Veteran communications expert Leigh Higginbotham Butler was 40 years old and a new mother to her third son, when all seemed well. She and her husband Chris were thriving in their careers, generating over six figures for the household, and in the midst of starting a small business. However, in just 10 years, life came crashing down.
Now faced with unemployment, a closed business, and an underemployed husband, the mother of three had hit rock bottom. Following a relocation move to Dallas, Leigh watched as expenses piled, debt incurred, and the well of resources ran dry.
Just 10 years earlier, she had her tribe. There was family, career contacts, and a wealth of support for not only herself as a Black mother, but also for her sons. Now, as she desperately tried to make ends meet and the funds dwindled to nothing, she and her husband entered crisis mode. However this time, there was no family, no outreach, and what felt like -- no support for this struggling black family.
Coined by Leigh as one of "the most humbling experiences of her life", she and her husband were eventually approved for rent assistance, plus supplies at the local food pantry. Day by day they fought, as both regained employment, financial dependency and ultimately, their livelihoods.
However, it was the embarrassment, loneliness and longing for community that Leigh now credits to the birth of her new venture and app, Akina. Generating a waitlist of over 20,000 black mothers and caregivers with a similar desire for connection and resources -- what was birthed from the bottom will surely see its rise to the top. Leigh notes,
The truth is, is that it takes a village to raise a child -- and every woman deserves access to that village. This is where Akina was born. Swahili for 'strong family bond', Akina is that village realized.
Launching November 11, Akina (formerly known as Kijiji), will be a first-of-its-kind social experience that nurtures Black mothers and women in an online environment that connects, educates and inspires, as they navigate the challenges of raising Black children. It looks to be one of the largest platforms to date where Black moms can connect in a community generating love like no other.
As moms of black children, we navigate a special set of circumstances. From doctors, to caregivers, to teachers, to principals, police, and other parents -- we have to advocate for our children in a unique way -- and that is where Akina comes in.
Studies over the decades have continuously stressed the disparities Black women face surrounding their maternal health. Oftentimes, Black women experience death during pregnancy or childbirth, fibroids and other maternal complications, at a devastatingly higher rate than white women. As such, the Akina app will be at the helm to offer content and resources from all-star experts ranging from doulas to doctors to mom influencers and educators, to make the community of Akina women stronger, wiser, and better equipped to take care of herself and the children she loves.
The new Akina app will offer several interactive elements catered to the needs of Black mothers and the unique challenges they face. Highlighted perks will include on demand content, chats, meeting rooms, live streams, events, networking opportunities and more. The Akina live element will be the ultimate reward, as an artful blend of social powerhouses Clubhouse, Google Meet and Instagram Live all rolled into one, unique, easy-to-use feature.
The current Akina village includes support by Milk Space, LLC, Black Moms Connection, the Dem Black Mamas podcast, and a wealth of other brands. Just recently, Akina solidified an official partnership with American pro tennis star, Taylor Townsend to amplify the platform and to spotlight its efforts.
The Akina app launches officially on November 11, and will be available to download on devices in the United States and Canada via Apple and Google Play. It will celebrate the milestone by donating to the National Black Child Development Institute, The Allignment Chapter, and Black Moms Connection with additional philanthropic efforts to be announced in the future. For more information or to join the community, visit MeetAkina.com or follow @MeetAkina on social media.