Thursday, May 10, 2007

Black Mommi Seeking Other Mommies Like Me - In the Pages, Online and In the World

You all should know by now that this magazine has been in the works for almost three years. It started as the result of a business relationship with another mom I met in my marketing consulting class for small business owners (I think I've mentioned that my professional background is an advertising executive and small business marketing consultant. Yes, I digress again!).

Anyway, Gwen had enrolled in my class to get ideas about marketing her regional parenting publication. Then, about two years later I called her to talk about writing for her magazine; or, finding out how to start a magazine to fulfill this need, this pull, I had to start writing about my experience in this place, this space, that was so different for me from what I had known to be my life not that long ago. This place of confusion in my life. I wanted to write out my feelings to help me sort out the disconnect from who I am now with who I was not so long ago - my former life and my now life.

The former life included lots of free time - too much at times - overflow of cash reserves, the that understood 'me first time' and still had so much left over to give others. The me that was the aunt who always had something to give - money and time. I could take my sister's children - all three of them - for the weekend once a month and treat them to the good life. Me and my roommate - who was also my cousin - were a big hit in Cracker Barrel on those Sunday mornings when other moms or grandmoms found out we were taking care of kids that weren't ours, giving a mom a break.

I was the daughter at Mama's every weekend. I was the niece that visited Auntie Marion regularly. I was the single woman that didn't date much and indulged in reading, trips to New Orleans - my home town. I was active on Notre Dame's Alumni Board. I didn't love all of it. I was lonely for love, companionship, not children just yet.

Or, so I thought.

My 'now' life, the mommy and wife life, was very different from the former. I was now and still am a mother with responsibilities and a wife in a struggling marriage. I am an entrepreneur, an at-home mom at times, a former corporate climber trying to define myself in these new roles and find my old self - the educated, confident woman, daughter, friend, cousin, niece, that made everyone who knew me proud of my accomplishments, including me, and looking forward to more from me.

But, as a reader and magazine junkie looking for a voice like mine, I found very little and none more often than not in my monthly visit to the bookstore to cruise the magazines, or daily or weekly in my online visits to parenting sites and African American sites. There was even little in the Black book craze that was and still is happening. My voice was barely represented in Essence, Black Enterprise or any other major black magazine on a regular basis. And, as I read Child, logged onto ivillage and skimmed other print or online media, I saw very little that looked or sounded like me.

I found myself jonesin' for the May issue of the Black magazines and O to see the issues of moms like me. The rest of the year I was stuck reading a very narrow view of motherhood sprinkled with a little Jada and Tonya Lewis Lee (Spike Lee's wife). Otherwise the moms' views were either white and/or older with much more money than I seemed to see in my bank account to spend on the products advertised. And, there were so many assumptions. The black magazines assumed I was a single mother, never married, divorced or headed that way and working hard with little time for my children. The other parenting magazines assumed I was married and financially well off with the ability to stay home and focus only on my children and needing to find time for intimacy with my husband.

However, my reality was very different from these mothers I read about in the magazines. I am an educated wife that wants to stay married and achieve and maintain a balanced and healthy relationship if at all possible. I am a woman who wants to pursue my personal ambitions passions, love and nurture my children as well as prepare them to become confident, educated independent adults that contribute to society - I refuse to raise another Black boy and girls who don't know love, support or his/her potential and the possibilities . I am working with my husband (or against him depending on when you ask him) to build a generational financial legacy. I want to help my family members out - financially, emotionally and spiritually - if I can and when I can if they deserve it. I want to contributing to the larger African American community with service and philanthropy. I want to reach back to help expose other children -in my family and not - to the all the wonderful, positive opportunities awaiting them when they work hard toward them.

So, I started researching to see how many other mothers there were out there like me. And as I researched to find the numbers to support what I know to be true - African American mothers, moms, mamas are a forced to be reckoned with and we are connecting online and off to give voice, face and words to our opinions, our joys, our challenges, our lives. I found some spaces, places and groups out there for me - online and off.

There's, online and; national organizations like Jack and Jill and Mocha Moms; more than 60 online groups, like Sistermoms, reaching more than 4000 black moms and a few dads. I won't even get into blogging. There are authors like Kimberly Seals Allers, Lonnae O'Neal Parker and Cecelie Berry

I was in African American parenting heaven when I found out about all of these sources. I found a little bit of everything I wanted in each of them. But, I still felt like it was all so fragmented. I wanted one source that I could go to all the time. And, since the one source wasn't there, I figured my experience with Gwen and my marketing background had prepared me to create it.

And, so we all await this fall for the premiere issue of the 'one source' - Being Family Magazine.

