Black Mothers Matter!

In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

Mother’s Day is one of the most sacred holy days in the Black Church tradition. The Rev. Dr. Cheryl Sanders in the 2018 “In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement,” says: “Mother’s Day is the important holiday in which we express respect and honor for mothers in the Black Church tradition. Judging by attendance, it is second only to the liturgical significance ascribed to Christ in His Advent at Christmas and His resurrection at Easter.”

Mothering in this tradition is not limited to those born into the family unit. Rather, mothering also takes place in the community. Therefore, May is not just a month for celebrating mothers within their family units but those who are not. Recently, the inaugural national Black Maternal Health Week campaign, founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, demonstrated this point. According to its website, the purpose of the week-long event was to:

  • “Increase attention to the state of Black maternal health in the U.S., the root causes of poor maternal health outcomes, and community-driven policy, program, and care solutions;
  • Amplify the voices of Black mamas, women, families, and stakeholders on this important issue;
  • Serve as a national platform for Black women-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth justice, and reproductive justice, including African immigrant and Afro Latinx groups; 
  • Enhance community organizing on Black maternal health via community conversations, events, and outreach.”

Such efforts seek to address the disproportionate numbers of Black women affected by poor maternal health and lack of nutrition. It also addresses threats to policies that can affect Black poor women and children. A threat on the horizon is the House Farm Bill. The bill maintains and improves international food aid programs, but unfortunately contains several alarming changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The draft bill proposes tightening eligibility rules and imposing stricter work requirements on SNAP recipients.

Regarding the farm bill, Bread President Rev. David Beckmann, said: “The Farm Bill is an opportunity to help end hunger in the United States and around the world. We are pleased that the House bill maintains and improves international food aid programs. But we must oppose this bill as written because it proposes changes to SNAP that will put millions of women, children, and families at risk of hunger.”

We need a farm bill that helps us end hunger and poverty and doesn’t make it tougher for people struggling with hunger to access vital safety-net programs. This month’s Pan-African devotionals help us understand biblical principles for advocating with poor mothers of African descent. 

Sanders, senior pastor of the Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., calls all of us to be a “mother” to those who need compassion and nourishment. Monica Mikhail, from the Coptic Orthodox Church, affirms mothers as places for refuge. Erin Wiley, from the Roman Catholic Church, affirms a mother’s heart. Dr. David Daniels, from the Church of God in Christ, calls us to honor “Mothers in Zion” who call us to end unjust government policies and change social structures.

Visit to read or download a copy of the devotional guide.

Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.

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