Single Mom Defined
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? That’s what happened when Motor Mouth Multimedia Founder Heather Hopson typed “Single Black Mom” into Google’s search bar. Negative narratives rose to the top of the page. Hopson decided to take control of the story and elevate voices of single black mothers
Motor Mouth Multimedia produced an interactive exhibition to provide a much more accurate definition of single black motherhood than the one society presents. Single Mom Defined captured the true essence of motherhood through essays, videos and black-and-white and color prints—some candid and some staged. Over the span of six months, multimedia producers curated a collection of more than 200 photographs. The first set of photographs featured close-up images of single mothers, with the tales of motherhood illustrated throughout the mothers’ hairstyles—something that throughout time served as a reflection of African-American history. The second set of images addressed the glaringly wrong search results on Google. More than 100 children countered this negative narrative and described their mothers with words, such as inspiring, amazing and affectionate. The third set of images portrayed mothers and children in natural environments, humanizing
the black motherhood experience.
The video series shared short videos of mothers candidly discussing what it’s like raising a child as a single parent; how they felt when they discovered they would embark on the journey alone; what they want to tell people who stereotype them; what advice they would give to moms new to single parenting; and how they describe single black moms.
Single Mom Defined launched at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, drawing hundreds of visitors. Hopson surveyed more than 400
people who visited the exhibit. When asked if they ever stereotyped or judged a single black mom in a negative light due to her circumstances, about 50 percent said yes. While the statistic was disheartening, 93 percent of those surveyed said the exhibit expanded their definitions of single black mothers to include more positive images.
The art installation has since been displayed throughout the Pittsburgh region, and an online and in-person support group with more than 600 members has been established. Single Mom Defined garnered media coverage from outlets including CBS, NBC, NextPittsburgh and Pittsburgh Magazine.
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