Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year (And A Year In Review) From The LjB!

I just wanted to write a quick post and greet everyone for the New Year!

As I've been reflecting on the past 365 days, I'm pretty amazed at all of the things that have gone on around here. 2012 was intense. It brought about new excitement, insight and revelations for me. For starters, even though I initially believed that becoming a Certified Lactation Consultant would be the way I would advocate and challenge social inequity through breastfeeding support, my vision became much clearer and I realized that is not part of the plan that is laid out for me, since I realized my heart is not in consulting and believe my effectiveness in working towards social justice will be farther and wider reaching on a different avenue. I became a member of two new breastfeeding coalitions this year -- BCW and ROSE (Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere), as well as a midwifery organization, where I trained as a Full Circle Doula to decrease the high rate of maternal-infant mortality among Black women. I also joined an anti-racism breastfeeding committee organized by the BCW, as well as attended two nurse-ins -- one at Target and the other at Applebee's -- because I give a sh*t. At a national breastfeeding summit in Atlanta, Georgia, focused on finding ways to increase initiation and duration rates among Black women, I spoke about looking beyond these normalized breastfeeding protagonists but take a critical look at the unique and complex history of Black women in this country --and engage more community members who are interested in challenging socio-political inequity, structural violence and cultural insularity -- and redefine Black breastfeeding support. I helped build a national database dedicated to increasing the ability of business owners to cater to women who express milk on the job, received a Certified Lactation Educator certificate right before my birthday, opened an online Zazzle store I refer to as the 'Anti Breast Is Best Shop', and created items dedicated to raising awareness around structural and systematic oppression in breastfeeding, and moving away from idealism. From the shop's profits, for the first time made a donation in the name of this blog to an organization that caters to low-income pregnant women. I attended my very first breastfeeding legislation meeting at Seattle City Hall, and stemming from that it is now illegal in the city for businesses to ask women to cover up while nursing, I continue to help plan a Big, Bad Breastfeeding Summit addressing racism, white privilege and power that will be happening in June, helped spread the word about the politics of breastfeeding in the Black community on two different occasions on the Queen Ifama Show -- the first earlier this year and the second just recently. I was selected to speak at the Breastfeeding and Feminism Symposia this coming Spring in North Carolina, where I will, of course spread the word about breastfeeding and Black Feminism. Surprisingly and thankfully, I finally discovered that indeed Black Lactation Consultants actually DO exist in Washington State, published my 100th blog post, but in the meantime pissed off a whole lot of people by writing 'against the grain' and was, for a minute, banned from facebook for it. DAN-GER-OUS! *wink*. Even still, the number of people who subscribed to the LjB doubled in 2012 from 2011. Finally, with family and friends, I celebrated my great nephew's first birthday, my third year of being smoke-free happened in July and I set the wheels in motion towards greater endeavors in education.

I can't say there were not times -- often -- that I didn't want to throw in the towel. I feel as if I get so entrenched in what I do that it seems to overtake me. Recently, someone told me "you can't take the weight of the world on your shoulders." But even though I've had those moments where I wanted to quit every other day or more frequently because there are so many challenges, there was always something that kept me going. I usually recognize this as my promise to my foremothers, foresisters and others who came before me. For those who were met with hostility and even death for attempting to speak out, for being caught learning how to read or for various other ways we too often take for granted. When I learned about the history of Black women in this country, I promised I wouldn't remain silent -- that I would give my best to voice these women and shine a light on their lives and work towards challenging injustice. I would repay them. The universe chose this recompense be through breastfeeding support. Within this area, I can examine the inextricable link to areas, of racism, sexism, health and wellness, dominance, culture, class elitism, family structure and countless others, through a historical and contemporary framework, and on a local and larger context. And with anthropology, add an additional and extremely rare dimension to Black breastfeeding support.

