Randall Jones began calling New York City home in 2010. She moved halfway across the country, leaving most of her family behind to pursue a career that met her intersecting interests of communications and design. She didn’t come alone, though: several of her college friends were ready to call the big city home, too.
The next few years brought a lot of highs: Randall had found her career (interior design) and met her husband (commercial real estate sales broker Dwane Omar Jones) alongside her friends. But as the years passed, many of those same women would begin to move away.
With each “good bye,” Randall started to think more about what she wanted her New York-based community to look like.
“I’m in a different place in life and connect differently now,” she explains. “I’m more conscious of all the different facets that exist within me and try to connect with people who are also going through those experiences as well.”
The intention Randall put into sustaining her old friendships and building new ones paid off when she learned she was pregnant in 2021. By then she had built new friendships with relatively new moms who could answer her questions about pregnancy and parenting. Randall and Dwane welcomed their daughter Raine later that year on December 12, almost two weeks earlier than her due date of December 23. (“Everything is different now. Raine has brought so much joy,” the new mom gushes.)
“It’s not only that two of the people that I chose to be in my village, [fashion designer] Keturah [Drake Nunally] and [shoe designer] Salone [Monet], have kids,” Randall says. “It’s been such an amazing evolution of our friendship to move into this phase of my life and have people around me that have kids and can really support me in terms of their experience.”
Any NYC-based parent will tell you that knowing a parent who has already been through the unique challenges of having and raising a kid in the city is invaluable. Randall saw that first hand as she and Dwane prepared their one-bedroom apartment in Harlem for their baby’s arrival. Advice from Keturah helped them put things in perspective: “Whatever state your place is in, it will be perfect. All you need is your baby and your baby needs you.”
Surrounding themselves with friends who’ve been there and done that, and who can support them during this brand new chapter has made welcoming Raine even more special.
“I feel very blessed to have a village here in New York. I really think it’s certainly not a coincidence that we crossed paths and I’m really grateful for these relationships,” she says, then laughs. “It almost feels like divine intervention, to be honest.”
Interview edited for concision and clarity.
Dwane Omar Jones
He definitely is a founding village member. He’s been my rock, you know?
We’ve had to do a lot of prep—within ourselves, within our relationship—to wrap our minds around what becoming a parent means.
When I started showing pregnancy symptoms, Dwane took over a lot of stuff around the house really organically. He started cooking all of our meals, cleaning… He handled pretty much all of our grocery shopping—all the things that required heavy lifting, even down to accepting packages.
After Raine arrived, we started to get into the rhythm of Dwane taking her after work from 8 to midnight, so I could sleep. And that’s really nice because it gives me at least 2 to 3 hours of just me time; I’ve worked during that time, I’ve pumped or slept during that time.
Now that she’s been able to sleep in a swaddle, I might get four straight hours of me time, feed her when she wakes up, and then go back to sleep. I’m grateful to my husband for committing. It hasn’t been stressful. He wants to spend time with her. I just make sure to leave him enough milk and he’s fine.
I think having Dwane around has been the biggest support in terms of not feeling isolated during the pandemic, and my heart goes out to women who are doing this alone. It’s something I reflect on all the time. Having a partner really has made it a much smoother journey.
Brittney is one of my really good friends and was a bridesmaid in our wedding. She’s been a close friend of mine for like 15 years now. She’s definitely part of my village.
She’s been here with me in New York from day one. She and I met at Howard University. We graduated college the same year [and] we both moved to the city.
I respect her so much as a person and I’ve learned so much from her. She’s just a beautiful person, inside and out. I think she’s someone who is kind of always the same and it’s really such a special, genuine quality about her. I’m so grateful to have her in my life.
One of my friends Jennifer King, who I’ve known since high school, introduced me to her good friend Salone in 2018. Salone had a little 2 year old when we met and she’s become one of my absolute closest friends.
