Each week for one year, the Progress Center for Black Women will give away a minimum of $100 to Black women for self-care.
Founder and director Sabrina Madison said that she has been thinking about the importance of self-care mini-grants for Black women since the center opened in 2018.
But it was a patron of the center who had lost a child that propelled the initiative forward this year.
The Center helped this mom get caught up on her bills, and after a bit of probing from Madison, the mother asked for a new mattress so she no longer had to sleep on the couch.
“Because of my new bed, I am able to sleep well, long and comfortably,” the mother wrote to the Center in a thank you note. “The kids even got to a point where they won’t leave my room or bed when we’re home. I was able to get sheets that fit, household stuff, self-care items and clothes for the kids and I. My house is coming along and I love it….My depression has eased. And I feel good about myself and accomplishments, again. Truly grateful for all the support.”
Madison said that line, “my depression has eased,” is what pushed her to start setting aside funds for the self-care initiatives.
The give-aways started Wednesday, Feb. 10. The goal is to give away at least $100 each Wednesday. After a flood of donations, the center gave away $1,000 that first week.
The amount week to week will vary depending on donations, Madison said. Black women who reside in Dane County are eligible for the grant and can receive the grant once. The recipients will be chosen at random Wednesday mornings on a live Facebook stream.
Madison said that she’s encouraged Black women to ask for things they needed for self-care but there was always hesitation.
“They’ll always say ‘look, I have my bills paid. I’m good. And once I got food in the fridge for my kids, I’m good.’”
“When you’re raised as a Black woman, a lot of it is we’re supposed to be strong and to endure, to like just be go-getters. And I think we’ve always in some respect focused on self-care like, getting our hair or nails done or whatever, but now during COVID time, we felt so much of an increase and focus to be connected to mental health services.
“And part of it is giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves,” she said.
Madison said when Black women do request personal, self-care items it is often things like fresh fruit, a new comforter or candles. She emphasized that it is ok to spend $20 on a 10-pound workout weight.
The giveaway stresses the importance of self-care but it also is meant to disrupt the current system of giving, Madison said.
She wants these dollars for Black women to be mostly unrestricted, so people can feel empowered to do something good for themselves.
She said everyone’s self-care needs are different, and the center recognizes that.
She also wants women to feel empowered when purchasing items, rather than being restricted about where they can buy and what they can buy.
The Center will contract grant awardees and find the best way to give them their $100 check.
“There’s a different level of empowerment when you allow people to make choices for themselves,” Madison said.
“It connects to our humanity,” she later added. “This is coming from personal experience with my personal stuff, my own son, and the families that we ended up working with, but there is joy to be found when you can go into the grocery store and this time your kid can choose the thing that you might not have been able to get last time you were in store.”
Madison said the self-care grants are a simple but impactful way to help people. One recipient said the grant helped her realize putting herself first once in a while isn’t as selfish, “as my brain has been programmed to believe.”
“The biggest thing is that Black women know what is best for us. If we grant you $100 we trust that you know what is best for you,” Madison said.
For information, including a list of frequently asked questions associated with the self-care mini-grant program, visit centerforblackwomen.org.