Dr. Nicole Corley – And, Ain’t I a Mother?

Ain't I A Mother exhibition

Dr. Nicole Corley – And, Ain’t I a Mother?

May 21 – June 4, 2022

The Anderson and VCU’s School of Social Work are pleased to present, And, Ain’t I a Mother, an exhibition that draws on the iconic speech, Ain’t I a Woman (1851), by Queen Mother, scholar, and activist, Sojourner Truth. Sojourner Truth’s speech highlights the contradictions between her experiences as a Black woman and the euro-centered qualities of womanhood only attributed to white women. Repeating her question ‘And, ain’t I a woman?’ no less than four times, Sojourner called for an acknowledgment of her particular experiences as a Black woman and a Black mother. 

Similarly, Ain’t I a Mother, a research project co-led by Dr. Nicole Corley assistant professor in VCU’s School of Social Work, and her research team comprised of doctoral student, Britney Pitts; VCU MSW students, Shayla Sanders and Brittany Watson; VCU film students Jasmine Elmore and Myles Manuel; along with Da’Shunnda Hayward-White and Kashmala Naz, aimed to call attention to the beauty, complexity, vulnerability, and strength of Black mothers and the institution of Black motherhood. Being Black and a mother is deeply political and a subversive act as the ideological conception of motherhood has never been extended to Black women. Through collage, this project endeavors to illuminate new perspectives from which to understand and elevate Black motherhood. Given the few spaces that have centered their subjective experiences, this project joined alongside Black mothers to a create critical space wherein they could (self) define who they are in their own unique and creative way; a space also honoring the multiplicity of their truths. 


And, Ain’t I a Mother features the collage work of 26 Black mothers. Collage was used as both medium and metaphor to answer the question, “What does it mean to you to be a Black mother?” Some of the works explored mothers’ own histories of being mothered– the appreciation, the lessons learned, and the cycles that had to be broken. Others look more closely at the multidimensionality and dynamic nature of motherhood, calling our attention to what is both lost and gained in becoming a mother, the joys and the challenges. And, there are those that speak to their shadows, healing, and an intentional reclaiming of who they are and who they want to be. Overall, storytelling as salvation and as a practice of freedom is woven throughout each mother-artists’ piece.