It’s International Women’s Month and as a part of our #MomGoals series this month, we’re featuring a handful of women from our Wandering Moms communities who are Mamas Moving Mountains! In addition to being independent women, amazing mothers, and world travelers- these women are using their strengths to do big things in their communities. We want to honor some of the incredible these the women in our community are doing so without further ado, we present MAMAS MOVING MOUNTAINS- A Celebration of Wandering Moms!
Mamas Moving Mountains
Bianca Pryor: Nonprofit Founder and Activist
When Bianca Pryor met Shalon Irving at Purdue in 2002, they became fast friends. Bianca went on to work in Content Operations for BET Networks while Shalon, a brilliant scientist who obtained her PhD, went on to work in epidemiology for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention where she studied how institutional inequality, trauma and violence impacted people’s health and wellness. After college and as life marched onwards, the two remained best friends. They both loved to travel, both chose to be single mothers and both had plans to move abroad with their children. But on January 28, 2017, Dr. Shalon’s life was cut short. She passed away from postnatal complications just after giving birth to her daughter.
Those who knew and loved Dr. Shalon believe her death was preventable. They believe that despite being one of the leading researchers in the United States working to uncover how and why certain life circumstances led to negative health outcomes, Dr. Shalon became one of the very statistics she studied. Black women in America experience disproportionately high rates of maternal death. Black mothers in America mothers are 243% more likely to die from complications of childbirth than are white mothers in America. In a country with one of the most advanced health systems in the world- this simple shouldn’t happen.
Bianca couldn’t handle the fact that her best friend had become a statistic. She knew her best friend’s mission as a research scientist was to work towards eliminating such racial disparities. Before her untimely death, Dr. Shalon had said, “I see inequity wherever it exists, call it by name, and work to eliminate it.” So Bianca decided to carry on this mission. To help cope with her grief and carry on her friend’s legacy, Bianca worked with Dr. Shalon’s mother, Ms. Wanda Irving, to create the Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project. The organization works to “remove barriers, biases, and disparate practices that impede access to equitable, quality care for Black women and women of color.” They fight are fighting for a brighter future for Black women—”one in which black women are not dismissed, but are heard, respected, and cared for as equal individuals.”
Under Bianca’s leadership, Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project works to increase community supports for Black mothers giving birth as well as educating medical professionals to help improve outcomes for Black mothers before, during, and after childbirth. Her goal is to ensure that no one else loses their mother, daughter, aunt, or best friend due to the structural inequalities in a healthcare system that puts Black women at higher risk of complications and death. They will also be launchin a new app that will help further their mission- stay tuned to their website for the official launch which is during Black Maternal Health Week starting April 11, 2021.
Dr. Catricia Tilford: Pediatrician and Single Mom Advocate
Dr. Catricia is a pediatrician, a single mom, a blogger, and a single parent life coach who has stepped up her already amazing game during the pandemic. I think it’s pretty safe to say Dr. Catricia was running on all cylinders even before the global pandemic hit, but when she saw a specific need in her Latinx community for more education and support to help parents safely navigate the challenges of the pandemic, she didn’t hesitate to rise to the occasion. Dr. Catricia has been running after hours parenting clinics to help educate parents in her community about Covid and Covid vaccinations. With a special interest in early childhood development and mental health awareness, Dr. Catricia has been moving mountains to help her community stay both physically and emotionally healthy during these unprecedented times.
Dr. Catricia shares, “It’s important that I always show up as a mom first when educating because I want parents to know their child’s best interest is my priority because I’m a parent too! I’m actually a single parent and I have been moving mountains in the single mom communities by empowering them to find their voice and learn how to love themselves again! I feel like too often we lose ourselves or feel “stuck” in motherhood. We put our dreams to the side and enter into a survival mode all the while slowly forgetting the importance of self care. Being a working mama during this pandemic is tough, but we are strong and resilient!! We are badasses with the strength to move mountains and lay down new paths of empowerment for others to follow!!”
You can find Dr. Catricia on her blog, Dr. Mom Sage Advice!
