(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Arlington’s recent wave of activism now includes conflicts and changes at the nonprofit Mothers of North Arlington (MONA), including a discussion of expanding the group into South Arlington.
MONA is a nonprofit group for mothers and families across six ZIP codes, with more than 2,700 members. Since its inception, the group has promoted educational initiatives and events for both members and the general public to attend but has also seen its share of dissenters and critics.
In light of the national conversations around police brutality and systemic racism, one such critic is making the argument that MONA isn’t doing enough, starting with its exclusivity to North Arlington ZIP codes.
In early June, former MONA member Cynthia Smith posted to the group’s Facebook page about its silence on the topic of George Floyd’s murder, suggesting adding social justice organizations to MONA’s charity listings. The post was initially removed, though later restored, and Smith has since left MONA and called for the group to broaden its membership criteria to include South Arlington.
“Someone can’t just start a Mothers of South Arlington, it would take years by moms who are also likely working and raising kids,” Smith said in an email. “And the ‘separate but equal’ argument we all know is unsound. Route 50 has been a historic dividing line between whites and blacks, the haves and have-nots. MONA’s continued use of this dividing line is just a symbol of its desire to self-segregate.
(There is an existing group serving South Arlington: MOMS Club of Arlington – South.)
In defense of the group, Smith acknowledged how the MONA online forums can also be a valuable community resource, or a “bat signal,” for everything from school registration to tough, personal problems.
“There are so many different types of moms [in the group] but what is beautiful about MONA is that it acknowledges we all need help,” Smith said. “I think it owes it to itself and all of Arlington to come out of its bubble and welcome South Arlington moms into its fold.”
In response to Smith’s comments, MONA is making an effort to circulate ideas on how the group can facilitate actions to combat system racism.
On June 3, MONA President Mrinal Oberoi sent out an email to the group, writing:
In my previous President’s message, I failed to acknowledge the current racial injustice issues affecting our community. For that, I am sorry. Some of you may have taken that silence to be a message from MONA about where we stand. Let me be clear: MONA denounces racism and welcomes open discussions and sharing resources to raise our families in this light. Racism is an important, pervasive issue that deserves thoughtful, constructive discussion and action.
In her message, Oberoi, who herself is a person of color, asked for those who have felt unsafe or discriminated against in the group to reach out. In addition, she reminded the members of the forum posting guidelines and attached a link to a Google document to facilitate ideas of how the group can improve.
Some of the submissions in the document include:
- Forming a MONA working group for social/racial injustice
- Donating money to protesters’ bail funds and/or organizations working on racial justice issues
- Create MONA social/racial justice yard and window signs
- Host a town hall where MONA moms can share their own or listen to stories of racism and bias from other MONA moms
- Create a communications policy that does not delete problematic, inconsiderate or inconvenient comments, but rather, respond to them as MONA addressing them and close the comments as needed
According to the document, the idea of MONA expanding membership to South Arlington is in discussion and “will be spearheaded by the new board.” One challenge of doing so is that a larger group would be even harder for its volunteer administrators to manage.
“The MONA Executive Board has discussed geographic expansion,” Oberoi said in an email to ARLnow. “The MONA Board and volunteers are currently in a state of transition as the fiscal year ends at the end of the month and there will be a change of Board in the next two weeks. These proposals will be reviewed by the new Board, which will take over July 1, 2020.”
Local groups including Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) and the Alcova Heights Community Association were left scrambling last week after Yahoo announced it would be shuttering its still-widely-used online messaging tool, Yahoo! Groups.
“This listserv was very valuable to the neighborhood,” said Mark Wigfield, the moderator for the Barcroft School & Civic League chat list (Bsclchat). “People [used it to] chat back and forth about hiring plumbers and carpenters, local issues, crime reports, ‘curb alerts’ for stuff they’re putting out on the curb for the taking, and more.”