Our mission - Being Family is the premiere African-American Parenting and Family Lifestyle Magazine reflecting a modern perspective on child rearing and family life in our “village.” Our editorial content explores our families, our community, ourselves with depth and breadth. A source of celebration, information, support, inspiration, sharing and affirmation for Black family life. We encourage our readers to live fully in the present while nurturing our future.

Look for us to be online and in your emailbox with daily news that's important to us, in print quarterly with the information you need and showing our beauty and splendor. And in the community every chance we get.

Look for Being Family. Being Seen. Being Heard in '08 in these cities next year:
- Atlanta
- Chicago
- Dallas
- New York
- DC
- Charlotte
- LA

We'll be having fun our way:
African American Family Movie Night
Saturday Fun and Forum (Kids Pavillion and events and parent sessions, information and entertainment.

We'll be discussing our issues:
Our Money and Finances; Our Boys; Our Girls; Family History and Genealogy; Media Images, Music and Entertainment; Our Health: Pregnancy, Eating and Exercise, Mind Body and Soul; Marriage and Relationships; Education; Giving - Time, Talent and Treasure; Family Beauty and Fashion; Work(Career/Passion/Entrepreneurship)/Life/Family Balance; Election '08.

In the meantime, I need your support to spread the word. Send advertisers my way.

Email me to tell me what you want to see covered in our medium, our place, our space. Comment below (click the envelope below - scroll down) or email me.

Rochelle Valsaint

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Money. Money. Money. Money. Money!

- The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy by Kimberly Seals Allers

- The Mocha Manual Shop (Spend $35 or more at the Mocha Shop by Mother's Day and you're automatically entered to win a baby shower.

As for the blog, the idea for this week's entry came to me long before the $350 spend at Target on Spring clothes for myself and the growing children or getting paid and watching my check disappear this weekend. I won't itemize the purchases, services and bill payments to the letter.
But just let me tell you, not much of it was outside of necessities - shoes for those same growing children mentioned above, car wash supplies for my nephew to wash my car and his $5 payment - he's 12; payment to have the yard cut (becasue my husband is too busy to do it, which is a digression I wont't even start on. but, I will another day); the hair care supplies for me and my daughter's hair (Once again, I won't be able to afford the products and a visit to the salon I've been wanting to make for more than 2 years now because I always have to choose self-maintenace or Mama's professional background - she owned a hair care salon some years ago - to maintain my relaxer and cuts. And, I have to maintain my daughter's thick yet beautiful mass of spiral curls and waves - some combination of her father's Bahamian-Haitian heritage with my Irish and African heritage (but I did dgress this time); the cell phone bill pyment, Mama's mother's day gift, groceries, gas and more more gas for all of the driving I do.

Sometimes I wonder where the money goes. But when I sit down and retrace my steps, I see it all so clear. So much so that I don't even get to all of the other things, like the curtains for every room in my house - they've been bare for some years now (I rationalize that I like the open feel it gives the house or whatever I need to say to myself to feel better about the fact that there are none); or the rugs needed for the hardwood floors; or the paint the house needs so desparately, the new bed for my son - who at 3 won't sleep in the crib that's in his room anymore. Or, the bedding for my daughter's room and our rooms. The carpet in our lower level of the house that needs to be cleaned. And, all of the other many things that our 50-something year old house needs to make it into this millenium.

All of the needs that come after the school tuition and cable bill that I pay and all the other bills that my husband pays. All of the needs that come before the luxury of renovation, new electronics, the piano lessons and singng lessons I want for my daughter. Or the laptop, stereo system and laptop, personal stylist makeover and photo session I think every Mommi deserves in this job where we forget our beauty.

I am not sure how in line my family's spending is with the latest 'Buying Power Report' which says that Black Consumers have increased spending on lifestyle "necessities" according to Target Market News Or, the BSM Media statisics regarding the spending habits of the "trillion dollar moms" market.

But, I do know that I spend a lot. And, I know that it is important to weild the power of that spending as much as I can to:

1. Support Black moms and dads and their businesses - buy from companies featured on Being Family Magazine's "Handpicked" list.

2. Spend consciously, understanding the companies you spend with. Make sure they are supporting something you believein with the billions we are putting in their pockets.

3. Let companies know when products or services are not up to par.

4. Find the best value and don't always assume quality is associted with price.

5. Spend wisely, forego another pair of shoes or another outfit fo your child to save toward bigger dreams - like that international trip for the family to Africa, Spain or wherever you somewhere else outside of this country.

6. Invest in your home when you can.

7. Become philanthropic. This doesn't take big money. Give $50 to an organization. Donate your nearly new stuff to a women's shelter or consign and assign that money to charity.

I challenge you to do the same. Evaluate your spending your money on? Change a few bad habits. You won't believe how a few small changes can impact the quality of your life. You'll feel better about spending. You'll be giving. You'll be getting the best value for your money. And ultimately, you'll have money to save.

Can I get a witness? Tell me what you think!