[Salone is] just the most refreshing person to be around—she’s so open and honest. She was probably one of the people that I met more recently in New York that I feel like I’ve known for so much longer. She’s also from the Midwest, from Wisconsin. I think that there’s some kind of kinship that we discovered, too, some kind of Midwest connection.
And as someone who owns a business, she‘s very inspiring to me in terms of balancing business and family. I see her both as a mentor and as a friend, to be honest.
I’ve learned a lot about parenting from her. I’ve watched her son grow up and I’ve also watched her navigate raising her Black son. I love the way she interacts with him. She’s probably the one person who I’ve seen close up raising a child in New York—and she’s shared so much with me about what that’s like. It never seems like a huge stress on her. She takes everything in stride and I really respect the close relationship she has with her son.
As soon as Salone found out I was pregnant, she was able to confirm a lot of the questions I had. Women all experience different pain during pregnancy, so it was reassuring to know what she went through this and I could get through this as well. It made me not feel alone.
Keturah Drake Nunally
I met Keturah through my husband in 2014. Dwane had known her for close to 10 years. She was in the young adult group at our church when Dwane and I first started dating. We started hanging out [with] Keturah and her husband. Then in 2017, she and I started hanging on the side.
She just had a baby as well. Her baby is 6 months old. With Keturah, I had been able to get to know her before either of us had kids. It’s been really special for us to experience motherhood together. We’ve kind of been going through things at the same time, which has been so interesting.
Keturah’s given me so much advice—from what to put on my baby shower list, to tips for newborns, tips for breastfeeding—all these different things that might have been overwhelming without her help.
We weren’t able to put Raine down in her bassinet for a while, so Dwane and I were kind of taking shifts, watching her overnight. Keturah came and taught us how to swaddle her properly. Ever since then she’s been sleeping in her bassinet for at least a few hours at a time. We feel so much better knowing that she’s safe and knowing that we’re not going to accidentally fall asleep and hurt her or something. This has been just one of the many gems Keturah has shared that has truly made transitioning into motherhood a bit easier on me.
left to right: Roberta Jones, Randall, Dwane, and his mom Margaret French; Randall and her dad Dr. Forrest Jones
Roberta and Dr. Forrest Jones (Randall’s parents)
My mom and I have talked pretty much every day since I left for college. My mom had cancer when I was in college, and the experience gave me a much deeper appreciation for our relationship. She provides that motherly spirit and reinforcement. She’s given me so much advice. She was really able to prepare me mentally.
If I need support, I know I can talk to her. I feel so grateful to have had her stay with us for 10 days when Raine was born. We spent two days in the hospital learning how to breastfeed and all that. My mom flew in to stay with us that same day. Dwane, Raine, and I got back from the hospital and were only home for like an hour when my mom got here.
Her support really helped me get through the first two weeks of breastfeeding which, for me, were the hardest. She made sure I had enough to eat and that I didn’t put too much pressure on myself. She knew exactly what I needed as a new mom.
My dad has always been there for me growing up and he’s still there for me now. He’s super attentive and extremely patient. It’s been really special seeing him bond with my niece and my nephews, so I know it’s going to be the same thing with Raine. I’m so excited to see Raine experience so much love through my parents.
Margaret French and Dwane’s Side of the Family
My mother-in-law is a beautiful person. We have a little group chat with her, Dwane, and I so I talk to her a lot. She has this wonderful bond with Raine and it’s so beautiful to see.
She came to stay with us after my mom went back home for 10 days. So we had a whole month of support from both of our mothers and that was pretty amazing. When his mom came, it coincided with me finally being able to use my breast pump. Dwane and his mom were able to work together to figure out which bottle Raine liked. During her stay, we started to get into the rhythm of Dwane taking Raine after work from 8 to midnight so I could sleep.
It’s been a blessing to have my husband’s side of the family super involved in our lives, too. They’ve all been so supportive and check in on us constantly. It’s so great knowing we have this extended village. (His family is from Jamaica [and] a lot of them live in the U.K. as well).
Sonia and Emmanuel Atsegbua
My cousin Sonia recently got married and moved here two months ago. Sonia and I grew up together, but this is our first time living in the same city since college.
