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Tuesday
Apr102018

Help raise awareness about Black maternal mortality!

Black Maternal Health Week starts tomorrow
 
Black women in the United States have among the highest rates of maternal mortality in the developed world.  Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than are white women. This week, we are joining the Black Mamas Matter Alliance in a campaign to raise awareness about this crisis and help support the development of solutions through community-driven policy advocacy and health systems change.

There are many ways that you can get involved! Join the Black Mamas Matter Alliance on social media with the official hastags #BMHW2018 #BlackMaternalHealthWeek. See their social media toolkit here.
 
Today (Tuesday) at 3PM EST there will be a pre-launch tweet chat with leading reproductive justice organizations to advocate for maternal rights and birth justice for Black women.
 
There will also be several information webinars that will amplify the issues:
  • Wednesday, April 11th at 12PM EST: Black Maternal Health Week launch webinar. Register here.
  • Thursday, April 12th at 12PM EST: "Best Practices in Black Mama Care Work” webinar. Register here.
  • Monday, April 16th at 12PM EST: BMHW Webinar highlighting African Immigrant women's advocacy in maternity care. Register here.
If you live in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, or Texas you can also go here to find local events in your area where you can get involved. The week will wrap up on Tuesday, April 17th at 3PM EST with the BMHW finale tweet chat. 
 
Feminist Women’s Health Center, RWV’s regional coordinator in Atlanta,  will be tabling with the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for Black Women’s Wellness and other Black woman-led organizations, maternal justice advocates, and birth workers for a Film Screening and Community Discussion: Raising Awareness to Advance Black Maternal Health, Rights, and Justice on Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 6pm at the Auburn Avenue Research Library (101 Auburn Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30303). There will be a community conversation and advocacy connection as they showcase Death By Delivery, a documentary about the staggering rate of maternal mortality for black women.
 
FWHC is also partnering with SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!, the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the State Innovation Exchange to develop a multi-year proactive policy strategy, grounded in the reproductive justice framework, to demonstrate the connections between the harms inflicted on women by abortion restrictions and  the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers, and the high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in Georgia.
 
Racial disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity persist among women of all income and educational levels.  Many Black women report chronic stress associated with the constant discrimination and obstacles they have faced because of being both Black and a woman in America. Studies have shown that Black college-educated mothers are more likely to suffer severe complications of pregnancy or childbirth than white women with less than a full high school education.
 
Even highly-paid celebrities and athletes with good health insurance can be affected. Tennis star Serena Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism that nearly killed her a day after giving birth last September. She told a Vogue magazine interviewer that she had to fight to get the emergency care she needed from health providers who doubted what she was telling them about her symptoms, including shortness of breath. Williams said she persisted because she knew that she had a history of such embolisms.
 
“Racism is creating these inequities,” explained Dr. Joia Crear-Perry, an obstetrician-gynecologist who is a member of the steering committee of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Community Catalyst board member.  Speaking at the New York Maternal Mortality Summit, she said that “When you see inequities in health, don’t think about individuals. Think about systems, because systems create inequities.”  She is founder of the National Birth Equity Collaborative.
 
The Black Mamas Matter Alliance grew out of a collaboration between the Center for Reproductive Rights and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. The Alliance is now led by a steering committee that includes Kwajelyn Jackson of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, RWV’s regional coordinator in Atlanta.
 
Another of Raising Women’s Voices’ regional coordinators -- The Afiya Center in Dallas, TX -- is active in the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. The Afiya Center joined allies to successfully advocate for intensive review of all maternal deaths in Texas by a state board. “It’s systemic,” Afiya Center Executive Director Marsha Jones said of the maternal mortality crisis at last month’s Time to Show up for Black Women summit, according to KUT Austin. “It’s not going to be fixed black woman to black women or black man to black man. It’s not going to be fixed that way. We have to literally deconstruct the system that’s been put up.”
 
The Afiya Center recently released a call to action in order to accurately represent how Black women in Texas are affected during pregnancy. They are gathering stories from Texas women who have been pregnant and had any health issues during their pregnancy. Some of the health issues include preeclampsia, fibroids, preterm birth, heart disease, mental illness, postpartum hemorrhaging, and a host of others. Speaking at the Time to Show up for Black Women Summit, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry encouraged other local communities in Texas to mobilize around these issues. “You have motivated individuals and motivated systems here who want to see improvement and want to see work happen,” she said to the Austin audience. “So it’s now just building on that momentum and getting it going,” KUT Austin reported. For more information on the Afiya Center’s work in Texas, please email info@theafiyacenter.org.
 
What can be done to help address this health disparity? The Black Mamas Matter Alliance has prioritized driving research, advocacy, clinical improvements, empowerment of Black women, and cultural change: “We envision a world where Black mamas have the rights, respect and resources to thrive before, during and after pregnancy.”
 
Let’s support the Black Mamas Matter Alliance in bringing national attention to this pervasive health crisis so that more mamas can get the care they need to make it home safely with their babies!

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