Leigh Higginbotham Butler launched the Meet Akina app to provide a safe space for Black moms to connect and support one another. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
msayles@afro.com

In 2018, Leigh Higginbotham Butler found herself facing a financial crisis. After relocating to Dallas, Texas with her husband and two sons, she obtained a position with a political campaign, but after one month, the candidate decided to withdraw from the race.  

Butler was left without a job, her husband was underemployed, and she discovered that she was pregnant with her third child. To make ends meet, the family relied on a local charity for rent and bill assistance and got approved to use its food pantry. 

“It was during that time that I was on some other mommy apps looking for some support. How do I navigate this pregnancy at 40? How do I navigate being a pregnant Black woman in America and having to trust a new doctor and hospital and advocate for myself?” said Butler. “It was just a lot, and I couldn’t find what I was looking for on these other apps.” 

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation, she and her husband both got jobs. While the couple exited their financial slump, Butler continued to think about how she couldn’t find an adequate resource network for Black mothers like herself so she decided to create her own. 

The Meet Akina app launched on Nov. 11 to a waitlist of nearly 20,000 moms and offers a safe space for Black mothers to connect to one another. “Akina,” is Swahili for “strong family bond,” and the app seeks to reinforce the existing bonds users have with their families, as well as form new bonds between Black mothers. 

Because of racism and prejudices, Black mothers often face more challenges than their White counterparts. Numerous studies have found that Black women are more likely to experience pregnancy-related death than White women. Black children are also more likely to face disciplinary actions in school, and they are adultified more quickly than their counterparts. 

“We definitely encounter different circumstances, and oftentimes, when we try to talk about these things on other platforms where it’s not that safe space, we’re questioned,” said Butler.

Meet Akina empowers Black women to stand up for themselves and their children. The app allows users to post stories, videos, and other content that arms Black mothers with information to effectively raise their children. It also includes a live feature that permits up to six people on the screen at one time and allows users to ask questions in real time. 

Black mothers who use the Meet Akina app also have the ability to monetize their content. They can sell tickets to events, post paid content and create paid groups. The app has groups that range from where users are in their motherhood journey to geographic locations.

Soon, Butler intends to launch various educational series on the app that include the role of doulas, cooking demonstrations, estate planning and entrepreneurship. 

Meet Akina will also donate a portion of its revenue to nonprofit organizations, including The Alignment Chapter, Black Moms Connection and the National Black Child Development Institute. 

“I think connection is super important but also providing information and support to moms that need it,” said Butler. “Through education, you’re able to better advocate for yourself and your children or the children that you are charged with.”

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