The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day in the US. This tradition dates to the 19th century and is linked to Ann Reeves Jarvis who helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women to properly care for their children. Also, the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870 that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. The official Mother’s Day holiday came about in the 1900s due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Jarvis conceived of the holiday after her mother’s death as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
Mothers hold a special position in the African American community. It is rare that a young Black person receives an honor or accolade without acknowledging the support and love of their mother. Shouts of “Hi, Mom,” permeate the television screen when athletes are singled out at a sporting competition. NBA superstar Kevin Durant is noted for both his basketball prowess and shouting out his mother in 2014 when he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). His heartfelt and tearful words to his mom were, “You’re the REAL MVP!”
Our Madison Area community is filled with special moms, and no one feature article could do them all justice, but Umoja wanted to draw your attention to a few mothers who symbolize motherhood at its finest. Our focus is on 3 mothers who have worked hard to embrace the entire community and demonstrate what it means to be a mother—Jacquelyn Hunt, Cora White, and Geraldine Bernard.
Jacquelyn “Jackie” Hunt
Jacquelyn “Jackie” Hunt is the founder and CEO of FOSTER (Families Overcoming Struggles To Encourage Restoration) a community service agency designed to reduce placement of children and youth into the foster care system and support families who may struggling financially, educationally, or mentally. Its vision is “to ensure stability/ability for strong, successful, and thriving black families who are raising healthy and successful children, supporting their families, and who engage in their communities in meaningful ways.” Each May, for more than a decade, Jackie sponsors a pre-Mother’s Day brunch where more than 200 guests are treated to a wonderful brunch and program celebrating mothers in the Madison community. A licensed substance and addiction abuse counselor, Jackie uses her own experiences in the system to reach those who are struggling. In 2023 she was named a Madison Metropolitan School District Community Impact Award winner.
Cora White has served as a foster care mother to over 200 children and youth in her own home. She serves as founder and CEO of Partners in Foster Care where she harnesses community resources to ensure children and youth receive needed support. Partners in Foster Care has a vision to find young leaders, allow them to take over, and build on what they have learned from what she has done for them. Cora does not just give to young people; she also trains them to be able to give back. Through training and mentoring, children and youth who come through Partners in Foster Care learn gardening and other sustainable skills to be productive throughout their childhood and into adulthood. As a 2011 L’Oreal Women of Worth nominee, Cora insists that she, “can do just a little more. What I do for others is the most important thing.” Although Cora calls Madison home, she has served as an international adviser to the Japanese government, Krakow, Poland, and over 40 different countries on best practices in foster care. In 2017 she received the Ohio Family Care Association’s award for Lifelong Commitment to Building Resilience in Children Impacted by Neglect and Abuse.
Geraldine Bernard or “Mama Gerry” has been a fixture in the Madison community for more than a half century. As one of Madison Metropolitan School District’s first African American teachers, Gerry Bernard has lived a life of dedicated service. After spending 35 years as a public school teacher, Gerry transitioned to full time volunteer work. She helped to initiate the Mt. Zion Food Pantry where people facing food insecurity can shop for healthy, good tasting foods. She continued that work, partnering with her church, the Divine 9 fraternities and sororities, and Second Harvest until she was 90 years old when she handed over the reins of the pantry to church member and friend, Marian Sullins. A former winner of the Madison Metropolitan Chapter of the Links, Inc.’s “Outstanding Community Service” award, Bernard has not let her 90 plus years keep her from one of her passions—bowling. Every Tuesday morning, Mama Gerry joins her friends, the “Happy Ladies” who range in age from 76 to 92 to bowl and enjoy a laugh. Mama Gerry says, “Life is short enough… so if you’re happy it moves along smoothly.”