The first time Tierra Banks caught herself speaking about her mother without saying anything negative was in front of a crowd of women who understood the painful and complex repercussions of a broken mother-daughter relationship.
“When I started this, we were not even on speaking terms,” Banks says of her mom, while describing the personal and professional growth she experienced as founder of Mended Inc., a Cleveland-based nonprofit dedicated to helping grown daughters and mothers break free from the cycle of conflict and emotional strain that disproportionately impacts black mothers in America.
Like other movements, Mended Inc.’s rapidly expanding programs started because Banks sensed a need in her community, and she bravely stepped forward to fill it. In spring 2015, she wrestled with mixed feelings about the upcoming celebration of all things maternal and revered — Mother’s Day. As a mother, she was beginning to recognize (and understand) some of her mother’s habits and behaviors in the ways she interacted with her own daughter. And as an adult daughter, Banks continued to long for the closeness and connection that is the hallmark of healthy parent-child relationships. In response to these conflicted emotions, she organized a luncheon at her church for “mothers and daughters who don’t get along.”
Seventy-five women came to the inaugural event, and Banks has developed programming in response to continuous demand, including an all-day conference and monthly support groups. “No matter what happens, you still want your mom to be there for you,” she says.“Even if she is not perfect. No other adult can fill that role.” A full-time social work student at Cleveland State University, Banks uses her professional training and connections to help mothers and daughters heal from what she calls “mother wounds.”
One of her initial hesitations in committing to this work was the fear that it would upset her mother. Coming to terms with that fear and making a choice to move past it are central to the work done by participants in Mended, Inc. programs. By helping others heal, Banks has also healed. Forgiving her mother was a gift she could give herself.
Banks goes on to explain that when dad is not present in a child’s life, this creates a new level of stress and expectations around the relationship between mothers and daughters. With the added emotional and financial strain of single parenthood, mothers are often exhausted and ill-equipped to do more than simply keep their children safe and meet basic needs. As a busy, working mother, Banks now relates to the level of fatigue and pressure her own mother must have experienced during her youth, and this has been instrumental in the gradual healing of their relationship.
As part of the healing process, Banks has also noticed positive changes in her other relationships. She credits empathy, forgiveness, and mutual respect with the increased peace she now experiences, all of which she used to believe a person had to earn. “So not true,” exclaims the inspired leader. “They must be given freely.” She encourages those who recognize themselves in her story to reach out directly or connect with her in person at an upcoming Becoming Whole Life Group, which takes place in Cleveland on the 4th Monday of each month beginning on January 28.
FEATURE IMAGE: Mended Inc. founder Tierra Banks and her mom.