I’d like to introduce you to one of MOMentumNation’s Advisory Board members, LaShaun Martin. LaShaun is the Social Media Director and Community Manager for Mocha Moms, a “national support group for mothers of color who have chosen not to work full-time outside of the home in order to devote more time to their families and communities.” We met about a year ago when we were both asked to be UN Foundation Shot@Life Champions.
LaShaun is one connected and committed lady, so I just had to ask her to join our Advisory Board because I wanted to make sure I fairly represented African American moms. And we’ve already started combining forces and supporting each other on different issues. I will be profiling all the wonderful Advisory Board members over the next few months. Below is my interview with LaShaun.
(P.S. She has a great set of pipes on her as well. We may just have to sing for a cause in the near future.)
Holly: Tell me a little about yourself.
LaShaun: I am a married mother of two beautiful daughters, a business owner, and the National Director of Social Media and Community Service for Mocha Moms, Inc.
Holly: Have you been with the Mocha Moms since the beginning?
LaShaun: I joined Mocha Moms, Inc. over 6 years ago.
Holly: What attracted you to the organization?
LaShaun: I was a new mother and pondering the option of staying at home with my girls. I wanted to connect with other moms who were experiencing the challenges and joys of motherhood. Leaving a 15-year career and moving from California to Maryland, I wanted to learn my new area with mothers who understood what life was like for me.
Holly: How many chapters of Mocha Moms are there?
LaShaun: Mocha Moms has 100 chapters in 29 states.
Holly: You said you have an email list of about 10,000 moms?
LaShaun: Correct. Our on the ground membership is approximately 3,000 moms. But our online presence is 10,000. This includes supporters of our organization: corporations, other non-profits, dads, grandparents, and mom who don’t have a local chapter in their area.
Holly: You accept anyone of any race, etc. What percentage of your community is not a woman of color?
LaShaun: Mocha Moms, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, socio-economic level, education, or religion. Anyone who supports the mission and purpose of Mocha Moms, Inc. is welcome to join.
The majority of our moms are women of color, including African-American, Latina, Asian and bi-racial moms.
Holly: So I notice you charge a membership fee. Do you think that has helped you attract and keep members by making your organization seem more serious? There are so many mom communities out there, yours is the first I recall charging a membership fee.
LaShaun: Mocha Moms, Inc. began in 1997, nearly 16 years ago, and was the only organization of its kind at the time. Our membership fee is a small $40, of which $20 goes back the chapter to support the local membership. The other $20 goes to support national initiatives, programs, and conferences.
Holly: What are some of the challenges facing women of color? Are they different than for caucasian women?
LaShaun: The women in our organization are professional and educated women who worked really hard in their careers. We have made the choice to stay at home because the education and involvement for our children is our focus at this particular stage in our lives. That has not been a popular decision among African-American women, as the perception can be that we are throwing our hard work and education out of the window to stay at home.
We have many similar challenges as caucasian women, as we are all striving to be great parents and wives. However, the difference is that we have seen a pattern of some of our children falling through the academic achievement gap. A recent civil rights report indicates that African-American students have less access to challenging courses in high school; are taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers; and are over three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school when compared to white students.
We cannot leave our children’s upbringing to chance. As any parent, we want them to become productive, educated citizens, and to excel in whatever career they choose. It is just too much to risk.
Holly: What have been your organizations best Mocha Moments?
LaShaun: One would assume our proudest moments are on a large scale with corporate partnerships and national notoriety. However, our biggest successes lie in the daily support of our moms in the local chapters. Being able to support a mother who walks into a meeting or Mom’s Night Out in tears because she’s frustrated and clueless about how to be a parent. Offering our “Mocha Love” in times of crisis and triumph to others in our sisterhood and the community is extremely rewarding. Having the ear and support of our President and First Lady Obama on ways to improve that support given to parents nationally has also given us a larger voice of influence to effect changes in parental engagement.
Holly: What are some Mocha Mom bragging rights–things you’ve accomplished as an organization?
We have sustained a successful four-year partnership with Wells Fargo that has provided resources to our membership in wealth management and education. The heart of our organization is community service. We have been given the privilege of staying at home, so our goal is to give back to programs such as Boys Booked on Barbershops and Mocha Literacy, mentoring, black women’s health, and environmental issues in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
For the first time in our history, we have taken our hearts for service to a global audience with our United Nations Foundation – Shot@Life Campaign. Our chapters across the country educate and raise funds for vaccine preventable diseases for children in developing countries. Earlier this year we took over 450 Mocha Moms and their families to the White House for a tour and briefing with the Obama administration’s senior officials to discuss issues that were important to us as African-American women and mothers. Since that time, we have been frequent guests of the White House to lend our voice to important issues that affect not only African-American families, but all families.