Theresa McCarthy takes a moment to smile for the camera during a previous Mothering Justice Mamas March. The city of Southfield recently recognized the group’s efforts advocating for the health of mothers of color.

Theresa McCarthy takes a moment to smile for the camera during a previous Mothering Justice Mamas March. The city of Southfield recently recognized the group’s efforts advocating for the health of mothers of color.

Photo provided by Elaishia Outley


Southfield recognizes Black Maternal Health Week

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published April 10, 2019

 Mothering Justice Deputy Director and Policy Lead Eboni Taylor sports Mothering Justice merch during the march.

Mothering Justice Deputy Director and Policy Lead Eboni Taylor sports Mothering Justice merch during the march.

Photo provided by Elaishia Outley

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SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield recently dedicated a week in April to focus on the health of black mothers and their children.

At the March 18 City Council meeting, Mayor Ken Siver and Councilman Dan Brightwell presented members of Mothering Justice with a proclamation declaring April 10-17 as Black Maternal Health Week in the city.

Brightwell said that earlier this year, he was approached by the Ferndale-based Mothering Justice group, which wished to present the council with information on the organization.

Mothering Justice, according to its website, is a nonprofit organization that focuses on public policy and advocacy around issues that impact mothers of color.

“We do a lot of work getting moms of color involved in their community, and we take what they tell us about their community and we take it up to Lansing and talk to policymakers and lawmakers and say, ‘This is what the community tells us,’” Mothering Justice Director Nkenge Burkhead said. “It’s important — it’s what mamas are telling us they need.”

Mothering Justice Deputy Director Eboni Taylor explained the group’s Mamma’s Agenda, which contains the basic principles and policies the group focuses on.

Taylor said the Mamma’s Agenda focuses on affordable child care, family medical leave, safety net issues, earned paid sick time, and the health and wellness of women of color and their children.

“Through our earned pay sick time campaign, over the course of six months we knocked on 4,500 doors in Southfield,” Taylor said. “And that’s why we’re here, because you’re a partner in our work.”

Burkhead said Black Maternal Health Week will hopefully shine a light on the injustices that mothers of color experience.

“One of the things that kept sticking out, and we couldn’t just ignore it anymore, was that black mamas and black babies were dying at twice the rate of white mamas and white babies,” Burkhead said. “And black babies were twice as unlikely to make it to the first birthday.”

During the proclamation, Siver said that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers. In addition, black women in the U.S. suffer from life-threatening pregnancy conditions twice as often as white women.

“The U.S. maternal mortality rates are the highest in the developed world and are increasing rapidly,” Siver said. “The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among affluent countries because of the disproportionate death rate of black mothers.”

A major factor in these statistics, Burkhead said, is that black women’s pain is not taken seriously.

“We realized that one of the leading causes or contributors is that people don’t listen to black women, and that when black women are in labor, their pain is not taken seriously or we’re assumed to be physically stronger and able to sustain more pain, so we’re not given the correct medicine.”

Burkhead said medical professionals need to listen to women’s instincts.

“We’re not trusted when we say something is wrong with our body and something doesn’t feel right,” she said. “The studies are now showing this is a specific, targeted race issue against black moms.”

The council commended Taylor and Burkhead for the group’s work.

“I recently had a grandchild, and it acquainted me with the joy of having little people around, and the need for those little people to have mothers and have justice around them as they grow up,” Brightwell said.

The group will host several events April 11-17, from a panel discussion to a movie screening.

More information on Mothering Justice and the week’s events can be found at motheringjustice.org.

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