On Womanism, Mothering, and Surviving Capitalism

Toi Smith

In this episode of the podcast, we chat with womanist growth and impact strategist Toi Smith. We discuss mothering as activism, anti-capitalist practice, and Toi’s activism work. I hope this episode wakes you up to new ways of working against the system.

Listen Up:

In This Episode:

  • Toi's journey through her 20s and how that journey built her liberation praxis. 
  • Being split from our knowing 
  • Mothering as activism 
  • Motherhood vs Mothering 
  • Telling the truth about mothering 
  • The spell of capitalism
  • Being a thought leader in the age of the internet 

Resources:

Video:

Transcript:

Martissa Williams: Hi Toi. Thank you so much for coming onto NEKKID Conversations.

Toi Smith: Well, thank you so much for having me.

Martissa Williams: It's so, I'm super excited to have this conversation. Before we get into it, um, I'm gonna ask you the question I ask all my guests, and that is what made you, you.

Toi Smith: It's such a, it's such an interesting question.

Um huh. I'm gonna go with like, what made this version of me, Me. Um, because I feel like throughout life, of course, we're so many different versions of ourselves and we evolved to be different people. So in this version of me, Toi who is almost 40 years old, I would say that motherhood has shaped a great deal of who I be, um, my politics.

Um, My perspectives and orientations in the world, um, black single motherhood particularly, uh, have informed so much of how, um, I exist now and it's shaped a lot of how I show up. And so a lot of people like to think of me like as very bold and, you know, saying what I need to say. And that comes from having to assert myself in a certain kind of way as a black single mother that exists in these systems.

And so Toi who's almost 40 is very clear. Um, I'm very, uh, reassured around how we're heading collectively and where we're going, and just feeling a lot of love and excited for, um, what new world we're creating outside of all of the oppressive systems.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I love that. As you were speaking, I was thinking, uh, I'd love to know some of those checkpoints or some of that journey as you got to this version of toy who was clear, like, you know, what was it like being, um, a younger version of you specifically before you became a mother?

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm. , I, you know, I have this conversation a lot with friends cause I always say my twenties feel like they were filled with trauma. Like, I feel like when I look back, and that's where I had my kids in my twenties. When I look back at my twenties, I know that girl. But I'm also, I feel sad because I know.

It's such a blur. Like there's a trauma spell that I was under that started like right when I exited high school, um, and was trying to like, figure out what I wanted to do in the world. Um, and I wouldn't have had the language, of course, back then to call it a trauma spell, but it was essentially like all my decisions were based on abandonment, based on feeling unloved based on this orientation of the world that just, I felt like I wasn't supported.

No one was there for me and like searching for it and reaching for it. And so a lot of my relationships that created my kids were from that. Um, and so they weren't the healthiest, but I learned a lot. But that, that is like part of a checkpoint for me when I look back, My whole twenties were felt very traumatic.

Like I'm very stable now, but my twenties were not that.

Martissa Williams: Mm, mm-hmm. , what were some of those tools that you moved through? I mean, I think that that story is so relatable for so many, you know, like that the twenties can be this like really big cluster fuck , you know, huge . Um, and like, so what were some of the things that helped you move through and past that stage?

Like cuz there's so much wisdom that you hold now, there was gotta be bumps in the way and lessons and tools learned.

Toi Smith: Oh gosh. I mean, I don't, if I look at my twenties, I feel like I was just going through it. I don't think it was until, So my last son was born when I was 29. Um, and it wasn't until me and his father ended our relationship, so I was about 30.

My son was like one, one and a half and I had to move back in with my mom and I had to move back in with my four sons, into her two, three bedroom home. And she only had one bedroom that was available for us to be in. And to be like 30 year old Toi with four kids in a one, in this one room in my mom, back in my mom's house, um, I think it was really at that point where I, I knew ending that relationship that that was a severance for me, for me from Toi in her twenties.

I didn't know what the moves were gonna be, but I knew that like, I'm not doing that again. I'm not going back to those relationships or doing that. And so being back in my mom's house just forced me to understand that this was a temporary situation that I was in at my mom's house and how did I wanna move forward?

And so I just kind of made a conscious effort to, uh, Journal and understand like, what the fuck just happened? Like, whoa, like we just spent a whole like 10 years going through some shit. What happened? So journaling and like, I would get up, uh, before I had to go to work, like 5:00 AM and I would read and I would write and I would listen and I, you know, would just try to be in touch and there's no therapy.

There was no therapist, there was, I couldn't afford any of that stuff. Like it was really just me with me and like seeing what was present.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

And in that process, like how did your current liberation praxis get formed through that?

Toi Smith: I mean, there are so many, so many moments where I knew things were unjust and I didn't have the language.

So one big piece of it was like I had to go to court multiple times for, in like in battle with the fathers of my sons. And during like the process of going to court for anybody that's co-parenting or going through any kind of custody shit is like dehumanizing. Like it's, it's not for anyone. It's not, it's not set up to benefit really anyone.

It's to benefit the state. They really don't wanna be involved and they shouldn't insert themselves into our, our dynamics. But the way our systems are set up, there's really no other way. Um, and so it was in being, going, having to go to court and like having a white judge tell us like, "You need to do this, you need to do this," like that part of me just felt like, why can't we figure it out?

But we're so broken. Like, why can't we do it? And then having to then have this white authority figure, tell us that this is how you're going to structure your family or how you're gonna move. And that was a big part for me. Another big, um, thing for me was going to debtor's court. So I got sued, um, for some old, um, medical debt.

