I am delighted to be sharing this interview series with you, where I talk to different women about parenting, motherhood, their daily rhythm and what makes a beautiful childhood. So without further ado, let’s meet the mother…
Today, I’d like to welcome British mother of two Nina Malone to A Beautiful Childhood. Nina is the founder of the Dope Black Mums movement, a digital safe space for black women to navigate motherhood together. Dope Black Mums does fantastic work supporting Black mothers and their families, and I’m really excited to be chatting to Nina about her work, parenting, and what it’s like being a Dope Black Mum. I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Hi Nina! Can you introduce yourself and your family for our readers?
Hello everyone, thanks for having me here. I am Nina Malone, I recently described myself as most likely to be at the kids table at a wedding and least likely to have a lie in. I am a Dope Black mum, and wife to Dope Black Dads founder Marvyn Harrison. I have two children, Blake and Ocean who make me laugh and cry (with joy) in equal measures each day. I’m currently writing this with my two year old on my lap, as this is the only possible way for me to get a decent amount of desktop time.
You are the founder of the Dope Black Mums movement. Can you tell us what inspired you to start Dope Black Mums, and what the response to your work has been like so far?
I was looking for a space where I could be myself wholeheartedly without having to filter or moderate. I needed a space where I could share my fears with people who understood, I was looking for a space where I could learn from my peers and share with others what I was learning and experiencing. When I went onto mummy websites or physical meet ups, my questions and fears were met with an awkward silence or blank stare. At the time I couldn’t find the space that I needed, so I set up a Whatsapp group with all of the amazing Black mothers I knew.
The response has been overwhelming. Nearly two years later, we have a weekly podcast, two Whatsapp groups with 315 mothers across the spaces, a virtual book club and Whatsapp group, a workout Whatsapp group and 1000 mothers in the private Facebook group, and all growing daily, mostly by referral.
We are developing a partnership with the charity SANDS to bring awareness and action to the high maternal death rates black women experience during pregnancy. We have a partnership with the NHS Blood and Transplant to bring awareness to the need for Black donors and have recently added a comprehensive age appropriate reading list to our website to help facilitate conversations around race.
I know these safe spaces are a lifeline for many, we have supported each other through baby loss, our children experiencing racism, microaggressions at work, divorce and emergency re housing. It truly is a digital sisterhood in every sense of the word.
Why are safe spaces for Black mums so important?
I think safe spaces are important for so many reasons. A space to retreat, heal and be vulnerable. I think these spaces are vital for mental wellness. Having to explain racism can be draining and triggering for people who have experienced racism their whole lives. The mental load of trying to navigate racial stereotypes in the workplace, school, relationships and potentially daily microaggressions can be exhausting.
As a Dope Black Mum with two young children, what has your experience of motherhood been like? Was it how you expected it to be?
There is no way I could have expected, predicted or prepared for this! It is the greatest experience of my life, I am learning about myself in ways I never thought possible; my children seem to hold up a mirror for me to reflect daily!
Which parts of motherhood bring you the most joy? What do you most love doing as a family?
Nothing can produce the joy that motherhood allows. I now couldn’t imagine going through my life without feeling the full spectrum of emotions that I go through daily, sometimes hourly!
I love dancing together, love the movements they come up with. I love hearing them get excited about discovering new music they like.
Do you have a parenting philosophy or style? If so, are there any people or influences which have shaped this philosophy? If so, are there any people or influences which have shaped this philosophy?
Well I think if we could all enter parenthood as truly enlightened whole beings the world would be a far better, honest and healthier place! Of course this is impossible, so I personally am really trying to be aware and be brutally honest in owning my stuff, my fears, my needs and not projecting this onto my children. Which isn’t easy, but I am trying. I see my role as helping them to navigate. Right now because of their age my role is managerial and as they grow will I see it moving into the consultant phase! I think good parenting has the ability to truly change the world.
I always get moments of clarity when listening to anything by Dr Shefali Tsabary.
As I write this, there are protests happening all over the UK and in the US in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd. These protests have made so many families sit up and pay attention to the systemic racism and toxic White supremacy which continues to run rampant through our societies, and I am hopeful that we are on the cusp of real, meaningful collective change in our homes, schools, and systems. What would this change mean to you?
Honestly, personally these changes would allow me to truly dream without any fear or limitation. I don’t think I have ever allowed myself to really dare indulge in this, with this freedom on a global scale, with emboldened people, with empathy en masse. Imagine the progression, the development across all spheres and sectors of our lives, the creativity, the sense of community that this would encourage, who knows what could emerge, who knows what could be produced for us and future generations ?
I think many people have been surprised to realise how the history we are taught in schools erases Black voices and achievement, and how ‘whitewashed’ so much of our curriculum is. Has this been your experience of school too? What are your hopes for your children’s education?
Yes this was my experience of school. Mostly African American history was taught, some British history but really not enough and not all historically correct. What we need is for Black British history to be added to the curriculum. We need diverse and inclusive toys, books, programming and music to be embedded from the home and be available for all children entering the education system as early as possible.
Do you have a message or advice for any Black mothers reading this piece? Perhaps something you wish you had read before you started your own journey into motherhood?
I would love to think that if someone sat me down and listed off everything I possibly needed to know I would have taken comprehensive notes. I think I would have listened dutifully but until you are actually in motherhood the information just doesn’t land the same. I have had numerous moments during motherhood thinking “Oohhh that’s what they were talking about” or “That’s what they were trying to tell me”.
For advice, whomever is reading this, you are doing amazingly well. It is hard, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. Whatever anyone says, no one knows what they are doing, everyone is making it up as they go, everyone does things they swore they would never do, everyone cries in the shower and everyone feels immense guilt at times.
Sleep when you can, don’t even debate or worry about cleaning the house or having a shower, just sleep! Sleep has the wonderful ability to heal, restore and give clarity. Make sure you take time for yourself. I have had to really force myself to take time and at times it feels very extravagant, indulgent and very luxurious but I know it makes me a more rounded person and ultimately a better parent.
Find an anchor whether that is religion, spirituality, fitness or something else, but find something you can really lean into that is yours.
Create a safe space with people you can truly trust, be honest and can be vulnerable with. This may only be one or two people, but you need a space you can share wholeheartedly without judgment.
Is there anything you would like to say specifically to any white mothers reading this piece?
The race conversation isn’t one conversation, it’s a constant conversation, it’s on going and one that will need to develop. It’s modelling anti-racist and inclusive behaviour and language, it’s embedding this into your lifestyle of how we treat people, its being brutally honest with yourself and holding yourself accountable along with your immediate community. If we were all doing this, then progress is possible.
(The Dope Black Mums website has a fantastic list of books here).
Finally, what do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
Being truly present, being consistent, being true to your word, being vulnerable, walking the walk and brutal honesty.
Thank you so much Nina! You can find Nina on Instagram here, and follow Dope Black Mums here. You can find Dope Black Mums on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and do check out their amazing podcast here and in all the places you’d usually listen to podcasts. You can find links to all of the above and more at: https://www.dopeblackmums.co.uk/