(Courtesy of MDBond.org)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

“I saw her in her triumphs as she tried to make sure me and my brother got whatever we needed,” Ateira Griffin said of her mother who raised her and her brother by herself. Something else Griffin witnessed made as much of an impression.”I also saw all the struggles she went through. And she had us young so she was still growing into who she was, too.”

Those memories resurfaced roughly five years ago when the Baltimore native Griffin became dean of students at the all-girls Baltimore Leadership School, she explained to the AFRO. “The girls would come into my office and tell me all of the issues they were dealing with, whether it be at home, socially, emotionally etc. I would always ask them, ‘Have you shared this with your mom or your maternal figures?’ The answers were always within the  realm of ‘No, I don’t have that kind of relationship with her.’ Or ‘I don’t want to burden her.’” 

The sentiments moved Griffin to form BOND: Building Our Nation’s Daughters, which Griffin describes as “a multi generational mentoring program for Black single mothers and their daughters in grades five through 12.”

The organization started offering regular programming two years ago, operating along three cohorts offered at weekly meetings. There is the “bond circle” which focuses on using restorative practices to strengthen the bonds between mothers and daughters. These include the use of, stated Griffin, “meditation, breathing, visualization, yoga practice, all of those things that help relieve and reduce stress and give us the language to understand how to communicate our social emotional needs.” The second cohort is more strictly academic offering training in math, science, engineering, technology, and arts. Finally there is financial education, called The Money Bond, with curriculum co-written by New York-based Financial Advisor Kara Stevens. Griffin explains it was conceived, “specifically for, and through, the lens of being a black woman or girl in America, and our relationship with money;  learning about finances and how to utilize it towards success in the future of multi generational wealth.

Griffin also encourages the young women to practice philanthropy. This past November, many volunteered to pack and distribute over three hundred Thanksgiving Baskets for single parent families in Baltimore City. “We served over 1,100 children and single parents so they could have something warm and delicious for Thanksgiving,” 

Presently the girls who participate in  BOND are from a group of  partner schools, including Booker T. Washington Middle School and Global Girls Academy, Beginning next year, Griffin explained they “will open up participation to citywide membership.”

Griffin’s mother is the Lead Counselor at BOND, who admits seeing her mother graduate with her bachelors degree in psychology at the same time she was graduating high school, made her believe she “could accomplish anything. It was like a huge moment because I saw her work so hard to get across that stage. To know that my mom could do that. With all the challenges she faced let me know that I can do that.”

Griffin earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Morgan State University, a masters in secondary education and a certificate in school leadership and administration from Johns Hopkins. Interestingly, she has found her civil engineering background crucial to her success in launching the organization. She declared, “What that really gives me is this ability to think strategically and problem solve because that’s what engineering is. So instead of engineering for structures and buildings, I engineer for the success of single mothers and single mother households.”

In addition to being inspired and motivated by her, Griffin partly used her mother’s real-life experiences as the foundation in coming up with the approach ancand curriculum for BOND. “The first person I talked to about was my mom. I really wanted to ask a lot of questions about what I didn’t know, as a child. I wanted to know what kind of support did she receive that was helpful and what wasn’t? I asked if she could have a program back then that would have helped her, what would it have had? My mom was very foundational in helping to structure what we look like today.”

Given that her overarching focus is on the healthy emotional, psychological and financial growth of women and girls, Griffin was ready with a piece of advice when asked. She emphasized, “Life is a journey. Let’s get past wanting to be perfect. Let’s understand and enjoy the journey.”

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