As Doria Ragland watched her daughter become the Duchess of Sussex on Saturday (May 19), hundreds of Black moms gathered in Bethesda, Md. for The Momference, the first-ever celebration of #BlackMomMagic in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia metropolitan area for Millennial moms of color by District MotherHued.
Founded by Nikki Osei-Barrett and Simona Noce just two years ago, the premier organization has committed its efforts to offering resources and events Black mothers in the DMV would not otherwise experience.
Bright and early, the inaugural affair began with an energetic buzz of Black moms eager to mingle with like-minded women. Many secured childcare for a well-deserved Mommy’s Day Off, while others toted snuggly wrapped newborns or strutted with growing baby bumps. Women outfitted in dresses and short natural coifs, others in jeans and bundles reaching the centers of their backs, all readied themselves to absorb useful tools and know-how through a litany of thought-provoking panels, breakout sessions and brand activations. Each detail was catered to equip mothers with information to build their businesses, encourage their kids to become leaders, explore best practices for a healthy family dynamic and maintain self-care.
Hyatt Regency’s multi-room meeting space was adorned with the works: a "Pamper Suite" where women could get their eyebrows done and enjoy relaxing facials; a breastfeeding lounge for nursing moms; and a “Mommy Market” filled with book vendors like Tutu’s Storybooks, beauty goods and other just-for-moms products such as a tote that simply read “Mommy Shit.”
As its known, while Black women are in fact magical, Black mothers specifically are expected to achieve an impossible ideal of complete flawlessness daily, including a spotless home, a runway sense of style, well-behaved children who never eat McDonald’s and a thriving social life. But that oftentimes self-imposed onus to be more perfect than Beyoncé was instantly lifted as the first roundtable and keynote speeches commenced.
Featuring panelists Jamilah Lemieux (VP of News and Men's Programming at Interactive One), Kelli Coleman (KM Coleman Group & She Who Dares) and Dr. Rainbow Barris (author, physician and wife of Kenya Barris), the “Modern Motherhood” opener was a satisfying icebreaker. If any woman in the room felt alone in her journey, Lemieux’s quips about co-parenting, Barris’ honesty on traditional gender roles and Coleman’s refreshing dismissal of vegan trends garnered laughs, applause and a chorus of “YAS” cheers that warmed the room.
“Modern motherhood is DIY in ways that perhaps it wasn’t for our mothers or our grandmothers and certainly not for our great-grandmothers,” Lemieux told the audience. “We want to define motherhood in our own terms. And for those of us who are mothers to daughters in particular, there is a determination around being the sort of women that we want our daughters to be, not out of a sense of duty or responsibility or respectability but women that make decisions in their own best interests, who choose happiness and peace and joy and love and sex and fun and friendship and career.”
Keynote speakers Julee Wilson, Fashion & Beauty Director at Essence, and Fashion & Beauty editor for InStyle magazine, Kahlana Barfield Brown, continued the feel-good momentum. In a sanctuary of powerhouse mompreneurs, each woman peeled back her social media persona and transparently cast a spotlight on their everyday struggles from doing their kids’ hair, regaining their pre-baby bodies and banishing society’s stereotypes of what a Black mom should be.
In a rapid-fire onstage interview with Brown, Wilson’s light-hearted and humorous anecdotes reflected a spirited, positive woman bring all the way real on how she weathers motherhood hiccups.
“I do feel that part of my brand is being very authentic and being an open book,” she said. “But there’s a lot of nights where I’m crying and I just feel like I’m not enough, like I’m not doing enough and it’s hard because I know we’re all there. It goes back to having a really great village to pull you from those dark places. I don’t think any of us are free of those moments, but we come out of it.”
Later, Barfield Brown shared that the impetus behind her style and work is to inspire dark-skinned girls, especially her two-year-old daughter, Dylan. “Working out and exercising is my time when I can clear my head and it’s all about me. And that’s just apart of my personal self-care,” she said. “Also I get dressed up for myself every day and I put on my red lip. Seeing my mom and how she took pride in herself in getting ready every day, I want Dylan to see that with me and I want it to inspire her. I want her to be very secure with who she is. She won’t need someone else’s validation to feel like she’s beautiful.”
Before the breakaway panels, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin came to show support to the sea of gorgeous Black women who could help her become the first Black female governor in the state. Then, ushering in an array of topics including sex, fitness and mental health, influencers like Anowa Adjah, Dayna Bolden, Dunnie O, Panama Jackson and a number of other familiar persons of success.
Bottom line: If there was information to be gained, it was accessible in any one of the rooms.
Overall, The Momference is a multifaceted Black girls-only function that can alleviate any Black mom’s needs. It’s a place to network and nurture new friendships if you feel you need more mommy friends. It’s an impromptu refuge if you just need to meet someone else who “gets it.” But most importantly, it’s a safe space where Black moms can feel completely seen in all their glorious #BlackMomMagic.