YO MAMA’S STORY
The seeds of YO MAMA were planted in 2010. The first seed was planted in highly hostile soil - my bathroom.
I woke up to my daughter’s screaming.
Running to the bathroom, I saw that very hot water was shooting from the bathroom sink. The faucet was stripped and could not be turned off . We raced to find tools. Nothing we had worked. I called our landlord, people in the building, neighbors, and finally plumbers. (Even with money in hand, plumbers refused to come without the landlord’s permission. He was out of town. We were on our own.
I returned to the bathroom. The scalding water was off. My daughter had wedged a black cast iron skillet between the mirror and the faucet handle. Problem temporary solved!
Lesson of the story? Most black mothers cooked in cast iron skillets and pots. We were healthier due to the iron and minerals from fresh food cooking. Sometimes the cast iron skillet was also a “peacemaker”. Now, the cast iron skillet was a lumber!
WE BUILD UPON OUR MOTHER’S CULTURAL LEGACIES!
The second seed found its spot in an Early Childhood Education Classroom in North Minneapolis. I noticed that mothers playing with the art supplies I had placed on a table to model how to encourage creativity in young children. They made flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners. They doodled. They used yarn to do finger weaving. They told me that they were exhausted and needed to do something like ART. They were relaxed. They remembered doing art before having children. They spoke of their mothers and grandmothers as artists. They would love a place to do art together. These mothers told me - Mothering is a heARTistic practice!
The third seed was when 2 women found common ground in a Community Health Worker computer lab classroom. Both struggled with the mastery of technology language and skills. Anxious but determined they comforted each other through foreign tasks while sharing familial stories of courage and tenacity. They discovered they both were artists: one wrote and one painted. Making art kept them afloat in challenging times. The writer was me. The painter became an artist who created a series of brown paper bag paintings, note cards that depicted African American simple life and relationships, and become a co-owner of the Art Shoppe in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.
One consistent core belief of YO MAMA: MOTHERS are wise and resourceful. Mothers carry and share collective Ancestral “know how”. We can and do take care of ourselves, our children, families, and communities. We do traditional Woman’s Work and non-traditional work in every employment and environment. We have made the woman’s work of mothering into ART.
Yet, mothering is not valued. Women are damned if they work in their homes, as mothers, and damned if they work outside of their homes. Mothers are exhausted trying to juggle the demands of both worlds. Poverty has been feminized. For WOCI (often poor) healthcare, childcare, housing, and education have become weaponized to miseducate masses of children leading too many into the school to prison pipeline. YO MAMA is here to dismantle these disparities.
YO MAMA’S HOUSE is centered on the history of Black cooperative economic thought and practice. Value is placed on the legacies of cooperative economics and collective care of mothers.
Since 2010 YO MAMA, 100 mamas have participated in YO MAMA free and public events. In YO MAMA’s first year of programing, mothers discovered that we all shared a high level of collective and generational exhaustion! We all were (as Infinity Ancestor Fannie Lou Hamer had said) “Sick And Tired of Being Sick and Tired”. So Mamas created the “SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED” Rocking Chair in partnership with ROLU and the Walker Arts Center.
The chair has been transformed to the BABY MAMA chair by Kulture Klub at Youth Link, and the ANCESTRAL CHAIR by the GAIA Democratic school. Northside mothers created the “Chairs of Resistance” and a POP UP Museum to exhibit them at UROC, a University of Minnesota site. Mothers have painted, scrapbooked, danced, created small claymation films, made dolls, did weaving, canning, and more. Mamas are using their unique artistic practices in other areas of their lives.
YO MAMA continues to evolve and transform to meet the needs of mothers. YO MAMA is paying attention to environmental issues; Katrina in New Orleans, Flint, Michigan’s lead in water disaster, Puerto Rico’s Hurricane and its aftermath. YO MAMA feels an urgency to get more mothers to the conversations about Climate Change, extreme weather and manmade disasters. YO MAMA is educating and helping mothers be prepared. YO MAMA’s intent is to organize and resource 100 mothers to be able to address extreme cold, heat, gas leaks, explosions, and the health crisis these emergencies may create. They will create customized EMERGENCY KITS and Individual Family Strategic Plans.