Creating a safe space for Black mums

Dope Black Mums has had a spike in visitors and interest since the Black Lives Matters protests and is raising awareness about the need for greater education and action on racism.

Group of women sit drinking tea and smiling to camera

 

Nina Malone was a first-time mum and going to a lot of mum events. She would ask a lot of questions, for instance, about fears for her children, but they were often met with silence and blank stares because they were not ones that the mums in the groups tended to ask.

So she formed a whatsapp group with every Black mum she knew and the discussions took off. There was a lot of sharing of experiences and ideas. “It was a space where we could talk, where we didn’t have to filter ourselves, where we could speak openly. We could share our fears and people in the group could relate to them and we could support each other and pass on tips,” says Nina [pictured second left].

The Dope Black Mums group grew from 30 to 310 very fast so a closed Facebook group was set up which has over a thousand mums on it. It is less intimate than the whatsapp group, but people can tag onto a discussion and post anonymously. There is a moderator on the Facebook group and there are now multiple whatsapp groups with different people leading each group.

Which is just as well as Nina works full time as a talent agent for a Black-owned talent agency as well as being one of five women on the Dope Black Women podcast series which started six months after the whatsapp group. Pre-lockdown she admits to having a long to-do list to get through every lunchbreak and spent her evenings in long meetings. As lockdown started she was on her own looking after her two children, aged four and two, as her husband was isolating at a friend’s house to protect the family.

Black Lives Matters

Since the Black Lives Matters protests Nina says there has been a big spike in interest, including media interest, in Dope Black Mums, with many positive – and some negative – messages. Nina herself has found the issues raised by BLM intensely emotional and says she was crying for two weeks straight at the beginning as it brought up so many emotions for her. It was good to be able to share those emotions with others on the Dope Black Mums forums. Dope Black Mums did a podcast called Dear White Mums to explain how racism works and it went viral. “It was like a lightbulb. People were saying they couldn’t believe this was our experience as Black women,” says Nina.  Many mums have asked how they should talk to their children about racism. Nina says part of her wonders how they haven’t thought about this before. “It shows the enormity of the privilege. We have to think about it every day,” she says. Dope Black Mums hears from mums of children as young as three who are hearing negative comments about their skin colour. Nina says education about racism needs to start at home and at nursery and she would like to see Black British history on the school curriculum.

Dope Black Mums’ attempts to raise awareness are complemented by other podcasts and groups. Nina’s husband is on the Dope Black Dads podcast and a friend runs the Dope Black Women podcast. There is also a Dope Black Men group. The different groups are very interlinked and support each other as well as being in regular contact. They have recently registered as a community interest company and plan more collaborations which will give them a bigger platform and reach.

The members of the different podcasts all have different perspectives. Dope Black Mums’ members include two mums who are married, two who are co-parenting and one single mum. “You get to hear lots of different perspectives. We don’t all agree,” says Nina. Some of the podcasts are based on news, but they have covered everything from mental health to talking about periods with daughters.

The group has also given talks to some big employers. Nina says she thinks it is vital for employers to take a look at themselves and their policies and their historical behaviour and “be brutally honest”. “It’s important to admit what has been done and to admit that privilege exists and to do so openly so employees feel valued. It’s important too to create a safe space at work for Black employees where they can get support,” says Nina.

She adds that putting a diversity and inclusion board in place and looking at all policies from the bottom up is also vital, if possible bringing in a skilled professional to lead diversity and inclusion meetings and talk about ally-ship and unconscious bias, including the everyday microaggressions that affect confidence and performance. Language is also important as is communicating regularly with employees about what they are doing. “We have to be truly honest,” says Nina. “The next few months will show whether things have really changed.”

 



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