As of today, some affected Arlington groups are steadily figuring out how to transition their organizations out of Yahoo and onto other platforms. Alcova Heights, for example, has already converted to using Google Groups.
Over the weekend, MONA board members unanimously voted to move their forums over to the email platform groups.io. MONA had used Yahoo! Groups since 2001 and has over 2,300 members.
“After a rigorous testing of groups.io by a special testing group we set up, we are confident and comfortable in our choice of the new, enhanced platform and feel this will be a change for the better,” said MONA President Mrinal Oberoi.
In 2014, MONA’s then-president resigned amid a backlash over transitioning the organization away from Yahoo! Groups.
Yahoo announced last week its plans to shut down its forums, giving its hundreds of thousands of members until Monday, October 28 — the original announcement said it would happen on October 21, but that date was later changed — to use the service. Users will then have until December 14 to access archived messages. Email functionality will remain, for now, but without attachments, archives and other features.
“I’m a little reluctant to let our archives disappear into the ether — I think [the] Bsclchat has been around for at least 20 years, so that’s a lot of history,” said Wigfield.
Across Arlington, social and community groups utilize listservs like Yahoo! Groups as a way to communicate and encourage discussions with residents and members. The message board functionality allows discussions to take place without a deluge of emails to subscribers.
When Mrinal Oberoi first moved her family from London to Arlington in 2014, she struggled to find a way to settle into the community — and then she found MONA.
MONA, or Mothers of North Arlington, is a nonprofit group for mothers and families across six ZIP codes. First established in 2001 with less than 70 members, the group now has more than 2,200 member and is ready to prove those who think the group exists merely as an exclusive social club wrong.
Oberoi, who has since become president of MONA, says 75 percent of the group’s members have either part time or full-time jobs, and a growing number of fathers have also joined. Though MONA membership is geographically exclusive — applicants who live in South Arlington are gently informed that they cannot join — the group has been working on new initiatives and events that are free for all to attend.
“This year, we’re focusing on external partnerships with local organizations — to be able to expand our reach to the wider community,” said Oberoi.
This Saturday MONA is launching a series of free, family social events at Ballston Quarter mall.
“Ballston Quarter is such a kid-friendly place, and I think it’s important that this sense of community and belonging doesn’t have to stay within the context of the group, which is why we opened it to anyone who wanted to come,” said MONA vice president Amy Waldron.
Additional free public events include a new, ongoing partnership with The Sycamore School, where MONA will be hosting a series of workshops on topics like bullying. The first event will be held October 23-24, from 7-9 p.m. The film Finding Kind, about female bullying, will be shown followed by a discussion led by the school counselor.
Also on tap for this fall is the annual MONA Sip n’ Shop, held in November at the Knights of Columbus on Little Falls Road. Forty local vendors will offer their wares at the free event, while drink bracelets for an open beer and wine bar will be offered for $7.
“I cannot stress enough how much we encourage everyone from the county and beyond to come and enjoy our public events,” said Oberoi. “We decided to move socials to Ballston Quarter, so we are able to reach their community as well.”
MONA accepts members in the 22201, 22203, 22205, 22207, 22209 or 22213 ZIP codes. Membership is $30 per year plus a $20 initial registration fee. Members have access to an online listserv, marketplace, and special events, and there are several sub-groups including those for mothers with children in preschool, a business entrepreneurial network, and more.
“Our main source of income comes from this registration fee, and 100 percent of this goes back into events, both ones that are open for everyone and others that are for MONA members,” said Oberoi.
MONA works with additional mother support groups in the area, such as the MOMS Club of South Arlington. For mothers of children with special needs, MOMS Club of South Arlington and MONA work together across a county-wide network.
“We aim to be as inclusive as possible,” said Oberoi. “Personally, for me, this was a great way to get settled into the community.”
Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) will soon start hosting free, monthly social events for Arlington families in The Plaza at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd).
The local online moms group announced the new event series earlier this week. This month’s event will take place on Saturday, September 14 and will feature donuts from District Donuts and entertainment by children’s magician The Great Zucchini.