Um, and I had one thing about me is I'm gonna read up on some stuff and I'm gonna understand before I go somewhere how things work and things like that. And so I knew that this particular company that was suing me was in the wrong, I knew that they were violating some, uh, laws related to credit reporting.

And so I went to, I was going to court, like prepared for this battle, and I just witnessed like this big credit company and their attorneys like scaring poor people. Scaring them at in the courtroom. Like just saying like, Well, you didn't pay the bill. Now we're gonna garnish your wages. Or you can set up a payment arrangement, or we're gonna garnish your wages.

And them not understanding their rights. And just listening to that made me realize like, these systems are just crushing us. Yeah. And I still didn't have the language, but my body could tell.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: and I went into that court, that court hearing and presented like, told them that they were wrong and I won.

But there were so many people who were in the waiting room who were just getting bamboozled by these attorneys who were telling them like, "You don't have any rights; You basically need to set up this payment arrangement or garnishing you. Yeah. And, and just realizing how stacked against. These systems are.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I love that you brought out this phenomenon that I experience all the time, which is like when you don't have the language for a thing, but you feel it, you know it. And what's so fascinating about that, I think especially in like fem bodies and POC, black bodies mm-hmm. so much of our knowledge, so much of our understanding is a knowing, right?

You know, like it is a feeling, it's a knowing. It's the way that my body reacts in the situation. It's the way that I am, um, feeling, you know, it's that language that has been told. That has been, um, we've been told doesn't matter, or that is too flaky or can't be relied on or is like, you know, whatever. And I think that part of the liberation journey I know for me has been really digging into that like understanding and putting stock into my own knowing and listening and trusting the knowing of others as well.

And I think it's so interesting how so many of us are on one of two paths where it started, where we had a very clear knowing where we weren't detached from that, and then we got the language, or, or maybe, and or we're starting from the other standpoint where we had all this language, we had all this knowledge.

You know, we went, we did the scholarship route and now we're moving into our, into our knowing. And I'm kind of interested if you can talk more about your knowing and it's, um, it's role in your work.

Toi Smith: Yeah, I mean, I think it's really important to name and name what you're saying around like, you know, Whiteness splits us, right?

So it's. Above the line, below the line. And my friend Jen always talks about this like above the line, is what whiteness and white supremacy hold to be accurate, Moral, moral and valuable of like, I can think it, I can like not even feeling it, but I can have a thought on it. We can go to school about it.

All these ways that it's just like executive functioning all the way across the board of like this, after this, after this. And then there's the below the line, which gets discounted in our culture, which is mm-hmm the body, which is intuition, which is knowing, which is spiritual connection, which is nature, which is land, which is all of these holistic ways that we exist as humans gets discounted.

Um, and that severance is part of whiteness and white. What whiteness did to our people, our lineages. You know, all the way, way back. So I think for me, my knowing started in my body and in my experiences, right? My connection became, when I started reading and when I started, Cause I didn't go, I went to college, didn't finish my college degree.

Like I went to culinary art school and then I went to for business management. So I wasn't reading any Angela Davis or Bell Hooks. I didn't grow up in a hella political family in that way. I live in Denver, Colorado. It's not like we are the, you know, known for all the black folks that they're hella political here.

So it's not that I grew up in that, it was really, um, motherhood is what radicalized me. And so when I started like picking apart all of the ways that it was okay for a black woman to be a single mother. It was okay for us to be shame, blamed and guilted. It was okay for us to be a scapegoat. It was okay for us to be harmed. Like for me to personally have those experiences and be like, Why doesn't the fuck anyone care?

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: Why is it okay? And then really started reading. So like, started reading bell hooks and this was like, you know, 10 years ago, just started like picking up stuff. No one else. None of my other people close to me were reading. But what it, what I found in it was so much comfort.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: because I was like, Yo, this is like not okay.

Like I've been in existing where y'all been saying this is how I'm supposed to, I'm supposed to be okay with it. And I watch my mom as a single mom battle certain things, domestic violence. Drug addiction, um, single motherhood, all of these things. And her, not her, not complained, but her fight against it.

Right. So her, her, the dynamic of her trying to figure out why was it happening to her, but not saying it like she came from a good family and not having those conversations with me. And so I'm looking at myself and looking at her and her story, and our story together. Yeah. And I'm looking at her relationships and in my relationships and I'm like, Okay, wait.

There's something, there's something here. And so then the puzzle pieces of reading black women and fems who are like, "This is a problem."

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: Yeah. Here's the language, here's the critique, here's the, what we're struggling against. And me being able to see in that, like, okay. There's language and there's also possibility.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. .

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: I love that, that part, the language and possibility. I think that I can relate so much. Um, it was in high school when I first picked up, um, for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, and I remember the first time I read that the, like I was. Oh shit. Like, like there is a whole lineage, right?

And like, I had awareness of that because I was raised by a single mom and my village was my grandmother, my aunt, my cousin, who was like, the women who really like raised me. And so I had that awareness because I was built in that place. I also had a mom who was like, Okay, I'm sending you to white schools, but everything else around you is gonna be black.

Like, like, that's really important. It's like, you gonna get this education that I think is the best for you. But like you, you've gotta understand your history and your culture. And so like my bookshelves as a kid, especially like a toddler, was all black artists. Like it was all black books. And I, I'm blessed to have that.

But when I remember being a teenager in the middle of like teenage turmoil, right?

