Jun. 8 2020
They’re building the mothership for Black maternal health. Tika Sumpter is an actress and producer; Thai Randolph runs Kevin Hart’s LOL Network. But despite being Hollywood power players, the women couldn’t find a hub for their concerns as working moms of color… so they built one. It’s called Sugaberry, and it comes with a podcast, a series of columns, and a network of women sharing their experiences and triumphs (along with their favorite lip glosses and art books).
Here’s how Tika and Thai are—in Tika’s words—“creating a space where Black and brown women can talk about anything from vacuum cleaners to vulvas.”
What was your original mission when you founded Sugaberry?
Tika: The mission is to create a safe space where Black and brown mothers, aunties, and the undecided can discuss all things that embody them. We didn’t want to just share news, we are here to provide resources.
Thai: We really are a brown mom’s guide to the sweet life. We exist to create content, community, and tailored commerce offerings for modern moms of color.
What can all women, but specifically white women, do to be better allies to Black pregnant women and Black mothers?
Tika: Listen to Black women’s stories. Don’t make yourself the center of the conversation. Talk to other white women about these experiences. Look into the systematic structures that aren’t helping Black women, especially when it comes to maternal health. Black women are dying at an expedient rate. Get involved with the Momnibus Bill to help fix this. Read books to educate yourselves.
Thai: It’s not hard. Black women have been allies for everyone—in the fight for human rights, women’s rights, civil rights—you name it, Black women have been fierce and essential voices in these causes. I always characterize Black women, as a collective, as having such a high degree of empathy for others, in large part because it’s been essential for our survival and success in this society. But anyone looking to be allies and supporters of Black women need only treat us as they want to be treated (or the manner in which we’ve treated them): with respect, compassion, and care. And be as vocal about matters impacting our communities as we have been about broader women’s rights. One striking example of Black women’s allyship was the 2016 presidential election in which 94% of Black women voted for Hillary vs. 53% of white women. Black women show up, and things that matter to us and the nation and real allyship is just about reciprocating that.
What do you wish you’d known about pregnancy before you became mothers?
Tika: I wish I knew how lonely it could feel, and how much community helps you get through it all.
Thai: I wish someone would have reminded me to soak in the experience as one of the last moments, for some time, that you’d be able to really focus on yourself. I was so “busy” during my pregnancy and was always on the go—even when I was exhausted. If I were redoing it, I would really rest more and be more gentle with myself during that time.
What do you wish you’d known about small businesses before you started one?
Tika: That there is a hardcore business side to it. I thank God for my partner and friend Thai Randolph. She has kept us so focused on what we need to do economically in order to grow Sugaberry.
Thai: Having launched a few ventures, some super-scrappy and others with big corporate partners, I would say one of the key lessons is to be very invested in your idea, but be open to pivots. Factors like your industry, audience, or even the economy can shift quickly, and you have to be both determined and flexible enough to figure out how to adapt to those changes.
How do you know when it’s time to power through fatigue and get as much work done as possible, and when it’s time to shut off the computer and take a break?
Tika: My mind is always on, which I’m sure isn’t great. I just have to physically put my phone and computer in another room. I know rest is very important, and my family also revives and fills me up. This much I know is true.
Thai: One of the great things about being a mom is that it’s made me more efficient. I just don’t have time to waste. But with so much more on my plate, it’s sometimes hard to push the pause button. The community at Sugaberry and The Suga [our podcast] has really helped me on this one. Each week, we’re chatting with moms like Devi Brown and Tia Mowry who share their stories of balance (or lack thereof) and remind us that it’s okay to not to do it all, or do it all at once.
Tika, did you get to keep any of your Gossip Girl costumes?
Tika: OH MAN! I wish! I loved Raina’s clothes!