At Families Forward Learning Center, equity and cultural competency have always been at the core of our work, preparing children to thrive in a diverse society. During this tumultuous period, as our nation struggles to free itself of the pain and injustice caused by generations of racial violence and systemic racism, we felt it was important to add to the conversation.
In the 1960s, a group of mothers, from different backgrounds, races and ethnicities came together to form a community in which differences are as celebrated as similarities. This Mothers’ Club laid the foundation upon which Families Forward was built. In response to current events, our Mothers’ Club alumni, many of whom represent our first parent cohorts from the 1960s and 1970s, have penned the following statement, which we are honored to share.
Mothers’ Club Alumni Share Their Thoughts and Prayers On Discrimination, Bias and Harassment in Our Society
History and Background of Mothers’ Club and Its Members. Almost sixty years ago, in the summer of 1961, a compassionate and determined elderly Quaker woman, Mara Moser, reached out to needy, lonely and often overwhelmed mothers in Pasadena to offer her help and support. Out of her determined efforts emerged the “Friendly Visitors” which evolved into the “Mothers’ Club” with the generous and caring support of the Orange Grove Friends, Pacific Oaks, and many supporters and volunteers throughout the community. Mothers and their children were able to share experiences across racial lines and build self-esteem while engaging in learning activities provided by a nursery school and an adult education program. All involved shared in the process of building caring, nurturing, predictable and safe environments for themselves and their families without regard to racial and ethnic lines. As Mothers’ Club continued to grow, the Mothers’ Club Cooperative Nursery School was established in the Spring of 1970 which expanded enrollment to those families able to provide their time and resources and who desired an enriching, integrated learning environment for the early development of their children and their own continuing growth.
At Mothers’ Club, which quickly grew to include families and children from Pasadena, Altadena and surrounding communities, we shared our stories, took care of each other’s children, learned from each other, and enjoyed eating and celebrating together. Differences dissolved and we developed empathy and compassion for each other. The similarities of our hopes and dreams, our wants and needs, and our fears and joys transcended any superficial differences. We as human beings have difficulty accepting differences and we were able to grow in self-esteem, tolerance and in increased understanding of people from different backgrounds.
In looking ahead, we ask ourselves what kind of world do we want for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and each other? What does it take for a child to grow and prosper? It takes the development of a caring, nurturing, predictable and safe environment. Parents have the biggest influence on their children’s’ early development and as such we must be good models of the behaviors we want for our children. In becoming aware of our own prejudices and biases, we can make the choice to be good models for our children and not pass down bias and prejudice. We need to teach our children well!
Consequently, Mothers’ Club Community Center (now known as Families Forward) created a nurturing, accepting environment in Northwest Pasadena where people of all cultures and backgrounds were welcomed and appreciated. The children who attended the Mothers’ Club pre-school made friends with children from many different backgrounds and went off to school prepared to meet, play, and work with people who were “different” from them. The parents of those children, mostly mothers, made lifelong friends who still support one another during this pandemic.
Some of the Mothers’ Club alumni involved in these pioneering efforts to provide integrated learning and development experiences have continued to keep in touch after more than fifty years. During these demanding and unprecedented times, it has been particularly distressing for us to witness the acts of discrimination, harassment and abusive behavior directed toward those who appear ‘different’ or who have been erroneously associated with threatening circumstances. We have witnessed harassment, abuse and great harm inflicted on African Americans, Latinx, Jewish people, Asian Americans and others. Empathy and compassion often seem to be replaced by anger and recrimination to the detriment of all peoples. Consequently, some of us want to convey our concerns, hopes and fears in an effort to heal the unnecessary wounds people inflect upon themselves and others and to make the world a better place where we can all get along. As we learned in Mothers’ Club: our similarities are great and our differences are small; we all deserve compassion and understanding; and we all need love and support. The following entries reflect some of the observations, hopes, prayers and concerns of the Mothers’ Club Alumni.
Standup for a World Without Finger Pointing. What kind of world do we want to live in?! I ask myself.
Thinking clearly, it should be a place/country where we are considerate of the cultural richness of its diverse people. Blaming people because of where their lives began is not realistic. We are all put together by a design greater than any mind on earth. Considering this, we know that we must be resilient. Politics and greed often play a part in one’s close-mindedness–even religion and other biases.
My mind and heart reach for yet another scenario, which would be justice and compassion with knowledge of the situation. It seems to me to be our duty to look at all sides of the equation and not broadcast statements without checking their honesty. Blaming China for COVID-19 is just more finger pointing, lacking in facts, directed by biased sources. The fallout from condemning a race of people leads to harm, hurt, mistrust and physical violence. This is like a sickness of mankind to blame and denigrate a people or situation to set themselves apart from others. Another approach is to step back and revisit the situation with a clear mind. Why? Because we have seen what happens when one takes an untruth and runs away with it. Lives are lost. The African American Community, Latinx, Jewish along with the Asian communities have felt this disease and its harsh realities, which can destroy a nation and its people.
Mothers’ Club rises above this and condemns such behavior.
Margie Smith, Jamie Smith, Joan Reid, Joann Butler, Georgia Holloman, Pat and Rob Kocsis, Madeline Schleimer, Sylvia Schliemer, Loretta Wright, Sue Kujawa and Ellen Knell