We had the good fortune of connecting with Mercedes Samudio and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mercedes, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
As an African-American women in a predominantly white field like mental health, I was becoming increasingly disheartened by the lack of representation in the trainings and knowledge base. More specifically, in my niche of supporting parents and families there is even less representation in these areas. But the final straw was seeing a slew of online summits and in-person conferences where there was a huge lack of diversity and inclusion. Thus, Diversity in Parenting, Inc. was birthed into the world. The mission of this nonprofit is to bring more diversity to the mental health and parenting professional world. One of the ways that we do that is with our conference, where we not only showcase diverse speakers but also bring diverse topics to help professionals learn how to support different types of families. Other ways that we spread the message of diversity and inclusion in the mental health field is through trainings that faciliate discussions on how culture and identity influence how families heal. The overall idea behind Diversity in Parenting, Inc. has been to start a dialogue about the influence social injustice and exclusion affects parents and their families and what we as professionals can do to shine a light on these issues.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I absolutely love parents. As someone who doesn’t have children of my own, I have built a career out of using my nurturing, maternal energy to walk alongside parents on their journey! The biggest thing that sets me apart is that I am a collaborator with the parents I work with, which means I don’t engage in ways that belittle the journey of being a parent but rather I empower them to feel confident that they can be healthy, whole, nurturing caregivers. This career path has also given me a great insight into not just why parenting is so difficult, but also how the systems that parents must exist in can also be a burden – and we can’t forget that. I love the whole landscape of working to create a better world for people who step into the parenting world, whether that’s working directly with parents OR supporting the professionals who work with them. The specific challenge with that is we have a whole societal idea of how children should be raised, paired with the idea that children are the main focus of many family interventions. Thus, much of my work includes rewriting the narrative for how we see parents and the ways that we create barriers to creating healthier families with these outdated viewpoints. I’ve learned that having empathy for the whole process – the parent, the child, the professional, the society they all live in – is the only way to retell the narrative that parenting is not an solitary process, but rather an identity that someone takes on that involves so many aspects of our humanness. If you only remember one thing about the work that I do, it’s this: Parenting is a lifelong, all-encompassing journey that infuses so many aspects of being human, so cut yourself some slack as you dive into it – no matter where you are on the journey.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d start off with a great brunch at Ramos Cafe in San Juan Capistrano, then we’d hang out at Disneyland/California Adventure, move into a great dinner at Roy’s Restaurant, and end with a nightcap at the W hotel in Hollywood. I love having fun so many of the things we’d do would include having fun, laughing, and just enjoying the beautiful weather of SoCal.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This is such a great question, and there are so many folx that I’d love to shout-out. My SiStars (Nichomi, Melissa, Patrice, Naomi, and Pamela) have supported the nonprofit from the moment they heard about it. As my board, these ladies have been a source of insight, growth, and the voice of reason. I want to also shout-out my husband, who is my best friend and constant supporter; he is majorly supportive of my ideas and my growth, and his love has helped me bring a lot of these ideas to light. I also have to support all those who said “Yes!” to our first conference: the speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, volunteers, and the attendees. Each of these amazing people gave me the push I needed to see just how important this movement and mission is to supporting families.
All photos by Nicole Anderson