According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 2-3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts. Despite this alarming disparity, not much is being done on a national level to remedy the underlying issues that are causing Black women to die at these disturbing rates. This is why we observe Black Maternal Health Week, which is spearheaded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. But how exactly should one go about observing Black Maternal Health Week? We caught up with doula and Mama Glow founder, Latham Thomas, to find out.
MN: People often hear about Black Maternal Health Week, but don’t completely understand what this means. Can you break down the purpose of this weeklong observance?
Latham: Black Maternal Health Week is a week that runs from April 11 through April 17 where we focus on and highlight the disparities and the issues that show up in the Black maternal health crisis. It’s imperative that we amass and create a coordinated response to address what we see as an increase in maternal deaths. The United States is the only country in the developed world that has an increase in maternal deaths. It’s been on the incline with Black women for the past 25 years. For it to not be an outrage that people are out in the streets protesting about like we see other movements building. We talk about Black life, but how come we’re not talking about it at birth? How come we’re not talking about the forces that are working on us before we’re even born? Black Maternal Health Week is centralizing and lifting up self-determination, our ancestral traditions, what we’ve been able to keep as part of our cultural and historic legacies at birth and to learn about the areas of disparity. It’s where we work to be solution-oriented and movement-oriented to address the issue. We talk about what’s horrifying about the present state that we’re in, but we also celebrate and lean into joy and into our capacity and the brilliance of Black women.
MN: As Black women, how should we go about observing Black Maternal Health Week?
Latham: Great question: The Black Mamas Matter Alliance has an entire sort of week and program and calendar that is dedicated to uplifting this week, centering the issues, and the stories of people who are at the helm of the work. So one way is aligning with the resources that are out there and examining what the critical touchpoints are. What can I tweet? What can I host? All of those things are low lift. But then also, what can I do in terms of providing assistance to the movement? What are my skill sets? Think about coming in from your lens of expertise. If you’re really good with social, maybe help organizations that are Black-led and in this movement. Help to organize their voices in this campaign. Can you mobilize your community and fundraise? Seek to learn more about these issues and then rally your community. We already do that in our communities. If someone has a funeral, a baby, an issue, we all swoop in. Black folks cover other Black folks, so just learning into our inherent skills and community and figuring out how to mobilize. Check out the Black Mamas Matter Alliance website and Instagram.
MN: And you also have a major announcement coming up during Black Maternal Health Week.
Latham: We, at Mama Glow, are really excited to announce a partnership with the Mama Glow Foundation and Carol’s Daughter. This is a partnership called Love Delivered. Love Delivered is our way of coming together, two Black founders, Lisa Price and myself. I had incredible birth support. My son was born in a birthing center. I had access to incredible care through midwives, but I have to say that’s not always everyone’s experience. While I want that to be normalized, that’s not always the case. Lisa had a very different birthing experience with all three of her children and we’ve talked about the importance for her, of having that doula postpartum, being able to successfully breastfeed, and how at the time, it wasn’t really in the popular culture. So what we decided to do in this partnership is to create a grant for families who are seeking doula support but cannot afford it. If you are a Black family and you need support, you’ll be able to apply and the doulas who are Mama Glow-trained will be deployed to whatever state or city that you’re in and it will be funded through this program, Love Delivered.