With birds chirping and a light spring breeze blowing through the morning air in the Santa Clarita Valley, mothers came together to raise their voices in a display of pride in black womanhood without concern of being diminished.
Dressed in bright floral prints and fancy hats, the nonprofit group Coco Moms had its members gather at the Tea Elle C Garden to discuss mental health and well-being.
Sipping tea and eating finger foods, Evonne Biggs along with the other Coco Moms members listened to licensed mental health professional Staci Daniels-Sommers MSW, LCSW, as she expressed the importance of psychological safety.
“There’s an assumption that because we are living in a fairly affluent community, everyone is doing perfectly fine,” said Biggs.
“We’re finding that there are some people who are trying to stay fine, but they’re neglecting other things,” she said.
Other things like addressing issues of food insecurity, family issues, and feelings of isolation.
With the African American population in Santa Clarita at 4.4%, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, many are left feeling hidden and isolated.
“I have been living out here for over 10 years now and I rarely see women that look like me, so when I found the group, I was overjoyed,” said Krystal Hill, a Coco Moms Member.
The goal of the grassroots organization is to create a community where black women that live in the SCV can feel supported, heard and seen.
Starting in January 2021, the aftermath of the civil uprising surrounding the murder of George Floyd caused founding members Keivonna Dover, Kei Kei Lee, Evonne Biggs, and Tawona Davis Marshall to see the same issues causing national unrest existed locally and wanted to make a change.
“We notice that there was a lot of repressed frustration with families and that needs were going unmet,” said Biggs.”You would think that living in a community such as this with a lot of resources has equitable access, and we’re finding that it wasn’t always the case.”
As a parent to children in the Sulfur Springs School District, Biggs saw children of color falling behind and noticed that the district was not providing the necessary support.
So, the small group of women started crowd-fund tutoring services to help those who couldn’t afford them.
A year passed and now the fledgling group has 250 members strong and stewarding 14 volunteers.
They all provide access to resources and address insecurities that have had an effect on the community.
They have also provided backpacks and other school supplies, including a Chromebook, to needy students and also
Their work in the community has not gone unnoticed.
This group was the winner of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce Rising Star award at the 99th annual event held last March.
With all of this quick success, the Coco Moms organization says they feel the future is bright.
“We want to do more to help the moms and the children that live in this area by being supportive to them,” said Marshall, director of Philanthropy and Marketing for Coco Moms.
“We are not going anywhere as we plan to keep growing stronger and stronger.”