2018 Awesome Moms Contest Winners
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Each year we ask our readers to nominate the special mothers in their lives for our Awesome Moms Contest. We are always overwhelmed to read about the incredible women living in Oklahoma City. We have recognized three great ones with prizes from our generous sponsors and highlights in our May issue. Read about the winners here:
Winner: Charifa Smith
The day I met Charifa Smith at Starbucks for this interview was the day her first daughter, Sage, would have been 10 years old. Sage was diagnosed with a heart condition before she was born and died at just two days old. The graceful way Charifa handled the situation was one of the countless reasons her Mom, Carla Clark, nominated her in our Awesome Moms contest.
“My Mom has seen me go through a lot,” Charifa said. “She’s seen me being there for my children and she sees that strength as something that should be celebrated.”
After the loss of Sage, Charifa went on to open (and later close) a restaurant named after her first daughter, have three more daughters and become a volunteer and advocate for a handful of local organizations. Charifa is an attorney, a philanthropist and the executive director of the Federal Judicial Learning Center and Museum in Oklahoma City’s Federal Courthouse.
But Charifa’s most important role is her role as a mom. She and husband Kevin are the parents of Addis (8), Ellis (6) and Harper (5). Charifa jokes that having three daughters under the same roof feels like “a slumber party every night” and I can tell by listening to her parenting style that she’s as much about having fun as she is about discipline and education. Among the things that make a mom “awesome,” Charifa said, are being nurturing and available, but also spontaneous.
“I want my children to enjoy their life and enjoy being a kid,” she said. “Someday they will be grown up and life might not seem as much fun. I want them to have fun now.”
She knows how to have fun with her kids, but losing Sage was a defining moment as a wife and mother.
“We grieved and we grieved hard,” she said of herself and her husband after Sage died. “We really came together during that time for each other. And once the other children started coming, we really just wanted them to be healthy. It gives you perspective. It’s not about gender or what they look like. You have a healthy, beautiful child.”
She admits that after Sage died, she was excited to have more kids as a way to cope with the extreme level of grief.
“I thought it would heal my heart,” she said. “You just think, let me have another one and I’ll feel better.’ No. I completely love and adore my children now but they would never replace what I’ve lost. It just doesn’t go away.”
When Charifa talks, it’s obvious that “mom” is her favorite title, but her resume includes plenty of others. Before moving back to Oklahoma City 10 years ago, the Millwood High School graduate attended Spelman College in Atlanta, worked for American Express in New York, graduated from law school, completed a foreign exchange in South Africa, worked for the United Nations and the Council on Foreign Relations and attended the University of Oxford for a time.
Although she never thought she’d end up back in Oklahoma City after all her travels, she adores her community and is an active volunteer. She’s on the board at John Rex Elementary School, the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools and Freedom School and the president of the Oklahoma City chapter of Jack and Jill for America, a national membership organization for African American moms.
She admits she didn’t always have a passion for non-profits but having kids helped her realize how she could use her own talents and abilities for others.
“Once you become a mom, you look around and see there are other ways to contribute,” she said. “You have that voice and that purpose.”
Next page: Our finalists.