Talking Tea Traditions with Phenomenal Atlanta Women

[All photos taken by Katlyne Hill Photography]

This year, Mother’s Day celebrations started early for me. When the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) invited me to guest speak at their Annual Mother’s Day Tea, little did I know the honor they bestowed by welcoming me into this circle of amazing Atlantans. This tea celebrated The Mother: the woman who not only mothers her children and family, but who also mothers her community. The Mother wants for every child what she wants for her own; works to heal, protect and strengthen; and by her example, uplifts and encourages others to support one another. The Mother is a force of expansive love, and I felt her presence manifold at this event.

Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

My grandfather frequently said, “women are the fabric of society.” The women at this tea know this, just as they know they want to weave a better fabric for Atlanta society, one of social and economic equality. CCI hosts this Mother’s Day Tea to celebrate the social impact work of these powerful women, and to invite them to take a moment for themselves, at an afternoon tea of joyful reflection.

Sagdrina Jalal welcomes all to the Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

“So many women we work with are exhausted in their daily lives, but they still find meaningful ways to show up for our city while caring for their children and families,” said event host Sagdrina Jalal, CCI’s Senior Director of Community Innovation. “Recognizing both physical motherhood and community caretaking, we highlighted the successes that stem from our everyday balancing act — all while achieving personal and professional goals.”

Working on the Reflections Loom Tree at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

Guests write down their positive intentions on fabric scraps and weave them into a Reflections Loom Tree, destined to be a centerpiece at future CCI celebrations of these women’s contributions.

place setting at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

Every place setting is set with “Our Moments of Joy” cards, sharing each attendee’s personal triumphs of the past year. Reading these, I am struck with the multifaceted nature of a woman: our goals and joys are so vast and diverse, each of them vital to our well-being and self-fulfillment.

Spread throughout a dining room, back deck and gorgeously landscaped backyard, 25 women gather around five tables set with beautiful handmade tablecloths. I was thrilled to learn that Atlanta’s Black-owned Just Add Honey supplied the tea selection [owner Brandi Shelton is one of the first amazing women I met in the world of tea when Destination Tea was first getting started]. Just Add Honey’s green, mint and hibiscus teas were served in a pretty array of vintage teapots and teacups sourced from various Atlanta area specialty shops.

tea table at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

The guests contributed to a delightful buffet of sweet treats including some unique items that caught my eye: chocolate avocado mousse cups, homemade kiffles (not pictured) – a jam-filled pastry originally from Hungary, and, perhaps a bit bulky for an afternoon tea…Revolution donuts [insert yum emoji]. This afternoon tea expert advises, no matter the occasion, never turn down a Revolution doughnut.

sweet treats at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

I hoped to delight the ladies by dressing myself with some flair, so I donned my most outrageous tea hat, lace gloves, pearls, vintage glittery clip-ons and a maxi frock.

After the guests had time to fill their plates, settle into their tables and sip some tea together, I began visiting the tables to talk about afternoon tea, which is intertwined with my own journey of self-care as a mom. After all, it was at the former Faded Rose Tea Garden in Chamblee where, as a young mother, I first discovered afternoon tea as the perfect respite for a busy, tired mom.

Each table had different questions or stories to share surrounding afternoon tea. We discussed afternoon tea etiquette, afternoon tea vs. high tea, making tea for a large tea party, civil rights issues in tea production, and inviting children to the tea table as a rite of passage. I intentionally did not linger at any table, wanting to leave the ladies to their conversations, but it would have been a gift to learn more about each guest and the work she does. For example, how I would have loved to talk more with Wande Okunoren-Meadows (at left below) whose Hand, Heart & Soul Project connects families and students with local farming to encourage and create access to a fresh, nutrient-dense diet.

talking tea at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

Embodying the ever-giving spirit of these women, this afternoon tea of course had a community service component, collecting canned goods, school supplies and clothing to support four non-profit organizations within the CCI community:

  • Hand, Heart & Soul Project (Wande Okunoren-Meadows) – seeks to nurture, celebrate, and advance the needs of the people we serve by creating equitable access to quality educational, nutritional, and community resources
  • Umi Feeds (Erica “Umi” Clahar) – a food rescue organization that is dedicated to serving the hungry and homeless healthy and nutritious meals
  • Carrie’s Closet of Georgia (Mamie Harper) – to clothe and impact the lives of Georgia’s most vulnerable and at-risk children through service and advocacy; to ensure that no child looks like the trauma they have endured and experienced
  • Jared’s Heart of Success (Sharmaine Brown) – providing gun and group violence intervention to communities in Georgia and South Carolina
collecting for local nonprofits at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

My deep thanks to these women for the work they do, and for inviting me into their circle for this lovely afternoon tea. In hopes that some of Destination Tea’s readers are moved to honor these women’s service, please consider contributing to their organizations, in time and/or money (links above).

beautiful floral centerpiece at Center for Civic Innovation Mother's Day Tea

About the Center for Civic Innovation

The Center for Civic Innovation strives to minimize social and economic disparities for Atlanta residents by empowering community leaders and enhancing civic engagement. By elevating philanthropy and supporting transformative policies, we help advance solutions that address the needs and reflect the voices of all the people who call our city home. We use data and research to inform and engage the public, we support and invest in the work of homegrown leaders, and we advocate for short- and long-term policy change. Learn more at

[All photos taken by Katlyne Hill Photography]

Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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