I remain here because of those from long ago -- who, without the simple act of survival, I would not be here today. I do so for those who stand next to me now and cannot speak, and in solidarity with those who do, and I help set the stage for those who will one day take my place. None of this possible without the support and encouragement from others who just know and understand. For me, the strike of a new year does not mean I start over. I only continue, and I'm excited about what lies ahead. Have a happy, safe, prosperous, healthy and glorious 2013. And thank you for being a part of this journey.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Benefits of Breastfeeding w/Queen Ifama and Sister Acquanda

I was on the Queen Ifama show this past Sunday on Blog Talk Radio. The 'Truth Terrorist' invited me to be a guest to talk about breastfeeding, and introduce an initiative to support Black Feminism in breastfeeding.

I had such a wonderful time talking about something I'm so passionate about. I love offering insights and ways to get more people joining in and explaining why we need to be proactive in breastfeeding support, and hearing their suggestions as well.

I was a bit nervous in the beginning (hence why I dorkishly explained my username), and when I was asked about being a doula, totally didn't explain exactly what the significance of doulas are for Black women and why we need them. Gah!


After I listened to the show, there were some things that I felt may not have come across as clear as I would have liked, or that may be interpreted incorrectly.

Here are a few things I'd like to clear up: 
  1. Breastfeeding is not a 'fix-all' button! I believe breastfeeding can and does help avert illness, infant mortality as well as offer many other benefits even on a local and global level, but I am unsure if I came across as suggesting if we just breastfeed then all health and social ills associated with a lack of tradition will simply disappear. I have not, do not, nor will I ever subscribe to this. Even though I agree with Queen Ifama -- that we will be healthier as a society overall, there are far too many issues that we, as a collective people, must work on. 
  2. When I talk about the 'Strong Black Woman' in this context, it is not a suggestion that I believe Black women are superhumans. Instead, one of the most dehumanizing results of racism and sexism is this myth that has been sustained for generations. Black women have been made to seem as if she can handle the weight of the world -- without flinching -- and with a smile, while silently suffering in her mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. 'Strong Black Women' are dying. When I reference this figure, it is because I believe this is one of the many forms of oppression situated at the center of low breastfeeding rates. 
  3. "We must all work at dismantling the stigmas to bring the one that is responsible for lowered breastfeeding rates to the top." Correction: They are interlocking. We must eradicate them all.
Overall, I think it went really well -- I didn't leave crying this time around. I was invited  back anytime, which is good because there's definitely a whole lot more I'd like to talk about. I was also told I could even put a panel together for the show -- and that's insanely tempting. Who's down?

I'm on in the second hour, at the 63 minute mark, and for about one hour through the end of the show discuss Black Feminism in theory, praxis and politics of Black breastfeeding. I'd love to know your insights or what you think about the topics at hand. 

Disclaimer: Queen Ifama cusses, just in case you're sensitive to profanity. 

Listen to internet radio with Queen Ifama Da Rebel on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, December 21, 2012

Guest Post: Baby Health Care-Essential Skin Care Tips for Your Newborn

A baby will make you love stronger, your home happier, and the future worth living for. A new born baby creates a cheerful environment in the home. They possess sensitive and delicate skin. For the parents, it is important to understand that skin care is compulsory for the new born baby for their health and growth. Keep your babies well nourished. Until ten to fifteen weeks after their birth the production of melanin is at a lower rate in their body. This makes their skin sensitive to external ventures. A newborn baby is born with a special protective cover known as vernix. This cover will peel off in the first week.

Chemicals, and dyes in baby products like detergents, cloths and others are the main reasons for rashes, skin allergies, and dryness. Hence you should care about the products that are used on your baby's skin. Before taking the baby in your hands, wash your hand properly with hand wash. Regularly massage your baby’s body. For this purpose make use of organic and natural oils. Here are the various tips for new born baby skin care.

The first thing you have to do is avoid the use of baby products. You have to strictly say 'no' to baby products for a few months if your family has suffered from skin problems. The baby’s immune system takes sufficient time to develop, and most of the baby products have chemicals and fragrances. Since the immune system of a baby is not fully developed these chemicals may cause allergies and rashes. Wash baby clothes separately.

