Throughout history, there have been moments that are universal.
Kimberly Allers: Moments that are proud, shameful, moving, defining. Moments when we share the same experience, when we move ahead together. This Black History Month, I've compiled my list of the top 15 moments in black mom history that define, inspire and connect all of us. Let's keep the list going.
Great Moments in Black Mom History
Our Jackie O: Coretta Scott King
I'll never forget the classic picture of Coretta Scott King sitting proudly at the funeral of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, with young Bernice in her lap and a regal veil on her head. On that day -- and throughout her life -- King epitomized the maternal strength and grace of a black mother that we should all aspire to.
Black-Mama Muscle: Our Mompreneur Maven, Cathy Hughes
Cathy Hughes showed real moxie going after her dreams. She became a mom at 16 and was a college dropout, but her son Alfred was her inspiration. Hughes and her husband purchased a radio station in 1979; soon after that, the marriage ended
- putting Hughes on the single mother path. At one point, she lost her home, and she and Alfred had to move into the station to make ends meet. But she was determined to build her vision. Today, Radio One, Radio.One.com run by Hughes and her son, owns 65 radio stations in every major market in the country -- making it the largest black-owned radio chain in the nation, and the first woman-owned radio station to rank #1 in any major market. In 2004, after dominating radio, Hughes launched TV One, a cable television channel targeted at the African-American community. All I can say is, you go girl!
In 1973, the Intruders' popular song "I'll Always Love My Mama" became a national hit -- and ode to mamas everywhere. It later became the must-have song at every black wedding (for that moment when the groom dances with his mother). Sing it!
Valerie from 'Josie and the Pussycats'
In 1972, "Josie and the Pussycats" became the first regular Saturday-morning cartoon to feature an African-American female character ("Valerie"). Black moms celebrated the fact that we were starting to see images of ourselves and our little girls in the mainstream. Talk about brown girls rocking!
FYI, before the cartoon went live, its music producers created a girl's rock group that actually sang the songs and recorded an album. Patrice Holloway played Valerie. When the producers presented the newly formed band to Hanna-Barbera, though, the cartoon powerhouse said they wanted to recast Holloway because they'd decided to make "Josie and the Pussycats" an all-white trio. But producer Danny Janssen refused to recast her and threatened to walk away from the project. After a three-week standoff, Hanna-Barbera finally relented. They allowed Janssen to keep Holloway, and made Valerie African-American again.
Mocha Moms, Inc.
Mocha Moms, Inc. Mocha.Moms.org was formed in 1997 by a group of moms in Prince George's County, Md., to be a national nonprofit organization that supports women of color who consider themselves at-home mothers. This represented a real shift in our typical role as out-of-the-home workers. It also showed how black families were evolving, climbing the economic scale and having options that hadn't been available before. Today, there are more than 100 Mocha Mom chapters across the country.
Meaningful Media: The Black Maternal Health Project
The Kellogg Foundation funded the Black Maternal Health Project, a series of groundbreaking articles examining the health issues and social stressors that negatively impact black women's health and reproductive outcomes.
Natural products just for us ... and our kids! In 1999, after years of developing a cult following for her handmade, all-natural bath-and-body products, Lisa Price, founder of Carol's Daughter Carol's.Daughter.com, opened her first boutique in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The store is still chock-full of products containing shea butter and other natural ingredients for our dry skin and misunderstood hair. In 2005, with the help of Steve Stoute and celebrity investors like Mary J. Blige and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Price went national, giving black moms everywhere access to her great natural products. The company's popular "Hair Milk" kept my son's curly Afro looking great for years!
You gotta have "Girlfriends!" If you didn't have your own set of girls, this was the TV show for you. "Girlfriends" debuted in 2000, introducing us to Joan, Toni, Lynn and Maya as a black female posse of smart, beautiful and sexy women. The show, centered around the friendships of women living and working in LA, gave modern-day black women relatable characters, good laughs and a weekly lens on singlehood, sisterhood, motherhood and everything in between. The show became one of the highest-rated scripted shows among black women aged 18-34 before it was canceled in 2008. (Booo!!) Still, there are a thousand Facebook apps for "Which Girlfriend Are You?" (I'll never forget the episode where Maya contemplates adoption and says, "Let's get down there before Brad and Angelina snatch up all the good black babies." Too funny!)
Things Every Mom Needs
Next on my list? The invention of disposable diapers and erasable crayons. They're not strictly about black moms, but really ... need I say more?
The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy
My book, released in 2005, was the first-of-its-kind pregnancy guidebook for today's black woman. Featuring medical tips, celebrity interviews, skin and hair tips, money advice and the real deal behind African-American myths about healthy pregnancy, it broke new ground by highlighting the large number of poor-birth outcomes among even college-educated black women. Later, I launched the Mocha Manual maternity T-shirt collection, Mocha.Manual.comgiving black women a new way to celebrate pregnancy and motherhood. The line features the popular "Chocolate Bun in the Oven" tee; there's also a line for dads that includes a "Strong Black Father Under Construction" shirt.
Clair Huxtable: Our TV-Mom Model
In 1980, Clair Huxtable (played by Phylicia Rashad) began showing the world that black women can be professional, sexy, happily married, adored by our husbands -- and still command real Mama Power. (Clair's husband, Cliff -- played by Bill Cosby -- did his part, too, by giving dads everywhere the don't-make-me-say-it-twice catchphrase that would be heard by black kids for generations to come: "I bought you in this world, and I can take you out!")
Saving Our Babies
In 1994, the "Back to Sleep" Campaign was launched to reduce the number of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases. SIDS is preventable, yet it disproportionately affects African-American babies. As a result of the campaign, SIDS deaths have been dramatically reduced.
In 2005, Jamie Foxx choked back tears during his Oscar-acceptance speech, remembering his grandmother Marie and her tough love ("whuppings" and all) -- which he credited with making him who he is today. At that moment, millions of black people thought about the Moms, the Big Mamas, the Aunties and other relatives who taught them to "act like you have some sense," gave them "whuppings" (with love) and helped them become who they are today.
Credit Where Credit is Due
Props to Barack Obama for calling Michelle "the rock" of the family and telling the world about the role of black mothers in our families and communities (things we've known about for a long time, but still).
My number-one Black Mom Moment is, without a doubt, Michelle Obama becoming First Lady and Mom-in-Chief. Who knew that the coolest mom to ever grace the White House would be black? And she brought her own black mom with her, too. Gotta love it!