A Woman-Powered Movement Is Reclaiming the Humanity of Black Sons

As Women’s History Month culminates, we invite you to learn* how sacred relationships with mothers and female caregivers helped Depelsha McGruder (Forward Promise Fellow – Cohort 1) build a woman-powered movement. What began as a small Facebook® group seven years ago, is now a thriving community of 167,000+ members who are Black, Latinx, white, and adoptive moms; grandmothers and guardians; and more. Their advocacy on behalf of their Black sons connects them. Now a nonprofit organization (and Forward Promise Grantee), MOBB United influences policies and perceptions that impact the treatment of Black boys and men. Depelsha, who is the organization’s Founder and President, is excited to report that she recently hired MOBB United’s first Executive Director. Congratulations, Depelsha!

Many non-profits traditionally begin as grassroots community organizations. MOBB United was different in that it began as a Facebook group. Describe the needs you saw in the community that inspired you to build a movement that reclaims humanity for Black boys. 

I always say I accidentally started a nonprofit organization. I wasn’t trying to start anything. I was just expressing my own feelings in that moment, and I wanted to express it to people who I knew would understand. That was the summer of 2016, following the back-to-back deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile within 24 hours. I was literally just expressing my anger, sadness, confusion, worry, and outrage. I wanted to share that vulnerability with other mothers of Black sons because I knew they would understand what I was feeling. So, I just sent the Facebook group link to 30 moms I knew personally.

The first Facebook post said “I’m starting this group today because I don’t know what else to do. But I cry on every one of my sons’ birthdays as they get older. I worry about them losing their innocence. Maybe one day this can become some kind of education and advocacy group, but for now, I just need to connect with people who can understand.” And it took off virally. It was divinely orchestrated; there’s no other way to explain it. Most nonprofits start locally in one location, with real people who know each other working together. This started nationally and virtually, all at once, with a bunch of strangers. I’m an introvert, I don’t deal with strangers. The very last thing I would do if I was starting an organization is go out and find strangers on the internet. But that’s what happened. It was a force beyond me. 

Most organizations like ours start after a personal tragedy but our goal is to prevent these types of tragedies from happening to anyone else. So, yes, there are mothers in our group who have experienced loss—but most have not. We focus on stopping police brutality and racist treatment from happening. How do we proactively prepare ourselves and our Black sons to navigate the world in a way that minimizes risk and prepares them for what they may face? It’s not just about police brutality; it’s all the biases that Black boys face—from preschool all the way through life. That is why MOBB United also pushes the system to change. 

There is great significance and power in women fighting for change together. Describe how your relationships with women helped you transition MOBB United from an online community into a nonprofit organization. 

We’ve been very fortunate that the women who’ve been drawn to this have been high-quality, well-intentioned, positive people who just want to pour their passion into the mission. A core group of women have been with me from the very beginning. We’ve been working together very well. That’s what really makes it magical. The people see the Facebook group and webinars, events, and things like that. But what really makes it special is the community of women that have become my friends. What it’s really about is relying on each other as we navigate all these situations. When we have issues with our sons, which many of us do even on the Leadership Team, we come together and advise each other and hug each other. We have private prayer meetings for each other just to lift up that one son. So that’s what it’s about: a community of support for women who are leaning on each other. 

How does cultivating great relationships among women sustain you personally as a woman, mother, and entrepreneur?  

[Relationships with women are] so integral to my life. It’s just like the water I swim in. It’s the air I breathe. I’m constantly surrounded by, and bathed in the support and camaraderie of, powerful women. It’s my normal. It’s hard to imagine the absence of women because they are such a large part of my life. I don’t really seek to go into a lot of white, male-dominant environments—just based on my personal values and the way I want to live my life. I want to be surrounded by other women in spaces that are affirming and comfortable and validating. 

Describe how the Dehumanization Framework informs the work MOBB United does in the community.

Eliminating dehumanization is at the heart of the mission of MOBB United. We often say that all we want is for the world to see our sons in the same loving way that we do—as fully human, as people who are deserving of respect, worthy of living their dreams, living freely, being in whatever space they want to be in. And that’s really about seeing them as fully human beings and not as someone who’s less than. And acknowledging their emotions, acknowledging their pain. The dehumanization framework is at the heart of what we’re trying to do to change perceptions of Black males so that people will see them as fully human and will treat them as fully human. 

Join, support, follow, and learn more about MOBB United:






*Interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.