After bathing her, use a fresh, soft and clean cloth. Maintain separate towels and cloths for baby, and keep her well moisturised by applying moisturiser. Change diapers frequently to protect her from diaper rashes. Trim finger nails of the baby to protect her from scratches on her face and eyes. To trim the nails, make use of a baby nail file. If you find rashes on your baby’s skin it is better to check with another brand of diaper before going to consult a doctor. Don’t use baby products which are alcohol based, as they cause skin irritations.

A sponge bath is preferable for babies, as they do not get dirty frequently. For this, clean just the diaper area with a little cleanser or water. The best idea is to use popular brands. Because all we know that health is the real wealth, it will not be a bad idea to spend for health. Even if these products cost a little more the use of these products is preferable.

About The Author:
Maria Benson, a professional blogger, is interested in finance and politics and she has been writing articles on several such categories. Her hobbies include painting and reading, during free time. Her interests are researching financial products and services and writing reviews on them. She is working on ppi claims and she is looking forward to posting a few articles on it. Catch her @mariabenson10.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Breastfeeding Security vs. Breastfeeding Sovereignty plus #DoulaProgression (Video)

I can't explain how thankful I am for coming across the video below. It allows me to explain more in detail about what I mean when I say that breastfeeding is not just breastfeeding. It also is another way to view why Breast Is Best just won't work, and if we want to truly increase our level of participation and promote liberation and self-empowerment, we must get to a point where we explore other areas that are at the center of lowered rates.

Megan Carney, who appears in the video, is a professor of anthropology at the University of Washington. She focuses on the political economy/ecology of food, on critical race and other social theories. I found this video where she explained Food Security vs. Food Sovereignty, telling us that the vast difference between the two lie in accessibility, production and power. Food security, she explains, though people may have enough, have adequate access and it is made safe and affordable, this type of structure remains infused with governmental policy, political control, and is weighted in favor of authoritative figures. Food security does not take into account the differences in the way people view and acquire food -- through a culturally specific lens, but its purpose is to fill bellies. Food sovereignty on the other hand, is concerned with working towards recognizing members of various groups and the community as a site of empowerment, agency and mobilization. Food Sovereignty is organized by the people, and takes into account that the one-size fits all approach does not work. It recognizes the varied practices and social and cultural lenses are necessary and work more at producing the uniqueness and specificity of a particular group.

How is this connected to breastfeeding?

I think this parallels the lot of breastfeeding advocacy I see. Most, if not all messages around the topic are largely concerned with the practical aspects of infant feeding -- getting a baby to suck. I feel what is too often overlooked is the idea that deeply woven into the tradition are ways at examining how people practice and how attitudes are shaped around this custom. A recent article in American Anthropologists underscored that 'Breastfeeding involves much more than feeding; it entails intimate social interactions that reflect cultural ideas and practices about social relationships, childcare, and child development,' and that 'many other ethnographers have suggested that breastfeeding should be viewed not only as a health-relevant activity but also as a sociocultural activity.' I talked about something along the same lines earlier this year at the ROSE Breastfeeding Summit, and encouraged the audience that in addition to advocating the tradition to Black women in the community, to take a more critical and holistic look at what lies at the center of lowered rates -- especially cultural insularity, apathy and others, and recognize the need for more engagement from all people.

In the same context of security, and even though most disagreed with me about not looking to celebrity icons for breastfeeding support, I felt very strongly about this when the world all but praised Beyonce's public nursing. I know that to many people, it was seen as a significant achievement for Black women and especially, as some said, to 'Black lactation activists'. The social networking sites blew up with tweets and posts about this 'monumental moment in history'. Those looking for a Black diva-esque-type role model -- a non-crunchy sistah, believed this representation would fuel a breastfeeding revolution in our community. I understand it's a sensitive area for so many working to save the lives of Black women and children, which is why I have and will continue to approach this area with sensitivity. I'm happy to know Beyonce breastfed whenever and for whatever amount of time, but in my mind, not only did it I feel that leaning towards this type of representation only contributes to the hierarchy and reproduces the cycle of domination in a society concerned with constructing protagonists just to advance a system based on greed and self-interest, but the sentiments around Black women's breastfeeding just wouldn't last. What happens when the novelty wears off, or her popularity declines, just as starters? This is also seen, I believe, with many other entities that do not take into account the varied cultural languages or the lens of the people. It remains top down. The issues are, of course, much larger, and go much, much deeper, but this is an example of how we remain fixated on power structures instead of engaging our local groups to find out exactly what breastfeeding means to them. What does breastfeeding mean to different groups in language, culture, custom, religion and various other ways of trying to understand. A one-size-fit-all approach is detrimental.

Empowering people to understand the need for more community and cultural involvement, and work at the foundation of issues within and outside of breastfeeding towards a real social change, is what will move us in a direction where our efforts will transcend generations. We must make a true, concerted effort at dismantling issues of power, challenging cultural insularity, inequity many others, in order to progress and move forward. And get to know somebody! Understanding others and working together to confront systems of domination needs to be the goal of all advocates, lactation specialist and anyone interested true social equality. Everything else, in my mind, is not a marker of transformation and liberation, but is just a game of follow the leader.

Watch the video, and then share your thoughts.

Fotus, Hillary, et. al. 2012. "A Biocultural Approach to Breastfeeding Interactions in Central Africa." American Anthropologist. (114):(123-136).


Ya, so I don't really know how to cook well and all, but obtaining a food handler's permit is still a requirement so I got one. I had no idea where to go at first, until my friend told me I can get one online. I visited the Washington State Department of Health, and enrolled in the short course which largely consisted of watching animated slides on how to safely handle food in order to avert bacterial contamination, followed by taking a 32 question quiz and paying the 10 dollar fee. The card lasts for two years. I also got a new book -- In The Way of Our Grandmothers: A Cultural view of Twentieth-Century Midwifery in Florida, which I'm reading now and plan on reviewing as well as submitting as a report, and I'll it check off when complete.

Young, Gifted And Black: My joy of today (Video)

The other night someone tweeted a line from 'Young, Gifted And Black' that sent a rush of inspiration through me, and seemed to replace the discouragement I had been feeling lately. I was having one of those 'I'm done!' moments. Too much injustice and opposition. And too much apathy.

I think this song came through right when I needed it. It reminded me that just the same as Nina Simone used her voice as a weapon to sing against the deeply embedded racism and anti-Black sentiments in this country, this happens with anyone who is working towards equity and who has garnered a level of consciousness and refuses to remain silent. It may not seem like much right now, but I hope this post serves as at least some level of encouragement to all of you activists, advocates and whistleblowers who work to actualize justice and truth, and that when you feel discouraged and wonder if you are indeed making a difference or want to give up, that you recognize you are making a difference! If this were not so, then you wouldn't face so much opposition. Take joy in knowing you are powerful -- moreso than you realize, I'm sure. Thanks to Nina for this one. And to my Twitter pal, for sharing.

Young, Gifted and Black. Oh, what a lovely, precious dream. 
To be Young, Gifted and Black. Open your heart to what I mean.  
In the whole world you know, there's a million boys and girls who are Young, Gifted and Black 
and that's a fact. 

You are Young, Gifted and Black. We must begin to tell our young.
There's a world waiting for you. Yours is the quest that's just begun.

When you're feeling real low there's a great truth that you should know
When you're Young, Gifted and Black your soul's in tact.

To be Young, Gifted and Black. Oh, how I've longed to know the truth.
There are times when I look back and I am haunted by my youth. 
But my joy of today is that we can all be proud to say to be Young, Gifted and Black is where it's at. 
Is where it's at. 
Is where it's at.

What brought you to breastfeeding or birth interest, advocacy and activism?

It's fascinating hearing folks' stories on how they came to breastfeeding and birth advocacy, justice and activism. Or how they became interested in it. The majority of people I come across are women who seem to share the sentiment that after having their child(ren) fell in love with motherhood so much they wanted to extend a special type of care. Others just love babies. And some say they came on board once learning about maternal-infant mortality.

