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10 Things Our Mothers Taught Us About Survival

Our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and aunties ain't raise no fools.

Motherhood

"AHT AHT."

Two very simple words that my mother probably learned from her mother that have shaped my world. They've taught me not to touch things that might burn me, they've protected me from wandering places that didn't serve me, and they've helped me to draw boundaries with people who could hurt me.

These are only a few of the wise words my mother has imparted in me as I've evolved from her baby girl to a grown-ass woman—crumbs of advice that I now know were survival tactics. And as we endure the side effects of a global pandemic, GirlTrek's #DaughtersOf campaign wants us to know that it's these gentle (and sometimes stern) words that will allow us to survive, thrive, and rise like a phoenix above the ashes when this ends.

Courtesy of Taylor Honore

Executive produced by Shantrelle Lewis, #DaughtersOf wants Black women who are descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to reconnect with both our matriarchal heritage and the self-care tips and tactics that they used to endure hard times, which our mothers and grandmothers later passed down to us. Shantrelle told xoNecole, "Although my grandmother wasn't a well-off woman, she was a hard-working woman and she always made sure to impress upon me the importance of having something for yourself. This advice clearly was also instilled in my mama."

She continued, "She always made sure we had what we needed to take care of ourselves, whether it was something we wanted or just in case of emergencies. To this day, when I'm home in New Orleans, when I'm leaving out the house my mama asks me whether or not I need any money. I laugh just thinking about it because I'm grown! But that's her way of taking care of me and making sure I'm always good no matter what."

To celebrate Mother's Day, #DaughtersOf will host a live sacred, special conversation with Angela Davis and Nikki Giovanni Friday, May 8th at 7 p.m. EST on Facebook Live, but until then, we sat down with 10 women featured in the campaign to discuss the most powerful life lessons they learned from their mother-figures about survival and, let me tell you sis, our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and aunties ain't raise no fools.

Here's what we learned:

“God bless a child that's got her own."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Grandma

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"In general, I always had this notion that my joy and success was interrelated with making sure that I was always able to take care of myself. It also allowed me to take risks in my career because ultimately I knew that if I fell, my parents would be there to catch me. More specifically, I think I put off getting married and having children until after I was able to pursue my dreams and to create a little something of my own for myself. I started buying property right out of college and even though I've worked for non-profits for most of my career, I've always had extra streams of income cause 'God bless that child who's got her own!'" - Shantrelle Lewis, Director and Executive Producer of Daughters Of Campaign

"Protect your energy."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"My mother taught and still teaches me about discernment––to be mindful of the folks I keep close and to protect my energy. I have learned a lot over the years after being hurt or feeling exposed by people I thought were my friends. I learned to tighten my circle of friends. And that has meant that as I grow and expand particularly with my work, that my circle gets smaller and tighter. I'm certain that this has saved me lots of headache and hardship. [These words have] allowed me to let go of energy that doesn't feel good and center my self-care." - Latham Thomas, Maternal Health Expert

"It takes a village."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Aunt Peggy

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"I was raised by my aunt, Peggy. What I learned from her is that we can stand in the gap for our sisters, aunts, cousins. Even if you don't have a primary caregiver, there's a village of people in our community to rally for us. My aunt Peggy made space for me in her home. She cared for me when her sister couldn't. That's the lesson I hold dear with me. That's the fundamental principle of GirlTrek. We are a village, tribe, we are our sisters' keepers. We are stronger together. We require each other. She rallied for me and I rally for other Black women. Survival is a group sport." - Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer

"Go hard in the paint for love. Never justify what satisfies your soul."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"Meditation happens in the small moments––washing rice, braiding hair, sweeping floors. Every moment that we are at peace is a blessing and a reason to rejoice. My home was filled with abundant love, daily forgiveness and a righteous, wait-at-the-bus-stop-type hustle. I'm grateful for the soft-spoken giants who raised me. My mom is 79 years old and stunning. So beautiful. A few years ago she got remarried. It was a bold move and it taught me something that I will take to the grave: Go hard in the paint for love. Never justify what satisfies your soul." - T. Morgan Dixon, GirlTrek Co-founder and CEO

"I'm grateful for the soft-spoken giants who raised me. My mom is 79 years old and stunning. So beautiful. A few years ago she got remarried. It was a bold move and it taught me something that I will take to the grave: Go hard in the paint for love. Never justify what satisfies your soul."

