Sitting Down with Jessika Jackson, Founder of Hey, Black Mom!
Hey, Black Mom! is a community for Black Mothers, by Black Mothers and in This Post We Hear From Founder and Community Builder Jessika Jackson!
By Jessika Jackson, Editor-in-Chief of Hey, Black Mom!
Setting the Stage for Hey, Black Mom!
For six impassioned years of my professional career, I was a sportswriter and editor in the newspaper industry. My love for the art of storytelling and print journalism led me down that path.
When it was time to leave the field in 2017, I didn’t want to abandon my flair for telling stories in such a format. I was then a new mom, and motherhood birthed a renewed zeal in my life.
The Early Days:
Blending my two passions, I started Hey, Black Mom! as a space for the voices of Black mothers, to build a trustworthy online community for us and, most importantly, to keep writing.
Reluctance delayed my mission in starting a motherhood website; I wasn’t sure with my background where I would have a place in blog culture. Writing has always been the avenue for me to best connect with people, so I focused on building from that.
Through sharing relatable narratives, Hey, Black Mom! has become this digital home that amplifies our voices. It is a website and brand meant to uplift, inspire, entertain and inform Black mothers. From stories about breastfeeding and breast cancer to reports and recent news, my aim was to create a trusted source for us.
Growing the Community and Featuring Black Moms
While I invest a lot of stock in the content on the website, Instagram has been an excellent vehicle to drive the mission. I use the visuals to engage moms in a range of topics.
Included among those prompts has been breastfeeding and birth stories. I’ve asked fellow moms to share their stories about pumping, breastfeeding and any challenges that arise. But I’m careful in remaining inclusive, also asking women for transitioning tips from breast to bottle.
Groups who service mothers of different backgrounds should strive for that kind of consideration, too. It's important to take a second, third and fourth look at your content, messaging and interactions. Have you done enough to include Black mothers? Are you sensitive to how they are represented?
There have been times I’ve seen ads featuring a Black mother, and she has no wedding ring vs. the non-Black mothers I’ve seen advertised. I’ve seen Instagram accounts of, for example, products for mothers but found myself having to dig deep to find representation. There are instances where I’m almost certain there wasn’t a Black person in the room during ideation.
The lack of representation is a major reason many Black women start their own motherhood — and more — blogs; it’s so hard to be seen and respected.
Groups who are not solely dedicated to Black mothers need to be well informed about the plights we face. Dig deep. Do your research. Think critically about proper representation when creating campaigns, content and the like. It’s one very simple extra step to take in these processes.
I’m seeing a commitment to diversity unlike before, and my hope is that it remains permanent once the flames of the revolution have dwindled because the weight on Black women and Black mothers is downright tiring.
A former classmate recently asked me to share with my audience her survey about Black women and breastfeeding, which addressed the longstanding realities of our group: a 16-percent gap exists between Black and white mothers who introduced their child to breastfeeding at birth. Race, employer and community support played a role in that number.
Such racial discrepancies and other challenges we’ve seen Black mothers face in general are heartbreaking — from being three times more likely to die in childbirth than white mothers to being denied service at a restaurant for rules that didn’t apply to a white family and being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 recession, even.
We’ve all heard the stories and statistics, and it’s frightening.
How about adding that on top of giving birth during a pandemic?
To drive these necessary conversations, Hey, Black Mom! is hosting a summer series called Mothering Through Madness. Each Friday, I host a featured mom to discuss how she has been parenting amid the ongoing pandemic. Two of the moms — one expecting and one who recently delivered — will have the spotlight to address her concerns about COVID-19 and birth and pregnancy.
What they have to say is important and deserves our attention. Moms need moms, because our shared experiences connect us.