“Rest is resistance.”
“Rest is always necessary in a revolution.”
“Reclaiming our rest is reclaiming our power.”
In harmony with this year’s theme, Jamaa Birth Village, a non-profit Maternal Health organization in Ferguson, Mo., has collectively curated the “Black Breastfeeding Luxury” gift box which contains care items for Black breastfeeding people that help care for their entire selves. The self-care items are sourced from Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) creators.
“For some low-income or under-resourced individuals, we often skimp on how we care for ourselves,” Jamaa Birth Village Founding/Executive Director and Missouri’s first Black CPM Brittany “Tru” Kellman, CPM begins. “We want to enrich the lives of people.”
Jamaa Birth Village started in October 2016 out of Kellman’s living room. Then last year, on Juneteenth she and her colleagues launched Jamaa Birth Village’s Equal Access Midwifery Clinic during the pandemic. In one year, the clinic obtained:
- 97% Vaginal Birth Rate
- 99% Full-Term Birth Rate
- 100% Breastfeeding rate at Discharge
- 0% Maternal-Infant Mortality Rate
- 353 Clients Served
- 536 Care Hours in Clinic
- $12k+ in donated lab services for underinsured and uninsured clients
- 253 Herbal Apothecary Donations
- 75 Full Spectrum Sliding Scale Doula Care Services
- 89 Free Mental Health Care appointments
- 82 Graduates of Tru’s Community Doula Training
“It’s been absolutely beautiful yet challenging,” Kellman says.
Surely numbers aren’t the only measure of success; it is the birth village in its entirety that demonstrates what is possible. BIPOC are challenged by life-threatening realities, but this narrative does not need to be the overarching theme, Kellman says.
“As we shed light on the difficulties, we must make sure that the solutions and the possibilities are readily accessible and tangible for people,” she says. “Having a beautiful birth experience is possible. We want to make sure that the challenges aren’t so daunting, that we don’t plant these seeds of hopeless, traumatic experiences. It’s really crucial that we shift our narrative. In America, Black people, we have our own solutions and they are viable and we are carrying those out right now and seeing a shift in our community.”
For instance, in the normal OB model of care in the U.S., postpartum care is seriously lacking, but Jamaa Birth Village has stepped into that void.
“With our Family Support Program, we step outside of the medical parameters,” Kellman explains. “Having a baby changes every single aspect of your life– family income, how you see yourself, how you eat, romantic aspects, absolutely everything.”
So Kellman and her team offer postpartum care that extends two years from birth, not just the typical six week follow-up.
“Someone is going to walk alongside them and help them actualize their goals and help ensure that their family is thriving,” Kellman adds.
Supporting those in their infant feeding experiences is Jamaa Birth Village Breastfeeding Coordinator Eboni Hooper-Boateng, CD, CLC who recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC).
“I really enjoyed the course. I learned so much– who even knew there was this much to learn?!” Hooper-Boateng exclaims. “The other thing is I really enjoyed the process of unlearning.”
Hooper-Boateng says she was glad to see that the course was intentional about including images that show bodies with different skin tones.
Continuing to highlight the importance of diversity, Hooper-Boateng points out the need to not only diversify the field of lactation, but to also diversify the entities that provide the training in order to better provide culturally competent care.
Hooper-Boateng and Kellman both express their excitement over the Missouri Department of Health Services providing scholarships to the LCTC, and Jamaa Birth Village adding four more CLCs to their team this year.
Because Black Midwives make up three percent of the entire U.S. midwifery population, they’re excited to welcome more BIPOC midwives to their team too.
“Black student Midwives have to train under white Midwives who oppress and discriminate against them, while they have to serve a majority white population with no pay,” this Jamaa Facebook post explains. “This produces unjust trauma and early burnout for the new Midwife… We’re here to disrupt the system and welcome a new Black Midwife to our team to nurture her, grow with her, support her in flourishing and assist her in learning how to provide for-us-by-us care in a sacred and safe space.”
With their solution-based strategy and momentum, Jamaa Birth Village has received a lot of local and national media attention.
“It’s really important for the Black population to see a community provider uplifted in news media coverage,” Kellman says.
She explains that there is a myth within BIPOC communities that unless a provider is white and belongs to a prestigious institute, that the care is somehow subpar. She says she and her colleagues are working to reverse the need for oppressive systems to validate BIPOC care providers.
“In the meantime, we’re trying to get a lot accomplished,” she says.
Find ways to connect with Jamaa Birth Village here including Hooper-Boateng’s BBW virtual roundtable discussion August 25 from 12 to 1pm CST. Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYuceqrqD8qHN3OhKufmkBkeOaTrGQjrCaE?ltclid=50cb3875-5739-4722-a584-75fb0581e022. .
For those interested in supporting community care providers, there are many avenues to do so. Jamaa Birth Village’s donation page offers several ways to donate and options to tailor donations to specific causes. Find those options here.