Keallah Smith: Financial Literacy Coach
Keallah Smith graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in both Finance an Accounting. She immediately began looking for ways to utilize her skills and talents to give back to her community. She quickly realized the best way for her to give back is to teach our youngest generation the skills they need to become financially literate! She started teaching a course called Financial Literacy for Kids via the Outschool platform- with hundreds of young students learning the financial basics such as saving, the benefits of banking, how credit works, and how to invest. Her flagship course is offered for ages 11-15, but she also has financial literacy courses for younger kids ages 5-9, plus super fun classes that teach literacy skills via the board game Monopoly and even a class that teaches finance lessons from Star Wars! Keallah also works with local groups and agencies to teach her classes and will work with new clients to create custom courses for their groups.
Keallah was recently featured in a Washington Post article titled “GameStop’s Craze has Caught the Eye of a New Set of Investors: Children” where she discussed the recent Game Stop investing frenzy and how it has impacted children’s interest in the stock market. She said the Game Stop frenzy has brought a lot of new interest to her classes, and she loves to see kids with a newfound excitement for learning financial skills.
Keallah says, “My main concern is that finance is not taught in school and the communities that need it the most, lack access to the knowledge. Because of that lack of knowledge, so many make detrimental mistakes that set them back in life. I’ve heard from so many adults who reflect on their finances and say, “I wish I had known about this/that when I were younger”. I want to change that!”
Her motto? Financial Literacy is a Gift Worth Giving. “It is not enough, as moms to improve our financial position. We must teach the next generation as well,” she says.
You can find Keallah’s financial literacy courses on Outschool HERE!
Tamika Archer: Psychotherapist and Nonprofit Founder
Tamika is a psychotherapist providing mental health services to undeserved communities. She saw a significant change in her clientele when the pandemic hit. Whereas she previously saw mostly adolescents, she is now seeing more parents and couples who have been affected by way of drastic changes to income and a surge in depressive symptoms related to their economic situations. These parents and couples often come to Tamika looking for coping skills and support. She still sees her usual adolescent clients, but their needs are now different as well. She finds herself focusing on helping youth figure out how to remain social, connected and engaged online. All of her work has been moved to a telehealth platform that comes with obvious challenges, but Tamika says it has allowed her to reach more people who had transportation issues, or anxieties about going into an office during the pandemic.
In addition to switching the focus of much of her psychotherapy work, Tamika saw another need in her community. She started a nonprofit called Halo Academy to help those directly affected by loss of income, loss of life, and loss of shelter. Through donations and use of personal funds, Halo Academy hands out activity packs in the local community to kids in need. The packs are intended to help kids with coping skills and study skills during the pandemic. The packs have art supplies, STEM games and prompts, vocabulary tools, poetry prompts, coloring pages, various DIY projects that upcycle “trash” and other unwanted/used items, and more. The activity packs are handed out at local schools, homeless shelters, and drive-by pick-up locations throughout the community. The organization has also helps deliver coats, clothing and toiletries to families in need, has served over 1,000 meals within the community, has hosted free social activities to help keep kids connected, and runs developmental workshops for young girls where Tamika teaches them how to themselves by understanding policy, communication, and building self-esteem.
Way to STEP UP mama!!!!
Royah Loie: Doula, Childbirth Educator and Lactation Consultant
Royah loves helping new moms. She is a doula, childbirth educator, and lactation consultant- and as if that isn’t enough, she also writes a blog called Insider Mom and works to connect new and expecting moms to prenatal and postpartum care. During the pandemic, pregnant women and new moms are facing additional challenges including limited access to breastfeeding drop-in clinics and prenatal and postpartum classes.
“The pandemic has made it hard for many expecting families and doulas as some hospitals don’t deem them essential (when they should be) and they aren’t allowed to serve clients in person, but can only do so virtually in many areas. The US has the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed word. Having a doula, becoming informed and having the right support systems in place can contribute to better birth outcomes,” Royah says.
Insider Mom is full of all kinds of information to help support pregnant women and new moms and Royah has been using her online community to help keep mamas connected to the resources they need virtually.
Royah has organized an Insider Mom virtual summit titled Babes, Bumps and Online Biz that will be taking place March 5, 6, and 7th to address parenting issues specific to the pandemic. With over 20 expert speakers, the summit will feature various workshops on prenatal and postpartum health, parenting and self-care care for mothers. It will also feature expert speakers who can help moms learn to better navigate this new online world we find ourselves living in, with sessions on online learning as well as sessions on how to create and run successful online businesses! Royah saw a need to connect moms with these resources- and her summit is the culmination of all the hard work she’s put into finding ways to meet this need. If these resources sound like something you need, you can register for her free Babes, Bumps, and Online Biz Summit!
