While Mother’s Day activities have been disrupted this year by the coronavirus pandemic like graduations, weddings and many other spring affairs, people across the D.C. region have found old-fashioned gestures of love for one of the most cherished occasions in the African American community.
Angela Anderson, a resident of Glenarden, Maryland, mailed two cards to her mother this week. Beverly Hunt, of Laurel, Maryland, mailed baked cookies from a recipe she learned as a child to North Carolina.
And in Atlanta, Treva Julio has been making face masks for mothers and first responders on her days off in the battle against COVID-19.
“I love the [song lyric], ‘If I can help somebody as I travel along, then my living shall not be in vain,’” said Julio, who works for an electronics manufacturer. “I have made about 200 masks and I am going to keep making them until this COVID-19 thing is done.”
While honoring mothers dates back to ancient Rome, the tradition and holiday in the United States began in 1908, when Anna Jarvis’ mother died and she held a memorial service for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. The service gave birth to a tradition that would spread across the country.
Mother’s Day is especially important in the African American community because its women have been the bedrock of the family in the spirit of Harriet Tubman, who put her life on the line to save her people.
“I can’t help but to think about all the mothers who go through each day bearing the weight of pain in their heart from the loss of a child,” Julio said. “I think of the mothers like my sister, for whom Mother’s Day is just another day.”
According to a 2016 report issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than four out of five Black mothers (81.1 percent) are the breadwinners of their families, with a majority of Black mothers (60.9 percent) raising families on their own.
The study said that three times as many single Black mothers are breadwinners as married Black women and two out three Native American mothers (67.1 percent) are breadwinners.
“In recognition of my mother, I will be mailing her Mother’s Day card and gifts,” Anderson said.
Her mother, Bishop Sybil Davis Williams, normally holds a large family meal in Accokeek, Maryland, but those plans were canceled this year because of the coronavirus.
Even though Anderson is divorced, she and her ex-husband will team up with their daughters to cook a Mother’s Day meal. But Friday, the parents hosted a makeshift prom and middle school formal at Anderson’s apartment in Glenarden that included dinner and dancing.
“It felt really great to have my mother put in so much work to make me feel special during my senior year in high school,” said Melissa Anderson, 17, a graduating senior at Charles Herbert Flowers High School. “There have been many ups and downs this school year. The biggest downfall was not having an actual graduation.”
Her 13-year-old sister Ashley, an eighth grader at Woodstream Academy, added, “My mother means everything to me and my sister and Sunday we are going to make her a special dinner and give her a gift.”
Hunt, a veteran media consultant from Laurel, said that she has been writing letters amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of which was to her father.
“My dad had his 80th birthday and we couldn’t come together, so I wrote him a letter,” she said. “I plan to make homemade baked goods to my mother because she taught me how to make homemade cookies and cakes.”
On Saturday, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy and Rev. Peggy Maclin of The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square hosted a “Virtual Tea” online from 10 a.m. to noon. The event featured Maryland Sen. Melody G. Griffith as a guest speaker as well as a virtual hat, necklace and teacup fashion showcase.
Julio, 59, a wife and mother of two adult sons, reached out to an old friend in New Carrollton, Maryland, for a wellness check.
Julio said that one of the greatest gifts that she can give is delivering straight talk to a younger generation of mothers.
“Right now I am being a mother not only to my children but I am setting an example to other mothers and single moms who don’t have it together,” she said.
Her mother Ann Eggelletion, who was raised in Albany, Georgia, died in 2013 but helped as many people as she could before her death, including the love she gave to her family.
“If I can pass on 1/10th of the love she shared and gave, then great would my accomplishment be,” Julio said of her mother.