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: And reading for colored girls and being like, Oh, I'm not alone in my experience, I'm not alone in these big feelings. I'm not alone in, in the creativity of it all as well. Yeah. And so that was like my starting point was like, okay .

Toi Smith: I love that.

Martissa Williams: Like I start here and then it's Bell hooks , it's Los Angela Davis. Then it's like you fall down this, this incredible rabbit hole. What I think is so beautiful about studying black women's work and feminist work and, and womanism is. That what you said is like, there's possibility, there's validation.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: And then there's this incredible possibility. Um, and then we get to like build on that cannon of work. Yes.

Toi Smith: Yes. That validation piece is necessary.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: It's needed. In a world that tells you that your trauma and your pain is just fine, have a life of trauma. It's like..

Martissa Williams: It's normal.

Toi Smith: It's normal. So we are feeding you for breakfast, take it. Like you're opposing it? Oh, how do you have the audacity to do that?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: So that validation, um, and then as I continued reading and reading and then like seeing like these past works, right? So from years ago, seeing how they've been made real and how their work has made it so now, So many of us are freer because of the critiques that they had and because of the struggle that they had.

And because they were saying, We see you and also this is a work that needs to be done. We benefit from that now. And so I have always felt a responsibility, um, to not just like theorize around this stuff to actually be about material change.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: because I feel like that's the piece where we keep it going.

Absolutely.

Martissa Williams: Absolutely. How are, what are some of the ways that you do that? You bring it into the material?

Toi Smith: Into the material?

Well, I think the first place it starts is in my home. Um, so I am raising four sons by three different men. And I always have to say that cause I feel like, once again, validation for the black women who.

Um, don't see or hear themselves in our media, in our social media, who our stories don't get told. You can be a feminist and a womanist, but don't say you have kids by different men, because then you're shame blame because then you're the stereotype. So I always want to name that because it is a part of, of my journey.

But for my, in my home, it starts because my sons, I want them to love being black, but I want them to, under this, understand the responsibility of being boys who are gonna turn into men, and I wanna raise them. And I have been raising them in a way that honors responsibility. . I want them to understand that they are responsible for each other, they are responsible for our home, They are responsible for, um, that love isn't just something we say love is a verb.

Like it's in the bell hooks way of like love is actionable.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: and being responsible for each other and being okay with sharing our feelings. Like I'm raising emotional, intelligent, validating young boys who can tell each other I love you, who are looking out for each other, who I want them to be. I want that to be my biggest gift to this world is that I'm raising these kind of boys who can exist in our society as men who, who feel.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: And with those feelings, know how to be with those feelings and know how to regulate themselves and know how to have a secure attachment and know how to, you know, exist. And so that's one of my material things.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Is taking my learning and embodying it in the house. I don't get it perfect.

Definitely. But what I, I do allow them to check me. I allow them to have conversations with me and be like, Mom, that was hypocritical. Like you said, like this thing. So I allow this relationship where I am not like, dominating over them. Um, so that's one way. And I would say another way is that I'm always trying to create ways to give money and like resources to black single mothers.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: like I have, I understand my gifts, so I try to use those gifts. To call people in to feed material resources and money to the community that I wanna be in support of.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Yes. I love that. Mm-hmm. , I am really interested in motherhood as activism.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: like I, I am really interested in that, um, as someone who does not have kids.

Yeah. And who's someone who doesn't tend to have kids at some point.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: thinking about what that looks like, you know, like what does it look like to like, be raising the next generation in, not only in service to that individual human and that individual soul. Right. But also as a collective gift to the movement.

Like, I think that's important. I think that is so important. It's not a conversation that we, I really see, I don't know. I'm not really in the motherhood space. I'm not a mom yet, so it could be, and I'm just missing it.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: Um, but like I think that's such, maybe I'm not seeing it for the people who at some point will become mothers, you know?

Toi Smith: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think, I think mother mothering and motherhood, cuz I, I, there's a distinction for me, but I think, um, there are some revolutionary mothers who are out here. You know, they're black women, they're women of color, they're usually poor. Like, that's why we don't hear their voices.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: a ton.

And because I always say like a lot of my work exists in the crevices of motherhood. It takes a lot to have a body of work while you're mothering because, You are mothering, you're care taking, and, and because we know that there isn't a ton of support for moms, even if you're partnered, right. So it's, it's a struggle there.

And so I do see motherhood and mothering as a point of activism, as radical and revolutionary. Um, but I think first we have to get truthful about the experience of motherhood. For most of us who decide to be mothers, like there's, there's not a lot of truthfulness. And I, when I talk about it, I get a lot of people who are like, I wish someone would've had these conversations with me.

I wish that I would've known this. Because I think a lot of times the conversations around mothering is that it's so beautiful. It is that your life is gonna change. And it is. And also because we exist in these systems, you can lose yourself.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: And you can not be taken care of, and it becomes a struggle.

And so there's a real conversation that has to happen first, where we have to understand that we put so much of the raising of children on women, even if they're partnered.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: And we don't, we don't require the same level of care from the men who decide to have kids as well. And so there's a real conversation that I, I want to have for younger women and fems who decide who want to weigh the options.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Right? Like, you can't make an educated decision around something that no one's being truthful about.

Martissa Williams: Okay.

Toi Smith: And so, We have to have the real conversations first and then be able to say, and also it's revolutionary and it's beautiful, and all these things can exist and this other thing exists too. So how do we acknowledge that?

