By Laura Onyeneho
Alisha L. Gordon stands as a beacon of hope for Black single mothers nationwide. As an teacher, faith leader and social strategist, she’s more than just a leader; she’s a driving force behind The Current Project, a mission-driven 501(c)(3) organization with a singular focus—supporting the well-being of Black single mothers.
And the organization is coming to Houston for a special fundraiser on Sept. 12.
With a steadfast commitment to connecting mothers to the resources needed to attain and maintain economic stability, Gordon has become a catalyst for transformation. Her latest initiative, CurrentEconomics, has not only provided direct financial support but has also equipped Black mothers with the knowledge and tools to master their finances and build a brighter future.
But Gordon’s vision extends far beyond immediate gains. Her long-term goal is to utilize the data and insights gleaned from The Current Project’s programming to drive policy changes. She understands that lasting transformation comes not just from individual empowerment, but from systemic shifts that support the thriving of Black single mothers and, by extension, the children they’re raising.
The Defender Network spoke with Gordon to delve deeper into her organization’s initiatives.
Defender: What’s The Current Project’s mission and what pain points does the organization address?
Alisha L.Gordon: I’m a single mom of an 18-year-old. Before The Current Project was a thing, I had lived experiences where I was heavily dependent on social safety nets like welfare and food stamps. I was working as best as I could. I was a high school teacher. I relied on daycare vouchers and things. I did what a lot of Black women in general often do. I returned to school and earned my Master of Divinity at Emory University. I finished in 2015, and for about a year, I couldn’t find enough work to make sure we could pay our rent and put food on the table. We had challenges of food and housing insecurity.
I was offered a job in New York City in 2016. The company relocated me and my daughter, who was 11 then, to New York. For the first time in my life, I made real money. I made $80,000 a year. I was hyped because I was proud of myself as a single mom who, for over a decade, had relied on social safety nets to close the gaps in our lives and used my writing skills to make extra money to make ends meet. But I was faced with another challenge: the cost of living. The median cost of living in New York made it impossible to thrive there economically. I made $80,000 a year on paper, which now meant I outearned social safety nets. I had to buy my groceries, and I had to pay rent that was three times the national average. I was stuck in this middle place with $200,000 worth of student loan debt. That is how The Current Project came to life to support moms who out-earn safety nets but underearn to thrive economically.
Defender: How does The Current Project connect Black single mothers to the resources needed for economic stability?
Gordon: The Current Project has considered ways to close the gap between survival and thriving. As a Black mother, I say this all the time. Black single moms, in particular, are the most innovative members of our society. We know how to make a meal and a dollar stretch. We’re skilled and intelligent. These are the women who are responsible for the well-being of children while pursuing their dreams. It’s not always about addressing deficits, but it’s also about how we lean into the emotional needs of Black single mothers. How do we make sure they have an emergency family plan? A comprehensive physical at least once a year? How do we ensure they are feeling empowered?
We take an integrated programming approach that addresses economic, emotional, and social aspects and then look at the local policies. In a city like Houston, they need support to ensure that when mothers leave programs like ours, they can return to a community that can sustain the thriving. Too often, we see lots of programs and resources, but we stick folks back into communities with housing policies that don’t sustain the thriving, or they need access to fresh foods or doctors.
Defender: Regarding resources, how many women can you assist at a time?
Gordon: We take a cohort approach. We’ve done virtual cohorts because we started during the pandemic. That was our way of bringing moms together across the country. When the pandemic ended, we had in-person events. This allows us to reach moms in a way that is reflective of the lives they’re living. That’s what brought us to Houston. Some cities are interested in bringing a program like ours to their locale.
Defender: Can you tell us more about the upcoming fundraiser in Houston?
Gordon: This fundraiser is to help raise money that’ll help bring our current economic program in person. I imagine the cohort having 12 to 15 moms participate, but I’m also thinking about the in-person activations we could do. We want to expand the community of ‘Middler Moms’ to share their challenges, build community, and fight for their dreams. We hope that our community leaders, city council, mayors, and others with decision-making power about policy will be in conversation with us about how we take our cohorts and scale and hire more people on the ground to impact cities like Houston. The fundraiser will allow folks to mix and mingle, ask questions about The Current Project, and invest in our mission. We are not an emergency service organization. That’s why policy advocacy is so important.