A few years ago, I received the opportunity to attend the premiere of the nature documentary, “The Last Lions”. This film followed a brilliant, courageous lioness while she fought for the survival of her three cubs against the onslaught of several enemies - crocodiles, rival lion prides, buffalo, humans. (It’s on Netflix, so check it out.) It was heart-breaking and inspiring. The tagline for this film was: "The most powerful force in nature is a mother's love." When I met Jazmin Williams, it was as though I was meeting the lioness again, and in fact, I was.
Jazmin is a social entrepreneur and founder of Rouge Lioness, an online hub for young, urban mothers that provides awareness, assistance, and advocacy to encourage better outcomes for young women and their children. She bore her business as a bright, strong young woman who has experienced marriage, pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, divorce, and domestic violence. It is a place where stereotypes are challenged, hope reigns eternal, and support is endless.
Jazmin’s story is a tale in which she is the savior, the heroine, and the fairy all rolled into one. Forget the Princess, meet the Lioness. Read on.
what led you to where you are today?
I’ve always been an optimist, and it’s hard for anyone or anything to shake my optimism. A pivotal moment in my life was when I first watched the movie, Peter Pan. I walked away from that movie believing in pixie dust, the beauty of dreams and the belief that anything is possible. Instead of bringing me back to reality, my mom continued to foster those beliefs in me. I admired her strength and the unconditional love that she showed me, and I aspired to be like her. I was more like her than I thought.
My mom wanted to stop me from continuing to follow her path [as a young parent]. She knew that statistically, if I kept on the same path, it could influence the path that my daughter takes. When she told me that the path ends with us, I didn’t understand why things had to end with us. Why couldn’t we have a new beginning? Start a new chapter?
My new chapter started when I founded Rouge Lioness. The founding of it has completely changed every aspect of my life. It helped me to re-evaluate what I want to do with my life and what I want out of life. All of that comes out through Rouge Lioness.
what inspired you to create rouge lioness?
I really felt driven to start Rouge Lioness because of the lack of resourceful information and media outlets for urban young moms in my region [Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest]. When I first got started, I want to research what other young mom writers and activists were doing on and offline. I found that the young mom demographic outlets were dominated by teen moms from the East Coast and South. I found that urban young adult moms were categorized with later moms and when the media discussed young adult moms, the term “unplanned” was used. As a young adult mom from the West Coast, I felt misrepresented and slightly neglected by media and resource outlets. And what content that was published regarding urban young moms just fed into a negative stereotype and lacked diversity. So, who better to tell our stories, [than] us. Urban young moms need to feel fairly and positively represented by a media outlet and need to be able to connect to a larger community.
what and who inspires you?
My mom and my daughter inspire me the most. Knowing where I come from and seeing the potential of the future inspires me. I’ve seen what young moms can accomplish. While society tells us that our lives end when we have children, I think that it’s just the beginning to something new and amazing.
what challenges you the most? how do you face challenges in your life?
My challenge is walking in my truth and being the living proof for my daughter. While I am an optimist, I also am realistic when it comes to entrepreneurship.
I’m currently working a full time job to support my family and to help fund Rouge Lioness. I’m working towards transitioning Rouge Lioness from being just a blog to a business that brings in an income that allows me to further develop as an urban multimedia platform that benefits young mothers by providing events, encouraging philanthropy, and building community. To provide for my family and fund Rouge Lioness, I live on a pretty tight budget. Basically, I practice the budget lifestyle techniques that I write about.
While I love to write, I’ve gotten pretty good at researching. It’s been pretty useful in finding content for the site, resource information to filter out to young moms, and ways to help live a fulfilling life while being smart about how I spend money. Plus, I think that it is a bonus to show my audience that I’m not just someone writing about their lifestyle, but I’m living it as well.
how do you nurture a sense of community in your life?
Nurturing a sense of community for a young mom (even a young mom with a profession) is difficult. The young mom lifestyle is very isolating and their are contributing factors to that. Many young moms are occupied with their new roles and responsibilities as mothers. Some are in “survival mode” with trying to figure out how they are going to provide for their little one. Others choose to disassociate themselves from the negative stereotype and stigma of the young mom title by avoiding interactions with other young moms. This makes my work slightly more difficult.
When I first started interacting with other young moms, it was through Twitter. Social and digital media allowed me to connect with other young moms, and it helped me to understand their version of the young mom title and lifestyle. It also allowed me to see how some of them were taking their virtual community offline through activism and sharing information about events that they could attend. I thought what a great idea! Build a virtual community with an offline presence. The community comes together by reading, sharing and discussing published content. This helps to build understanding as we begin to build a community offline.
That community is not just made up of young moms of course. The community also consists of organizations and business that support young moms, local officials, family and friends. Bridging the connection between young moms, and the organizations and business that support (directly and indirectly) is not difficult at all. I published and promote information about the organizations and businesses, and encourage young moms to connect with them. However, I am a bit picky about the businesses that I choose to promote. My reasoning is simple. I prefer to promote local and/or small parent, woman, and/or minority owned businesses because their tax dollars (along with others) goes towards funding federal, state, and city programs and services that young moms can apply for. Why not support those that support us?
describe a moment in your life when you have felt the most joy.
The moment I became a real single mother is one of the moments that I felt the most joy. Not many people know the full story about what occurred when I went into labor with my daughter. I don’t like talking about how my ex-husband left to go get gas and disappeared on me for two weeks, missing the birth of my daughter. I had to take a bus to see my doctor and she was four days late. I even had to see a caseworker before they would allow me to leave the hospital with my daughter.
During such a sad time, I actually wasn’t depressed. I looked at my daughter and I didn’t see myself, I didn’t see her father, or a reminder of the pain that he caused me. I saw this little person that relies on me, that deserves love and has a bright future. It took me a year to get us safely out of the abusive relationship, but I did it with help from my mom and local resource organizations. I found the strength and courage to take him to court and to move out on our own to a new location. We were finally free, and as a single mother, I could finally enjoy motherhood. My joy comes from my daughter. Seeing the life that we are creating and knowing that there is so much more that we can do in life.
what does #climbyourownladder mean to you?
There are a lot of people that don’t see the potential in themselves that others see or they don’t put in the effort to achieve their potential. #ClimbYourOwnLadder isn’t about just acknowledging what you’re good at, but it’s about doing what makes you happy. I was a pretty good law student, but I didn’t enjoy it. I love to write and I’m happiest when I get to be creative. I see the potential that I have and I put forth the effort to make my dreams come true. I see the potential in others, and [I] want to connect them to resources that can help them build and climb their own ladder.