How a Community of Moms Helped My Joy Outshine My Fears

In honor of Women’s History Month, Shanay Bell—Director of Publications for The Moriah Group—writes about the impact of women of color creating community for other women and how MOBB United helped her outrun her fears about protecting her Black son. Be sure to check out next week’s Q&A with the Founder and President of MOBB United, Depelsha McGruder, who will share how her organization reclaims the humanity of Black boys and men.

I never saw my son’s face whenever I read or thought about Trayvon, Mike, Tamir, Alton, or Philando. Not until George.

I prayed for their mothers when they were murdered. I grieved for my people and the beloved Black boys and men in their lives. But the sorrow hit me differently on May 25, 2020. Maybe because my son had just turned 11 years old the day before George was choked to death in the street by one of many racist police that have killed unarmed Black people with impunity. Maybe because his plaintive cries of “Mama” felt like glass shards scraping my insides. Maybe because I knew my son would one day become a tall Black man, like George, that others would instantly deem a menace to society.

Every time I read George’s name in news articles, watched the uprisings from the streets of London to Seattle on TV, or glimpsed the heartbreaking footage of his murder on social media, my son’s face would instantly appear in my mind instead of George’s. And it shook my world. 

So, I—the former reporter who watched the news religiously—tuned out and turned off all media. When I eventually plugged back in, I was drawn to the one place where I knew our beauty was the currency instead of our pain.

That place was the MOBB United Facebook® group

Created in 2016 by Depelsha McGruder as a safe and supportive space for moms and female caretakers of Black boys, MOBB United was the refuge I needed. My balm was the prom pictures of Black teens in velvet bow ties and tuxedos flossing on their front porches; Black moms advising white moms about the best products to cure the acne marring their sons’ Black skin; MOBB aunties offering to drop off care packages to Black college students who were far from their own moms; mothers sharing how to be an effective advocate with school counselors charged with creating Individualized Education Programs for their Black sons. 

Our traditions, our wit, our culture, our wisdom, our flair, and our community displayed in countless Facebook posts saved me from my agony—for minutes, for days, for weeks. As I scrolled, my joy started to outshine my fear again. I didn’t clutch my son as tight whenever he hugged me before bedtime. I stopped scanning spaces for potential aggression from every white person we encountered in public. And I didn’t see my son’s face anymore when I thought of George.     

Nearly seven years later, I’m proud to see MOBB United continuing to support moms while influencing policy and perceptions that impact how Black boys and men are treated in this country. I’m also proud to be a member of a community of mothers—167,000 strong—where women uplift other women, decry and disrupt the dehumanization their Black sons’ experience, and reclaim their sons’ fundamental right to live fully and freely. 

Support, follow, and learn more about MOBB United: