by Elyse Wild | photos by Michelle Smith
Latesha Lipscomb and Caius are familiar faces to many in Grand Rapids. The dynamic mother-son duo can frequently be seen at community events, neighborhood association meetings and fundraisers.
“He goes everywhere with me,” Lipscomb said.
She laughs and adds that her eight-year-old son, “is more popular than me.”
Lipscomb has been deeply involved in the community for many years. Along with owning and operating her signature concierge cosmetic service, I GOT FACE, she has worked for various nonprofits, including the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and the Inner City Christian Federation. Today, she is the engagement and relationships manager for Amplify GR, a nonprofit that seeks to widen pathways so that all neighbors can participate in and benefit from community growth in some of Grand Rapids’ most under served neighborhoods: Madison Square, Cottage Grove
Boston Square and a portion of Garfield Park.
“We want to amplify the good that already exists in the neighborhood,” Lipscomb explained. “We don’t want to be the hero of the story, but to function as a quarterback. As an engagement manager, I have the honor and privilege to work with residents to make sure we are constantly uplifting their voice and honoring their priorities.”
Lipscomb said the organization was just gaining momentum with the success around one of their main initiatives, the Boston Square Together Collective Design Process, when the coronavirus hit.
“COVID-19 came at a time when we were kind of on a roll in terms of giving the people what they want to see in their neighborhood,” she said. “We now have to be very creative with how we continue to engage with the people we serve.”
Amplify GR partnered with the Family Independence Initiative and other community partners to create a relief fund that provides $500 to qualifying individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.
“Being able to offer funding to that single mom or single dad, or that person who doesn’t know how they are going to pay their rent or where their next meal is going to come from has truly been a blessing,” Lipscomb expressed. “To be able to collaborate in new way to help ease a person’s struggle. You should never underestimate what a small group of people can do when they are working toward a common goal.”
A New Normal
Like many working mothers, Lipscomb’s routine has been drastically impacted by coronavirus; now, she balances work, single- motherhood and schooling at home.
“I miss my old life,” she laughed. “COVID has been two things: it has been enlightening and it has been frustrating in terms of our mother-son relationship. I am very intentional about the time and energy and passion I pour into my child, and one of the ways I balance that is by taking time off to take a trip every other month with myself and friends, and then Caius and I would also take a trip together in the alternate months. Now, all trips are canceled, and I am not getting a break at all.”
Lipscomb says the stay-at-home order is challenging for the duo, describing them both as extreme extroverts, foodies and avid party-goers.
“We have always been very very close,” she said. “Right now, we have really beautiful moments and really, really good days. And then there are moments where it is like world war three between the two of us.”
Indeed, for single moms like Lipscomb, the stay-at-home orders have made fulfilling adult interactions and much-needed alone time nearly non-existent.
“Now, I don’t get any time to recharge my batteries until late at night when he is fast asleep,” she said. “There just isn’t much structure anymore, and I don’t have those moments to myself that I need sometimes to recharge.”
Lipscomb says the shutdown has revealed to her how hard she works, and in turn, how much Caius sacrifices to share her with others.
“When he is having a hard time, I will stop working to make him something to eat or get him out for some fresh air,” she said. “Normally, he is at school, and I can work all day. Being in this position helps me realize that I am a mom first, and he has to be my first priority.”
Sundays are for Sons
Lipscomb has a robust social media presence, and by graciously sharing both her struggles and successes, she successfully strikes a note of authenticity that many strive for. Her feed can serve as a chronology of her motherhood. On Sundays, Lipscomb posts “Sundays are for Sons,” with photos and a reflection on how she spent the day dedicated to special activities with her son. Sundays are for Sons came out of Lipscomb’s need to carve out one-on-one time with Caius in her busy schedule.
“He attends community meetings with me, he just goes everywhere with me,” she said. “He is always sharing me.”
While single-parenthood affords its own challenges, Lipscomb focuses on the positive aspects of it: she alone gets to decide who is in her son’s life and what activities he engages in.
“It is important to me that my son is cultured and that he can speak the language,” Lipscomb expressed. “As a young black man, he is going to have so many trials and tribulations that come against him, just naturally. I want to make sure that he can function well in any room and that he can hold conversations. I keep him in swimming, I have exposed him to skiing. All of these non-traditional things, I want him to be well versed in. He has expressed interest in golf and interest in chess. So this summer we will be exploring both of those.”
Additionally, Lipscomb says that as a single mother, she feels an extra urgency to provide her son with everything he needs to be successful; an urgency that perhaps she wouldn’t feel in a two-parent family.
“We [single moms] can’t slack on it,” she said. “There is so much we have to do that makes us more intentional about being sure that we are honoring the things that we know will need to happen so that our children can be successful. The greatest gift any of us could ever have is the opportunity to raise a child, understanding that parenting is for a lifetime … I think there is a focus, passion and fire that single moms have because we are trying to compensate for all of the voids that our children may face.”
While prevailing systemic racism has created significant barriers for young black men to thrive in America, Lipscomb says that because she is so intentional, she is confident “Caius will be able to navigate a successful and fulfilling life.”
“I have no fear, because I am confident that I am raising a strong, intelligent, kind, compassionate, driven and motivated individual who is going to make a positive contribution to society. I explain to him that what you have in your head and in your heart, no one can ever take from you. As a result of that, you have to feed it … it is very important to me that he has the education and the experience a child needs so that his options will be limitless.”
This article appeared in the May 2020 edition of Women’s LifeStyle Magazine. Click here to read the full edition.