Credit: Jennifer White-Johnson

Most of the journalism I do at this point in my career is very personal and more than a little selfish. It specifically benefits me if we as a society get better on issues of race and I’m not shy about saying that. That’s because of my family: I have one stepson, who just turned 20, and two other children, who are nine and eleven. I know that there is all manner of evil that they will run into in this world because of the color of their skin.

I want to protect them as much as possible.

I know that when a black person is shot by a police officer, that could be them. I know that when someone’s child is mischaracterized by the media, that could be my child. I know every grieving mother forced to be strong in front of cameras could one day be me.

Mothering requires so much of you. It is physical. I physically grew these people in my body and am forever changed because of it. I have physically carried warm sleeping bodies to bed, and dragged them screaming from restaurants.

It is mental. You worry about your babies. You cry when they hurt your feelings and when you hurt theirs. This is the knowledge I bring with me every time I sit down to write.

Motherhood is also invisible, even to the people who love you the most. Even the physical side of this labor is invisible. Clothes don’t get folded magically by themselves—often, it’s the people who mother who do that. The same with bathroom floors that must be cleaned, kitchen counters that must be wiped off, stains that must be scrubbed out. Its invisible and because it’s also unpaid labor, it’s largely unvalued.

All of this is why this Saturday’s Open Hours event that I’m doing with writer China Martens and artist Jen White-Johnson is so important to me. We will be talking about the ways our crafts influence our mothering and the ways our mothering influences our crafts. We will also be creating zines to help attendees connect with what motherhood means for them, and to illustrate that.

Martens is a single mom to an adult daughter. For decades she’s been using her writing to discuss the ways in which mothers can sometimes be ignored and pushed to the sidelines.

“I made my first zine — “The Future Generation” in 1990 because I was a mother. I need to network with others, to create what I couldn’t find,” Martens told me. “It made people laugh to hear I was a mother and a punk, a mother and a zinester. How could this be”

Martens says that the event is for all different kinds of mothers.

“Especially low-income mothers, single mothers, mothers with disabilities, indigenous mothers, mothers of color, queer, incarcrated, and other marginalized mothers,” she said. “I think this is the best way for us to make a better world, right now, and tomorrow.”

White-Johnson is a gifted artist and mother to Knox, her 6-year old, autistic son. In October of 2018, she published “KnoxRox,” a photo-zine about her life with her little boy.

“This event is important because my goal for KnoxRox is to give visibility to children of color in the autism community. We mostly see the same type of autistic kid depicted in the media—a kid who lacks empathy and doesn’t have a soul because of their non speaking disabilities,” she told me. “As a mother and artist I believe in the power of our differences and I love how art can be a uniting force for how Knox and I express those differences.”

The Open Hours event is May 18 from 1-4 p.m. Learn more here.

Lisa Snowden is Editor-in-Chief and cofounder of Baltimore Beat. Previously, she was an editor at Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Sun, and The Real News Network. Her work has also appeared in Essence,...

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