A helping hand for the Twin Cities’ most essential workers – mothers
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After another tragic shooting of a young black man by police in Twin Cities in 2015, a north Minneapolis woman named Amoke Kubat appealed to mothers in the region.
“Bring your pillow, bring your handkerchiefs, we’re going to scream,” she told them. And they did. They came together for a “mourning circle” to mourn, cry and step into the night. They later came together again to decorate over 100 windmills in honor of the victim, Jamal Clark, and placed them along the Mississippi River, calling them the Windmills of the Winds of Change. They prayed over the windmills and watched the winds rise from the river spinning them, spurring these affirmations across northern Minneapolis and beyond.
For Kubat, supporting mothers like this every season is her life’s work, both in her personal life and as a leader of Yo Mama’s house, an art and healing space co-op for women and mothers in northern Minneapolis. At various times it has been like organizing a community event to build rocking chairs for mothers and the elderly in the community. Another time, she was driving through town in the middle of the night with diapers, pillows, blankets and food when she got a call from a mother of two that her house had burned down. Recently, she took in a woman from Duluth who traveled to the Twin Cities for medical treatment, and not only coordinated transportation, but also organized a patient advocate who could accompany her to the doctor. And whatever the case, Kubat makes sure to offer soup and tea to anyone who needs to stop to talk.
“Women play all of these essential roles, and I think COVID has made that even clearer,” Kubat said. “Motherhood is very important and we must value the visible and invisible work of women, our work that we do 24/7. Even when we sleep, we think a little. I just want women to have a place where they can feel supported and taken care of. ”
For a decade, Kubat realized her vision by organizing events in other spaces or even outdoors (she is known to have set up a chair and a loom on the sidewalk or in a park, and s’ is found in long, intimate conversations with strangers). In January, however, she was finally able to purchase a physical home for Yo Mama’s House, in part thanks to a $ 25,000 contribution to her GoFundMe in Ambitio.WE. The house is under construction, but so far it has set up an office, an art space where co-op members can sew and create, and a chill out area with a massage chair. She runs an outdoor gallery in the backyard this summer and dreams of hosting small community theater shows on the expansive back patio.
Kubat is the clear visionary behind Yo Mama’s House. But being a cooperative is essential to its vision.
“My love for the reception is that we do things together and we have a good time,” she says. “We are together, we solve problems and eat together. We work better together through consensus. So the closest model I could find to how we were already working and being together was a cooperative model.
Kubat found the language to describe the structure of Yo Mama’s house partly through the North Star Black Cooperative Scholarship, a six-month program for Black-owned worker co-ops in the Twin Cities. North Star graduated its fourth cohort in May, and its alumni have started organizations focused on housing, access to food, cannabis, health care, and counseling, among others.
“We reimagine a world where black people are safe and can exist, and we determine what kind of systems we need to have in place to do that,” says Nkuli Shongwe, community wealth creation manager for Nexus Community Partners, parent of North’s Star. organization.
Many North Star alumni have been successful in part because of the scholarship’s commitment to supporting graduates after the scholarship ends. Alumni have access to technical assistance and a small fund for expenses such as marketing, website design, and legal aid. They also offer ongoing programming, including book clubs, speakers, and entertainers from across town and across the country (recently they hosted Noni Session of the Permanent Real Estate Cooperative of East Bay).
“We realized that you can’t have a six-month scholarship and then expect people to start their own cooperatives in a world where it’s very difficult to get capital,” says Shongwe. “While people enjoy doing this job, many also have to work full time. It can be difficult to find extra time to work there.
Shongwe says the fraternity is also focused on connecting with the black American heritage of co-ops. Like Kubat, who created a community space and then used cooperative language to describe what his organization already was, cooperative programs have always existed in black communities in America, even though they weren’t labeled as such. Shongwe cites examples such as the Black Panthers’ survival programs, the Agricultural cooperative of freedom and the Free African Society, who helped each other.
Kubat says this story provides a meaningful anchor for his work.
“Yo Mama’s House has always been an organization that wanted to do the job based on cultural wisdom, family heritage and transmission,” says Kubat. “What did your mother or your grandmother do?” What did this crazy aunt, the black sheep of the family, do? There is wisdom in all of these stories, and getting women to talk about it and pass it on is profound. ”
Kelsey E. Thomas is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor who has always dreamed of her PNW roots. She writes about urban policy, sustainability and the outdoors (but also almost everything else) and helps brands use strategic storytelling to grow their reputation and reach. She is a former associate editor at Next City.