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February 22, 2024
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Earth Mama Healing Takes Empowering Black Youth to New Levels

They call her “Mama Ro.” For over 25 years, Rolanda Wilkins has worked as an innovative program administrator, traditional ceremony leader, and charismatic community organizer. Since 2011, her program Earth Mama Healing has focused on all aspects of well-being for black youth. 

A History of Healing 

Wilkins is no stranger to being a light for her community. Before forming Earth Mama Healing, she was the Executive Director of Birthing Project USA, which sought to improve birth outcomes for African-American women. In this role, she led international health delegations and assisted with building much-needed clinics. In 2008, Wilkins was awarded the Woman of the Year Award by the state of California. 

Forming Earth Mama Healing meant combining years of experience and a litany of ideas Wilkins had to empower youth in the African-American community. Since its inception, many of her great ideas have been realized. 

“Earth Mama Healing came out of the work I did when I was working with the Birthing Project,” Wilkins told the Creativity Speaks podcast. Through home visits with pregnant teens, she saw that attention to health, wellness, and empowerment was greatly needed for the younger generation. She believed it shouldn’t have to come only when — and if — those teens become pregnant. It should be a given for all young people. “I thought, how do we do that before [they become pregnant], so she could plan her life out a little differently?” 

Changing the Way Black Youth See Themselves 

One of Wilkins’ main objectives with Earth Mama Healing has been giving black youth the power to change the trajectory of their lives themselves. Wilkins pulls no punches when she acknowledges the challenges that black people face in the United States and other countries she has visited, such as Haiti and Ghana. 

In 2020, at least four black women or girls were murdered in the United States each day. If that number seems alarming, it speaks to how homicides of black women and girls often go under-reported and fly far below mainstream media’s radar. Black women experience maternal mortality at a rate two to three times that of their white counterparts. Even with the stellar work of organizations like The Birthing Project, the infant mortality rate for black babies remains high. 

When considering the statistics, the future could seem bleak for black youth. Wilkins has taken up the challenge of changing their outlook and their opportunities. 

The Earth Mama Healing Way

Since 2011, Wilkins has grown Earth Mama Healing into a black empowerment empire. “It’s really about loving yourself,” says Wilkins. “Not pieces of yourself, but all of yourself. We talk about things in pieces, but all pieces are connected.”

The Earth Mama Healing programs bring those pieces together through several avenues. Earth Mama Network is a podcast and live show about black lifestyles and the African worldview. The Quality of Life Roadtrip takes young women between the ages of 14 and 18 on a 30-day road trip across the United States, with stops and activities strategically designed to understand the lifestyles and contributions of girls and women of African descent. The Harriet Tubman Youth Leadership Awards seeks to recognize those who have gone above and beyond in their communities. 

Earth Mama Healing also offers other empowerment programs such as the Nurtured Girls, Empowered Women Institute, which is home to Wii (We Inspire) Girls, Dream Academy, and Mother Love programs. These all put a special focus on black girls and young women’s health, wellness, and self-empowerment.

“I really try to work with young people on self-love and to project that out to other people,” says Wilkins. 

Through the Earth Mama Healing programs, Wilkins and her staff delve into the struggles that many young black people may face and the “why” behind the struggle. Wilkins often found that discovering the root of an issue, sitting with a problem, and analyzing it can lead “her girls” to resolution.

“Part of my work is making sure girls feel empowered, that they feel good,” Wilkins mentions. “They are going to be the ones who will be impacting generations in a real way.”

This empowerment work starts early for Wilkins and Earth Mama Healing, even with pregnant women who, Wilkins says, are impacting their babies before they are even born. Wilkins and her staff are on a mission to help women and girls move into the future without fear, despite negative statistics or news stories. 

“I think a lot of people say ‘I’m not going to be like my mom, I’m not going to be like my dad,’ but you can only do what you know unless you come up with a different plan,” Wilkins explains. “How do you make a different change? What do you have in your ‘nation-sack’ to build something for yourself?”

With her work through Earth Mama Healing, Wilkins seeks to give young people the tools and path to self-discovery to pave a new way for the black community. 

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