How are we gonna protect the moms? How are we gonna support the mothers so that they don't give up so much of themselves that they don't even enjoy mothering?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: That they can't really be a part of it. Um, yeah, it, it's, it's a double bind. It's really rocky sometimes.

Martissa Williams: Two things.

One, will you define how you make a distinction between motherhood and mothering?

Toi Smith: Yes.

Martissa Williams: Um, and then I'm interested in you talking a little bit more about what the truth is behind it.

Toi Smith: Yeah. So for me, mothering is the act of like raising a child, stewarding. I, I think of it as, um, stewarding. Um, I'm not here to dominate. I'm not here to control. I'm not here to have ownership over my sons.

I'm here to steward them in this life. And I think of it like, you know, if you go bowling and you put up the like, uh, the guards on the side, and so like the ball goes back and forth. Like, I think of myself at those guard as those guards and even like those who are collectively raising my kids as well.

Like, we're the guards and we help my sons not go into the gutter. Like our role is to allow them to move freely, but act as some protection.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: not to dominate over them. And so that's what I think of as mothering. Right. It's, it's an act, it's a verb. It's something that you're participating in, like parenting.

It's participatory. Like we are in it, we are thinking about it. We are conscious, we are collaborating all the things. And then motherhood is a state of domination. That is what the systems of oppression uphold. So it's capitalism and patriarchy. It's how we are forced sometimes to mother because of the systems that uphold a certain version of motherhood.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: So motherhood is the system. It is the perfection. It is the only women are the caretakers. It is the paternalism that comes from patriarchy and existing in the heteronormative relationship. It is how you lose yourself.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm. .

Toi Smith: And we have to mother inside of motherhood and so. That's how I look at it.

Does that make sense? ?

Martissa Williams: A thousand percent. Okay. A thousand percent. And I think it's a really useful distinction also to just constantly be reminded about the ways that the systems of oppression are banging up against,

Toi Smith: Right.

Martissa Williams: All things. Yeah. Including mothering. Yeah. Yeah. That's a, That's really interesting.

Toi Smith: Yep.

Martissa Williams: I love that framework. And yeah. And then I'd love to hear you talk about like what is, you know, like what's the real behind motherhood that doesn't get talked about?

Toi Smith: I mean, there's so much , there's so much, I mean, I think one of the biggest things is how it will change your dyna dynamics with whoever you're partnered with in raising your kids.

You are, when you give birth , you come out a different person. There's a whole study on like what happens to a woman's body. Her mind, her cells, just all of it changes. You are a different person after the act of giving birth. And we in our society, don't have a space for women to land into that. It is very because of capitalism and levels of class, levels of privilege, all of the other things, you know, bound up in that.

Like I went to, back to work with my youngest son after he was six weeks old.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: And I had to take him to a sitter that I found on Craigslist that I didn't even really know, that I just had to put trust in me and the universe like, Is gonna be, Well, thankfully it was magical. She was amazing. But I had no business being back to work after six weeks.

Six weeks.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Right. And so that part of realizing, there are very few institutions or people who understand that transformation that women go through after giving birth. You, you spent nine months carrying you deliver, and now you have this whole new you and a new being.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm. .

Toi Smith: And so then you have a relationship that's gonna shift too.

And how, oh my God, you need more people than less. Like you need people in your life, cooking meals, holding you, holding your kid, honoring the relationship you're in. And what we like to do because of the nuclear family, is isolate. Right? So, , you don't have a lot of people coming in. You don't have, It's just you, your, your partner, the baby, and that fractures so much.

And so I would tell, I tell people all the time, and my biggest thing is like, you're gonna need more people than you think. You're meal trained. You're gonna need food, You're gonna need your body tended to, I'm talking about body work, aftercare for you, massages. Like, there should exist in that time that you're not working or thinking about work or going back to work where you're deeply nurtured and cared for.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: So while we're thinking of like a baby plan of how the baby comes out into the world, what's the mother plan? What, how are we gonna handle your new body and maybe the trauma that comes from birth? Who are the people, excuse me, that we have in place to hold that? And if we're not thinking about that, what happens is, A lot of women who give birth, they get into motherhood and they're shocked as fuck because they didn't have the space to even figure out what's there.

And so I would say that's the biggest thing for me is that we're not told about how much of a change it is from who you were. It's like walking through a door, like you are a different person. It's like hopping on a plane in one state, getting off in another because it's different and you need gentleness with that.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Did you feel that with every pregnancy and with every child?

Toi Smith: Yes.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: I think, um, what hit me, I knew I wasn't in healthy relationships, but when it was like me, I'm like, Okay, like I can handle certain things.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: But then. Like with my youngest son when he was born, I was like, Oh no, this really is not healthy.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: Because you realize, you know, how much you're not taken care of or how much inconsistency there is. Um, and I didn't have a ton of support. So if, you know, if anything, if I would've had more support, I think there would've been less trauma. But I did feel it in my body knowing that I'm some, I'm someone different.

Your body shifts, you know, just like all of the physical, mental things. And if you're not, if you don't have someone around telling you that's normal, that's where some of that postpartum, those feelings come up. Cause you're like, I don't, they made it look so easy. No one told me this thing. And so I did feel it every time.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. Yeah. That's so interesting. It's. . It's super interesting because, um, I'm in the process of watching two of my closest folks in my life move into that portal.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: so they were both pregnant at the same time and, um, had babies within weeks of each other. Mm-hmm. and their first babies. And watching them, like, you know, as a voyer as a outside person, move through those stages.