Right now, we’re both living in Harlem; she lives a five-minute drive away. Sonia’s the person you can call any time and she’ll show up. She’s just one of those people; she uplifts the energy in the space that she’s in. I feel blessed to have her so close in New York.
Julian Jones (Randall’s brother and Raine’s godfather)
Julian Jones is a huge inspiration in my life. He inspired my love for art as a kid and has always been an encouraging presence in my life. He’s always been a huge support whenever I need advice and he’s always just one call or flight away.
Julian and my dad were able to fly to meet us and my mom when Raine was only about a week old so we all got to share Raine’s first Christmas together. It meant so much to have him share that special time with us and spend that time with her.
Brandon and Charlotte Jones (Randall’s brother and sister-in-law)
Brandon and Charlotte are so supportive.
They recently moved to Maryland from California and I’m so glad that we can spend more time together now that we are all on the East Coast. I am looking forward to our kids growing up as cousins. My two nephews and niece (who is also my goddaughter) are always excited to see Raine when we FaceTime. They love to say “Baby Raine!” when they see her. It’s so sweet. We’re making a road trip next month to visit them.
Danielle Ghess (Raine’s Godmother)
Danielle’s one of the sweetest, most caring people I know. She’s got this magnetic energy and her smile literally lights up a room.
She’s like the sister I never had: We met at the age of 3 in preschool and she’s been my best friend ever since. We were pretty much inseparable until we went off to college. Luckily she moved to New York after we graduated from college; it was great to have her with me to share so many memories during my time in NYC. It was bittersweet when she moved back to Chicago, but we try to see each other as often as we can. She was my maid of honor and she’s Raine’s godmother. It was so beautiful to see her and Raine smile and cuddle when she first visited Raine. It’s so special to have a friend in your life who’s literally experienced everything with you.
Courtney and I met in college at Howard University, and she was my Matron of Honor at my wedding. Courtney lives in Houston now; we haven’t lived in the same city since college, but at every major milestone, she’s always there. We live so far apart now, but I love how we still share so much of our day-to-day with one another over text.
She always gives amazing advice—her tips on nesting and breastfeeding that have really helped me on my breastfeeding journey. Courtney has shared some key advice as she’s recently had a daughter. I’m looking forward to our daughters meeting later this year.
She also has a son and I remember meeting him for the first time. It was so inspiring to see her leaning into the complexities of motherhood. She continues to show me that you can still continue to pursue your dreams and be a great mother all at the same time.
Jennifer helped plan my baby shower alongside my mom. She has been one of my closest friends since high school—we had a ton of classes together and got so close by the time we graduated. Jennifer has been a consistent presence in my life—we always laugh together. Her laugh is so contagious!
She left the East Coast and is back in Chicago, but she comes to New York often so we still get to catch up. Jennifer and Danielle actually just came to see Raine this past weekend. They brought the sweetest gifts for her, and we took tons of photos!
I met Kira during my freshman year at Howard and we got super close during our sophomore year when we were in the same dorm. She’s from Philly and always invited me to go back home with her to hang with her family, especially during the holidays. Most of my family was back in Chicago, and some of my favorite memories from back then are of being with her family. They really welcomed me in.
I have so many memories of us driving together to Philly, and hanging around D.C. Kira is one of the most generous and thoughtful people I know—she’s always there at the drop of a hat!
Nneka and I met during our junior year at Howard. Nneka and I became very close in college and we both moved to NYC after we graduated. We spent so much time together bonding over music and art, and as we’ve gotten older, I’ve admired Nneka’s warm spirit and energy.
Nneka is one of my favorite people, she’s so unique and has inspired so much of who I am today. I really appreciate how she wears her heart on her sleeve. I’ve always loved her honesty and her love for her family. She lives in Seattle now but I‘m always over the moon when we have an opportunity to catch up.
Thank you for introducing us to your village, Randall! Check out this link to see as more moms share their village with us in partnership with buybuyBABY.