One of the more amazing stories I've heard is from someone who was called by her ancestors. She told me that through spiritual communication they guided her on a path to advocate for babies, and she later found out these ancestors were lay midwives. She said she wasn't interested in this type of work before, but has since developed a passion for it and is now finishing a degree in maternal-child health. I know for myself the universe summoned me. I literally heard the word 'breastfeeding' whispered in my soul one day. From that point I found myself thinking about it day and night, and it became almost an obsession. I thought it was the strangest thing in the world since I had no kids, have never breastfed and didn't see this changing. I remember I kept wondering 'Why am I thinking about breastfeeding?', since besides sporadically asking and even persuading some women I've known to nurse their babies when I found out they were pregnant or once they'd given birth, that was the extent of my advocacy. It would never have dawned on me in a zillion (or more) years I would be crusading to this extent. Or that I'd be obsessed with the politics and even construct my own theory around Black women's traditions.

Since I've begun this 'lactation journey', not only have I been able to see clearly why I'm here, but I can see an evolution that's taking place. I just became a doula, and am looking forward to exploring the depth of birth and breastfeeding, and the links of oppression and liberation that are embedded in these customs. Whether this will be my path for the next 5, 10, 20 or 30 years only time will tell. But for now I've fallen in love with what I do. But that's my story. What brought you to this realm? Or, what brought you to the point that you're on a blog dedicated to increasing breastfeeding rates among Black women? I'd love to know. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Documentary Review :: DADS AND BREASTFEEDING: The Official Guide For New Fathers

DADS AND BREASTFEEDING: THE OFFICIAL GUIDE FOR NEW FATHERS is a short documentary created by Quashier S. Flood-Strouble, who appears in the video and can be seen in the screenshot below, is a breastfeeding peer counselor, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), mother of three breastfed children and by her brother, Mu-Tor Flood, PhD student in Psychology. The siblings created the film in order to raise awareness around the importance of breastfeeding and to highlight the significant role fathers can and should play in supporting their breastfeeding partners. This documentary relays the message that "Dads should support breastfeeding because it is the safest, easiest, cheapest, and most natural thing for the family." It is the "Only DVD on breastfeeding from the male perspective."

The 28 minute educational video narrated by a male, provides interview-style presentation with practical insight from nearly one dozen dads. These fathers, sharing their knowledge on the tradition, discussed the long-term benefits of breastfeeding, immunity building, maternal-infant bonding, economic benefits vs. purchasing infant formula, SIDS reduction, weight loss, skin to skin, positioning, latch and others. Healthcare professionals such as a Certified Lactation Consultant, Certified Lactation counselor, Clinical Psychologist, and Registered Nurse also provide clinical information, further underscoring the significance of mother's milk.

Another theme is relationship and bonding between dad and baby. Even though fathers do not breastfeed children, the narrator emphasizes that their role is part of a successful nursing experiences and their bond with the baby is just as important. He offers a few ideas on ways to initiate this. Fathers can, for example, recognize infant hunger cues, as well as read to babies in order to stimulate brain development. They can also ensure they hold the baby in order for the baby to learn to recognize facial structures at an early age, and speak to him or her. Some dads suggested some of their methods are singing, skin to skin, or other soothing techniques such as rocking.

DADS AND BREASTFEEDING is useful for those who are unaware or unsure of their role in supporting women who nurse. It provides a no-nonsense way to understand basic information about the benefits of breastfeeding and how male figures can help out.

I was really excited about receiving this documentary. The only other video that I know of that really has ever added a father's input is one I saw at the ROSE Breastfeeding Summit earlier this year; the presenter discussed the necessity to move from a breastfeeding dyad to a breastfeeding triad. This is the same message in DADS AND BREASTFEEDING.

For me, I believe there is space in the tradition for far more support besides those in the tight-knit circle, but I think this video is a starting point that allows us to see that others must focus on the importance of breastfeeding. I'm happy to see that infant feeding and nourishment among other benefits, in education and support, is shifting away from being the sole responsibility of the woman and that the scope in building encouragement is being widened. I'm happy to add DADS AND BREASTFEEDING to my collection of educational resources.