It's been, um, fascinating to say the least. And so much of what you're saying, I'm seeing, um, just in my own like. Research about motherhood, about, you know, watching some, some mothers like get into activism work around motherhood and being like, y'all gotta recognize that that postpartum period one is all forever.

And two, that like, you need the support and capitalism has robbed us. It has robbed us of the necessary support. The necessary means to raise humans.

Toi Smith: Yeah. And how we, we cut children out of our lives. Right? So like, if you're a mom and you wanna participate in things like normally it's like you can't bring your kid and usually the mom is a person who has the kids most of the time.

Martissa Williams: Right.

Toi Smith: So we have to be in consideration of like, do we have a sitter? Oh, I can't go cause I don't have a sitter and kids can't come. And so we get left out then. So it is a real struggle to think about if you're planning to have kids, what you're gonna lose. That's an honest.

Martissa Williams: Mm,

Toi Smith: honest consideration because we don't have a world that loves on children.

We don't live in a society that wants children around. We have a society that sees children as a burden until they become productive members of society. So it is a real thing to understand and to think about and to question, how is my world, my social world, the things I wanna participate in going to shift because I am having kids?

Or what am I going to lose? Because for me, one of the biggest things was I couldn't do certain things cuz it, I didn't have a sitter. Right? And I didn't have a partner who, who's gonna babysit. And so it becomes isolating because then you lose certain friendships, you lose certain connections because you know, you can't bring the kids around.

And then babysitters are expensive. So moms just do their duty and stay home. And so this consideration of how do we make our places, our spaces that are about activism and liberation, more opening for children.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: And I, whenever I see like, you know, meetings and things like that, that say like, childcare is available and I'm like, this is liberation.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: This is about collective care because we understand that you can't just hire a sitter and that the kids need to see things that are happening and things that are taking place. And my mom is doing this and be introduced to that person. They need to experience that as well.

Martissa Williams: Absolutely. What are some other ways that, you know, we can move in space that is more, um, accessible to mothers?

Toi Smith: Um, I think that postpartum conversation is real. Yeah. It lasts for. Ever. I consider myself still postpartum there. I, matter of fact, yesterday I just had, um, a Mayan abdominal massage, um, which targets your uterus and realign some things. And I didn't know about this kind of work that exists outside of Western medicine.

Um, but I wish it was something that I knew because it's care work and body work that mothers need to know about after they're giving birth. And so many black women who decide to become mothers don't know about this. So I would say like, opening it up, so black women and those who are deciding to have kids understand, like, this is the, these are options for you, a doula, a midwife, you know, like someone to have conversations with after, body work like.

Like someone to just be with you. It's one thing to be able to have a babysitter and or have like a night nurse. Um, but it's who are you talking to?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Who is mirroring back to you that things you are feeling are truthful? Who's, who's holding the thread around how you are through this? And so creating those kind of spaces for moms.

Um, and flexibility. I think a lot of time in my spaces, like I always say the kids are involved even if they're virtual. Like your kid pops in. You don't have to say what women will do. A lot of times like, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. Right. I'm so sorry that, Oh, I have to go. I can't come cuz of the baby. Bring the baby.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Like, you know, we have to, we have to get used to babies crying, babies interrupting kids running up like. It's fine. So taking away that shame and that guilt that women have for being unprofessional because their kids are in the space. Like we have to do away with some of that, especially with how the world is shifting and how we're working and people are home.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: You know, like we have to integrate the kids more and like my sons know everyone. Like they'll come in, be like, Oh, is that such and such? Come in and say hi. Yeah. Because they understand that like, like I said, my work exists in the crevices of motherhood. So while I may have closed my door and put on my light that says I'm working, if some shit hits the fan, like I have to step out or they have to step in.

Martissa Williams: Right.

Toi Smith: So making it, um, taking away the blame, the guilt, and the shame around. Being mothers and what that means, that means it's messy, it's unpredictable. It's inconvenient for those of us who like to be scheduled and, you know, professional and all those things.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Um, just allowing a little bit more room.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I love that. I love that. Um, it feels very anti capitalist to me. Mm-hmm. like to be like, Yeah, I'm. Like, I get to be human. I get to be human, which means that I may have a child and that child gets to be human and they have to like, you know, something hits the fan, they gotta come in. I think that there's so many ways that we have been taught through the systems of oppression to, um, bind ourselves, bind our minds, bind our bodies, bind uh, our experience.

Toi Smith: Yes.

Martissa Williams: So that it can fit in a very specific box and be, you know, okay. For the next person who's also extremely bound up .

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: you know?

Toi Smith: And not saying, and not saying that they're bound up. Yeah. How when we start sharing our stories, how again, it validates and liberates people.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: whenever I say like, I'm a black single mom, have four kids by three different men.

Yeah. The women that are like, Yo, were you saying that? I'm like, I am. Yeah. You can say it too, sis. You can, like we, My motherhood isn't invalidated. Your motherhood isn't invalidated just because it doesn't exist or fit into the boxes

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Of tradition, which are, When we think about tradition can be linked to oppression.

So like what?

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: You have to speak the thing. Yes. And feel into it and then always go upstream and be thinking about like, why, Like if I feel shame for that, who benefits? Cause I don't.

