Letters to Black Mamas helps address mental health, postpartum and community among Black mothers
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Mamatoto Village, a Black maternal health non-profit organization, has recently launched the campaign Letters to Black Mamas, providing love letters to Black mothers for their unwavering support, courage and patience.

Mamatoto Village is a Black womxn-led organization based in Washington, D.C. It provides perinatal support services, workforce development training, emergency resources and essential goods tailored to the needs of Black womxn, parents and families of color living in disinvested and under-resourced areas. 

The letters, which can be submitted through a form here, are meant to be written to another Black mama who may be experiencing a similar journey as the writer.

The idea of Letters to Black Mamas began when Mamatoto Village’s Executive Director Aza Nedhari wanted to provide words of encouragement to clients on Mother’s Day. 

As many as one in five women experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, also known as PMAD.

Symptoms of PMAD include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar and psychosis during or after pregnancy. These symptoms can occur up to a year after birth. 

In the United States, one in three African-American mothers suffer from postpartum depression compared to one in seven white mothers. With these staggering statistics in mind, it was important for Mamatoto Village to share these letters during last month’s Mental Health Awareness Month to reassure mothers that their experiences are valid and they are not alone.

“I know that 2020 took a lot out of everyone but I know from personal experience the toll it took on me as a mother,” Mamatoto Village Communications Manager Mariah Oates said in an email interview. “I wanted to provide hope to those who may be suffering in silence. That’s how Letters to Black Mamas came about. It started as a Mental Health Awareness campaign but the feedback we have been receiving led us to make this a long-term campaign.”

For Black mothers dealing with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or symptoms, Mamatoto Village has these five tips:

1. Build a Mommy Tribe/Village

Having a support system is so important during these times. It’s important for you to know that you are not alone and there are people in your corner. 

2. Therapy

Your feelings are valid and sometimes we need to check in with someone who is not biased. Today there are more ways to access affordable therapy so you can get the care you need to heal.

3. Self-Care

Sometimes self-care looks like an extended shower and sometimes it looks like setting boundaries to protect your peace. Whatever you need to do, make sure you are pouring into yourself as much as you pour into others. 

4. Exercise

It’s a great stress reliever and releases endorphins.

5. Give yourself grace

You have to be kind to yourself. You earned it and you deserve it. 

Partner and community support is also important when helping Black womxn during pregnancy and postpartum.

For partners, proving emotional and physical support during pregnancy and postpartum is key. Emotional support can look like reassurance, affection, asking what can be done, encouraging naps and breaks, activities together, and providing genuine care. Physical support can be taking on the load of household chores, running errands, and taking on more shifts for baby care.

For those outside of their own partners, Oates said that people can support Black womxn during pregnancy and postpartum by listening to those involved in the Black motherhood community and offering these new parents resources or services, such as providing transportation.  

Raven Freeborn, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager at Mamatoto Village, suggested providing accessible transportation for new parents, through complement equipment, time and labor necessary to transport a parent and their young children to and from appointments, school, childcare and social and communal spaces.

You can keep up with Mamatoto Village through their website or @MamatotoVillage on all social media platforms.