Content And Community For Black Moms

Nailah Cartman has always been a part of a large village. Now she’s creating one for her own family.

Asia Washington, Yahnise Cartman, Vanessa Dalton, Nailah Cartman, WIllian Dalton Sr., Tajuana Shavers, William Dalton Jr.
Photo Credit: Ashley Young
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Native Chicagoan Nailah Cartman understands all too well the importance of a village, as well as the ins and outs of maintaining one. It’s based on four key things, she says: “Authenticity, understanding, communication, and unconditional love.”

A part-time high-school instructor and camp coordinator at nonprofit art organizations After School Matters and Hearts to Art, Nailah grew up in a large and unconventional family. 

Photo credit: Ashley Young

She is one out of 11 siblings (sadly, one of her sisters passed away in April), including brothers and sisters from her father’s relationships with three other women. The moms and children were all very close, especially after Nailah’s father died when she was 11 years old

“It’s always a birthday, something going on,” she says. (Nailah and her family call it “The Cartman Connection.”) “It’s hard to keep up with everybody, but we always had family reunions like every year. It’s really crazy, but I love my family and I love growing up with them.

Her untraditional upbringing set the foundation for her own family; she learned the importance of family, love, and education. 

Now that she’s a mom herself, Nailah’s figuring out what her village will look like as it supports her, her partner (charter school dean William “Illi” Dalton Jr.), and their 2-year-old daughter Yahnise.

“When I was younger I learned how important a village was when my dad died,” Nailah explains. “The things I learned that I want to pass down to my daughter is that your village doesn’t always have to be blood family, but it can be your chosen family. Your village will form as you build relationships with people. And as you grow and find your authentic self, you will find the people around you reflect the same values and morals you do.

“My village is definitely evolving, and as I’m delving deep into motherhood, it’s going to keep changing and evolving,” she continues. “I’m the gatekeeper of my home. I get to pick who I allow in my life and it doesn’t have to be just family. [I’m] just choosing people in my village that I know are going to model the behavior that I want Yahnise to be around.”

Nailah’s Village

William “Illi” Dalton Jr.

Nailah’s Partner

Her dad does everything, ok? Financially, mentally, physically, spiritually, all of that. Which is why I chose him to be the father of my child. I knew that when you’re intimate with somebody, you gotta know who you’re dealing with! We are literally integrating our families together. 

Just experiencing this whole thing is new for both of us—we were together three years before we had her. This is his first child as well.

Nailah Cartman
Photo credit: Ashley Young

Tajuana “Ema”  Shavers

Nailah’s mother

She’s actually an in-home day care provider, so she worked with kids all her life and she was actually my first teacher. My mom did Head Start for a couple of years and then she ended up opening her own in-home daycare. So that’s where Yahnise goes for daycare throughout the week. 

Especially now that it’s COVID and thinking about all of those things, I feel peace of mind knowing that she’s somewhere she’s going to be safe and taken care of. Those big daycares scare me! I want to make sure she’s getting the care and the attention and love that she needs, and that’s where my mom comes in. 

Vanessa “Fefe” Dalton and William “Bill / Paw Paw” Dalton Sr. 

Yahnise doesn’t go to my mom every day of the week, so we do split up that time between my mom and her grandparents as well. I’m virtual now so it’s a little different, but when I was working in-person, they would always come over while I went to work in the evening. 

Before she retired, she was working with first graders and second graders. I’m grateful to have people in my village who know how to work with kids. You can tell when somebody feels comfortable around kids. 

Yahnise is their first grandkid in like eight years. Both of them are retired now, which is so good for us because they’re able to give us breaks and help whenever we need it. They also got the big things that she needed when she was born: her crib, her stroller, her car seat. 

Nailah Cartman
Photo credit: Ashley Young

Asia Washington 

Nailah’s sister

Asia is five years older than me, and has two kids that are 9 and 5. Having kids that are younger and close in age—my other nieces and nephews are all older, like in high school or college—is always helpful. 

Asia buys Yahnise clothes, and toys and activities that help Yahnise’s development. She’s always coming through for me when I need a break, and also always sharing opportunities for income. I just started working with her for her car rental business!

Photo credit: Ashley Young

Thank you for introducing us to your village, Nailah! Check out this link to see as more moms share their village with us in partnership with buybuy BABY.

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Brenda Fadeyibi is an occupational therapist, writer, aspiring novelist, foodie, and mama of one. She can be found in Brooklyn, New York with her 4-year-old son who is learning Kreyol and Yoruba, a nod to both families’ cultures and a way to foster an environment where he can grow up being free in a Black body.

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