Welcome to #CLPSpotlights, our monthly series highlighting individuals and organizations that make a difference in their community. This month, we interviewed Heather Hopson from Single Mom Defined, an organization that celebrates single Black motherhood and connects single moms to resources.
Q. How has your work evolved during the pandemic to meet the community’s needs?
A. Single Mom Defined focuses on three areas: changing the negative narrative about single Black mothers through storytelling; connecting all single mothers to resources, services, advocacy opportunities, and each other; and strengthening support systems through babysitting cooperatives and a solo mom support group.
During the pandemic, we launched our babysitting cooperative in four communities (Beltzhoover, Clairton, Homewood, and the East End) to strengthen support systems, reduce social isolation, and decrease stress and fatigue, thanks to a grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation. We also launched the Single Mom Stimulus package, in partnership with Catapult Greater Pittsburgh and The Rock Family Foundation. Each week in our Facebook group, we held collective counseling sessions, grocery store giveaways, and self-care sessions, like yoga and tea blending.
Additionally, we teamed up with the Women and Girls Foundation to host Moms Night Off events. The DoorDash-like service delivered family-style meals to more than 150 single mothers and their children across Allegheny County. In addition to getting the night off from cooking, moms received self-care items and attended virtual celebrations for a chance to win prizes and view our new online directory that supports their families’ needs.
Q. What is your favorite part of what you do?
A. Connecting moms to each other and information. SingleMomDefined.com is a top online destination for guidance on single parenting. The website features personal essays and articles on raising children, money management, health and wellness, co-parenting, and much more. It also includes a comprehensive, interactive resource directory, developed in partnership with the Women and Girls Foundation and Motor Mouth Multimedia. The directory arose from a hackathon to help single moms, especially those experiencing poverty, hack life’s problems with technology solutions. Readers can connect in Single Mom Defined’s Facebook group, which consists of 2,000 members and offers online programming, such as #ResourceWednesdays, #TherapyThursdays and other engaging live programs. The majority of the group members are mothers between ages 25 and 44, raising one or more children under the age of 18, and residing in the Pittsburgh area. An additional 25,000+ others follow Single Mom Defined’s social media channels.
Q. How did you come to work for your organization?
A. Imagine if you Googled yourself and horrible search results popped up on your screen, saying you are damaged goods, trash, and selfish. How would it shape your identity, impact your self-esteem or form others’ opinions about you? Well, that’s exactly what happened when I typed “Single Black Mom” into the search bar. When negative narratives flooded the page, I turned my anger into action and formed Single Mom Defined, a photo essay and video series. Fifty mothers wrote a more accurate definition of single parenting, and more than 100 children described their moms using words like joyous, kind, phenomenal, and affectionate.
Q. What do you wish the public knew about your organization?
A. I wish society would treat single mothers with dignity, respect, and fairness, providing access to opportunities to not only survive but also thrive. When the exhibit was unveiled, Single Mom Defined surveyed 500 people who admitted to having negative perceptions about single mothers. After exiting the exhibit, 93% stated they now held positive attitudes toward single mothers.
Q. Tell us your favorite story about the library!
Free tutoring! During the pandemic, a lot of students fell behind in their classes. I had my daughter in my mid-thirties, so as my nephew says, this new math ain’t mathin! I haven’t taken a math class in more than 25 years, so getting the support services for free from the library reduced the stress of remote learning.
Q. What role does CLP have in helping your organization?
A. As single moms, support comes in many forms. Our children’s fathers. Our family and friends. Our sister circles. Our teachers and caregivers. Often, support comes in the form of words. Words that encourage. Words that motivate. Words that remind you that you’re not alone. That’s why Single Mom Defined’s Sonya Singleton launched the Book Club, in partnership with Carnegie Library. Each quarter, moms read a book and meet online or in person to discuss it. The book club celebrates the love of reading and offers opportunities for fellowship. When we launched the book club, CLP held titles for our members, delivered them to nearby branches, and put together discussion packets.
Carnegie Library also supports Single Mom Defined’s series of writing workshops presented by award-winning author and speaker GG Renee. The first workshop trained moms who were interested in writing articles for our website. The second and third sessions will focus on writing to heal. The Words That Heal Writing Workshops are based on the idea that the power of words can change the direction of our lives. Writing helps us sort through difficult feelings, admit things we’re afraid to say out loud, and find renewed purpose and beauty in the journey of our lives. This workshop series allows us to practice writing as a path to healing in several different ways.
Q. Who’s your favorite author or artist at the moment?
A. Deesha Philyaw! She’s a Pittsburgh native and member of Single Mom Defined, so it’s so exciting to watch her career take off. We always knew she was a star, but now her light is just reaching the rest of the world. Before her award-winning short stories debut The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, which is being adapted for television by HBO Max, she co-authored a book with her ex-husband entitled Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households after Divorce.
Q. If you could change one thing about Pittsburgh, what would it be?
A. Make it actually live up to its title, the most livable city in America. Right now, that’s not true for single mothers, especially single moms of color.
Q. What was an especially fulfilling moment for you in your work?
A. Everything! But if I had to pick one thing, it would be supporting moms and dads in healing their co-parenting relationships. Single Mom Defined aims to build a village that centers children and their needs and heal fractured co-parenting relationships. Whether connecting to a counselor, a co-parent, or financial and emotional resources, single parents are reminded that they don’t have to raise children all alone. Last year, we held a co-parenting cookout.
Q. What is a favorite local business or organization of yours?
A. My business! Motor Mouth Multimedia is a communications and marketing firm made up of a collective of creatives and consultants of color. We collaborate with others to tell diverse stories, provide unique perspectives and increase the visibility of important issues. Our goal is that every communications and marketing plan across the commonwealth and the country will include diverse voices and promote positive images of people of color.