Moms Who Make Duluth is a monthly series featuring interviews with industrious, local women who are shaping the face of Duluth’s professional sphere while simultaneously raising their families. Duluth Moms Blog and Krenzen are delighted to highlight the positive impact working moms have on our community. We want you to get to know some of Duluth’s most notable women: professionals who balance work, community, civic engagement, and family.
Introducing... Salaam Peace Witherspoon!
We are not sure if Salaam is bending time to insure that she packs as much into her days as possible, but we suspect that she’s just really passionate about her work; it’s what drives her to accept more projects and responsibilities on top of her already full plate. We were so glad she had a few moments to talk to us. Her words are inspiring, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with her, you know that it’s her commitment to continuing the momentum of change that makes her such a force within the Duluth community.
Salaam, can you fill us in on some of your background?
My name is Salaam Witherspoon, I am the youngest child of 10 and I was born and raised in Duluth. My father was a minister and my mother is retired from UMD where she was a supervisor for financial aid and registration. I lost a brother and a sister due to tragic gun violence.
My personal mission statement is: As long as I live on this earth, I will always, always place God first. Once I start something, I don’t quit it. If I fall, I ask the Holy Spirit for assistance. It’s my duty to give voice to those not yet heard and shine light for those who only see darkness in the world. I strive to cherish family, elders, and friends and create the atmosphere for us all to win. This is what I live by. If ever I have a moment where I feel like life is getting the best of me–or I am in a bad place–I take a Selah moment (from the book of Psalms). I see it as a time to pause and reflect. Other than that, I utilize God; my life is and will not be nothing without him/her.
I am currently an organizer for Health in All Polices at CHUM Duluth. This means I spend my time working on getting health equity adopted by local decision makers to be used as an umbrella policy to create and evaluate future and current policies. I am the co-chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning committee. I help plan and prepare for the tribute holiday that puts on four free sequence family and community events. I am on the Executive Board for NAACP. I sit on the Heading Home Governance Board for St. Louis County, this Board is responsible for ranking and reviewing all agencies that receive funding for housing that comes into St. Louis County that goes through HUD. I also sit on the YMCA Advisory Council that oversees all the YMCA programming.
None of these things compare to being a full-time devoted mom. I love my children more than anything and all the things I do are to ensure they have a great future ahead of them–full of opportunities with minimum/reduced barriers.
On to the questions!
What advice do you wish you could have given to your younger self?
It is okay to make a mistake. A mistake is only a stepping stone; combined, they are stepping stones to move up to the next level.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Resisting inequity and speaking up for what I believe is right.
The Duluth chapter of the NAACP has been at the forefront of combating racial barriers and discrimination since 1920. Do you have a current event or project that you’re particularly excited to be working on?
The Freedom Fund Dinner was an exhilarating event. I also love being on the education committee, I feel that we are doing amazing work and I love engaging with all the people that are involved with the NAACP, they are truly one of a kind individuals.
What is the most exciting thing about your job(s) right now? The most challenging?
The most exciting thing about what I do is seeing people who don’t think they can make a difference get a taste of their own personal power–which is their voice. I love being a witness when they speak up for what they consider to be right. On the other hand, it can be challenging to making long-term changes. Changing policies and challenging decision makers is an ongoing process.
What is your family’s favorite way to relax together?
We love to “break bread”–eating together and enjoying our time around the table together.
Who is your personal role model and why?
My mother is my role model. She has this aura and poise about her. No matter what situation she finds herself in, she always keeps her composure.
Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what are they?
I love to write poetry and I secretly sing gospel music loudly at home. But in church settings, I am as quiet as a mouse!
Tell us your biggest joy and most challenging part of motherhood.
I love learning from them and I love the unconditional love we share–the non-judging love–this most sacred and honest love. But… they do still test my limits of patience!
What is your favorite cheesy movie?
Name a “hidden gem” North Shore spot.
I love being by the Rose Garden down by the shore.
What are some ways in which Duluth residents can get more involved in making positive changes in their own neighborhoods?
Thank you, Salaam, for taking time to talk with us, and for all you do to improve our community and make it a more inclusive place for all of its residents!
Join us over the next few months as we get to know some of Duluth’s most notable women. Do you know a mom who is making waves in the community? Speaking out? Pushing for change, or implementing new and innovative ways to better our schools, neighborhoods, government, or commerce and agriculture? Drop us a line at [email protected] and let us know!