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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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District MotherHued’s 1st Momference Highlights Modern Motherhood and Safe Spaces for Black Moms

At the end of the day, all mothers are working to raise healthy, happy human beings. And so if there’s a method or a style that works for you and your child or children, why not go with it?

This very topic was heavily emphasized Saturday at District MotherHued’s first Momference, a conference celebrating and empowering black millennial moms.

“Modern motherhood is DIY in ways that perhaps it wasn’t for our mothers or our grandmothers and certainly not for our great-grandmothers,” Jamilah Lemieux, vice president of News and Men’s Programming at Interactive One, told the audience during the roundtable Modern Motherhood discussion.

“We want to define motherhood in our own terms. … And for those of us who are mothers to daughters in particular, I think that 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 and not just duty and responsibility and labor.”

Alongside Lemieux was Kelli Coleman, CEO of the KM Coleman Group and co-founder of She Who Dares, as well as Dr. Rainbow Barris, author, physician and wife of Blackish creator Kenya Barris.


“Modern motherhood is also about forgiveness,” added Coleman. “You’re never going to have it all at the same time, as they say, and you have to be OK with that. So often we are in this pursuit of perfection, and it truly does not exist, so banish it … focus on you, what makes you whole, what fulfills you, and come up with your formula.”

Modern Motherhood roundtable featuring Nikki Osei-Barrett, Jamilah Lemieux, Kelli Coleman, Rainbow Barris and Simona Noce
Photo: Iris Mannings (District MotherHued)

The Momference was a validating space, brimming with energy and a feeling of sisterhood that only black women can propagate. Seriously, District MotherHued co-founders Nikki Osei-Barrett and Simona Noce entered to Wande Coal’s “Iskaba,” jamming all the way down the aisle to the delight and encouragement of the crowd. It was a vibe.


The thoughtful roundtable in the beginning was a perfect kick start to the day’s events, giving the women present something to latch onto while feeling validated in their own journeys.

But it wasn’t all talk at the Momference; it was also a form of action.


The space created for the event at the Hyatt Regency featured a mommy “Pamper Suite,” where women could get their makeup or eyebrows done, and get a quick massage. There was also a breastfeeding lounge for the nursing moms, and a “Mommy Market” that was filled with various goods catering just to moms and their mini mes.

The day emphasized balance, self-care, self-love and overall #BlackMomMagic that echoed throughout the keynote speeches by Kahlana Barfield Brown, the beauty editor at large at InStyle magazine, and Julee Wilson, the fashion and beauty director at Essence magazine.

“I’m Julee first and foremost, but I do love holding the title of being a magical black mom because I’m raising a beautiful, black man in this world. I feel like that magic that we all have, all those black moms have, is helping me do that,” Wilson told The Root after her speech. “I can’t do it by myself so it means a lot that we have this sisterhood.”


Julee Wilson, Nikki Osei-Barrett, Kahlana Barfield Brown, Simona Noce
Photo: Iris Mannings (District MotherHued)

“I feel overwhelmed,” Barfield Brown acknowledged with a smile. “It’s just like an unspoken love that I walk into the room and honestly it feels like a family reunion of cousins I’ve never met before. Especially as a new mom, I’m always constantly looking for other moms that I can connect with, and I’ve never had an outlet like this to look towards.”

We haven’t even touched on the breakaway panels yet, but they were momtastic too, including topics like, “Building Little Leaders,” “The Uncommon Family,” “Mommy Between the Sheets,” “Healthy Mama: Mind, Body and Soul” and “Handle Your Business Mama,” all meant to equip moms with the tools they need to not only take care of themselves, but also take care of and advocate for their children.


Moms around the room echoed the feelings of the panelists and the moderators, saying that they felt as if their own experiences were validated.

“The Momference has really confirmed a lot of the things that I’ve discovered along my journey of motherhood,” Shanee Johnson, a 41-year-old mom from Washington, D.C., told The Root. “There’s no script to motherhood. Every mothers’ experience is not going to be identical to the next mom and there’s not a reason to ever compare yourself. You’re enough. You do enough and you can be a great mom without being a perfect mom.”

“I think [black moms] need encouragement,” said Andrea Powers, a 33-year-old mom of two from Atlanta. “I think that there are so many factors out there against us that we need these safe spaces to learn and to grow.”


“We don’t really have too many things for us, so it’s very important for us to all get in a room and inspire each other and vent and cry and talk,” echoed Portia Nisbeth, 34, from Rochester, N.Y. “It’s necessary.”

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