We Asked Black Mothers & Daughters For Their Best Advice

The one piece of advice I remember my mother giving me was about money. Specifically, to make sure I had my own and to never rely on a man for it. Ever. As a Black woman, with no parental safety net and a slew of systemic roadblocks, my mom gave this advice to me, her only daughter, because she was trying to protect me from future heartbreak. She couldn’t have known then how much she’d need her own advice in her 60s when she was divorcing my dad. She also didn’t know that she was ahead of her time by believing the simple idea that you could be financially free from your husband. 
Advertisement
But being ahead of the curve is nothing new for Black women. If you’ve been on Twitter you’ve probably seen someone tweet: “Black women tried to tell y’all.” I love this refrain. Again and again, Black women have organized, campaigned, and voted for issues that matter to us most (our track record is impeccable), but also benefit the rest of society. When other groups don’t do the same and everything goes to shit, well, Black women tried to tell y’all. We’re not magic. We don’t have a genetic predisposition to moral superiority. We’re just people who oftentimes face insurmountable circumstances. Good advice comes from experiencing bad shit.  
This Mother's Day, when we’re celebrating the women who shape our lives, I want to highlight Black moms and the advice they dole out that makes our communities stronger. So I asked Black mothers to share what they passed on to their daughter, and their daughters what they learned from their mom. Here's what they told me.

Téa Mutonji, 26, & Marie-Claude Kamwanya, 57, Oshawa, ON

Téa on the best advice her mom gave her: A few summers ago, I decided I was going to fix my life. I was seriously about therapy, dieting, meditating; I was reading self-help books, the whole nine yards. I was doing so much of “the work,” with so much discipline, a friend compared it to obsessively counting calories. Still, I felt mostly unhappy. I went home for a visit with my mom and just cried. I told her I was working so hard “to be better,” and nothing was changing. She was sitting across from me, really surprised — maybe even uncomfortable. After some time, she asked me, when did I become so concerned with healing that I forgot about being in the now. She said, “have you tried just living? That’s how our women have always done it. Healing happens when you let the wound breathe.” It felt so simple and so obvious and like letting go of a ton of pressure.
Advertisement
Marie-Claude on the best advice she gave Téa: In 2018, I gave Téa a framed portrait of herself as a Christmas present. It was blown up and everything. She didn’t really understand the gesture right away, but I explained that this photograph should go on her wall to remind her of who she is and where she is going. Because the person she should be looking up to is herself. I say this to all of my kids, everything they need to go out in the world lives right here inside of them.

Samira Ibrahim, 30, & Charlene Ibrahim, 60, Los Angeles

Samira on the best advice her mom gave her: "You can do whatever you want to do.” I actually don't remember exactly when my mum told me this, but I do remember the place that I was in: I felt stressed, burnt out, underappreciated, and undervalued at work. I remember having a conversation with my mum about where I started and where I wanted to go, and she said "Well, what do you want to do, babe? You know you can do whatever you want.” It felt like validation. It felt like encouragement and it felt so empowering to hear my mum say this! It was a revelation! I quit my job and started my agency, Amalia Consulting, and I haven't looked back. Thanks Mum, love you.
Charlene on the best advice she gave Samira: "Watch your back." She was working in London and doing these really late nights. All I want for her is to be happy, in whatever she does and I want her to be safe. I also know that as women, especially as Black women, we have to be careful. I was worried and wanted her to always be aware of her surroundings, keep her keys in her hand, and don't let anyone sneak up on her. I told her to watch her back and to this day Samira says it was some of the best advice I’ve ever given her. 
Advertisement

Ebonie Walker, 23, & Dee Walker, 50, Ajax, ON

Ebonie on the best advice her mom gave her: I have to give both my parents so many props for teaching me and my sister about money and finances. But my mom specifically is the finance queen in our house. Growing up, she would always tell me: "Good credit is gold! Make sure to pay off your debts on time — it may be annoying in the short term, but a good credit score will make life so much easier in the long run." Obviously, she was so right and my life has been made so much easier by prioritizing finances and making sure to ALWAYS pay my bills on time.
Dee on the best advice she gave Ebonie: I come from a family of nine children. Growing up in Jamaica then immigrating to Canada, my family was often separated and lived in different locations. It was hard, but we tried making it a priority to keep in touch. I have two children, both girls, and I tried instilling in them the love for family, but more than anything to love each other. The advice I gave them is to be cognizant of the way you treat and speak about your family around others, because the way you treat and speak about your family will give others permission to perceive and respect them that way, too. I encourage my children to stick together, to respect, support, and be there for each other because unlike me, they only have each other. So far I think I’ve done a good job. They are awesome human beings. 
Advertisement

