Black Maternal Health Week is a week of information sharing, panel discussions, and uplifting Black Birthing People usually falling on the second week of April each year. For about the last 5 years this week has grown into a larger scale event from one or two days to a full week of events. As a community, we should be able to support our Black Birthing people from conception to postpartum and beyond.
Unfortunately, capitalism, white supremacy, the medical-industrial complex, poverty, and racism just to name a few barriers are causing the large scale of disadvantages and poor birthing outcomes our community is facing. From the days of slavery when black bodies did not have the agency to birth the way, they wanted to, to the days of reconstruction where our doctors and midwives took care of us, to when they pushed us into integrated hospitals which caused our birthing people to face racism and medical biases that many faces to this day.
The Black Maternal Health outcomes are staggering.
- In 2020, Black women were most disproportionately affected with a mortality rate of 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 19.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, and 18.2 deaths r 100,000 live births for White and Hispanic women, respectively. (Source: CDC)
- Black women are 3 – 5 times more likely to have a maternal death than White women in the United States. (Source: AJMC)
We know that our medical systems were failing us before COVID. COVID just amplified the holes in the system. You will hear or see this week during Black Maternal Health week about the MOMNIBUS ACT. This Act was created to answer the systematic issues that our birthing people are facing. This is great start but as we know that our politicians will continue to fall short to meet the needs our communities face even if we can get most of this act passed.
Reproductive Justice should be a term and work you should become familiar with as a radicalized African. It is truly the major intersection and foundation of how we truly can imagine a free and radicalized society for our families. With safe and free housing, livable wages, healthcare, clean water, the right to radicalized education for ourselves and our children, as well as the right to have or not have children as well. These key components of our work and what we all think of when we think of our liberation from this capitalistic, white supremacist world we are currently living under.
- What is Reproductive Justice? In June of 1994, Black Radical Women and Femmes came together with other marginalized people of color to discuss the rights of marginalized women, and femmes were not being recognized in the larger women’s rights movement which was being led by white women. They understood and saw the many intersections that marginalized women and femmes were being left out of the social, political, and economic landscape of the movement and one for those of us in the margins need to be created. They coined the term Reproductive Justice which is the human right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction.
As a radicalized African that is also a Birthworker I wanted to amplify the need for us radicals to find a place in our fight for our liberation to not forget about our Black Birthing People. Look for Birthing Collectives in your community of Black Radical Doulas/Birthworker/Midwives that are doing the work.
Our community doulas, midwives, and laypeople are doing the heavy lifting in this work. We could use all of the amplifying and energy behind us to make sure that all Black Birthing people have the support during their pregnancy to be able to advocate for themselves to birth wherever they feel comfortable delivering. The work in the postpartum is really being left behind right now, our people deserve to have the support to parent the way they truly desire as soon as they get home. As a postpartum birthworker myself, our families need to understand that they deserve the support and that we are there to educate them, allow them to rest, and bridge them to the services they need.
Another way you can support our Black Birthing people is to demand that the Momnibus act is signed and go into full effect without begin tied to the Build Better Act. Check your state’s Medicaid program, and see if the provisions for postpartum coverage if have not made demands for our Black Birthing People to have this support through Medicaid expansion.
In your local community, make sure that local hospital systems are not keeping community doulas out. Across the country, hospital systems are trying to implement their own doula programs keeping our people from doulas with whom they have a personal connection to and not some random stranger they may meet for the first time during their labor.
This is an all-hands-on-deck matter for our communities liberation.