At the end of the day, all mothers are working to raise healthy, happy human beings. It’s all about finding their style of parenting and owning what works for them, all while practicing self-love and self-care.
This very topic was heavily emphasized a few weeks ago, on May 18, when hundreds of women gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in D.C. for the second annual Momference, a forum celebrating and empowering black millennial moms.
Founded by Nikki Osei-Barrett and Simona Noce just two years ago, the Momference is powered by District MotherHued, a social network of nearly 8,000 millennial moms of color based in the D.C. metro area, with an expanding network in New York and Atlanta, and manufactured by the self-declared #MomSquad comprised of 27 moms.
“When we created District MotherHued, we just wanted to create a space that we couldn’t find — an area that we could see ourselves in, so we created our own,” co-founder Nikki Osei-Barrett explains.
Co-Founder, Simona Noce Wright, agrees, adding this conference is a “mom, culture and a race thing.”
“You can’t go to conferences and talk about your career if you can’t talk about the fact that careers look different when you are a black mom. Health also looks different when you are a mom,” she says. “Culture plays a big role in how you mother. It’s important to have conversations with other moms who look like you. It’s important to talk about socioeconomic disparities.”
The event even featured a mommy “Pamper Suite,” where women could get their makeup or nails done and get a quick massage. There was also a “Mommy Market” that was filled with various goods catering just to moms and their little ones. After all, this year’s theme was, “Give, Grow, Glow,” providing mothers with the opportunity to explore diverse pathways to philanthropy and equip themselves with the self-empowerment tools to live their best life.
Other workshops and panels covered a wide range of topics spanning from maternal health to “Mommy in the Sheets,” a session dedicated to postpartum sexuality and confidence.
Title sponsors for this year’s event included the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Spectra Baby USA, both champions of protecting black women in the healthcare industry.
“Motivating and supporting moms throughout their breastfeeding journey plays a major role in our overall mission as a company,” says Heidi Humphries, CEO of Spectra Baby USA in a press release. “We know that when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping, statistics show that women of color are less likely to breastfeed than Caucasian women due to lack of support in the community. A huge part of the ‘normalizing breastfeeding’ movement is filling in those gaps, and we strive to go above and beyond to make that happen.”
Osei-Barrett agrees, stating the importance of using the Momference as a way to bring awareness to black maternal health, through networks like the Black Mamas Alliance. This is an association that advocates for health research and shifts culture for black maternal health, rights and justice.
“Unfortunately some mothers don’t know that their maternal experience is abnormal. We want to spread information that can save lives,” Osei-Barrett says.
The day was all about emphasizing balance, self-care, self-love and overall #BlackMomMagic, a sentiment that echoed throughout the keynote speeches. Keynote speakers included actress and philanthropist, Tatyana Ali, celebrity cosmetic dentist, Dr. Amira Ogunleye and actress and T.V. host, Khadeen Ellis.
And, according to Ellis, the Momference was just that, a validating space, brimming with energy and a feeling of sisterhood.
“Initially when I was asked to speak, I shied away from the opportunity. I think that’s because as women and moms, sometimes you think you are not worthy. It’s like ‘Who am I to come up here and stand in front of you and say anything?’ Because I think we are all out here killing it in our own right,” she says. “I want to thank Simona, Nikki, the entire mom squad and every single person who had a hand in putting on this operation. Thank you for foreseeing the need and the deficit for platforms like this that aim in uplifting, supporting and encouraging mothers, particularly black and brown mamas.”
At a pre-mother’s day panel a few weeks ago for Buzzfeed News, Ellis says she was asked a question by the host of Hella Opinions, “How do you feel like black and brown moms can be celebrated every day?”
Her response was one of honesty and sincerity. She explains that as mothers of color, it is up to them to carve out space for themselves in the community.
“What came to my mind immediately is that we need to create these platforms for ourselves,” she says. “We can’t wait for anyone to celebrate us. I am so thankful we are taking the time to get together, form our tribes, create our villages and uplift each other. Because there is a need for this richness of sisterhood and comradery.”