Reflecting on the Black Birthing Experience on Martin Luther King Jr Day.

The third Monday of every January is recognized across the nation as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a day to remember the life of Dr. King, his accomplishments, and the actions that still need to occur to ensure racial equality. For many of us, this is an opportunity to reflect on the needs of unserved and underrepresented communities, and – more than rhetoric – what must be done to address those needs.

For Upstream, the health of Black mothers is closely tied to our mission. This time last year we submitted testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to discuss the role birth control plays in maternal mortality. In our testimony, we highlighted how people of color, especially Black women, have suffered from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Black women are more than 3 times as likely to die of pregnancy-related issues than white women, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. It’s time for us to have conversations and take action to ensure that women are able to create families safely.

This is why it is important for us to partner with YWCA on their virtual event, Black Birthing Matters. The panel discussion features Shavette Campbell, MPH (Project Manager, CDC & Certified Doula), Maya Hart, MA (North Carolina Coordinator, SisterSong & Certified Doula), and Tomeka Isaac, MBA (Founder & Executive Director, Jace’s Journey).

Jamila Green
Jamila Green

The panel will be moderated by Jamila Green, YWCA Central Carolinas’ Community Engagement Manager who manages the organization’s racial justice and advocacy work. Jamila shares more with us about the importance of this event:

This event takes place three days after MLK Jr. Day. What is something that you’re reflecting on during this time?

When reflecting on the racial justice and advocacy work that Dr. King led, it is fitting that this event is being held this week. Dr. King once said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  So as long as Black women and babies are fighting for their lives in birthing spaces, we need to have these conversations. We also need to charge those in government to support policies that will ensure that everyone is safe while giving birth.

YWCA has hosted several events geared towards improving health outcomes for people of color. Why is it important to talk about these issues?

Our mission focuses on eliminating racism and empowering women, so it is imperative that we create programs that connect racism and health outcomes and uplift stories about our community’s fight for better care. Looking at the history of people of color’s (more specifically women’s) relationship with the healthcare system, it is troubling to say the least and speaks to the need for events that advocate for those who are often marginalized.

What can we expect to learn from the panel discussion on January 20th?

This panel is filled with dynamic advocates and activists for Black maternal health and reproductive justice. You can anticipate a healthy conversation on the history of reproductive justice, current legislation that addresses gaps in coverage and support for birthing people, and candid conversation about what’s really happening in birthing spaces. I think it will be an educational resource for people who are unaware of how this issue is impacting so many Black birthing people. I also hope it will encourage more people to educate themselves on these issues and want to do more. I cannot wait to engage with our community!

We look forward to this discussion and hope that you will join us. Register here for the event.

Conversations like these are vital to spur greater action. There is no one who understood or embodied this more than Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown, a former Upstream Board member, to whom we pay tribute by sponsoring this event.

As a mother, grandmother, physician, minister, and an advocate for the health and well-being of the world, I can envision the benefits that will come from empowering the women of North Carolina to make safe and effective choices about their reproductive health. Together, we will have the opportunity to witness history first-hand; to see wheels of change, to enforce the freedom of choice, to witness each definition of success, to feel the energy of love and to show patients that caregivers truly do care. (1943-2021)

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