Elaisha Jade Green, 27, & Michelle Green, Toronto 

Elaisha on the best advice her mom gave her: The best advice I ever received from my mum is: "Don't wear shoes that aren't comfortable." It's actually advice her dad gave to her that she passed down! He didn't want her to end up with corns on her feet, but I've applied it to more situations than just fashion. I don't try to force myself in where I don't fit. I'm always authentically myself and my mum is a big reason why. I'm making a huge leap of faith this year to become a meditation teacher and corporate wellness expert because of her support. Thanks, Ma!
Michelle on the best advice she gave Elaisha: I was in an Uber, and the driver was a newlywed. Similar to me, he was from a background where children often feel a sense of responsibility and obligation towards their parents. We got to talking about relationships, and I gave him this advice: "Be an honourable person if you want people to be loyal to you. This is especially true when you don’t want your children to love you out of obligation.” I tried to apply this to my relationship with my daughter through being vulnerable. I have always endeavoured to have my daughter learn from my successes but also my mistakes. 

Tanisha Kepe, 24, & Natalie Kepe, 58, Scarborough, ON

Tanisha on the best advice her mom gave her: Growing up, I went to nine different schools. Because I was at a new one nearly every year, I had to go through the whole new-kid phase more times than this introverted girl wanted. Unsurprisingly, I tried to change who I was based on who I was around, and that mentality stuck with me for far too long. Throughout the years, my mom always encouraged me to be me and show them who she sees, who I really am. But to me, Tanisha was boring. It has taken me nearly 25 years to be me, to love me, and to show people who Tanisha really is! I remember when I finally took the plunge and shaved my head (not pictured), I was looking in the mirror one day, with my mom standing next to me, and I said, “I’m kind of obsessed with myself right now.” My mom just smiled and said, “I’ve always told you how beautiful you are!” It took me way too long to realize that my mom’s encouragement came from a place of love. I am now forever grateful!
Advertisement
Natalie on the best advice she gave Tanisha: It is ridiculously hard to say what my best advice is. I've been advising Tanisha her whole life! In all seriousness, the advice I like to remember teaching her is: “You reap what you sow.” I often remind her of the time she borrowed money from a friend to buy new clothes on a school trip in Quebec. She promised to pay her friend back, but she was 11 and had no income. When Tanisha returned from the trip, I took the clothes away from her and paid her friend back. Imagine her surprise when her birthday rolled around a few months later, and she was gifted the exact same clothes she borrowed the money to buy. I think she learned her lesson.

Cheryl Sutherland, 33, & Florence Sutherland, 70, Calgary

Cheryl on the best advice her mom gave her: My mom has always instilled the power of credit and finance, especially in her girls. She always told us to have our own bank accounts, to not rely on a partner to achieve our financial goals, and that a good credit rating opens so many doors. She's the reason I'm working on creating generational wealth for my family. I've seen the difference it can make in your life, the circles you run, and the people you meet.
Florence on the best advice she gave Cheryl: When Cheryl told me she was moving to Los Angeles for a new adventure, I wasn't surprised. She had always been one to follow her dreams and that was something that I wanted for her.  I've always told my kids, "Be yourself, believe in yourself, don't dilly-dally, and don't screw around." And look at her now. I'm really proud of her — starting her own company and running around the world all the time. I guess my advice paid off.
Advertisement

Alicia Sarah Harper, 28, & Lorna Marie Harper, 55, Brampton, ON

Alicia on the best advice her mom gave her: One of the best pieces of advice my mom has given me was concerning loving myself and loving my height. Growing up, I was always the tallest kid and for a very long time didn’t love my height. I’m thankful to have been blessed with a mother who advised me just how beautiful and special I was. She encouraged me on many occasions to own my height and not let the comments and opinions of others make me feel like I’m not worthy or beautiful enough. 
Lorna on the best advice she gave Alicia: I was blessed to have been given two daughters. Over the course of my 31 years of motherhood, I feel my advice given to Alicia has always been surrounding the following: “Don’t look at what other people have — you don’t know what measures they had to take to get to where they are. Don’t hang around with the wrong crowd — be mindful of the company you keep. Make sure that you get an education and hold your head up high and keep pushing and striving until you get to where you want to be in life. You are beautiful, you are smart, and you are capable of having everything your heart desires.” 

