A Celebration of Black Motherhood in Canada
by Olivia Barrett
Friday 28 May, 2021
Black motherhood is a journey of community, boundaries and unlearning, as discussed in the Celebration of Black Motherhood in Canada panel hosted by the Afro-Caribbean Mentorship Program (ACMP) Ottawa. On Friday May 28th, a panel of four women came together to discuss and celebrate Black motherhood in Canada.
The Celebration of Black Motherhood in Canada panel was moderated by Karhema Etienne with opening remarks given by Warren Clark, founder of the ACMP. After explaining ACMP’s work, Clark explained that the goal of this panel was to empower and appreciate Black motherhood.
Zarah Maria Willow, a poet, storyteller and writer, performed an untitled poem about mother earth before the panel began. She prefaced her poem by explaining the complexities of writing a poem about her own mother, saying, “it might be a lifelong adventure.”
Etienne began the panel by asking the panelists how their relationship with their mothers impacted how they navigate motherhood. Lynette Mambwe, wife and mother who works as a policy analyst for the federal government, explained that she was raised by her stepmother and how the absence of her biological mother makes her more mindful of possibly being absent for her daughter. She wants to give her daughter the attention that she didn’t have as a child.
Natasha Clery, mother of two and working in finance at the MUHC in Montreal, said, “I don’t know that anyone can say their mother doesn’t affect how they became mothers.” She explained how living in a multigenerational home with her parents and her daughters gives her a unique perspective of navigating motherhood and becoming the type of mom she aspired to be.
Nashola Pryce, wife and mother who works as a faith-based therapist, commented on the level of influence her mother has on her motherhood, saying she hears her mother’s voice coming out of her. She also explained how she uses faith as an anchor when she can’t find the words to describe hard times like her mother did.
Sandy Esprit, stay-at-home mom and full-time content creator, added that seeing what her mother went through as a single mom influences her the most. It made her aware of what she needed to heal in order to break the cycle of trauma for her children.
When asked what they wish they knew before motherhood, the four panelists echoed the same sentiment: it’s ok to not know. They explained their experiences with doubting their instincts and their struggling with boundaries. The four wished they knew to be their own advocate and that it’s ok to not be perfect.
Similar answers were given when Etienne asked how the women navigated balancing different aspects of their lives and where their individuality comes into play. The women explained how they struggled with prioritizing themselves and feeling as if taking time for themselves was selfish. Clery explained how finding a balance between motherhood and her individuality is difficult, but it’s important to remember and find joy in themselves. Esprit commented on how finding and maintaining this balance is something she’s still learning to do.
When Etienne asked the women what they believe should be normalized in the community for ACB women after birth, they all commented on setting boundaries with family and the processes of relearning the body and reality. The women explained their struggles with setting boundaries with their community, as Esprit said, “sometimes ‘no’ is a complete sentence.” Pryce commented on the importance of relying on those around you as you begin to relearn your reality and showing the same grace to yourself that you would to others.
The panelists explained the importance of prioritizing your mental health and wellbeing when answering Etienne’s question about severing ties with a toxic family. Clery talked about the experience of severing ties with a toxic partner and navigating co-parenting. She explained how a parent’s handling of a toxic relationship prompts children to ask what is okay to tolerate.
“Some of the things that moms overthink are some of the best moments of our lives,” said Etienne after the panelists commented on feeling like they were messing up. The women explained how they incorporate and rely on extended family for support and that there can never be too much communication.
For the final question of the panel, Etienne asked the women about preparing their children for racial abuse and its trauma. Pryce answered by explaining the importance of representation, exposure to culture, and pushing the narrative of being enough. She also said that she teaches her children to celebrate each other and being intentional in the messages she tells them. Mambwe and Clery commented on advocating for your children and teaching them to stand up for themselves.
In this panel about celebrating Black motherhood, these women shared their experiences with boundaries, community and how they’ve learned to navigate motherhood as a whole.
I am currently a stay-at-home mom and full-time content creator. I have two young daughters and am currently pregnant with my third. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I decided to work full-time in retail for over 10 years. Once I had my children I wanted to be the example that my children could model.
Natasha Clery is a mother, daughter, sister, and friend who was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to exceptional St. Lucian parents. She currently works in Finance at the MUHC in Montreal.
She is also Tashe,(silent E) born of the inspiration of God and led by a passionately romantic muse. She is a writer, poet, and speaker of all things connected to communication and relationships. She is an empath; a student of love.
Former radio show host of the SOS (Sounds of Soul) on Montreal’s local CKUT 90.3 FM radio, she uses her voice and her words to uplift, to inspire, and whenever possible, to heal and soothe the soul.
She is the author of the upcoming Eleven Series; an anthology of poetry and is the co-creator of an erotic spoken word collection called Aural Sublimation.
Her spoken word performances have reached stages in Canada and the U.S.
Her first dream is to publish…her biggest dream is to remind the world to love.
You can appreciate her passion for words, love and life on Instagram @tashelight
and Natasha Clery on Facebook.
Aural Sublimation by Tashe on all major streaming outlets.
My name is Lynnette Mambwe. I am a wife to a wonderful man and a mom to a beautiful little girl. I am currently working as a Policy Analyst for the Government of Canada and also recently started a hobby turned business called Macrame.and.things which have really turned out to something I absolutely love.
Aside from work, I simply like to relax and hang out with my family.
Nashola Pryce is a proud Afro-Caribbean Canadian woman of Malawian and Jamaican descent. She was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario. She is married to her husband Peter and have two children, Malachi age 5 and Arabella age 2.
She has been active in her local and church community for over two decades. She currently works as a faith-based therapist for a non-profit Christian Counselling Organization. She has an MA in Counselling Psychology and is a Professional Member of the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).
She is passionate about assisting others in her professional and personal life to empower positive life changes. In her spare time, she loves to read, enjoy time with family and listen to music.
Nicolette is a mother and community leader. Coming from a Caribbean and South Asian heritage coupled with a background in international relations she is passionate about advocating and raising awareness for the needs of African, Caribbean, and black countries and families. Nicolette is a mother to a 16-month-old son who inspired her to begin community work among racialized mothers within the Ottawa community. Currently, she is the chairperson for Colours of Mama Ottawa (COMO). Through COMO Nicolette and her team aim to connect racialized mothers and their families to resources while creating spaces for discussion, connection, and healing.
Featuring the Poety of Zarah Maria Willow
Zarah Maria Willow is a multidisciplinary artist: storyteller, writer, and poet. She began performing in 2010. Her work has since been published in the Arc Poetry Magazine, Sawdust Reading Series Collective, and the Young Black Women’s Project anthology. Zarah is passionate about cultivating space for others to be their authentic self. She creates with the intention of building honest and trusting connections with others and the world around her.
Her work explores themes such as generational trauma, vulnerability, connectivity, and healing.
The Afro/Caribbean Mentorship Program is an initiative that is dedicated to supporting the success of Afro-Caribbean students and racialized students in Ottawa. We recognize that the experiences of Afro, Caribbean, Black and other racialized minorities encounter racially charged microaggressions that impede on their social development as students. Advocating for the inclusiveness on campus is ACMP’s mission while supporting the success of racialized students. ACMP is dedicated to supporting Afro, Caribbean, Black and other racialized undergraduate and graduate students, in accessing resources that contribute to their overall academic success. More information at: https://weareacmp.com/about/
Olivia Barrett is a Bachelors of Journalism and Humanities student at Carleton University. Her interests include photography and poetry which she uses to explore social justice issues and other intriguing fields. She also loves learning about history and ancient religions. Olivia writes on social issues, well-being and out of curiosity.