Single mothers are close to Ateira Griffin’s heart—she was raised by her mom and grandmother, both of whom were single mothers. She had a very close relationship with them growing up, which she thought about frequently as dean of students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.
When students asked Griffin for advice with personal dilemmas, one of her go-to responses was, “’Have you talked to your mom about this?’ The answer, more often than not, was ‘no.’” There were many reasons for that no, says Griffin—”their mom was so busy, they didn’t want to worry her, the list went on.” At the same time, moms of students would also seek Griffin’s counsel on how to better communicate with their daughters. Griffin wondered how her mother and grandmother fostered an atmosphere of open communication—so, as she had many times before, she went to her mom for advice.
“A big part of it was community,” says Griffin, “and the sharing of knowledge. Those generational knowledge gaps are really serious in our community, and I thought okay, we need to do something to fix this.”
Griffin decided to start Building Our Nation’s Daughters, Inc. (BOND) to work with single mothers and their daughters in grades five through 12 on effective communications strategies. “Research has found links between positive, healthy relationships between mother and daughters in a single-mother household and academic success, emotional health and well-being, and advancement in higher education,” says Griffin. “When they hear ‘my mom felt this way,’ or ‘she went through this before,’ they start to see each other as humans. Then we open up this space of communication where they share who they really are.”
BOND also focuses on teaching health and wellness. Participants get their blood pressure measured throughout the program to determine how the program is helping them cope with stress and overall wellness. In addition, the program helps mothers and daughters to achieve their academic and professional goals. “A lot of moms forget about themselves and they pour everything into the child,” says Griffin. “We help moms remember you are a person who is developing, too, so let’s figure out what you want to do.”
With the OSI Community Fellowship, Griffin plans to expand the program in Baltimore. She then wants to take it to nearby cities. Long-term, she dreams of making BOND a nationwide organization run by single mothers. Her goal is to change the conversation around single mothers, specifically single mothers of color. “Folks need to stop discounting single mothers,” says Griffin. “We talk a lot about missing fathers and we forget the fact that mom is in the house and she deserves support and needs attention.”