What’s your role as a mother?
I see my role as being a mother to my own child and to my community. As a mother in the community, my role is to look at the community with a mother’s love, love it unconditionally, and not just focus on at what’s wrong with it. My community is special to me, and just like a mom, I will do whatever I can to ensure my child and my community is prosperous and healthy. My role as a mother is not just for the other children in the community, but I’m a mother to every piece of the community: kids, women, men, parks, animals, etc. My role is to figure out what can I do to help the community to flourish, just as a mother looks at her child. As a mother, I am figuring out how I can make Englewood flourish and the people here to flourish. I do this through my work on a number of different councils, committees, campaigns and organizations.
How do you envision mothers using their power and voice to make a difference?
When moms get up and talk, people listen. People have respect for moms when they stand up. There are so many other organization, just like EarthHeart, where moms come together for a common cause (such as against drunk driving, against violence) and they make a big difference and people listen to them. Overall, people look to women to be the outspoken advocates on issues. In that respect, issues arise in a community, but nothing changes until women become the sounding alarm for whatever is going wrong in a community or a society. Women are also nurturing and they are organizers. They know who and what is needed in order to make things better, and can help promote certain things and keep things under control. When you’re simply maintaining or even creating change, it’s up to the women and the moms to be the outspoken entity. We have the world’s greatest assignment in sticking up for our children on a daily basis – and we apply that to our communities and apply that to our society too. Women are also more collaborative and can come from a more collaborative standpoint when it comes to dealing with community issues.
What did receiving the 2015 MOM award mean to you?
Receiving the mom award made me realize that people do pay attention to the hard work that you do. It made me realize that I was doing something special, because maybe on some level, I didn’t feel it was something special – I just felt it was something everyone should be doing. To be awarded for something you’re supposed to be doing, encourages you to do a little bit more, and it makes you step back and think: How can i be even more effective? If EarthHeart thinks I’ve done some great things, how can I find even more people and encourage them and spread this work to them? How can I have an even bigger impact? In my daily life, it’s hard to know I’m making a difference, and I’m going through the same things my neighbors are going through. At the end of the day, winning the 2015 MOM award was a very encouraging thing. It’s encouraging in the way it can inspire others to action.
Sonya Harper is from West Englewood and was very active in her community as a teenager. She worked in TV news as a journalist, producer , reporter, and writer, but she grew tired of adding to the negative stereotypes and so she decided to leave the news behind. She began to work on public relations and community organizing. She wanted to work with organizations in her community to ensure that better stories start coming out of Englewood. She wanted to make sure the stories about her neighborhood weren’t just about who got shot last night – but instead, she was motivated to tell the TRUE story of her community. Englewood has suffered years and years of neglect and abuse and exploitation which led to desperate situation. Englewood became an empty community with no jobs for anyone, and Sonya realized that in the presence of being neglected by the city and by the community, nobody was telling what caused these problems in Englewood. Sonya aims to debunk the negative stories and she works with other organizations, inspiring them to work better and more efficiently. Every organization that Sonya works with, she works to spread positive news, perform direct outreach to neighbors, and improve everyone in her communities quality of life. On another level, Sonya works to get elected officials that have power to facilitate change to extend their work even further. Sonya conducts a lot of meeting and organizing and her main goals are: 1. to change the perception of her community, 2. to implement the plans created by organizations and elected officials, and 3. to have a more peaceful community.