( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Simone Gordon, Online Activist Helps Women in Emergency Situations Through the Power of Social Media
ENSPIRE Contributor: Re’Dreyona Walker
Simone Gordon found her beginnings as the Black Fairy Godmother a few years ago. A single mother of a precious child that had severe autism, she was in a time of dire need, so she reached out to government agencies and nonprofits only to not receive any help or answers. She turned to social media and someone recommended she join Reparations of Offerings, the Facebook group dedicated to donating items to women of color in crisis. After joining, she received offers for food, money, and grocery store trips, and this became the beginning of Simone Gordon’s activism in organizing aid for women in need as The Black Fairy Godmother. Since then, she has become a motivational speaker, a special needs advocate, and a domestic violence resource specialist.
The New Jersey Native was inspired to help other women who are in immediate need through the discovery of Facebook Group, the group that transformed her life by filling a demand that is being completely ignored in this country. She began her own Facebook group soon after and has become a mission to helping underserved single mothers of color who are in dire need. Simone eventually moved her platform from Facebook to Instagram, and through her network, she has expanded in utilizing social media to provide emergency assistance to domestic violence victims. She sends groceries, emergency medical supplies, baby formula, low funded tuition, rental assistance, and household essentials to help families get back on track. She also regularly provides assistance for special needs schools/centers and support families to achieve their GED.
As a community organizer for Black American and Latino families in New Jersey, she serves as the Executive Director for the nonprofit organization House 581Inc based in East Orange, NJ. She has worked hard to provide help and support to women who were in the same shoes as her in her community. She claims her proudest moment to be her inaugural event, The Purple Diamond Awards where she was able to honor all fellow all domestic violence victims – be they women, men, LGBTQ or heterosexual – and activists supporting this cause including Carol Maraj, Andria Mayberry & Luisa Diaz from Fox 5. She is endorsed and receives support from many celebrities including acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Love, Pray, as her following expanded to more than 13,000 followers with Gilbert sharing and supporting her page.
With a busy schedule as a full-time nursing student, a part-time waitress, an activist for your local community, and mother to a non-verbal autistic son, how do you juggle it all without getting overwhelmed?
Oh, I get overwhelmed every day but I just do it. I do it because I love people and I just look at myself, and I look at how I needed help. And when somebody is telling you that they don’t have food and are begging you to serve them food or order them food, I can’t say no. Like, my days start at four, you know 4 am every morning because that’s the time my son wakes up and I gotta clean my son up because he’s you know, he’s still in diapers. So, I don’t ever get a break. Half of the time I only get an hour or two because when he sleeps, either I’m coming home or I have to do my schoolwork, you know because without education how am I going to provide for us, because I’m a single mom.
After discovering a group on Facebook dedicated to donating items to women of color in crisis, what moment inspired you to help other women in immediate need?
What inspired me was there were so many other women requesting the same thing over and over again, I mean food, diapers, a place to live, gas money to get to work, a bus card. So I said you know what, this is me, this is my norm every day. Even though I lost my job and was getting unemployment, it was $100-$120 a week. So I said okay, in Reparations and Offerings, the person who ran the group was very selective, and with me, you can’t judge a book by its cover. So, a lot of women were feeling hopeless because they weren’t picked to get help. So I said no, the same women who were Caucasian and very well off were who helped me. I said let’s go and create something where women don’t have to feel, you know, discriminated because they’re a little darker or they’re a little country, because anytime a woman posts a Facebook page, just because she looks a certain way, don’t mean she’s not down or doesn’t mean that she needs help, because everybody’s situation is different. And that’s one thing a lot of people love about my platform, especially these families I help them with. I don’t judge.