Writer(s): Mu-Tor Flood, Quashier S. Flood-Strouble 
Production Company: MQF Productions, LLC
Year: 2012
High Definition DVD: 69.99
Run Time: 28 Minutes
Language Format: English/Spanish
Genre: Education
ISBN: N/A (© 2012)

Thank you, MQF Productions (@MaliykaisHealth), for providing a copy of DADS AND BREASTFEEDING: The Official Guide For New Fathers, for this review. 

Note: All opinions are my own and honest, and I am not compensated by the producer. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I LOVE BEING A DOULA (Deep down in my soul): A Reflection on ICTC's Full Circle Doula Birth Companion Training

 © 2012 ICTC Training Handbook 
I'm a doula! Well, until I complete all of the requirements outlined in the program to become certified I'm just a provisional doula. But I'm still a doula. Over the weekend I completed the ICTC (International Center for Traditional Childbearing) Full Circle Doula Training, in Portland, OR, and not only was I introduced to important and practical methods for caring for pregnant and birthing women, but I feel I experienced a transformation in the way I think about participating and how I will apply my knowledge.

The founder of ICTC, Shafia Monroe, has been a midwife and healer for over 30 years. Her interesting story started out when she was a child and cared for sick animals in the neighborhood. Later, after learning about the high rate of maternal-infant mortality among Black women and babies, she proactively searched for someone to teach her midwifery and has been in the realm since, traveling the world teaching others and participating for better birth outcomes.

The Full Circle Doula model was invented by Mrs. Monroe, to ensure a midwifery model of care. It provides methods for caring for women during all phases of pregnancy, labor and postpartum, and ICTC also holds the belief that a doula should act as a 'one stop model' and supply information for women on community resources or direct her towards a list, should she need it. Full Circle training lasts for four days. In addition to talking about placentas, blood pressure, breastfeeding and missed cycles, we discussed health inequities and injustice, the effects of racism on pregnancy and birth outcomes, class issues and also watched documentaries on granny midwives and heard more about how lay midwifery became outlawed. The extensive textbook that is provided with the course, is filled with lessons about Black infant mortality -- the 'Intolerable example of national oppression in the USA', labor terminology, birthing plans, nutrition, family rituals, postpartum depression, increasing milk supply, domestic violence, HIV, common medications, stages of labor and many others. I also really appreciate the small articles in the text written by Mrs. Monroe -- sections such as Black Fatherhood, and Sensuality of Pregnancy and Birth, for example.

Being a doula means that I am a birth companion. Unlike a midwife who is a healthcare provider, a doula provides emotional support, education, advocacy and guidance. I celebrate a woman's pregnancy and comfort her during labor, and focus on her at all times. I also compliment her partner's support. Because I learned the Full Circle model the relationship will (hopefully) begin in early pregnancy and we can establish that much-needed level of trust and partnership before labor and delivery, and that lasts into the postpartum period. Some doulas may help out with other small children and also do light chores around the house and cook. Some benefits of doulas are reduction in the rate of C-Sections, reduction in epidurals, a decrease in the length of labor, and increased breastfeeding -- all of this is significant for Black women especially, who face the highest rate of maternal-infant mortality.

I realized I knew more about birth mechanics than I thought I did; I have been around birthing women for years -- I have 16 nieces and nephews, (and have played a part in raising each). I've also been in the delivery room a few times, and even videotaped my now 19-year-old nephew's birth. But I also learned an invaluable amount of information that I didn't. I also knew I was heading in a direction that would allow me to have a more in-depth understanding and provide a new outlet to increase my advocacy. Not too long ago when someone asked me about birth history and theory and I couldn't really offer any information, that was a turning point and ignited a desire to gain more of an understanding of the 'politics of reproduction'. When I called to check in on my good friend and her new baby girl a little while ago, that is what I believe solidified my desire to become a doula, since I have been active in breastfeeding advocacy and wanted to go deeper. That was my entry point.

 © 2012 ICTC Training Handbook
Initially, I thought becoming a postpartum doula is how I would support women and continue to promote breastfeeding. I have written before about my thoughts on the practical aspects of birthing, and how I felt meeting with them after they gave birth was how I would practice. But after taking this course and learning the importance of focusing on all aspects of women when they're pregnant -- while they are laboring and after they've given birth, up to one year, I can't imagine not following the all-encompassing Full Circle model for complete emotional support and advocacy. Not being thorough is not even my style.