Janae Shields: Travel Agent
Janae Shields always wanted to travel with her mom, but that never happened. Her mom never had the money to take family vacations, so she’d save enough money to send young Janae on vacations with other family members. Once Janae was finally old enough to take her mom on adventures, her mom was diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t travel. When her mom passed away from leukemia, Janae vowed to go as many places and make as many memories as she could with her own two children. And she vowed to help others do the same. She moved from a career in social work and community service to a career as a travel agent- founding her own company called New Hype Travel. Her focus is on helping other families make lasting memories together.
New Hype Travel helps people plan all kinds of trips, but Janae says she specializes in planning group family trips and retreats. She’s also built a village of families that travel together, intentionally seeking out opportunities to see new places, try new things and give back to the communities they visit. She has planned trips where these families tour and donate school supplies to orphanages in Jamaica, brought supplies to a women’s shelter in St. Maarten, and participated in cultural exchanges in Dubai. Her goals are to help others feel safe through group travel and to give back to the communities they visit. New Hype Travel is Janae’s way to combine her passion for community development with her love of travel- all while helping make sure that on one else misses out on the opportunity to travel with their mom!
Earlina is a single mother of two who recently won the Kaiser Permanente David Lawrence Community Service Award, an award that honors employees who are improving community health around the world.
Earlina works in health care IT and is responsible for ensuring that all the technology in her offices and medical centers can operate proficiently. When the pandemic hit, her work became even more critical- as doctors offices, hospitals, and medical centers became overwhelmed and had to rely on their equipment more than ever to care for the massive influx of Covid patients. It was Earlina who was working behind the scenes to make sure all of the equipment was running smoothly! It wasn’t easy when her workload increased so drastically while she was also caring for her own two children as a single mom, but Earlina thrived in her role as a health care IT worker.
In addition to her full-time, job, Earlina also gives back to her community- earning her a prestigious community service award. She hosts an annual food and blanket drive for the homeless communities through her organization, Women Who Network. She supports local women and families with this drive, providing food, blankets, clothing and toiletry kits. Winning the David Lawrence Community Service Award meant that her employer donated $10,000 to a non-profit of her choosing! Eearlina split the donation between two important programs- one that suppors local youth and another that supports women dealing with domestic violence situations. We just love that Earlina shared the love between two equally deseving organizations, continuing to give back even while she herself is being recognized for her contributions to her community!
Sherlonda Adkins: Founder of PsychMYWay
Sherlonda Adkins is a Physician Assistant who has worked in a busy internal medicine clinic treating a variety of medical disorders as well in a private psychiatric clinic treating a various mental health disorders. In her mental health practice, she has built up a steady client base, in large part because of how her experience allows her to look at mental health from both medical and psychiatric viewpoints.
When the pandemic hit, Sherlonda realized that people needed mental health services more than ever, but access to such services was extremely limited. So she stepped up to to the challenge and made history by starting the first Physician Assistant owned telepsychiatry practice in the state of South Carolina! PsychMYWay offers telehealth appointments with a licensed psychiatrist as well as information sessions for families and support systems to help educate on mental health issues. Sherlonda also offers short term “Life Guidance” sessions! PsychMyWay offers accessible, affordable psychiatric support for a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse population of patients in South Carolina. Patients who may have transportation issues or those who are Covid-cautious can still access the mental helth sevices they need thanks to Sherlonda and PsychMYWay!
We want to give a special shout out to these amazing mamas who are moving mountains as well as to ALL of the amazing mamas in our Wandering Moms community. Being a mom is the most difficult job in the world- and that became even more difficut this past year as we all faced a variety of new challenges in the face of the pandemic. All of our mamas stepped up in incredible ways. Whether you are moving little mountains or big mountains, whether you are a first responder or you’re busting your butt just to keep afloat during these difficult times with your own kids- WE SEE YOU! We think you are AMAZING! Your KIDS think you are amazing! So keep on rockin’ on mamas!!!!