BMC Summit 2018: A Gathering For Black Motherhood
It’s no secret that spaces for Black mothers to speak on the particular experiences around being, well, Black moms, are few and far between. There are a million Facebook parenting groups and mommy blogs, and conferences surrounding motherhood are growing in number. However, many of these spaces aren’t diverse, and many Black moms have often felt excluded or gaslit when trying to ask questions or highlight issues that relate to raising Black children.
It was out of this need for a dedicated safe space for Black motherhood that Tanya Hayles created the Black Moms Connection Facebook group. With the mission of taking the discussions offline as well, The BMC Summit was launched in 2017 with this year’s Summit going down this past weekend.
Held at the beautiful BMO Institute for Learning in Scarborough, the Summit was a full day of connection through panels, keynotes, and vendors. Panels included discussions on mental health and wellness, fostering and adoption, infertility, education, food and fitness, love and sex, and motherhood and career (the latter of which yours truly moderated!), and attendees came away from each panel with helpful, tangible takeaways to hopefully make tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come a bit easier.
The keynote fireside chat featured an honest and hilarious conversation with none other than Toronto’s own Grammy-winning vocalist Melanie Fiona. She held nothing back as she talked about the “career suicide” of having kids in her industry, her labour challenges, her postpartum body acceptance journey, and raising a young child of colour in America. One of the key takeaways for me was hearing her remind us that our children can pick up on our moods and our energy and that they’re always watching—so we need to be aware of what we’re presenting. I personally know I haven’t been speaking kindly to myself about myself lately, and I see areas where LM is picking up on those things, so a change gon’ come. She also talked about navigating “mom guilt” when it came to taking time for herself and her career, but said that it was important for her son to see what Mommy does—and to know that Mommy may have to go, but she will always come back.
I was honoured to moderate the Moms + Bosses panel, sponsored by Kinky Curly Yaki. My panelists were Shannae Ingleton-Smith, Angel Livas, Kike-Lola Odusanya, Winnie Caldwell, and Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson—all incredible women balancing high-profile positions, entrepreneurship, and side hustles in the practice or pursuit of motherhood. We talked about the “motherhood penalty” and how our careers have been affected by pregnancy and motherhood, eschewing the word “balance” for “harmony” when we’re considering the various responsibilities we hold, how to show up for ourselves on the toughest days, and so much more. It was amazing to hold court with these incredible Black women and feel that freedom to speak freely among a room full of women who could relate to us on core, intimate levels.
Because Canada is slow on the uptake of collecting race-based stats in many areas, we’re lacking a lot of the quantitative data to support the things many Black women and mothers experience. Maternal mortality, postpartum depression and anxiety, anti-Black racism in our school and children’s aid systems, career issues, and more—it’s vital to have room to open up, ask questions, give answers, and build with other moms, especially for those who are isolated or don’t have a great support circle. For many in the Facebook group and who attended the Summit, BMC has been that circle for them, and it’s that loyalty that will only see the Summit grow to be bigger and better in the years to come.