Mother's Day Letter to my Little Black Daughters

Hello, my little black daughters.

What a difference six months makes! My first letter to you was in October of last year. I planned to write you another one after the holidays. One thing led to another. Life got busy. Then as I thought I was shifting back into writing mode in February, life happened—in a major way! My mom passed away suddenly.


I had just spoken with her over the phone about four days before that. She told me she was traveling to neighboring Ghana in West Africa for a relative’s funeral, but she never made it back home to Lagos, Nigeria, my childhood home.


I was devastated! I had lost my dad three years ago, and I had not even recovered from his passing. I felt deep pain and sorrow. I felt vulnerable. No more parents for you, Iyabo, I said to myself. This is your new reality.


My mom was eight-six years old when she passed in February. My dad was also eighty-six when he passed in 2015. They both lived long and fulfilled lives, racking up sixteen grandkids and four great grandkids.


I’m grateful for the values they sowed in me. Their influence in my life will forever be embedded in my soul.


I know the grieving process will never end, but I’m feeling stronger each day. I’m now able to reflect on all the positive memories of my childhood and remember what a great father and mother I had. The benefits of good parents cannot be overemphasized. Fathers and mothers play major roles in the upbringing of their kids.


I am forty-nine years old, and now that my parents have gone to rest, I realize even more how important my role is in my daughters’ lives. In all my daughters’ lives.

This is Mother’s Day weekend. The perfect time to reflect on all our mothers. I told you about my biological mother—the woman who birthed me, who raised me, and who I lived with from birth until I left home at the age of twenty-two. She continued to be a valuable influence on my life even after I paved my own way.


These are my memories of my mother.


My mom was elegant, graceful, and beautiful inside and out. She stood tall, with good posture, and had this lovely smile in which her lips slanted upward on one side.


She was feminine in all her ways and had a graceful strut and poise to her step.


She could neither read nor write English, but despite these so-called limitations, she was a successful businesswoman. Her financial success enabled her to invest in real estate back home in Lagos.


She was a respectful wife to my dad (her husband), while still maintaining her own voice and independence in our home. Mom was the disciplinarian, even more so than my dad. Her no was a no for my siblings and me, and she stood firmly by her parenting decisions.


My mom loved dancing, and was a good dancer till the day she departed from this earth.


She taught me how to cook.


I am grateful to God for my precious mom. I miss her terribly, but I am ever so ready now to pass on the torch that she has passed to me to my own birth daughters and to all my little black daughters out in the world.


“Pass on the Torch” is the school song from Queen’s College, the secondary school I attended in Lagos.

Aside from my birth mom, I certainly have had other “moms”—women who have imparted their wisdom at different stages of my life. Some do not even know who I am, but if only they knew what they have contributed to my life, they’d be astounded.


My grandma (my mom’s mom) was a big fixture in my life. She passed away at 102 years old about twelve years ago.


I had several biological aunties, and of course my three older sisters, who were a great influence in my life.


Many friends have been a great support and inspiration to me.

My daughters, pictured above with me, who have—just by the act of raising and parenting them—taught me resilience, selflessness, patience, and the meaning of having unconditional love for others.


All my female teachers through my primary and secondary schools and college education, who passed on great knowledge to me.


These are the “mommy” figures who directly or indirectly contributed immensely to the growth of who I am today.


Then there are those “moms” of mine whom I feel I know well, but who don’t know me:


Oprah Winfrey
Michelle Obama
Maya Angelou
Robin Roberts
Shonda Rhimes

…to name a few. These black female role models have inspired me in so many ways, and I aspire to be a fraction of the woman they have been to myself and so many others.

I salute all my mothers this Mother’s Day.


So, my little black daughters, I have narrated to you all the amazing women who have shaped me into who I am today. All those women above are my “mothers.” Without them, there’d be no Dr. Iyabo. I’d be nowhere without these female influences who’ve gone before me to pave the way and who are still around me today, paving the way for more women like me.


The definition of a “mother” by Wikipedia: “Mothers are women who inhabit or perform the role of bearing some relation to their children, who may or may not be their biological offspring.”


We are all mothers or going to be mothers at some point in our lives, and in one form or another.

My little black daughters, this letter is from me to you.


You will be a mother in some form one day soon.


In the meantime, know that…


You are precious, my little black daughters.


You were created to do magnificent things.


You were not created to be mediocre.


The power to do great work in the world already exists inside you.


That power lies inside the gifts you were born with.


The world may try to make you believe you are not worthy, but always remember that you are very worthy.


Love your mother. Listen to her words of wisdom. Be patient as you learn from her. Allow her to show you the way.


Surround yourself with wise women always—your mother, your grandma, your aunties.


Seek out great role models and mentors. Those wise black women out there, they are all around you.


Allow them to lead you in the right direction.


The world may seem huge and vast, and you may sometimes feel insignificant, but remember that you are an important part of it.


Your gifts are needed in the world.


The world is waiting for your talents.


One day soon you will grow up to be mothers too. Even if you never birth children of your own, you will have many children out there in the world who will look up to you as their role models.


Never allow anyone to dim your light.


Never let your voice be silenced.


Always stand up for what is right.


Do all this with a gentle spirit, with respect, with a deep love for humanity, and without prejudice toward others.


Above all, my little black daughters, as you speak up and stand up for what is right, you must do it with nonviolence. Peace must always be at the forefront of everything you do.


Until next time,


Much love, with a sprinkle of permanent happiness.


Dr. Iyabo