Black women’s labor has long been extracted, unpaid, and uncredited––and yet it is foundational to the very fabric and function of this economy. When enslaved African people were stolen and taken to far off lands, their children were no longer theirs but workers of the state, and we mourn the babies that died, whose mothers rather they perished than live under domination.

We carry this truth when we ask ourselves, how is today different?

We have reached an era where the technologies of yesterday lured us into believing we have made progress. We are witnessing from all channels and mediums a cacophony of cries caused by the violent disregard of our planet and people. We are scared to breathe next to one another.

We name the systems that lie to us into believing we must change parts of ourseles in order to matter: patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy. We reject the values these systems ensure we receive in places we are supposed to trust and seek refuge.

While we urgently take inventory of our insidious behavior, we must move towards prioritizing the use of our gifts and time to manifest new equitable-loving worlds.

A Mother Centered Design framework is the antidote to the technologies that optimize us for productivity. We have accepted the methodology of design as a way to “solve” but what we are ultimately prompted to do is sell and buy. The Mother Centered Design framework aims to heal. It is a vetting and venting process. As designers, we are taught to seek pain points -- it is how capitalism pornographies and capitalizes off of our trauma. Mother Centered Design invites us to identify JOY POINTS, and how to illuminate them instead.

We call for a rethinking of the things we build, masked as useful or necessary but are in fact for profit. We must not consider the future solely based on the potential technology available to us but rather repurpose the tools to undo and repair the inextricable damage caused. Possible futures are not about commodities easing human needs. Possible futures present the option to change the behavior that got all of us here in the first place. When will we be satisfied with what we have?

The shared world that awaits is requiring us to let go of these very boring, very basic, very violent ways of interacting with one another. As we begin to heal and fill our lungs with air again, could the probability of a technology be an opportunity to assess what is truly needed, not desired? When we consider the future, let it not be aspirational but an assessment of the present. We are borrowing this space from the children that will inherit it. A product, a tool is asking, “hello, how are you?” meaning it and listening to the answer.

In utilizing and applying a Mother Centered Design praxis, Black mothers see their needs on paper, not in their heads. We do not need to die in order to give life. We know the outcomes and solutions -- we need to make a path for it. And this requires everyone invested in tomorrow being possible to love Black women and commit to choosing participation in abundant and dynamic ways of interaction.

We call upon the ancestral wisdom that nurses us back to health, generation after generation. It is through these embodied reminders we uplift and center the Black mother, the original world-builder and designer, in order to enact the change we so desperately need within our communities and society. Resilience is not a character trait but rather a mark borne by survivors of ongoing colonial violence. Through the Mother Centered Design framework, rest, creating and curiosity are not privileges of only a few, but available and shared to everyone. When a Black mother has the very things they need to exist as a whole, human being, and not worry about the safety and longevity of their lives and their children’s, we will see the most fruitful and abundant harvest of social innovation.

Mother Centered Design is a new topography, one that combs and parts through every civic detail to ensure not only problems are addressed but that centuries-old, unrequited talent forges new roads, access and sustainability. Through this careful planting, we design everything from governance, education, and health around the needs and creativity of the Black mother as it is this very identity and condition that has experienced the most harm from all systems. In liberating and uplifting the Black mother, then everyone else will be free, too.

ITP Thesis Week 2021: Elizabeth Perez from ITP_NYU on Vimeo.

designed and led by elizabeth pérez