Martissa Williams: Right.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It's so important. And, and it just, I feel like when we speak our truth, when we speak what is real and alive for us mm-hmm.

it not only invites people who are the same Right. But it also invites folks that maybe don't identify to be like, Oh, that's possible. Like that's possible. That's right. It's okay. It's good. Like everyone's invited to the table. Like to remember that life isn't a fucking monolith. That motherhood isn't a monolith.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: And like to question the own, our own maybe bias about what we thought should have been and shouldn't have been.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm. and where we got that from

Martissa Williams: and where we got it from. Yeah.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I love that. Um, I wanna, it doesn't feel like a switch gears , but cause it's so in alignment. Yeah. But I wanna talk a little bit about Spell of Capitalism.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: and your journey to that and how, um, you and Jen have created that container that I've been in in the last, this, this year. Mm-hmm. , um, kind of on the outskirts, but still a part of it.

Toi Smith: Yeah. We love the outskirts. Listen, , we specifically designed it so people didn't have to feel like they were missing something if they didn't join a call or, you know, like that's not how we flow.

Our lives are busy. So we were like, let's design it for the people who want the information, who want to understand, but can't do all the things. So outskirts is perfect, but, um, oh, I mean, my journey into deeply understanding capitalism, Oh, where did it start? I think it really started, I think there's a lot of points actually, but.

One that I talk about often is, um, the last job job that I had was, um, I was working over, you know, the holidays. So between Christmas and New Year's, and the office was like really empty, like all the execs and I was in hr, so like all the execs were gone, no one was really in the office. And I had dropped my sons off at daycare and I was driving to the light rail here, which was like the train to get downtown.

And on my way, I got into a car accident and I was like, on the highway, I got hit by two different cars. It was a pretty horrific, um, accident. Um, but I came out okay, but I was still like, you know..

Martissa Williams: Physically okay.

Toi Smith: Like physically okay, but like, you know, my nervous system. Was shot. And so I called my manager at the time and was like, um, I, I was in an accident, I don't think I can make it in.

Um, and the back of my, my like nervous, like, what are they gonna say? I had only been there maybe eight months and she was like, Okay, are you doing okay? I'm like, Yeah, I'm fine. She's like, Well, if you're okay, you think you can make it in

Martissa Williams: No girl, no

Toi Smith: like, let me set the scene again. It's the holidays. No one's in the office. Really doesn't really matter if I'm there or not. Like three people in the office. And this is a question. And it was like that moment for me was, Oh yeah. I knew y'all didn't give a fuck, but I, I really am in my body.

Martissa Williams: It's very clear.

Toi Smith: It's very, very clear now. So that was like one, one instance for me. And I have a lot of stories of working in corporate world that were like, in hindsight looking back, like, y'all are just really, really fucked up. But yeah, my journey into like the spell of capitalism and the work that I'm doing with Jen came in to play with conversations that me and Jen would just have on a Saturday morning.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Like legit, just like talk, just talking shit. Like we would say, just talking about how things are so fucked. But we can see through, see through it. And like it came a lot with relationships, right? Like me dating and her dating and. Jen's like 52 I think, and I'm 39, so like there's a different perspective and she's a white whole ass white woman.

But like there's different perspective perspectives and us like keke-ing on it and like seeing the intersection of capitalism, seeing the intersection of patriarchy and whiteness and being able to talk about it. Um, and then also and motherhood and mothering and child support. Like, that's where I really started to unpack capitalism and understand, uh, how much those systems depend on, especially capitalism, depend on the labor of mothers and children and like, understanding that.

And so that started and it just started from conversations and then we're like, well, maybe we could do something with this. And we put it out in the world and here we are. Yeah.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I think it's such a, an amazing container specifically that it's one year. Mm-hmm. , it's a one year exploration. And I did the, the same thing, um, when I was creating the toolbox.

I was like, No, this is a one year thing.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: This ain't no, Oh, I took this course one time. Right. And now we're, we're liberated. We free now.

No .

Toi Smith: I did that one month thing. I read that one workshop and we hear .

Martissa Williams: Right. I think it's so important and how it's, it's divided into different sectors and seeing, you know, how capitalism in the land, capitalism in our bodies, like really getting into that and the resource.

What I have found, so, um, Useful for it being the like, nerd, nerdy, like scholarship person that I am. Like, I love the resources that is, you know, the list of references that's like, here's how we trace this thing back, here's how these other people and scholars are thinking about it. Um, it's really, really useful I think for us to like sit in it.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: I think so much of our liberation work, like, you know, the master's tool is urgency, so why the fuck would we use that tool?

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: To try and get free. Like why would we, why would we think that we gotta, it's a quick thing that we go, you know, I'm an undo capitalism just like this, you know that off, Check it off.

Good. I mean, honestly, a year is not even long. It's not long enough. That's the tip of the iceberg, right?

Toi Smith: Yeah. Right. And that's why specifically we invite alumni to come back and do it as pay what you can.

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: Right. So like we started with six months and we started with six months to see like, how do we feel holding this container?

Martissa Williams: Absolutely.

Toi Smith: How do people react? We don't wanna commit too much and then it like, not be what it needs to be. So get into it. Feel into it and like, okay, something's here. And then as we were doing it and doing the work, we're like, Oh, we forgot capitalism in this and we forgot capitalism in this. And so bringing in a couple other topics, but really feeling into that it is a journey and it isn't, That's why I hesitate to call it a course.

I say it's a journey, it's a , it's a journey.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: it's a year long journey. And inside of that, you could do it again if you want. Right? So like you did the first year and maybe months one, five and 12 were amazing and the rest of you didn't really get to cuz of your, your life and existing in capitalism.

