Until Racism Ends… We Will Need a Black Midwives Conference

It’s July 2012 and in three months, the membership and supporters of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) will descend upon Miami for our 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference.  The last time we had such a conference we were in Long Beach CA in 2010.  During that conference a question came up on the face book page of Mothering Magazine. A reader wanted to know why black midwives and doulas have their own conference??!! Weren’t we all in the same business and shouldn’t we all be working together she wanted to know.

I was quite annoyed with her question/comment and wrote this blog post about it…

Today as I re-visited that blog post and the notion of US having OUR own conference I re-affirm that a conference for, by and about black women, black babies, and black birth workers remains a necessity and Until racism ends… we will need a Black Midwives Conference.

The history of black women giving birth in this country is filled with stories involving physical and emotional pain.  For centuries birth for black women in this country was often unsupported, forced, lonely and void of compassion. Even more disturbing is the fact that black women today continue to give birth within an obstetrical system that disrespects, judges, and demeans them.

Research has shown that racism both, inside and outside of the medical establishment has a clear negative affect on the birth outcomes of black families.  This is a reality made plain and easy to see in the PBS Documentary:  Unnatural Causes.  Today, while national data shows a decline in overall infant and maternal mortality rates, the black white disparity gap not only persists; it continues to widen.  For black women, who are often maneuvering a system filled with racism, assumptions and in some cases sheer contempt, quality compassionate care can be difficult if not impossible to find.  The current system is not set up to create better birth outcomes in black communities.

While the climate for black women giving birth is bad, those of us who seek to make changes in that system are fighting battles of our own.  As we try to build bridges to make maternity care safe for all women we are up against a racist machine that attempts to block us from caring for our sisters that we are committed to caring for.  As women’s health care practitioners, as doulas, as midwifes, and lactation consultants, as outreach workers, mentors, and birth advocates, we face a racism that is often discussed quietly if ever at all.  But if you ask just about any black midwife, she will be able to share with you stories of racism that came up during her training or continue to come up in her professional practice. From the “professional” organizations, to the educational institutions, whether it’s the CPMs or the CNMs, racism exists on all levels.  These realities were recently highlighted during a series of blogs, notices, emails and public discussions that took place when the leadership of the MANA Midwives of Color Committee resigned from their leadership positions. Blody Show wrote a great post  about it:  Institutioal Racism White Privledge and MANA.

When racism is brought up in a conversation people get nervous.  Many want to pretend it doesn’t exist yet the actions and non-actions of many continue to prove that it does and continues to be a serious problem.  Until racism ends, we will need a black midwives conference.  This reality was highlighted by my sista friend Darcel of the Mahogany Way Birth Café when she asked “When Will You Care?.”  Sista Denene Millner wrote a telling piece where she gave us some direct examples of the racist treatment she received Birthing While Black in a New York hospital.  Yes, racism is alive and well and its killing Black women and babies.  Still don’t believe it. Check out the 2010 and 2011 reports from the Amnesty Internationals Deadly Delivery Series. The list goes on but I will stop here as I affirm AGAIN… Until Racis Ends… We will need a Black Midwives Conference AND I am happy to say we are having one and I challenge you… if you care about making a real difference in maternity outcomes… if you care about REALLY helping eliminate perinatal disparities YOU should make plans to be there.  YOU should make plans to join us in Miami. Shafia Monroe, President and CEO of ICTC said it perfectly:

This is an important year for Black midwives to be in solidarity worldwide, to end systemic racism in the midwifery profession that creates barriers for Black women to serve their community in order to end maternal and infant mortality that is disgracefully too high, and yet is preventable. This is a health inequity in the public health lens and it is a human rights issue, because it burdens the quality of life for Black families. ICTC needs your presence Oct. 19-21, 2012 at the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference to create a social and birth justice agenda. Along with learning and healing on the beach, there are several social justice plenaries for us to address this issue. We want everyone to attend. This is a call to action to ensure that our stories are told, honored and included in midwifery history, so that our daughters and sons will see our faces and our historical contributions to this beautiful profession of midwifery. ICTC wants to see all midwifery institutions make a measurable effort to increase the numbers of Black midwives and midwives of color worldwide and particularly in the USA. We can return power to birth when we use our power to end the discriminatory practices that we know exist within the midwifery institutions.

So with that being said… I challenge you to join me…  All of you… Black, White, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Purple, Green…. Join me in Miami… October 19-21 for the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference:  Returning Power to Birth – Reclaiming Our Culture.  Early bird registration ends this month. REGISTER NOW  Don’t delay.  Our mothers, our sisters, our friends, our babies, our children… they are depending on us.  I’m going to Miami in October. Who’s commin with??

Can’t make it to Miami, join the cause through your donation.  Purchase an ad to support the work of ICTC here. Become a paid member. Send a donation. We need all hands on deck.   Our work continues.    #FistUp

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5 responses to “Until Racism Ends… We Will Need a Black Midwives Conference

  1. Thank you for your work SistaMidwife. Fistup!

  2. vanburenproject

    Thank you. I admit I responded without carefully considering the links, like I should have. I am blown away and frankly dumbfounded at these disparities (i must have been living in la-la land? !) I am sad that I proved your point by my comment, but I am glad that I have taken the time to begin educate myselfself on this issue.

    • Thank you for reading and for taking the time to click a few of the links and get further educated. This is a problem ALL of us must fix. Alone not one of us can do it. Share the links and the information. Dont push back from the difficult conversation. And most importantly now that you know… what are you goin to do to be a part of the solution?

  3. vanburenproject

    I have 2 honest hearted questions…
    1) do you think pregnant/birthing black women are not getting the support they need because the percent of unwed mothers is so high (over 70%?) so that results in judgment and their abandonment?
    2) Do you think a Black midwives conference divides and therefor perpetuates racism?
    Thank you for taking the time to respond
    Rachel

    • Greetings Rachel,
      The first thing that popped into my mind when I read is your questions is a question… “Did you read the post or visit any of the links I provided?” Honestly, I believe the answers to your questions are right there. I will provide you with some more detailed answers to your questions and I REALLY encourage you to read the links I provided. Pay special attention to Unnatural Causes and Deadly Delivery.
      Answer 1.
      This may have been a relevant point/question if we were discussing the results of familial support, or relationship status. We are not discussing either. IDK where you get the 70% number from but please know that “un-wed” says little about relationship status as I know MANY individuals who are in committed monogamous relationships both hetero and homo sexual yet they would be considered “un-wed.” That means nothing. We are speaking about racism here and in some ways you make my point. If indeed Black women are treated differently because of her relationship status or the ASSUMPTION of her relationship status is that not racist. Are unwed white women treated poorly? Furthermore, as I made note in the post, mistreatment based on race has been documented REGARDLESS of marital, socioeconomic, educational status etc. Its real. At some point we have to stop trying to make the reason other than what it is… RACE. It’s not a fun thing to talk about and many want to ignore the realities of it… on the conscious and subconscious minds of many RACE affects the way people in this society are treated and it affects birth outcomes.

      Answer 2.
      The simple answer… No. And again I wonder if you read any of the links I provided. Please take a moment to do so… specifically the one from the 2012 conference. The ICTC Conference is not divisive nor does is perpetuate racism. It is a place where individuals can come and put some real thought and WORK toward SOLUTIONS for the perinatal disparities disproportionately affecting black and brown women.

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