This Mother’s Day will be a harder one than usual for many mothers in the United States.
Under President Donald Trump’s administration, hate crimes against minorities have steadily risen. Immigrants have been targeted, and repeated efforts have been made to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Queer people and people of color more broadly have also been singled out. For mothers who aren’t white, heterosexual, cisgender, documented, or who aren’t afforded the luxury of a day off from work or freed from childcare responsibilities, Mother’s Day can already be an incredibly alienating experience. But at a time when many are feeling particularly vulnerable, that alienation has taken on new significance.
Enter Mamas Day, a collaborative effort striving for more inclusive Mother’s Day marketing.
“Motherhood is not one size fits all,” reads the site’s tagline, a mantra that speaks to its core message: all mothers deserve to be celebrated, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, income, immigration status, or other factors.
Mamas Day traces its roots to an issue many mothers have faced for years — they don’t see themselves represented in the Mother’s Day cards typically offered in drug stores and boutique shops around the country.
It’s an issue Kalpana Krishnamurthy, who serves as Policy Director of Oakland-based nonprofit Forward Together, is overly familiar with.
“Many mothers don’t see themselves represented [in Mother’s Day marketing],” Krishnamurthy told ThinkProgress. “Mother’s Day is a celebration of motherhood, but a very certain kind of motherhood,” she explained, speaking to her own experiences. “I’m Indian, and I could never find images of families that looked like mine.”
It’s something that Forward Together wanted to correct and address.
“We wanted to emphasize that there is no one way to be a family,” Krishnamurthy said.
Partnering with a diverse group of artists, Forward Together and a network of 180 grassroots organizations across the country work to make Mamas Day an antidote to the exclusionary nature of Mother’s Day branding. E-cards featuring mothers of every kind are carefully crafted by artists and made available via the Mamas Day website, where well-wishers can add their own messages and specify the recipient.
Mamas Day has been running for six years now, but this year the effort has taken on new urgency. Muslims and immigrants have been particularly vulnerable under the Trump administration, something that Mamas Day organizers wanted to acknowledge. Created by artists whose communities have been impacted by the president’s policies, this year’s Mamas Day e-cards are a love letter to many mothers currently feeling precarious.
— Forward Together (@FwdTogether) April 19, 2017
“Our goal with Mamas Day has always been to highlight mothers who are invisible in popular representations of motherhood, so we focus on lifting up single moms, queer families, incarcerated parents and immigrant [mamas],” Krishnamurthy said in a press release. “This year, with the rise of attacks on immigrant and Muslim communities, including efforts to ban people from Muslim majority countries from entry into the [United States] and mass deportations, we wanted to use Mamas Day as an opportunity to let these Mamas know they are not alone.”
Her statement was echoed by Aneelah Afzali, Executive Director of Muslim Association of Puget Sound-American Muslim Empowerment Network (MAPS-AMEN), who has experienced her own brushes with hate under the Trump administration. Vandalized twice last December, Afzali’s mosque, located near Seattle, Washington, has been shaken by the current political climate.
“After our mosque was vandalized, we had an outpouring of community support and solidarity,” said Afzali. “Some local non-Muslim community residents came by on a rainy, snowy day and left handwritten notes of love and support on all the cars at our mosque while we were in our congregational prayers.”
Gestures like these meant a great deal to Afzali’s community, while emphasizing the importance of small acts — something that encouraged MAPS-AMEN to partner with Mamas Day efforts.
“Our congregation was so touched and moved. That’s why we were excited to participate in the Mamas Day campaign,” she said. “For us, Mamas Day is another way to send messages of support and a powerful example of love overpowering hate.”
Empowered by stories like Afzali’s, Mamas Day organizers are taking heart from the value little gestures can hold for people living in fear. “[What happened in Afzali’s community was] such a small thing, but it meant so much,” Krishnamurthy told ThinkProgress. “That’s what I see these cards being able to do.”
Krishnamurthy noted that thousands of cards have been sent to mothers around the country this year , with many more expected. And while the entire process has been an affirmative endeavor, working with the artists has been particularly powerful for her. “[This collaboration has been such a] beautiful process,” she said. “The artists are really thinking about this and their communities, and doing such an amazing job of showcasing and featuring the love and tenderness of mamas in their communities.”
While it’s too soon to fully measure the impact Mamas Day efforts have had, Krishnamurthy is excited to see the reaction and hopes similar movements continue to crop up.
“Every year we hear from folks who are excited about Mamas Day,” she said, but this year has been special. “Being part of the narrative shift in times like these…[is important.]”