Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Anjali Ferguson of Parenting Culture Is Helping To Change Our World
It is necessary and OK to set boundaries. Life is for living, not working. Also with boundaries, it is OK to distance yourself from relationships that are harmful.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Anjali Ferguson | of Parenting Culture.
Dr. Anjali Ferguson is a culturally responsive psychologist and global resource on treating racial trauma and its mental health effects on children and families. Her commitment to social equity is experienced through her online community Parenting Culture– a research-informed, inclusive space for open conversations around parenting and her landmark contributions to Blindian (Black + Indian) literature. To learn how providers, organizations, and communities can benefit from Dr. Ferguson’s racial socialization and equity training, visit the tabs above or join the conversation at www.parentingculture.org.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I became interested in parenting and human behavior at a young age. Growing up in the United States as a minoritized child, I was often struck by the differences in my experiences relative to nonimmigrant peers. This interest was later peaked when my family moved back to India for a few years and I was confronted with childhood experiences much different from those in the United States. Here, my commitment to child rights was ignited. My interests in psychology later crystallized through participation in research labs focused on childhood trauma. From here, I pursued a career as an early childhood clinical psychologist with expertise in trauma and culturally responsive care.
As I continued my professional training and career I remained astonished by the lack of resources that represented me and my experiences as a child. Through my experiences in a milti-racial, multi-faith relationship and the process of becoming a new mother to a Blindian (BlackX Indian) child, the gaps in parenting literature, intervention, and access become magnified. Thus, my fight for social justice was emphasized. I do not want my son to grow up and ask why Mommy didn’t do more with her privileges.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
We are still a relatively new resource, but a story I often share really highlights why I believe in racial socialization practices and the work that we do at Parenting Culture. My son is a pandemic baby, so much of his early life experiences were unfortunately limited to myself, my partner, and grandparents. Our goal was always to have him socialized early, but we kept him at home due to safety concerns with lockdown and the uncertainty of COVID19. So, much of the media, people he knew, etc., were all people of color. One day around 6 months of age, we took him for a walk and ran into a neighbor who was White. My son had an immediate fear response I had not seen in him before. When we run into minoritized folks, he is nothing but friendly, but he was very clearly terrified this time. We brushed this incident off and thought nothing of it, but a couple of weeks later, the same thing happened. Then I remembered the wealth of developmental science that points to racial bias development in childhood. Children as young as 4–6 months of age notice race-based differences. By 2–4 years of age children develop racial biases, and by 10–12 years, they become pretty set in their biases. These developmental processes are influenced by a host of variables, but one of the most important predictors is socialization- or the amount of exposure that children have to groups that are different from themselves. This exposure helps build empathy and understanding of differences. My son had not had that exposure due to our limited interactions from COVID-19 and was thus responding from fear. He has since been socialized MUCH more and is his extroverted, friendly self with most individuals, but that socialization and exposure process does not always happen for all children, especially those from dominant groups that are overrepresented everywhere we turn. So it is very important that all families are cognizant and intentional of socialization from an early age as often as possible. That is part of the work and messages we try to underscore with Parenting Culture.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We hope that our resources offer a more inclusive lens into parenting. We want all families to feel represented and underscore that no one-size-fits-all approach exists when it comes to raising children. There are some very real differences in the lives of minoritized and marginalized families that can certainly impact parenting and we want to have more of those conversations. We want all parents to feel seen and heard through their process and we want to support them with tools.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
For me, the human connection is so important to mental health and the work that I do. All individuals I have had the privilege to meet have left impacts on me and my trajectory of work. What stands out to me recently is the impacts of social media and the community building that can happen in that space. Being in a Blindian relationship can feel very isolating at times. Not much work exists to highlight this nuanced experience and it is rare to find folks in your physical environments from this community. Some of my recent work on mental health, parenting, and relationships within this context have facilitated so many connections with folks who truly feel like longtime friends and family without us ever having met in person. Many from these communities have supported and facilitated this line of work and each and everyone of them have been monumentally inspirational.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Understanding and making space for culture and race-related conversations.
- Ensuring providers, educators, and community-members are trauma-informed in their individual areas of work. Trauma-informed work is culturally responsive work. When we understand the intergenerational context for behaviors and outcomes, we can target our interventions and systems to more holistically target family needs.
- Think creatively. This may mean partnering with under-represented communities to build something NEW. We need groundbreaking and new endeavors to target age-old disparities that continue to plague communities of color.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, leadership is living by what you preach and utilizing your privileges to advocate and ally with those who do not have the same opportunities. Leadership, to me, is also an understanding of sustainability and ensuring that you are building as you climb. Make sure you are celebrating the wins of those around you and continuing to bolster and support others along your journey.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Since we are still emerging and evolving this is a bit tough to respond to, but some things I wish I knew throughout my career as a marginalized professional:
- Always prioritize your mental-health.
- Ensure you are connected to communities and individuals who support you and celebrate you
- It is necessary and OK to set boundaries. Life is for living, not working. Also with boundaries, it is OK to distance yourself from relationships that are harmful
- Celebrate wins! Joy is central to healing. Celebrate all the wins no matter how trivial they may seem.
- Uplift others and collaborate. Building community is essential for survival — we cannot do this alone.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We already started it! Parenting Culture has the possibility of impacting the lives of children and parents globally. An opportunity to promote the mental health and welfare of all adults can significantly indirectly and directly impact parenting and thus, the lives of children and several generations to come. We are breaking cycles.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” -Maya Angelou.
For me the quote highlights giving and helping others open-mindedly and from a place that promotes joy. Helping and advocating has always been central to my identity and professional goals, and trying to do so from a place of love and joy is essential to me. Secondly, the quote highlights accepting. To me that is openness to learning and growing from others. Being open to different perspectives and leaning into community in pursuit of welfare for all.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a tough one, because there are so many. But if I had to pick someone at this moment- Meena Harris. I truly admire all she has done for representation through unique and thoughtful collaborations. Collaborations and products that promote cultural identity and pride- all facets that are central to mental health promotion in marginalized communities. Not to mention we share a Blindian (BlackxIndian) element, which is unfortunately very hard to come by in South Asian communities. Her wit, humor, and personality are also something that shines through her work and she seems like someone who would be fun to grab lunch or brunch with (with some mimosas involved of course). Would it be too much for me to wear my Samosas Mimosas shirt to this outing?!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
IG: @dranjaliferguson and @parentingculture
Fb: Dr. Anjali Ferguson
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Anjali Ferguson of Parenting Culture Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.