When I was younger, I wanted to have babies in the bathtub of my home with all of my family around and also become a midwife, but since that's not the path I'm on today, it never would have dawned on me I'd become a doula. I also think it's interesting that since I have helped raise so many kids and have taken part in all of those parental rites from changing diapers, to helping potty train, time-outs, E.R. and Dr. visits, piano, football, ballet, parent-teacher conferences, talks with the school principle and the slew of other things that involve children, I've always said the only two things I've never done were give birth and breastfeed -- but I'm not so sure about that anymore. Being a breastfeeding advocate and now a doula places me in that context, and allows me to experience this vicariously and spiritually. It's fascinating how the universe works.

It was affirming being in an atmosphere that centered the experiences of Black women. In addition to being taught practical aspects of care and given information on our lives and viewpoints, I felt as if for a few days I was able to view relatively through this cultural lens and view the way Black midwives practiced, which greatly enriched the experience. This conjured up sentiments for me, where I felt myself coming to tears on several occasions during class. Aside from the reasons I was even there -- the reality of infant and maternal mortality, I chalk these emotions up to recognizing that what I have begun searching for is becoming actualized -- I'm moving towards a greater level of consciousness. This is when I begin to ask the question 'How can I fully understand the stories of Black women in a historical and contemporary context if I don't know how we birth?' I want to visit the foundation of Black birthing, and better understand the larger framework. I feel like I'm being summoned from those areas that have remained in my periphery, and that I've been able to step back into history and hear the stories of so many women on how I can learn this birth culture and see where it leads me.

Everyday class began with reciting The Black Grannies Midwifes Prayer from the 'Southern Lay Midwives As Ritual Specialties' followed by singing the 'Black National Anthem'. Throughout the day, we learned techniques on massage, birth practices, meditative strategies and building a doula business. At the end of the day we also sang -- about how we love being a midwife, healer and doula. I'm reveling from the experience. I also feel like I gained a lesson in self care by learning new ways to care for Black women, because when I learn how to better care for other Black women, I learn how to better care for myself. And even though I'm still not exactly sure where this will lead, I am 100% certain I am headed down the path I am meant to be on, and I am looking forward to seeing how this will all evolve over time. I am thrilled I took this course.

Below is the list of requirements that must be completed in order to become certified. I found out that my Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) certificate is nil in the context of this project. Even though I had 'audit a breastfeeding course' checked off in my initial post, I had to remove it. Here is the updated image of my doula progression. I really appreciate this list of requirements, since I believe it's rigorous for a doula course. Next, I'm working on the food handlers permit, CPR card and book reports of my choice of titles from the list of required texts. So far, I have Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers, and The Archaeology of Mothering is on its way to me. And I'm also looking for pregnant women. They're quite difficult to find when you're actually searching.

Even though I have two years to complete this list, I'm hoping to get all of this finished as soon as I can -- hopefully within the next year (sooner if I can help it). I'll keep checking them off as I go, so make sure you keep an eye out.

Black women and babies are dying and it's devastating the human race. WHEN WILL YOU FUCKING CARE?

I try to stay away from profanity -- on my blog -- and even my Twitter stream and any other social network. Not because I have an inherent moral issue with swear words. On the contrary, I definitely can get in my fair share. But it's out of respect for my mother, and the strong Christian woman she was, who was always offended by them, and the fact that I do have a semblance of consideration for other people is why. I think about her and out of this respect, think of others who may have the same viewpoint and I refrain. That's it. There is no other reason. On another note, a friend of mine tells her children in addition to kicking and screaming to cuss loudly -- if someone is approaching them and trying to abduct or cause some other type of harm. It gets people's attention.