Shakera Martin, 32, & Andrea Seivwright, 60, Toronto

Shakera on the best advice her mom gave her: You knew my mom had a Jamaican upbringing from the way she spoke, danced, and cooked... so her teachings were no different. Most of her lessons came in the form of Jamaican proverbs or folklore. My favourite being, "We likkle but we tallawah,which translates to, "We may be little in size but we are mighty in ability and can do anything we put our minds to." This saying always encouraged me to live boldly regardless of any doubts, fears, or adversity I may have faced. 
Advertisement
Andrea on the best advice she gave Shakera: My grandmother would always say to me: “You only have one life to live, so live large and in charge!” These words empowered me from a young age to do all I could to make my dreams a reality. My first big step was migrating to Canada alone from Jamaica in the ’70s. I was quite young, not too familiar with the customs, and had only a few family members to lean on. Anytime I felt scared, I would reflect on my dear grandmother’s words and instantly a feeling of confidence and strength would come over me. Now here I am, a mother, and these words still live on because I continue to remind my daughter of them. I encourage her to always live large by stepping out on faith when she truly believes in something. To remain positive and be strong regardless of what life may throw at her. My daughter embodies my grandmother’s words so well. She truly takes charge of her life and inspires others to do the same, including me.

Hanan Ismail, 34, & Fathia Kahin, 57, Brampton, ON

Hanan on the best advice her mom gave her: A few weeks into kindergarten, I made a friend. She was Somali like me, and we became instant best friends. But then a pattern started: Every time we had lunch, she wanted my snacks. The first time I was happy to share, but by the third time, I expressed my reluctance. Then came the words I wasn't prepared for: “I won't be your friend.” So, I handed it over. This happened a couple more times until I asked my mom for extra snacks. When I told her why, my mom looked at me and said firmly, "If someone is truly your friend, they won't take anything from you that you don't want to give.” She told me, “You go to school tomorrow and tell her that you don't like it when she takes your snack and if she keeps doing it that YOU don't want to be her friend." I was scared to lose a friend but my mom said something so profound: "Never give anyone that much power over you. Be strong and know that you don't need friends like that. You choose your friends and choose ones that make you feel good." So, the next day, I said exactly what my mom told me to — from my chest. My friend apologized and never did it again. This lesson lives with me until this day. 
Advertisement
Fathia on the best advice she gave Hanan: The advice I’m most proud of is: “No matter who or what, always be on the side of what’s right. Even if it’s your own mother doing something wrong." I told her this because I wanted her to know that even as a child, she had the right to say no to anyone who made her uncomfortable no matter who it was. I wanted her to know that adults don’t know it all and when someone does something unbecoming or harmful, she doesn’t have to be silent. I see my daughter practise that in her life and it makes me so proud. She’s a fierce defender of anyone who experiences injustice around her, but she does it with compassion.

Jada Bernard, 17, & Monique Bernard, 40, Toronto

Jada on the best advice her mom gave her: I think that the best advice my mom has given me is to acknowledge my emotions and that it’s okay to cry. This resonated with me because I’m like a sponge. I just take everything in, but I never let it out. When my mom told me this, it made me feel a sense of relief as it’s okay to take life a day at a time because that’s a part being human.
Monique on the best advice she gave Jada:
I am a mother of four — two kings, two queens. I try to talk to my girls a lot about life — my eldest daughter is preparing to start a major milestone by attending university in the fall. As I try to look back at all the talks we’ve had, I think the most important advice I’ve given her is to be independent. In telling my daughter that she’s valued and to never let anyone take that from her, I know these fundamental things will help fuel her desire and make her work hard for everything. As a woman of colour, I’ve always told her she has to work harder than everyone else because she has two things that may present themselves to most as disadvantages: being Black and a woman. The expectation for hard work is the norm for her, and she can’t ever shy away from it. I’ve told her to embrace it and use it to drive her life forward in the successful path God has planned for her.
Advertisement

More from Relationships