Black Mamahood Is Expansive: Why I Founded xHood

Image: Mia Cooley, a Black woman with red hair smiles sweetly at her kid while holding her hand. She and her child wear matching white xHood shirts and Mia's nails are long and pink.

Black Mamahood is Expansive

Mia Cooley is a community builder and parenting coach. She specializes in supporting Black and/or queer families through all of those special and at times frustrating moments on the journey to and through babies. When she’s not connecting families with resources that help them build and nurture children, she’s a published writer and fellow Black woman working in technology.

Mia Cooley

It’s about time that Black mamahood and Black mamas, like the founders of the reproductive justice movement, are celebrated.

While the human right to not have a child, to have a child, to parent our children in a safe and healthy environment, and to maintain personal bodily autonomy are the four tenets of reproductive justice, as Black mamas we do not get to experience these all at the same time. Which is why I am excited to share with you all these four 2023 Mamas Day art pieces that not only reflect these four tenets, but also honor the expansiveness and beauty of Black mamas reclaiming their space.

For too long, Black birthing people weren’t able to give birth and nurture our families on our own terms. Even now, we struggle to do so safely. As a community that has birthed a nation, birthed a culture, and birthed this very movement, we deserve to take up space in systems that have not served us. We deserve the opportunity to build anew when they refuse to reform. We deserve the main stage and to make it about us. We are saying that enough is enough.

The Black foremothers of the reproductive justice movement rooted this work in community, care, and connection. Similarly, in my work as the founder of xHood, a community for Black queer people to build and nurture healthy families and parent happy children, I strive to continue to embody those three c’s as well.

I was led to create xHood because I knew that families both in the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities have a long history of being what outsiders might call non-traditional. We’ve formed in the way that we do because we had to call on the resources around us, and that hasn’t always been immediate or even biological family. Limiting the family structure to those boundaries has never served us.

Together, we can rewrite these narrow definitions of Mamahood and reject the harmful idea that only some people deserve to parent.

So when I call myself  a “community builder”, it is because I understand the power in the many – the privilege of village and support and I wanted to be able to give that to all of my xHood members.

Just as Black mamas need to reclaim our space in the RJ movement – our queer and trans and nonbinary parents need to as well. We are not simply forgotten or overlooked or just not prioritized – people are actively fighting against our ability to live an affirmed life.

They are fighting against our family structures, and anything that seeks to protect our validity as capable parents raising happy humans. They are telling us we are stretching the boundaries of God and science for building families in the ways we must, in the ways that non-queer folx do all the time.

Those who consider themselves allies can make sure they’re actively pushing against this harmful rhetoric, change their language and be intentional about learning from Black queer birth and family workers — and they can give us an invitation to the table.

I look forward to working collaboratively with Forward Together as they center and uplift Black mamas, with the understanding that Black mamas are expansive. We are queer, trans and nonbinary. Black mamas are aunties, big sisters, cousins and matriarchs of the community. We are not a monolith and exist in various forms of beauty, strength and resilience.

Forward Together was one of the first supporters of our xHood’s Black Parent PRIDE Summit. They showed up, asked deep and engaging questions, and provided beautiful artwork for our attendees to take home with them. These types of partnerships are just one of the ways to ensure that Black queer parents and prospective parents are receiving the community and support they deserve in family building.

I always say that uplifting the most marginalized of a population improves the experiences of all but – honestly when everyone else’s experiences begin to improve somehow we as Black mamas get left out of the conversations that we began. It’s unfortunate, and it’s why I stand firm in xHood’s mission to serve Black LGBTQ+ parents.

Today, I am fighting with Forward Together for a future where all Black mamas – especially queer, trans, non-binary mamas – are centered in our movement spaces and given the credit we are owed!

Mia Cooley with her family.

Today, I am fighting with Forward Together for a future where all Black mamas – especially queer, trans, non-binary mamas – are centered in our movement spaces and given the credit we are owed!

Together, we can rewrite these narrow definitions of mamahood and reject the harmful idea that only some people deserve to parent.  We know that Reproductive Justice is not just a “women’s issue” and that LGBTQ mamas need access to reproductive healthcare as well. The voices and experiences of Black mamas must be honored during Mamas Day and beyond.

Let’s make sure we are loud and clear that until Black mamas are liberated, none of us are.