Mocha Moms, Inc., a national non-profit organization for stay at home mothers of color, its National Board and members from across the country were invited to the White House. YES, we were officially invited! The Moms Briefing was a rare opportunity for our members to converse with Obama Administration Cabinet Members and Senior White House Executives about issues that are critical to us as moms. We discussed issues of health care, physical fitness, healthy food choices for children, education, and environmental protection.
Our Moms Briefing was moderated by Heather Foster, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement. She along with Dru Ealons, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were the masterminds behind this entire process. We were joined by special guests who were excited about our presence and shared great information with us. Highlights of their topics are below:
Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady and Executive Council for Women and Girls – First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with Dr. Jill Biden in supporting military families. Military spouses in nursing, mortgage and law professions are required to go through the licensing process each time they are relocated. Now 11 states have changed their policies to allow reciprocity or shortened processes for licensing.
Jocelyn Frye, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director or Policy and Special Projects to the First Lady – First Lady Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign is her passion in battling childhood obesity. Our First Lady selected this campaign from life experience as a mother, and the potential long-term impact of diseases as a result of poor diet. Check out our First Lady dancing with school children during her campaign tour “Move Your Body.”
Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor Valarie Jarrett – Mr. Strautmanis stopped in to encourage us to not feel left behind in our decisions to make raising our children a priority. He was filled with emotion as he shared that he was raised with a stay-at-home mother who was always available to him.
Jon Carson, Director, White House Office of Public Engagement – Mr. Carson was extremely excited about our visit and looked forward to our National Board joining him for our Twitter Party from the West Wing after the Briefing.
Kevin Lewis, Director, White House African-American Media – Mr. Lewis was instrumental in ensuring our event went off without a hitch. He advised us on White House policies and media during the planning stages, and moderated a portion of our Q & A Session.
Dr. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, Department of Health and Human Services – Dr. Nadine spoke as a Pediatrician about eliminating health disparities in minority communities. She shared that minorities have higher rates of HIV, cancer, diabetes, and infant mortality; citing that minority babies die at higher rates in the first year of life.
Cecilia Munoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council – $850 million is being added to the “Race to the Top” program to ensure education reform and teacher accountability to ensure kids are moving forward. Pell grants are larger to make college affordable, teachers are being trained, peer reviews are being created for teachers and principals. There is also a shift in not just using test scores to measure educational success.
Stephanie Owens, Deputy Associate Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency – Substance Registry Services (SRS) is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) central system for information about substances that are tracked or regulated by EPA or other sources. Consumers can go to the link to find the ingredients of every day household products that could be toxic for your families. Check it out here: Substance Search.
Tyra Mariani, Deputy Chief of Staff, Department of Education – 46 states adopted college and career readiness standards in homeschooling and traditional education. School improvement grants are being used in low performing schools, in addition to creating more learning enrichment programs to focus on K-12 and beyond.
Karyn Parsons,, Actress from The Fresh Prince of Belair and Founder of Sweet Blackberry. Karyn’s non-profit is dedicated to using the power of the media to teach, by bringing to life little known stories of African-American achievement that inspire and empower young children.
If you follow Mocha Moms, Inc., you know that we are a friend to the Environmental Protection Agency on issues like Clean Air and the Mercury and Air Toxins Rule that was passed just this January 2012. Administrator Lisa P. Jackson of the EPA wrapped up our Briefing with an interview with our National President, Kuae Mattox. Instead of focusing on environmental issues, Administrator Jackson shared her life as a parent of 2 teenage sons, health issues she’s helped battle with one of her asthmatic sons, and work/life balance.
After the Moms Briefing, our National Board entered the WEST WING of the White House to join the Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Jon Carson for a Twitter Party. Can you imagine? Mocha Moms tweeting from the WHITE HOUSE!
We were quickly informed upon entry that pictures were not allowed as the halls were adorned with intimate photos of the Obama family and their personal moments and travels. It was explained that little elves show up at night to change the photos regularly to display fresh and new experiences of the Obama family.
As the Mocha Moms National Director of Social Media, I had the fun task of tweeting all of our Mocha questions, and working with Jon Carson and his staff to keep the Twitter Party rolling well past the one hour we had initially planned. The staff were even gracious enough to bend the rules a bit and allowed us to take photos in Mr. Carson’s office and just below the presidential seal (pictured above).
The icing on the cake was to have my mother with me. I flew her in for her birthday so she could enjoy all of the White House festivities with us. My husband and girls were able to enjoy the White House Black History Tour with us the next day. As most moms do, I used this time as a teachable moment in which both our girls created reports and made presentations to their classes. They really enjoyed sharing their experience.
I was featured on Fox News DC along with our National President. Click here to view the INTERVIEW.
In early February, President Obama issued a Proclamation paying tribute to African-American Women in History. Mochas who attended the Moms Briefing received a signed copy of the Proclamation and a copy of the President’s Agenda and the African-American Community. What an honor!
This historic event is one that we will talk about and remember for years to come. Read about my invitation to a Press Event with President Obama just a few days later.
Have you visited the White House? If not, is a trip on your bucket list?