1,500 acres. It might not seem like a sprawling kingdom, but it was my grandmother’s, and it was home. 

Over sixty years ago, my grandmother served as a community leader in Park Heights, located in Baltimore City. She was not only a resident but also a matriarch in one of the few Black families in the community.

On behalf of her husband and six children, she advocated for Park Heights to the city government. To foster inclusion and belonging among minority residents, she organized activities where all were welcome. And because kingdoms should be majestic, my grandmother worked to uphold Park Heights’ amenities and overall charm. 

I wasn’t alive to see my grandmother serve as a leader in her community, but I often wondered how—and why—she was trusted to lead predominately white and Jewish neighborhoods in one of America’s most notoriously racist cities.  

I asked myself a similar question during a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, where I learned that after Emancipation, Black midwives delivered the babies of white women in rural and remote parts of the South. How could those women—often Black mothers themselves—confidently and capably lead White families through childbirth? 

We rarely reach the top executive rung on the corporate ladder. All Black women represent less than 5% of C-suite positions, and to date, only two Black women—and mothers—hold the title of CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I often wonder, how do these two Black mothers persevere in corporate America? Do they fear speaking the truth—even when it is not popular? 

Plus, the honor of witnessing a Black, female, stepmother as Vice President of the United States is not lost on me. But the number of Black mothers who hold leadership titles in government is far too small for my liking. 

The experiences of all these women—including my grandmother—brought me to the same conclusion: community leadership isn’t a title Black mothers asked for. It’s a title bestowed upon us. It’s our natural-born right, our divine place in the world.  

It’s frustrating: all too often our recognition as leaders is informal or “understood.” Our conventional leadership titles might be few and far between, but make no mistake: we are hidden influencers. Whether it be through midwifery, as social media innovators, or as public policy advocates, Black mothers are often those impactful figures walking the walk- guiding, directing, and organizing others through transformational change.  

Somehow, the role feels both like a calling and a title thrust upon Black mothers because of how society is. Case in point: there’s a Black mother and wife from Alabama who I admire. Whether singing or speaking, she didn’t shy away from controversy.

She believed it fueled change. She also believed women were the “backbone” of one of the most pivotal and critical social movements in American history. Her husband was impactful and influential in his own right, but when others recall his career, she’s named the rock upon which his transformational platform was founded. She was so in lock-step with his mission and passion, she often led his community of followers in his absence.  

This natural leader’s name? Coretta Scott-King.  

Even she admitted her title was thrust upon her when she reflected on the Montgomery Bus Boycott: “I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause.” 

We might not always be respected, yet our innate ability to care about others is unwavering. When our government and hospitals fail us, Black mothers are developing alternative plans and new solutions to address the challenges within our communities.

Grassroots gurus. I doubt anyone would argue our history of mobilizing and guiding communities was never as prevalent as during the campaign and election of the first nation’s Black president. 

It wasn’t clear to me why so many Black mothers choose to walk with the weight of this position until I became a mother myself. My son was two months old when the Baltimore riots happened in 2015. While watching my city destroy itself in protest of police brutality and racial injustice, I grappled with accepting or ignoring my calling.

I could sit with rage and disgust, praying that when my son was older, the world would be a better place. Or, I could lead my city, and other Black mothers like me, helping them understand how to advocate for their families and change public policy. I could help my community think and act differently, thus creating a better place for all residents. 

I chose the latter. It doesn’t matter if my kingdom is 1,500 acres or the entire world—like my grandmother before me, I’m a natural community leader. Motherhood made me a change agent. I support, foster, and enable others, and tend to make sound decisions that others follow.  

A person can learn to lead, but something about this feels different. This feels like what I’m supposed to be doing as a Black mother. 

Source: parents.com 

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