On Thursday, February 16, Mocha Moms, Inc. attended a “Mocha Moms Summit,” a briefing with the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). More than 150 leaders of Mocha Moms, Inc., a national non-profit organization that supports stay at home mothers of color, were invited to the White House for a briefing as part of the Administration's celebration of National African American History Month. It was an invitation that we were ecstatic about; one we could not pass up. More than 350 Mocha Moms and their families capped off the experience and were invited to return the next day for an East Wing tour.
The two-day event was a chance to hear a full briefing from White House officials representing a wide range of departments and agencies, including EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, on issues that were important to us. It was an historic milestone for our organization. Mothers packed their signature Mocha pins and splashes of pink and brown and travelled from across the country. Despite economic circumstances, work put on hold, husbands babysitting, and honey "to do" lists written, the Mocha Moms, Inc. made sure to be present.
When President Obama issued his recent proclamation in honor of National African American History Month, he paid special tribute to the nameless African American women who have been, and currently are, the backbones of many communities saying, “…African American women have long served as champions of social and political change.” I would like to think that President Obama might have been speaking directly to us.
Cameras were clicked, mothers were hugged, and business cards were exchanged. A. The energy at the Moms Summit was powerful and when Tina Tchen, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, told us that Mocha Moms had been discussed at the senior staff meeting, there was a resounding applause. Panelists shared with us a myriad of programs and policies to help promote fitness and eliminate health disparities. They talked about many domestic policy issues including: initiatives aimed at women and girls; policies to protect the environment; health care; insurance; rising college costs and subsidized student loans. Our mothers asked questions ranging from recess, autism, the mortgage crisis, to workplace flexibility, health insurance, and small business. I moderated a "Mom Chat" with EPA Administrator Jackson. Shushana Vignier, former president of the Essex County, New Jersey chapter and Newark teacher, brought the room to tears while recounting her story of meeting a 5th grader that does not know how to read. That was the type of powerful dialogue that occurred.
Four mothers of color in Maryland founded Mocha Moms, Inc. in 1997. Today, with 100 chapters in 29 states, we continue to support the changing needs of mothers of color in the workplace and at home. Through our partnerships with such organizations as America’s Promise, the Black Women’s Health Imperative, Boys Booked on Barbershops, Be The Match and Donate Life America, Mocha Moms are participating in a wide range of community service.
We hope our trip to the White House continues a much-needed dialog with mothers of color in this country. We are eager to learn more so we can continue to make educated decisions for our families and ourselves. We know the future of the next generation will depend on it.