“Bring along your family and friends and enjoy a morning of mixing and mingling, while the kids are entertained,” says an event page.
The socials will take place every second Saturday of each month from 11-12 a.m. During cold or rainy weather, the event will be held inside on the second floor of the mall.
The event will be open to the public and families with young children are especially encouraged to attend, according a news release.
“With our monthly socials, we hope to enable families to get together, build connections and create long lasting friendships, while the kids are entertained,” said MONA president Mrinal Oberoi.
MONA is a non-profit support and social group for mothers in six Arlington ZIP codes (22201, 22203, 22205, 2207, 22209 or 22213), with over 2,200 members, according to the group’s website. Membership costs $30 per year, with a $20 initial registration fee.
Anyone from the area, no matter the zip code, can attend the monthly Ballston Quarter socials for free, the group said.
Middle School to Hold ‘Road Show’ — Thomas Jefferson Middle School Principal Keisha Boggan and administrators will be holding a neighborhood meet and greet this coming Tuesday. The “TJMS Road Show” will feature “hot dogs, drinks, music, and good conversation,” with four stops in the Barcroft, Westmont Gardens, Fillmore Gardens, and Oakland Park/Lyon Park areas. The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 8. [Arlington Public Schools]
Homeland Security Renews Ballston Lease — In a bit of good news for commercial real estate in Arlington, the Dept. of Homeland Security has renewed a 120,435 square foot lease on its office at Two Ballston Plaza (1110 N. Glebe Road). [CityBizList]
MONA Sponsors Backpacks — The group Mothers of North Arlington has sponsored 18 backpacks for children at the local shelter Doorways for Women and Families. “Many of MONA’s 2800 members donated items for 18 backpacks for children from age 1 to 18,” the group said in a press release. “The backpacks included all the usual school necessities (paper, pencils, glue, crayons, binders, lunch box, etc.); some also had scientific calculators, umbrellas, digital watches, and diapers for the youngest recipients. Each backpack was stocked with $75-100 in gift cards to Target for school clothes (nearly $1,600 in total).”
Arlington Man Killed in Fairfax County Crash — A 51-year-old Arlington man died yesterday afternoon in a crash in Fairfax County. Virginia State Police say Jerry Knight was riding a moped on an I-66 exit ramp when he was struck by a vehicle and killed. Police are seeking information on the striking vehicle and its driver. [Patch]
Photo courtesy @jbester
(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) The Mothers of North Arlington group is reverting to Yahoo! after a maligned platform shift last year, but the splinter group formed in the wake of the original change isn’t going anywhere.
Yesterday, MONA Co-Presidents Morgan Chinoy and M.K. Yeargin sent an email to their membership group announcing that the group would resume using two Yahoo! Groups for communication after switching to a system called MemberFuse last October. The co-presidents said that, in a poll of 900 of the group’s roughly 2,000 members, a majority voted to go back to Yahoo!.
“In light of the challenges over the past year, we look forward to a revitalized member community on the Yahoo groups,” the co-presidents said in an email to members, which ARLnow.com was forwarded. “Over 900 people voted in the poll, and the sheer number of responses, regardless of preference, is a testament to how important the message boards are to the MONA community.”
In response to last fall’s platform change, a separate Yahoo! Group formed: North Arlington Parents, or NAPping. MONA members disheartened by what they felt was a lack of consideration for the membership’s wishes splintered off, forming a free group — MONA costs $40 a year — with fewer restrictions.
NAPping isn’t going anywhere, its leaders told the group’s 766 members yesterday.
“The MONA board has repeatedly shown indifference to its members’ opinions,” NAPping moderators said in an email. “Therefore, we don’t see any reason to abandon NAP in favor of something that could once again be taken away without regard to the members’ objections.”
