Moving America Forward

NationSwell Live: How ‘Mothering Justice’ Is Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis

June 17, 2020
by
Menu
NationSwell Live: How ‘Mothering Justice’ Is Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis

One hour. Five incredible organizations. All that’s missing is you.

On June 26, 2020 at 1 P.M. EST, #NationSwellLive will convene leaders at the frontlines of COVID-19 response for communities with some of the most urgent need — and you can be a part of helping their efforts.

Ahead of our event, NationSwell spoke with Danielle Atkinson, founder and Executive Director of Mothering Justice. Mothering Justice is an organization whose mission is to “raise the voices of mothers and help them become policy makers and shapers” through “advocacy, leadership development, voter empowerment, and promoting family-friendly advocacy.” This is what they had to say about how they’re helping mothers and family caregivers through the COVID-19 crisis — and how you can support their efforts. 

**

NationSwell: Tell us about yourself, Mothering Justice and the communities you serve.

Mothering Justice’s Danielle Atkinson: Years ago, I was looking for work in the progressive movement while I was pregnant. And when I got the job, I had to immediately think about maternity leave. My husband and I, by all means, we’re solidly middle class — but I was a contractor. My position didn’t allow me any protection around leave, or any job protections at all. And I definitely didn’t get paid leave. So I was able to keep my job, but I was only able to take four weeks off. And that was because it was unpaid — and I just knew that it would really be a burden on our finances if I was taking anymore. And four weeks is not enough to bond with the new baby, definitely not enough to heal.

When I came back to work, I was looking for an organization that was tackling this issue of leave and more generally mom issues.
And when I looked around, I really only found organizations that were led by white women, or use white women as the spokespeople. And I knew why, because again, I’ve been in the progressive movement for a really long time. And I knew that our stories and our face was seen as distracting, and could even be harmful to the cause because of the stigma that comes along with a mother of color needing help.

So I gathered the smartest moms of color I knew around owning this message, owning this strategy. And that’s when we came up with Mothering Justice. And the idea around Mothering Justice is, one: we want to be completely truthful about who we are and where we are in life and how the society was not established and set up and run for us; and two, we wanted to address the issues of financial stability that we were dealing with. And so we came up with a Mama’s Agenda, which are the issues that we hear again, and again from moms around what is impacting their own financial stability. And so we work on those issues and then we do leadership development to make sure that our mothers of color, we’re not just telling their sad story, but they were also armed with the policy insights that really just color their experience and the solution.

And then we do voter engagement, because we know that conventional wisdom is that married women vote a certain way and moms vote a certain way. And it really was not, it’s not a deep narrative around what a mother of, especially a mother of color, voter looks like. So in a nutshell, that’s what we do.

NationSwell: What are some points from your policy agenda?

Mothering Justice: The issues that makeup our platform are affordable childcare, leave policy — both paid sick days and family leave — wages and income support, and then maternal justice. And so we have been successful in raising the minimum wage here in Michigan and establishing a paid leave policy.

NationSwell: How has your work shifted or pivoted to meet the COVID-19 crisis?

Mothering Justice: So, we like to say the rest of the world is feeling right now what we always feel, having to balance — people are juggling a life that they really haven’t had to do before, right? Like, how is your house a classroom, a gymnasium, a workstation for you and maybe some other person? That at the least. And at the most, everyone’s understanding the importance of an essential worker. And we are talking about it in a way that we weren’t talking about it five months ago, right?

Essential workers were expendable workers. And we had this conversation about wages and benefits as: There are people that earned them because they have a level of education and an income level. And there are people that don’t because they just haven’t worked hard enough. Now, as our entire country is dependent on people on low wage work — as it always has, but now it’s visible. We are having a different conversation, and hopefully it will result in different outcomes. Hopefully, the conversation around paid leave or the importance of a stable childcare environment will be constant.

Because again, those have always been the backbones of our society. It’s just more visible now.

NationSwell: How can our audience support you in your efforts?

Mothering Justice: It’s really corny, but living your truth and being honest about what your circumstances are. Our society really runs on this narrative of bootstraps, which is not how any of us are really feeling, and surviving and thriving. We rely on a system; we live within a system. And if we are to be really honest and to look at the system, is it working for you? And maybe if it’s working for you, is it working for your cousin? Who is it working for, and who is not working for? And that might be someone you love and someone that you’re supporting. So we really need to be honest with ourselves and then reject the narrative that leads us to an internalized oppression, which leads us to a bootstraps mentality.

And if we really are real, we will say that we need to reconstruct our society around the values of caregiving, around caretaking and justice in a community. And it’s very easy to come to that conclusion when we first reject the narrative around only looking out for yourself. And everything else really flows that because you’re going to speak your truth. You’re going to raise the questions with potential elected officials. You’re going to demand that corporations pay a living wage. You’ll just live that.

***

To learn more about #NationSwellLive, visit our event page here.

Comments