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: Whether you wanna come back, Okay. Come in, pay what you can, and billing, building just this somatic imprint with people who have done the work and what's really been beautiful. Um, because inside of my work over the last seven years, I've, I've created a lot of containers and I online and I've helped a lot of entrepreneurs and creatives create their own membership communities and things like that online.

And, you know, we always go back and forth like, how do you want people to interact? How do you want people to get to know one, one another? And for in, and I, we've been really clear in what we can hold and what we can't hold.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm.

Toi Smith: being responsible about that because talking about capitalism is talking about grief too.

Martissa Williams: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. .

Toi Smith: Right? And so that part about grief and death is really important to understand somatically for us. And so, When you get a lot of people who live together in trauma, who exist in trauma, and they're exploring this stuff and you say, Hey, here's a spot for y'all to talk about it. That gets a little tricky.

Yeah. And so we've been really conscious of that. But what has come up as we've been doing it the first iteration and now the second iteration, is that those who have done it a second time, or who have been really into it this time, they formed their own thing. They created their own WhatsApp group. They decided that like, we see each other on these calls.

Let's get together, let's talk about, let's have our own Zoom meeting. And that's the emergent process.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Of liberation that we want to see. And that feels good. Especially when talking about something like capitalism.

Martissa Williams: Absolutely.

That's cool that that's happening. And I think that, that, that happens in so many liberation spaces and that's exactly the point, you know?

Yes. That's exactly the point. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. I love, love, love that. I think, you know, honestly, listeners like really check out, and I'm not saying this just cause like Toi's on, I'm saying this because I've been in Spell of Capitalism for eight months at this point, you know, and it has helped, you know, clarify my own process around, around it, you know, and help like, um, there's so many.

I think it goes back to that knowing. It's like when you start, like digging into the scholarship, you recognize that you were not ever alone. You're not the first one that had that thought, had that experience. Like, that's it. And I think it, it's so interesting too, and I don't know how you experienced it or this, or feel, feels it.

Um, let me figure out how to articulate this.

The experience of doing thought work, theory work.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: one in the age of social media.

Toi Smith: Mm-hmm.

Martissa Williams: two in the age of our capitalist nonsense that we're experiencing. I see that there is a tool in the Master's toolbox that says, Well, I've gotta be the first one who thought of this.

I've gotta be the only one who thought of this. It's gotta be mine and I need to, you know, trademark it and make it blah, blah, blah, blah. And I see it come up in the liberation space where it's like, oh, well this was my fault, this is my experience, you know, like this is my work. And yes, we should all get paid a thousands percent, especially because most of us are black women POCs them folks that are doing this.

Yeah, absolutely. But I find it so hard because I have a feeling in my body that is pointing me to something and then I read that knowledge in somebody else's stuff and I'm like, Oh, right. There's a collective knowing here that we're all connected to and um, navigating that has been really interesting experience.

I'm wondering if you have an experience in that.

Toi Smith: I have tons of experience of this because I like you, I work for myself. I exist in this online girl boss, social media entrepreneur. We all gonna be millionaires world . I exist in that too. And I've watched over the last seven years how. A lot of things can be woke washed, and you can make a profit from it.

Right? So if you can use liberation language now, just use the language. You see this with big corporations all the time.

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: But it's even with our micro-businesses, just solopreneurs who can use the language and make money, it's profitable now. So anytime money is involved, we always have to look extreme up upstream.

Like who's benefiting? Where's the money taking us? And in one of my spaces called Business for the People, we had a conversation around, like trademarking and you know, what does it mean to trademark and what does it look like? And it's a double bind because black women and FEMMs are so used to having our shit stolen that, Yeah, I want my shit trademarked.

I don't, you can't take it. Right. There's that piece as well. But then there's a piece of, there's nothing new under the sun. We're all building on each other's ideas.

Martissa Williams: Right.

Toi Smith: So which is true?

Martissa Williams: Right.

Toi Smith: Can they both be true? Possibly. And I think it, it is that we have to understand sometimes where our responses to things are coming from.

Right? So if we are having a response to thinking someone's stealing our shit or that, um, you know, I said it first, that's a part of ownership. Like, do we have to own anything? Are we stewarding it?

Martissa Williams: Mm.

Toi Smith: Am I stewarding that idea or is it my idea? I think one of the key things of liberation is to let go of this idea that we get to own shit.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Like, I don't own my kids. I don't own like, yes, I birthed this idea of spell of capitalism with Jen and business for the people, but also like, It's not mine because it only exists because of the people.

Martissa Williams: Right.

Toi Smith: So it's really tricky in those conversations to, to think about who gets to have ownership because nothing, like everything is an idea built upon an idea.

You get to put your spin on it, you get to put your experience on it, you get to see it through your lens. You get to have like, like you get to put your essence on it. Right? And that's the part that we get to claim. Like my perspectives come from being a black single mom at this intersection, at this intersection.

And so this is how I'm bringing it in. Whereas you might come in and have a whole different lens on something, we get to own that. But I don't think like we can, overarching ideas are ours. I think they can be stewarded and I think we have to do that with so much love and care and grace. And we also have to be gentle to our ourselves and be like, what part of us is desiring or feels attacked?

Or what part of scarcity am I believing into that if it's not mine, that I won't be well, That I won't be taken care of. Like what part of me is wounded there? And just say a prayer for that. Like, I pray that I can release all limiting beliefs around scarcity, that I can see what is here is real.