You know, there were a lot of women that were being judged, and some of them were suicidal. And that’s why I took upon myself to create everything on my Facebook page, and I started getting overwhelmed, so Jennifer said to create something on IG, where you can post and people can see it in and out. And I said to myself, I’m not just going to throw money at people because even if you feed them that same night, there still might not be food the next week. So I had to make a creative plan on how to get women stabilized because we cannot always be in emergency mode, and it has to be a way. So I start saying to women “Hey I’m doing this, this and that. Let me show you how to do it.” So as we help women with emergencies, we create vision boards. So let’s do a goal here; Now, you might not get all these things done but let’s start with Do you have a GED? Do you have a high school diploma? Do you need childcare? Because a lot of women need childcare so we go and find childcare for them. Do you want to learn a trade? What is preventing you from furthering your education? We have some women who are in community college now, and then there are some women who are like, you know I just can’t do community college or I can’t open up a business, then I go okay well we should have a plan for that business because you can open a business and be self-employed. But don’t forget if you have three mouths to feed, what is your backup plan? So we start having people go into the training school, go into certificate programs, and people are like, Okay, this girl is not just helping them with money but she is stabilizing them with housing with educational resources. You know, I just try because I want people to know, as the majority doesn’t understand, I have a child with two illnesses, and I’m going to school so if I can do it you can do it. Yes, they see me, they go, she’s doing all of this, if she can do it I can do it. My success rates have just gone up, all of those testimonies like Sean Neto, who’s a domestic violence survivor. She has her own apartment, she’s in pharmacy school and she works part-time at Walmart, and I posted her testimony on her 30th birthday.
How did you feel when you started to gain social recognition from celebrities like author Elizabeth Gilbert?
I couldn’t believe it. Because I had been saying to myself, I’m just a normal Black woman from East Orange, you know who’s from the hood, and we look at these things on TV and see Ellen, and we’re like if these things are real. I don’t do it for the recognition, I really love us and I just really want our people to grow and have some kind of dream or goal. And when I started seeing different celebrities coming to my platform to donate and to see what they can do, I’m like okay, there are people out here in this world who really want to help us. So it was mind bottling, it really took me by surprise. It really did.
Since the start of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, what challenges have you faced with helping families?
I only have 12 volunteers, and we have 100 plus cases. I get anxiety because I can’t help everybody during this pandemic. That will get to me. When the pandemic started, non-stop, we were just non-stop for 24 hours. And one time my back went out, I hurt my back, and one of my volunteers was like, you know, we need to figure out a way to get some more help. So I went to social media and I said, “Hey, I need about 30 people in different states to go grocery shopping for some elderly people or some women who can’t get to the stores because they have babies”. And people on Instagram did this, with no problem. They took pictures of their receipts and took pictures with the families. There was the toilet paper shortage and we had people all over the US mailing toilet paper to different families, especially individuals with disabilities. Some women weren’t able to get the formula, we had a woman in New York whose child has an illness and needed a special formula, but it was sold out online. We had a woman in Ohio that mailed her this formula all the way from Ohio. So, I couldn’t do it all, so I asked a lot of people for social media. We had about 50 plus people stepping in and just helping.
And now I’m training them, those same 50 people to come on board to help us, to help the additional 12, and the 12 we have now who’s been with me for seven years to train them on how to be a blackberry angel, how to understand how important these issues are in our community and they have to step up in some way. And the thing is you don’t have to have money because look at these people who stepped out during a pandemic. I said listen guys. I hurt my back; my son is disabled, and I need some people to step up to help me. And they did. We had one woman who spent $1,000, and when I say $1,000 she took five families, five families in Mississippi, shopping, and I didn’t even know she was going to do that. She just like I just want five families, and families came back. I took pictures and posted the receipt. She just went all out for them and didn’t even know them. And she said, I did it for you because I see this person who is just like these families and is trying to give these same families help, and she went, and she did it. She drove from Florida all the way to Mississippi and donated her time. We had one woman who drove an hour to go grocery shopping for an elderly woman who’s been without food for three weeks. Just imagine you’re living in a house with a whole bunch of neighbors on the street and not one person checks on you. It’s crazy.
I would like to know what are the three most important things a person or an organization can do to just help others right now.
All they can do is ask. If you ask one question, “What can I do to help a person?’, you will get multiple feedback. Help and listen. I would say ask, help, and listen. Those three words, and if you can do that, then you can be someone’s hero for the day. Because it works.
You can follow Simone Gordon on Instagram at @theblackfairygodmotherofficial