This article first appeared in Kidsburgh.org, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that focuses on making Pittsburgh a better place to raise kids.  

Muffy Mendoza started Brown Mamas nine years ago to share the support she needed when she was a young mother suffering from postpartum depression.

Now she wants so much more for Black women across America. Her organization of more than 5,000 women in Pittsburgh is poised to deliver results through new levels of interaction and a growing national presence.

“I see a lot of support groups in other states for Black moms, but rarely do I see this level of connection, where they help each other without prompting, creating a base for positivity,” says Mendoza, of Sheraden, mom to three boys ages 19, 12 and 11.

“The world expects so much from Black women, in general, regardless of whether we’re mothers or not,” she says. “Black moms have never had the opportunity to enjoy motherhood. It’s time for them to enjoy life, whether that’s taking your kids on vacation or enjoying a massage so you can engage in self-care and be a better mother.”

Mendoza’s husband, Mack, helped her to start Brown Mamas, providing essential feedback and encouraging her to follow through with the idea after she invited a few friends to their house to brainstorm. He provided funding for the first five years, but now, philanthropic foundations are offering financial support and other moms are helping her to maintain the Facebook page with more than 9,700 followers.

Women who have participated in the Brown Mama Monologues, which returns May 4. Photo by Leah Johns.

Mendoza still weighs in on the website content, produces podcasts, gives speeches and helps to plan events such as Brown Mama Monologues, set for May 4, when eight women will share their stories of trials and triumphs.

But she’s mainly busy strategizing to open Brown Mamas chapters in other cities and developing a new aspect to the Pittsburgh organization: the Grow Mama Grow hub. This database of affordable, online courses will help Black moms by teaching them to utilize technology and enabling them to share their expertise.

For the next six months, Brown Mamas will pay moms to add free community courses to the database, and they can earn a little income through a share of the fees. Their expertise might range from a mom with potty training expertise to someone who has successfully navigated the teenage years to a certified doula or wellness coach.

Muffy Mendoza. Photo by Leah Johns.

“It’s more difficult to be a Black mama or Brown mama because you’re not supposed to be a good mom when you’re a Black mom,” says Mendoza. “Society tells people we’re welfare queens. This is ultimately a growth opportunity. We’ve been so busy helping other people that we’ve not had the opportunity to help ourselves. … I think Brown Mamas inspires mothers, teaching them life lessons.”

Along with the online courses, there will be a mentoring program to help women reach their goals — whatever they may be. Ten women will participate in a pilot mentoring program that starts in July. Brown Mamas hopes to work with moms from the Hill District, North Side and West End initially, working women or those who are in school but have a goal and have met some obstacles, says Mendoza.

“Every week now, we do check-ins, asking moms, ‘What’s your goal for the week? Post it here,’ and they come back at the end of the week and say whether they met their goal,” she says. “Our community is extremely goal-oriented and they’re going to work their butts off to meet it.”

The Grow Mama Grow hub is a way for women to tap into and contribute to positive parenting resources, says Mendoza. Black mothers typically “aren’t getting connected with the resources available, or a lot of Black moms have had negative encounters with organizations in Pittsburgh,” she says. “We want to focus on helping a mom to make those resource connections and, once she connects, she can use those resources to help reach other goals.”

Not only can moms earn a commission from the courses they add to the database but they’ll learn that “there are other ways you can make money than just a 9-to-5 job,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. Technology is changing the way we can make money and creating an online course is really easy to do. This is a skill set they can use for anything they want to do in their lives.”