Cuyahoga County, OH. - Cuyahoga County has many women doing great things. They break barriers as elected officials. They are professional career women dealing with corporate boardroom obstacles. They are married women empowering their husbands. They are single mothers raising their children with one income and beating the odds. They are women who are strong enough to hold on to their dreams when life gets a little too rough. In Cuyahoga County, we celebrate Women's History Month to acknowledge the talents and skillsets of so many women who make a difference.
Cuyahoga County is a melting pot for women. According to the State of Ohio, more women than men in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, is estimated at 1,259,828 people, with 599,937 males and 659,891 females. There are 59,954 more women than men in the county, 4.76% of the total population. Although there are more women, they still lag behind men in politics and corporate and not-for-profit boards. The question posed is do women support women in these areas?
Genevieve Mitchell, Founder of the Black Women's Center says, "I think women do support other women, we do not do it on a consistent basis, for many reasons. At times when we don't support each other, it has a lot to do with "who" is seeking support, because, black women are not a monolith. We come from very different, diverse life experiences. While many have a proclivity for social justice movements, other women who are highly educated, and of means, may not have an affinity for those issues or may prioritize approaches to solutions quite differently. Some don't care about these issues, because they don't affect them in the same way. Some, may not like certain groups, or group members. Many are uninformed about issues, institutions, organizations, or networks. And, there are always those, who are highly informed, active and engaged, actively recruiting other women to help build capacity around issues affecting the living conditions...of the community."
Nevertheless, women are constantly finding their niche. With so many women and so little time, we are probing the continued progress of women making strives to thrive.
Kimberly Dudley is the founder of a non for profit called The Mommy And Me Initiative. "Our mission is to Educate, Engage, and Empower pregnant women and their families through a "Holistic Approach. "We seek to improve and address all aspects of a mother's health that can affect her pregnancy and birth by addressing their social determinants of health. We also assist with their basic needs. We provide various services such as Pregnant Bellies Staying Fit through Exercises, Eating the Letters through the Alphabets, Safe Sleep Education, Infant CPR," stated Ms. Dudley. According to the company's website, Ms. Dudley is a Certified Community Health Worker (CCHW), a member of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Disaster Emergency and Response Association (DERA), Ohio Public Health Association (OPHA), and Certified CPR and Select Instructor.
In 2003, Ms. Dudley understood the trials of being homeless firsthand. She was a single mom at the age of 20. Ms. Dudley resided in a shelter called Hanna's Home. The Hanna Home helps pregnant moms address their needs; housing, foods, education, resources, transportation, and other necessities.
During this time, Ms. Dudley graduated from Life Skills of Cleveland. Approximately two years later, she enrolled at Tri-C Eastern Campus, where she studied Early Childhood Education. A few years later, she earned her Bachelor's of Arts and a Masters's degree at Kaplan University in Public Health. "Afterwards, I had an intern NEON, and I worked in the infant mortality unit. "Our babies are dying. We don't have the resources and tools to make a difference. When you have very knowledgeable support, you are more willing to ask for help and get the needed help. We have to be able to deal with health disparities. Regardless of race, creed, and color, we have to ensure that our babies thrive and survive. We should never be ashamed to ask for help," commented Ms. Dudley.
At times, our mothers must be more than moms. They must become "super" advocates for their children with special needs. LaTanya Douthard gave birth to Amaya B. Jones in 2004. At two years old, Ms. Douthard discovered that her daughter had Autism. Ms. Douthard's babysitter noticed that Amaya wasn't talking. No longer did Amaya play with the other children. Her behavior was gradually changing. Her mom was concerned. "Well, I was mad at the sitter. I was upset. I was in denial. I told her I was taking Amaya out of her care because I did not understand what was happening. I kept her out of the sitter's care for one week," stated Ms. Douthard.
Ms. Douthard later followed up with her pediatrician, who referred the family to a behavioral health specialist. Amaya was diagnosed with Autism. The doctor referred us to the Help Me Grow program. The Help Me Grow program informed the family of the Monarch School for Autism. The school is costly. "They wanted $25,000.00 for preschoolers. When Amaya reached the age of five, we had no choice but to remove her from the school because the tuition was $40,000.00 per year, and we could not afford the services," says Ms. Douthard.
The family had to settle for the Cleveland Public School System. During Amaya's school years, Ms. Douthard had to "fight" the system. "I had to advocate for my child. At times I had to disagree with school personnel. I had to be her voice. Her dad and I care for her, ensuring she has what is needed. As her parents, we made sure that the school took her education seriously. When you don't know something, you must do your research and ask lots of questions," stated Ms. Douthard. Ms. Douthard became an advocate for young people who are diagnosed with Autism.
Autismspeaks.org states that Autism refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication challenges. Ms. Douthard reminds us that if the school doesn't help you deal with your child who has Autism, there are other places parents can go for help. "Sometimes, I felt the school did not want to help because they did not want to spend the money on my child. I would tell any parent to contact the state where they live. There are grants and resources at the state level. You got to do your homework. Amaya is a senior now, and we made it this far. Now, we must ensure she has everything she needs to survive," said Ms. Douthard.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States. Ms. Douthard says, "parents should not be afraid to confront systems. As women, we already have lots on our plate. Having a child with Autism adds one more challenge for us, but we can get the necessary services if we don't give up."
With everything that women must go through, sometimes they have to laugh to keep from crying. Not only are women business owners, advocates, and mothers, but they are also authors. Meet Valencia Joy. Ms. Joy is a writer.
Ms. Joy is a divorced woman with children. Ms. Joy is the author of I Met a Guy and Other Things You Can Only Discuss with Your Sister Girlfriends. "I like to call it a girls' night out on paper. It talks about all of the things women talk about with their girlfriends. It's the personal things we go through as women," says Ms. Joy. Ms. Joy states, "I have been where others are. I have been married. Infidelity was one reason why I got a divorce. I know what it is like to feel the pain. I also knew that the pain would not last always."
Ms. Joy's publications are fiction. "My book is fun. It's hilarious, inspirational, and relatable. As women, we go through a lot; our problems are not unique. I don't want my pain wasted. I want women to know that they are not alone no matter what they are going through. We can go through it together because together is better," said Ms. Joy.
There are so many issues and little time to discuss their hurt, pain, and triumphs. Let's relax. The celebration of Women's History Month is to acknowledge the many contributions of women. Every obstacle, every barrier, every roadblock, Ms. Dudley, Ms. Douthard, and Ms. Joy has overcome. They are not exceptional; they are bold to share their stories and humbled to empower others.
On this 20th day of March 2022, we recognize Kimberly Dudley, LaTanya Douthard, and Valencia Joy. The ladies fail down, and they all lifted themselves.