When it comes to motherhood, community is everything. The women you surround yourself with -- each with her own perspective and expertise -- become your foundation, inspiration and safety net as you raise your child. Qimmah Saafir is going to be well prepared. As founder of HANNAH Magazine, Qimmah is building community for and about women of color, and documenting their many varied stories in her beautiful glossy bi-annual publication.
Now pregnant with her first child, Qimmah says she has a newfound understanding and respect for the sacred role of motherhood. Below she explores how her own pregnancy has already transformed her, and shares more about the women of color who inspire her and have helped create her own motherhood community.
Why did you found HANNAH Magazine?
There aren’t many magazines for women of color. That saddens me. We are so diverse in the black community -- we don’t all love the same things or care about the same things. When it comes to our representation in mainstream media, most of our history has been black women trying to fit into someone else’s picture. With HANNAH, we’re taking the celebration into our own hands, and creating something for ourselves that we don’t have to ask permission to do. It’s not about excluding others, it’s about having a safe space to exist and be, and not having to ask for that.
In this digital age, why focus on print?
There are a lot of amazing movements online, but I wanted to create something that felt like a time capsule, a reference piece. The idea is to really start to bring in a variety of voices from the community. Not everyone’s going to like it. HANNAH is about having true stories from and by us. And if people learn from that, that’s amazing and beautiful. We want people have a better understanding of each other across the board.
How did you handle the news and adjustment of pregnancy, especially while running a start-up business?
Adjusting to my pregnancy was challenging. I have all these self-imposed deadlines, which I’m very hard on myself about meeting. But my first trimester completely shut me down. So the first lesson I learned about motherhood is to surrender. We have all these plans set up and these schedules to keep. But motherhood comes with having to let go and surrender to the fact that things are going to change. It was beautiful to learn that lesson but when I was in it, it was really hard.
How have you been feeling during your pregnancy?
Every day is different and new. You see these perfectly curated blogs from pregnant women or moms that are so inspiring and beautiful… but the truth behind it all is, if you’re pregnant, you’re probably going to vomit while simultaneously peeing on yourself at some point. Those are the things that people don’t talk about. (laughs) These are the things that make the experience so human. Your body is completely shifting to care for and pay attention to this being that you’re growing. Women are so close to God in that we have the ability to do this. Like our bodies were created with the capacity of developing and bringing a human into this world. It’s mind-blowing. It’s so majestic and incredible.
How has pregnancy influenced your work?
Pregnancy has reiterated for me the process of creation and creativity: the very low lows, the very high highs, the wondering if you’re doing it right, the questioning of everything. I’ve had so much help from mothers I know reminding me to trust my instincts...and that goes for pregnancy and for creating this magazine. Of course you read the books and do everything you can to educate yourself, but if it’s a part of you -- the way this baby is or the way HANNAH is -- you just know. You know where to go and how to move.
What have the women and mothers you’ve met through HANNAH taught you about motherhood?
I’ve met so many amazing women in creating this - the women I’ve profiled, the women who have helped me behind the scenes, the women who have come out and supported me and given me great energy. Even the ones who are not moms have shown such a nurturing spirit. They’ve been the kick in the ass when I need it, and the voices that say, Girl, it is OK. It makes me want to honor women all the more. I truly understand how precious we are to one another when we have that support versus tearing each other down. We’re constantly seeing the tearing down -- especially in the media of black women -- and that’s not my reality.
What do you hope to teach your little one about HANNAH and your message?
Every mother just hopes to teach the right lessons. I’m nervous about that, of course. The danger of being a parent is that you are directly affecting this soul, this spirit with everything you do. I want to teach my baby the importance of history and knowledge of self. I want to teach my baby humility. The importance of intelligence and kindness above physical beauty. Laying a foundation of learning, and teaching the child to be inquisitive all the time. To arm themselves with a constant thirst for knowledge. And also to never play back their creativity, imagination or power.
Who are some women of color that are mothers you admire and why?
My mother. She brought nine children into this world, and raised each of us with love and attention to become upstanding human beings. She takes no shit and holds no punches, but is still one of the more feminine women I know. She’s everything.
I love the way Kerry Washington has kept her children and her family life private. I truly believe in honoring privacy and protecting the parts of our lives that are priceless. I definitely see children and family as two of those parts. She and Lisa Bonet...but I mean I think everything about Lisa Bonet is phenomenal.
Photography by Lauren Crew for Well Rounded NY.