On March 5, MONA leaders sent out the poll to its membership, saying “notification outages” had led many of its members to “feel disconnected from MONA as a result.” An anonymous tipster told ARLnow.com that the outages were just one source of frustration — the new platform “was very difficult to read and scroll through, you had to click on each message if you wanted to read it, taking a lot of time.”
The NAPping group said it pledged to “continue to be free” and “will continue to use Yahoo Groups for discussions as long as that service continues to be available.” The splinter group doesn’t organize playgroups, host speakers or socials like dues-based MONA does.
Chinoy and Yeargin have not responded to requests for comment. After the jump, you can read the emails MONA and NAPping sent to their memberships yesterday.
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) The Mothers of North Arlington — a support and social group for mothers in six Arlington ZIP codes with more than 2,000 members — is now facing competition from a group of former members.
MONA’s members have congregated since 2009 on a Yahoo! Group that today has 2,353 members. According to a tipster, MONA is switching over to a new web platform tomorrow, and the switch has already prompted enough opposition that the former MONA president resigned in May, claiming some members were using “hate speech” and “cyber-bullying” over the impending change.
Yesterday, some of MONA’s members decided that, instead of asking MONA to keep its Yahoo! Group alive, they would start their own. NAPping — short for North Arlington Parents — launched on Monday as a free group for North Arlington parents. So far, Yahoo! reports it has just shy of 150 members. In May, MONA had 2,615 members.
While MONA charges $40 in annual membership dues and restricts membership to residents of the 22201, 22203, 22205, 22207, 22209 and 22213 ZIP codes, NAPping is a free group. It was started after parents who didn’t want MONA to shift away from the Yahoo! Group all put their names into a Google Doc to split off.
Asked about NAP’s formation, MONA leaders took the high road, saying they welcomed the competing group.
“One thing this transition has shown us is the wide variety of needs, interests and priorities in the community as people seek parenting support,” MONA co-presidents Morgan Chinoy and M.K. Yeargin said in a statement to ARLnow.com. “We think it is a positive thing for the North Arlington community to have more than one parenting support organization to allow people to find what best suits their needs, whether it’s some, all or none of them. We look forward to a positive relationship with North Arlington Parents as we all work toward our common goal of supporting parents in our community.”
Photo via MONA
Tammy Burke Stember sent out an email to the MONA Yahoo! Group on Sunday afternoon declaring that she was resigning as president, effective immediately, after five years at the helm.
MONA’s Yahoo! Group has 2,615 members, and is open only to residents of the zips codes 22201, 22203, 22205, 22207, 22209 and 22213 for $40 in annual dues. The group — designed to serve mothers with member-to-member advice and information on things like playgroups and kid-friendly events — is apparently switching web platforms, which has caused some dissension in its ranks.
“This new system will serve us well for many years to come,” Stember wrote in her email, which was obtained by ARLnow.com. “Change is always difficult and we know that some will not agree with the changes.”
But, Stember went on to say, disagreements over the functionality of the new system escalated well past the point of polite discourse.
“Despite the disagreements, I have always thought that MONA is a great organization that is made up of mothers who care about each other and the community,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the last few months have shown that is not true anymore. In all of my years serving in MONA, I have never seen so many members use inappropriate and hateful speech. Many of the MONA board members have been called names, and have been the victim of cyber-bullying. We teach our children to hopefully be productive, respectful members of society, but yet we as mothers do not do the same.”
A separate forum post asks MONA members to put their emails into a Google Doc in preparation for the MONA list-serve on Yahoo! being taken down.
“I sincerely hope that MONA will decide to keep the Yahoo Group alive,” the poster writes. “Nevertheless several of us have been discussing the situation offline and we’re concerned that in just a few days, for the first time in over 10 years, MONA members will no longer have the ability to communicate directly with the rest of the membership.”
“MONA is imploding,” suggested an anonymous tipster, in an email to ARLnow.com. “They botched [the] platform changeover.”
MONA’s co-president, Morgan Chinoy, declined to comment. The full text of Stember’s email, after the jump.