Yesterday I drove my little sister to the dentist. After a quick trip to the thrift store down the street to browse for a few, I was back in the parking lot of the dental office because I just didn't feel like going in, and sat outside in the car. I fell asleep for over an hour and woke up to half of my body being numb, apparently because of the position I was in. This may seem like no big deal to you -- falling asleep in the car -- except I never do that. Ever. Over the past few days I've been sullen and lethargic. I'm depressed. I'm depressed about of all of the attitudes of apathy around me and the carelessness regarding Black women and our children -- it's everywhere. It seems no matter what is done folks just don't seem interested enough to try and do what they can to help out. And I feel like I can't speak loudly enough to get anyone's attention.

I posted a link on facebook twice, asking my nearly 200 friends to vote for La Leche League of Washington to win a $5,000 award they're competing for -- one that would help out tremendously, by allowing us to provide scholarships for registration fees, and also it would help pay for travel, etc. for speakers for the upcoming summit on racism, white privilege an power in breastfeeding -- addressing these issues among communities of color. No one responded. Excuse me, except people who are on the planning committee. The second time it remained untouched. But this is only one of many examples that I've experienced recently. It never stops amazing me that I can be deleted countless times from facebook, and have people refuse to associate with me in various other contexts because of my political views, but when people remain silent then all is well.

As I've been over here sulking and wanting to sleep the day away, I thought about an article that was posted not so long ago on the mahogany way birth cafe, where Darcel, the blog's owner, criticized birth advocates, and asked what exactly will it take to get their attention on Black maternal-infant mortality? "When will you care?" When will the issues of health and wellness surpass the issues of race to make them become the true birth justice activists they claim to be. Here's an excerpt. Read the full article here:
I really want to know when will you care? When it’s your friend, someone you work with? When your son ends up with your half black grandchild? When you end up pregnant with a half black child? When will you see these posts, statistics, articles, and do something about it? How can you call yourself a birth worker, or birth activist, and sit by while innocent black babies die at an alarming rate? When will you be able to step outside of yourself to help a community and movement you claim to care so much about? Or is it that you only care when it concerns you?
Experiencing these types of apathetic attitudes is nothing new. And I'm not really surprised at the continued lack of regard for the lives of Black women and babies, but it's hitting me on a new level. I'm tired of seeing it so deeply from people near and far, and constantly seeing the utter lack of interest in the things I find important -- things that are important -- human life.  And I don't know how to process it. I don't need to spout off the sobering statistics from the CDC, World Health Organization, and any grassroots organization because I'm sure folks are well aware of these issues. I'm convinced they are. Just unconcerned. But I  have a few question of my own. Tell me when will you fucking care?

When will you drop a fucking nickel on a cause that's worth something, rather than rushing out to buy material shit, with resources mined from earth's materials and built on the backs of vulnerable communities?

When will you volunteer or otherwise spend one fucking minute of your time working towards equity instead of looking for others to do it for you, as you try and remove yourself from responsibility?

When will you stand the fuck up to issues of socio-political inequity, structural violence and cultural insularity, and recognize you are not helpless in making an effort to challenge these? To push towards a more just society -- so people can live?

When will you sit the fuck down and strategize on how to find practical or creative ways to counter oppressive tactics directed towards vulnerable populations?


When will you stop fucking pretending to be ignorant of racism and its fundamental impact on health and social equality? When will you speak up about it instead of remaining silent? Or, when will you stop referring to race relations in passing -- as if it's just a side note instead of the main component?

When will you give a fuck about breastfeeding and why doesn't it bother you that Black babies are disproportionately not receiving proper nutrition. Is it because you never had any issues nursing your own child? Maybe you did, maybe you didn't. Or maybe you don't have children at all, when will you fucking recognize this issue requires a collective effort -- and that you are affected? There's a bigger picture. This is your concern.

Black people, when will you care? When will white people care? And Brown and Red and Yellow people? When will heterosexual people, and gay people and men and women and trans and non-gendered people realize you need to pay close attention to what's going on? What about atheists and Christians, Muslims, and Jews, Buddhists and everyone practicing and non-practicing, old and young people care about the staggering rate of maternal-infant mortality among Black women and Black babies?

When will your consciousness extend beyond your fucking nose, and you make yourself accountable for supporting Black maternal-infant mortality by remaining complacent?

Tell me!

I want to know!

Though sometimes I wonder why I even bother.