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: And like, just releasing some of that I think is necessary.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

I love that you're speaking to that. Um, that's hard as shit. .

Toi Smith: It is. No, and I, that's the thing, like, I don't know if there's a right answer.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: There's not a right answer. It's hard. It's hard. It's hard.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. It's really, it's really interesting. Um, It's really interesting. I'm, I'm grateful for your response cuz it's something I've been toying around in my own head Yeah.

For a while now. But lately a lot more as I see some of my work, some of my wording, some of the ways I do things, showing up in people around me's own work, their thing. And I'm like, you know what is, you know, there's this tension even as I expand my business into having a team now.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: Where I'm not doing it by myself.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: What does it look like? What does ownership really look like in a radical, in a business that is supposed to have a radical model?

Toi Smith: You know, I,

I have a friend, I'm not gonna name her, I'm gonna ask her one time if I can name her, but she had an issue with another creator who was taking some of her things, not the exact things, but like, you know, like adjacent, like

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Around it. Like close enough where you're like, that's a, has a little bit too much of my essence.

And so she reached out and said, Hey, like, I don't know if you're seeing what I'm seeing. I, maybe you don't see it, but can we talk about it?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: And that was one time where it worked, where the other person was like, Oh, I see, I see what you're saying. Okay. I won't use this word. I won't use this language.

That's yours boo. You had it before me. Um, so this is a place of, can we, or how do we, maybe the question is, how do we bring people in to have these conversations? Is it possible?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: To talk about. We're all collectively, hopefully in the work trying to create, or we're striving for a version of liberation that is holding more of us instead of less, right?

Martissa Williams: Yes.

Toi Smith: So we all have this collective wanting and knowing and things like that. So we have, we're value aligned. Is there a way, or is it possible for us to then have conversations that aren't attacking, that aren't about shame, blame, or guilt that are really just asking like, "Do you see what I see? And maybe can we meet on in the middle?"

Like I don't wanna take from you. I know you don't wanna take from me. Yeah. And we all exist in these systems and I'm sure we're both coming from some scarcity bullshit of like, You're stealing and I'm stealing and all that.

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Can we be gentle with that? And maybe can we meet somewhere in the middle so I feel good about what you're doing?

You feel good about what I'm doing and we don't feel like we're stepping on each other's toes. How do we have those kind of transformative conversations?

Martissa Williams: Yeah.

Toi Smith: Is that possible? Oh no, it's not. It, it always isn't because I've seen it blow up. Um, but I think that's the place to start if we can.

Martissa Williams: Yeah. I love, I mean, that is good.

It is good. Um, thank you for, for being in that inquiry with me.

Toi Smith: Yeah.

Martissa Williams: Um, as we wrap up here, I wanna ask, what is, um, going on in your world that people can support and how can they support what you've got going on?

Toi Smith: I feel like I always have 12 million things going on. Um, always. Um, but one thing I'm working on right now is a project called Loving Black Single Mothers.

Um, and it's an initiative that has had many different iterations over the years. Um, but in this current iteration, we are going to be stewarding $5,000 per month for a group of 10 black single mothers that they'll get for a year. Um, and with no rules, no regulations, they'll get $5,000 to do and be with and support their family as they need to.

Um, so that's one of the projects that I'm currently working on right now. So I have an advisory circle and we are in the stages of just dotting our i's and crossing our T's and making sure that, uh, legally our entity is correct, uh, tax wise, that we ain't gonna get in trouble, um, and doing all that.

So that's like part of a lot of the work that I'm doing, I'm gonna be pointing people to come like the end of this year and then into 2023. Um, so you'll see like a lighter version of it, which I did last year during the holiday time of getting $500 a month to Black single moms over the holidays. So that will be coming up as we enter the 2022 holiday season.

There's always spell of capitalism, which we will be doing again in 2023. Not sure when we'll start enrollment, but you can get on, um, the Spell of Capitalism Daily, which is our list where you get just every day a new nugget around capitalism. Just, just inspiring you to, to think about things differently.

Um, and yeah, that's really, those are the two real big things right now.

Martissa Williams: Thank you. And where can people find you?

Toi Smith: I'm mainly on Instagram, so you find me @Toimarie or my website at toimarie.com, or if you wanna check out the spell of capitalism, it's spell of capitalism.com.

Martissa Williams: Awesome. And then what is lighting you up right now?

Toi Smith: Mm. What is lighting me up right now? I mean, I would say support in all the ways is lighting me up. I'm so used to doing things on my own and I'm very skilled. I can do a lot of things on my own, but I tell you, when you just ask people like my ability now to ask people, mm, my muscle is so worked that like I don't feel like I used to feel shame for that and I don't anymore.

So just like support and asking and people showing up and doing it with me. And so collaborations and collective care and gift giving and just like. Reciprocity all the way around is lighting me up and just feeling into deeply knowing that we are not out here alone. Like we're interdependent and there are people around that love us and me holding that true and testing it every day and reassuring myself, like that's part of unspelling from these systems and liberation work too, is to deeply know how much you are loved and we are loved and testing it and asking people to show up and showing up for yourself.

And so that's lighting me up these days is really like feeling into my body that may, some things may be shitty, but also some things are so beautiful cuz all these people are out here doing amazing work like you and you know, all the people in my beloveds, in my spaces. So that's what's lighting me .

Martissa Williams: That's so good.

Thank you Toy for being

on the podcast.

Toi Smith: Thank you.

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