"Life is not easy but the struggles we endure make us wiser and stronger.”

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"When I was younger, my backdrop for her words were my experiences at school for being one of the only black girls in my classes––Of being teased, isolated, often misunderstood, and labeled as something that I was not. My mom fought many of my battles, she advocated on my behalf with grace and persistence against systems and people who made it clear through their actions of othering that I did not belong, or at least, so they thought. Those were her words to help me through.

"Now that I am older, the words land differently. I didn't really have it hard growing up; not in the way that she did––hunger during childhood, immigration challenges, and working her way through school while raising me on her own. She provided protection from the realities that she knew and taught me the valuable lesson of what justice, advocacy, and valuing the humanity of others through her protection looks and feels like. It is through these love lessons that I have gained strength and wisdom and not through struggle." - Aletha Maybank, MD, MPHChief, Health Equity Officer at the American Medical Association

"There ain't no use in standing around complaining 'cause ain't nobody coming to save you."

Rog Walker

Wise Words From: Grandma and Mama

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"These words were often hard to hear, yet they made me a problem-solver, resilient, and self-reliant. I pride myself on being a strategic thinker. Anytime I'm in a difficult situation, before asking for help, I seek out solutions. I hate appearing helpless and needy. While this advice has mostly worked in my favor, it has also led me to feel ashamed when I have needed help. I'm slowly leaning into the truth that 'everybody needs somebody sometimes.'" - Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames, Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University

"Make sure you marry a man with money."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"The world is full of contradictions––my mother is no exception. Whether good or bad, that moment has stuck with me because I could tell that it was important to her that I really hear and absorb what she was saying. What I actually internalized was that I should never depend on a man for financial security. To this day, I still struggle to depend on others. What it took to survive in my mother's generation is different than what it has taken to survive in my own. I cringe at the survival tactics I've had to pass on to my own daughter and I look forward to the day that she can put them down. I dream of the day that Black women get to get on with living––instead of just surviving." - Maryam Pugh, Entrepreneur & Owner of Philadelphia Printworks

"What it took to survive in my mother's generation is different then what it has taken to survive in my own. I cringe at the survival tactics I've had to pass on to my own daughter and I look forward to the day that she can put them down. I dream of the day that Black women get to get on with living––instead of just surviving."

"My mother taught me the power in loving abundantly and giving without expecting anything in return."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"My mother has always been my living example. I was taught the power of radical love from my mother. My mom never sat me down and said this is what you need to do, but I watched and learned from her actions. This is how I live my life––understanding that expelling love in various non-transactional ways aligns my spirit with the universe. The reward is the serendipitous nature of my life. Sometimes, I just think about what I want or need and in some miraculous way there it is." - Adama Delphine Fawundu, Visual Artist

"Honey, just keep on living."

Rog Walker

Wise words from: Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"Every time I've expressed shock or disappointment about something, I can hear my mother saying, 'Honey, just keep on living.' I think what she means by that is, none of what I'm going through is new. She has been here longer and seen more and is still surviving, so all I need to do is just live through it like she did instead of being shook or stuck by whatever it is. It can come off as dismissive, but it's helped me remain calm and brave, and rooted in the fact that my ancestors have overcome much more." - Erica Sewell, Creative Talent Leader

 "Goals are accomplished in the sowing, not the reaping. What, where, and how you plant will dictate what your harvest yields, so lovingly deposit daily."

Rog Walker

Wise words from:Mom

How has this advice impacted the way you move through the world?

"This advice has shaped the way I show up in this world. It's what I use to align my purpose with my actions. It's the reason why I've chosen to live a life in service to others. It's helped me to help millions of women live richer lives. This advice showed me that I could do good work, help good people, and still make good money––that these three are not competing theories but can complement each other to maximize my reach and expand my service." - Tiffany Aliche, Founder, The Budgetnista

Check out the full trailer for GirlTrek's Daughters Of below, or click here.

Featured image by Rog Walker.

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Amira Unplugged / MTV

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A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

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