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MotherWit: Learning from our Elders

NCM Profile

NCM, Daniela Rible Posted: Nov 16, 2004

Audrea Williams, the founder and editor of MotherWit, grew up as a tomboy and was feeling overwhelmed after her first child was born nine years ago. When she asked her mother for advice on the babys crying, her mother said that mother wit would tell her.

As I was growing up, my grandmothers, aunties and elders all taught me life lessons and I listened. The greatest strength was in elders and what they told you. They would talk and Id listen, remembers Williams.

As a new mother, Williams read everything she could get her hands on. But she quickly realized that no publication spoke with the wisdom of her elders, or presented photos resembling the strong women she had known in her own life.

The insight and wisdom she had been given wasnt in any book, so Williams saw a niche for a magazine that could return to common sense wisdom.

We had to use mother wit when institutions werent open to us in the black community. It was our tool, our primary community that harvests, which is very strong in the African American community, adds Williams.

It seemed natural that Williams would go in the direction of publishing, as writing had always been her passion. As an adolescent, she even wrote poetry for her male friends to give to their girlfriends.

Williams began polling people and researched ethnic magazines on parenting and family issues. She kept a list of topics she wanted to discuss and would write articles from time to time. She gathered articles from other writers whom she encouraged to write. In the process, Williams realized that family rises above class and economics.

In 1997, Williams created a one-page newsletter that she gave to people at her church. With a bit of luck on her side, she was referred to a graphic designer and 10 copies of her first publication were printed for free.

Though MotherWit speaks to black families from a common ground perspective, the articles have a broad appeal by passing on lessons mothers and fathers have taught their children. In fact, the publication, whose audience is primarily African American, has also become very popular with Latino families.

Owned by the Williams Media Group with the Williams family as personal investors, the magazine currently has three full-time staff, with five to seven part-time contributing writers.

Even 50-year-olds want to write. Color doesnt matter. A strong family is the cement of the African American culture, says Williams.

Two articles in particular have received a tremendous amount of response. The popular column "Every Penny Counts" debuted with an article titled, "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul." Readers said they could relate to the information in that article and that they were immediately impressed by the subject matter of this "financial education column."

Readers also had a strong response to "My Two Cents for your Good Sense," a question-and-answer column that takes a different approach to the normal advice column format. Rather than featuring one persons opinion, the column pools together many answers from grounded individuals to answer one person's question.

Another aspect of the column tht readers appreciate is that it does not look to an "expert" educator for an answer, but an "expert" who has lived the experience and survived.

MotherWit has also interviewed families who shared their individual stories about fathers in the articles "The Day Daddy Left Home" and "Love Survives...A Father's Journey Home."

The full-color, quarterly magazine currently has a circulation of 5,000, with distribution in the Sacramento area, Bay Area, Los Angeles and the Central Valley. MotherWit can be found in bookstores, libraries through subscription, community centers, churches, day care centers, schools, salons and residential areas.

Williams vision for the future includes beginning a column called Good Home Training, which provides tips on family, marriage, self-conduct and temperament. It would provide families a position of strength.

Williams would also like to create a program for families in low-income areas, which would use the magazine as a tool in training classes for parents. The program would allow mothers to get off welfare, use MotherWit as a life skills trainer and learn business skills.

Williams also has her eye on printing other publications in the future, such as a books series. She would also like to become a bi-monthly publication, begin a new column on restoring family legacy one story at a time and plan family events.

One grandmother told Williams that she cried as she recalled her own childhood and the rearing of her own children. She told me, This story and all the material within MotherWit Magazine is making me rethink the way I reared my own children and I will do better with my grandchildren, recalls Williams.

Comments like these are worth more than money to me, she says. This comment and many others testify that we are on the right track in terms of touching the place where people most seek comfort, solitude, and identity - a place we all call home.

Contact MotherWit at:
P.O. Box 231413
Sacramento, CA 95823-0406

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