The Current Project's Deep Understanding of Black Single Mothers Is Hard-Earned

Founder Alisha Gordon knows first-hand what it's like to be stuck between thriving and surviving.

Mother making school lunch to her children.
Photo: Getty Images

Toni Morrison once said that the demands of motherhood were different than anything else. . From less-than-generous "safety net programs" to tackling social norms and shame, these hurdles become increasingly difficult for single mothers. Such was the case for Alisha Gordon, founder of The Current Project.

When Gordon first learned of her pregnancy at 21 years old, she was a senior at Spelman College with dreams as big as the responsibilities she would soon face. Upon graduation, she balanced the demands of motherhood while working tirelessly to provide for her daughter in the face of eviction notices, living on government assistance, and working paycheck-to-paycheck.

Though her early years of motherhood presented a range of challenges, Gordon would soon discover that her lived experiences as a single mom would birth her next greatest calling: The Current Project.

The Current Project was founded in 2020 during the height of the pandemic while Gordon worked to create programming dedicated to single mothers in Atlanta, Georgia. She developed the advocacy and mission-driven organization to support the well-being of Black single mothers by connecting them with programming to help close social and economic gaps for them..

"I think about the stereotypes of Black single mothers as being destitute and ignorant or making bad choices—' You should have chosen better,'—but it minimizes the diversity of the Black single mother narrative," she says.

"Some Black mothers choose to be single mothers because that's their business. Some women are widows, some are divorced, some lose their partners in so many different ways," Gordon explains. "So we have to expand our social, religious, and cultural understanding of what it means to be a Black single mother and put some respect on their names."

TONI Morrison

"There was something so valuable about what happened when one became a mother...It was the most liberating thing that ever happened to me. Liberating because the demands that children make are not the demands of a normal 'other.' The children's demands on me were things that nobody ever asked me to do."

— TONI Morrison

After recognizing how public policies and government assistance programs often leave out this unique demographic of "middler moms,"—women who find themselves between surviving and thriving—Gordon set her efforts on creating pathways for economic stability, social liberation, and emotional wellness to be reclaimed by Black single mothers.

"These mothers are not in crisis, but they're also not quite at the place of thriving. They're right there in the middle," Gordon explains. "They are often working, but make too much to depend on food stamps and cash assistance. But they also don't make enough money to ensure their economic thriving, so they're still living paycheck to paycheck."

The Current Project's mission is to give Black mothers the tools to excel in extended education opportunities, employment access, and small business endeavors —without the need to jump any red tape.

"How do we put money and resources in the hands of Black mothers who have goals and want to go back to school? Who have a small business idea and are working but need some kind of work certificates to elevate their earning potential?" she says. "How do we put them in a position to essentially do what I was able to do?"

The answer was in Gordon's solution-based and data-driven approach to resolving and alleviating potential economic barriers. "One of the things that I experienced first-hand was how I had all this education but I'm going back into a world where the policies around social safety net, access to food stamps and safe housing just didn't support the life that I was trying to build for myself," she says. "And so [The Current Project] is constantly thinking about how our programming can influence policies that actually sustain the thriving of Black mothers."

For Gordon, her greatest hope for single Black mothers to take away from their engagement with The Current Project is a "renewed sense of self" while reclaiming and reimagining their stories.

"The reason I use the word 'renewed' is because we don't want to remove their story — experiences are the 'seasoning' on the food," she says. "We want them to have a renewed sense of self because we believe that when they do, they feel empowered, focused and supported, and there are beautiful outcomes for the children that they're raising."

By Gordon's example, single mothers can see their story and strength as a reason to thrive, despite society's attempt to revise it. "Our narratives are just that — they're the stories that we tell ourselves and are the stories that people often impose on us. I want to help Black single mothers get into a place where they know that whatever they choose to call themselves, is a choice that they are making for themselves. Because when Black single mothers thrive, we all thrive."

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