Black and Brown communities are the lifeblood of Los Angeles culture, but it would not exist without the strength, love, and courage of Black and Brown mothers that have helped shape the many lives here. From securing a stable life to creating a foundation of success for their children, the mothers in these communities are a source of strength that is often overlooked.
Lauren Temple, a Long Beach-based community builder with a MA in Human Communications, wanted to showcase this demographic of mothers for Mother’s Day in a photo exhibition called motherHOOD that will be on display at Stay Gallery May 12 – 26. Twelve mothers from Long Beach and other cities of Southeast Los Angeles County participated in this project to share their experiences through photovoice.
Photovoice is a process that uses visuals instead of words to inform the viewer what is going on through the lens of the author, or in this case, the mother. Each of the moms received a camera to document their experiences for a week and were followed up with an interview that discussed the photos they took.
Temple felt that photovoice was a great way to showcase the experiences and worldviews of Black and Brown mothers in the LA community. She asked the mothers how the photos related to their lives and what, if anything, from the photos could be used to educate or inform viewers.
“Whenever we are talking about the experiences of these mothers, their stories are usually told through a lens, and that lens is usually a scholar who isn’t even a Black or Brown mother themselves,” said Temple. “I feel that photovoice gives these mothers an opportunity to really show us first-hand what they go through, and in turn, we can see what we as a society can do for them.”
Through the visuals of photos, the project pinpoints common themes in the mothers’ experiences, whether it’s accessibility to resources, finding community, or even just love. But motherhood is not just about what mothers can provide for their children: oftentimes, we forget that a mother’s identity is not solely centered around her role as a mother.
“Another reason why I chose to focus on motherhood for this project is because I feel mothers don’t always get the recognition they deserve,” Temple said. “We as a society think: ‘Well you’re a mom so you have to do these things for your children anyway, and you shouldn’t complain about your struggles because you chose to have kids.’”
This stigma contributes to moms putting their sense of self-worth and individuality on the back burner. Many mothers in this demographic don’t get the chance to pursue professional advancement or educational goals, and if they do, they tend to feel guilty for spending less time with their children, and/or they face extra parental barriers that make attaining their goals more challenging.
The motherHOOD project hopes to offer people an understanding of the difficulties that mothers in marginalized communities face, but it also wishes to highlight the joys and strength of being a mother too. Motherhood is a source of power and pride, no matter the circumstances. These resilient moms continue to show their tenacity and courage while raising their children with love despite all odds, and it is important that we hear their voices and that they contribute to the conversation about how we can better serve them. When we recognize their challenges, we are able to identify the tools they need for a successful, comfortable, and fulfilling life.
This project is a group effort done in conjunction with STAY Gallery in Downey, CA. Funds for this project were provided by The Biz Stoop, a collective non-profit based in Oakland, CA. To RSVP for the motherHOOD gallery, click here.