the lives of Mexican and Hispanic families in our area, and thrown them into mourning,” said Blandie Medina, a Brooklyn activist who noted that it’s not just communities in East Harlem that have to face the growing number of gangs in the city.

“It’s a widespread problem in large cities,” Medina added.

Likewise, activists from boroughs like the Bronx said that fighting violence begins at home and in school.

“We can all come together and do our part to keep communities free of attacks. We know that we can’t control everything, but we can make neighborhoods safer,” said María Sánchez.

Another voice far from the public eye — or ear — is that of undocumented children brought over by their parents. Despite the increased difficulties they face, many appreciate the sacrifices of their mother, including Angy, a member of the New York State Youth Leadership Council and the columnist behind Ask Angy, the country’s first advice column for undocumented youth. In a Colorlines article, Angy tells her story and interviews her undocumented mom.

Angy interviews her mom about being undocumented. (Photo via Colorlines)

In answering her daughter’s question about the “harshest experience” she faced as an undocumented person, Angy’s mom revealed that it didn’t come from whatever hell she herself faced, but from the hell she saw her daughter endure.

It was difficult for me watching you navigate the college application process. I’ll never forget the day you went to John Jay’s open house, I felt something was wrong so I called you and you were crying. That was the day you found out undocumented students didn’t qualify for federal, or state, financial aid. It’s okay if I’m excluded, mistreated or underpaid, but when these things are done to you, everything changes. I wanted to set fire to the entire school. I was worried you would hurt yourself and I honestly thought you weren’t coming home that day.

Rita Henley Jensen, editor-in-chief at Women’s eNews, collected stories on motherhood from the publication during the past year. She also notes the recently-released annual ranking of maternal health by Save the Children in which the United States does not place very well among developed nations.

In Save the Children’s annual ranking of maternal health, the United States rose six spots from 2011 to 25th place, largely due to a 10-percent increase in female enrollment in pre-kindergarten programs, as well as a one-year increase in the average number of years girls spend in school. But the United States still lags far behind other wealthy nations in overall status of women, said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.

The United States has the highest percentage of maternal deaths among wealthy countries; sub-Saharan Africa still leads most of the world in maternal deaths. Roughly half of these deaths are preventable. The best guess on how to save the lives of new mothers is that African women need more medical interventions and U.S. women, the opposite.

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