Nikki Osei-Barrett and Simona Noce
Photo: District MotherHued

Even in the year of our Lord 2018, it is hard in these United States to find inclusive, welcoming spaces that actually feel that way if you’re a person of color. That’s why, often, if black people want to be represented in a space—whether it be hair, makeup, clothing (what is “nude”?), workspaces, you name it—we have to create those spaces for ourselves.

Motherhood is no different. And that’s why Simona Noce and Nikki Osei-Barrett—the co-founders of District MotherHued, an organization geared to millennial moms of color in the Washington, D.C., metro area (or the DMV)—took their outreach to the next level, launching the first national Momference, a full-day conference that’s designed to further engage, equip and empower some #BlackMomMagic.

Noce and Osei-Barrett started to toy with the idea of hosting the Momference back in December. The women ended up putting out feelers on social media to gauge the interest within their group, as well as to look for suggestions as to what the moms wanted to know more about.

“We have so many issues and questions that we wanted to address, or that the moms wanted us to address, like co-parenting, how to deal with postpartum depression, getting your sexy back post-baby, how to juggle being a ‘mompreneur’ with your full-time job or with your children,” Osei-Barrett explained to The Root. “We were like, how can we address all of this at the same time?”

The conference, which takes place Saturday, has been sold out for three weeks, and Osei-Barrett and Noce expect 250 women to attend the event, where they will get to engage with panels, keynote speakers, workshops and more.

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Keynote speakers include Khalana Barfield Brown, the beauty editor-at-large at InStyle magazine, and Julee Wilson, the fashion and beauty director at Essence magazine. Other speakers include Dr. Rainbow Edwards-Barris—a physician, award-winning writer and mother of six, and the wife of Black-ish creator Kenya Barris—whose personal life actually inspired her husband’s show; Eunique Jones Gibson, creator of the Because of Them, We Can campaign; Kelli Coleman of the Coleman Group; and Jamilah Lemieux, vice president of news and men’s programming at Interactive One.

The panels target popular topics, such as the “Uncommon Family”—dealing with co-parenting and nontraditional family structures; “Mommy Between the Sheets,” dealing with getting your sexy back postpartum; “Healthy Mama: Mind, Body, and Soul,” targeting overall wellness; “Handle Your Business Mama,” for the mompreneurs; and much more.

“Creating a separate space for these moms to almost major in motherhood—because we don’t get to do that in college or get to do that at home—but this full day to hone in on the skills, the emotional, the physical, the hands-on skills that we need to raise humans ... is really important,” Noce said.

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In addition to panels, there are workshops including quick and easy hairstyles on the go for little girls and healthy meals that can be prepared, as well as a mommy market with about 30-35 vendors selling products that are made by mompreneurs or by brands that are made with black moms in mind.

“A lot of the times, bigger brands ... look at black women or black moms like we don’t spend [money], when in fact, [millennial moms] account for $2.4 trillion in spending, according to Forbes, so this is an opportunity to also show these larger brands ... not only do we shop, but we are also the decision-makers as far as what products are trending, what products sell,” Osei-Barrett said.

Osei-Barrett and Noce, both moms and businesswomen who work in public relations themselves, launched District MotherHued in 2016 with the goal of having a one-off event just meant to bring together local millennial moms of color in the DMV.

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“Black women, in particular, we have a different set of needs, and our children have a different set of needs, so you want to connect with women like you, and where do you find these women?” Osei-Barrett explained.

It turned out that these moms were wondering the same thing, and the outreach in response to their initiative caught them off guard. The “one-off” event turned into 15 additional sold-out events over the next two years, with about 4,000 women interacting with the organization. All of that culminated in the Momference, which the organizers now expect to be an annual thing.

“[The Momference] is produced by [Simona and me and] 20 other local moms from all different backgrounds, who didn’t know each other outside of social media,” Osei-Barrett said. “We’ve been able to come together and work together and produce something that is so amazing, so that dispels [the notion] that black women don’t get along and can’t work together.

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“We’re highlighting all these other women and bringing these other successful women that we look up to, to pour into other women. It’s just amazing what the nation is about to witness this weekend,” she added.