A village that looks like me
Every month, a group of Black mothers gather for fellowship in Austin. They have different backgrounds and life experiences – they may not even know one another before showing up – but one thing they all have in common: They’re moms or moms-to-be.
These aptly named Sister Circles, a program of the Black Mamas Community Collective (BMCC), provide the safe space and deep connection that Black mothers need. The support groups are led by Sister Doulas, and participants have free access to doula services for a full year to facilitate a healthy pregnancy and transition to motherhood.
Therapist and Sister Circles Leader, Black Mamas ATX
“Sister Circle meetings are a fantastic way to meet other mothers in your area to discuss experiences with childbirth,” says Stephanie Dodoo, a behavioral therapist who leads the Sister Circles.
The circles can be a lifeline of support that goes beyond just health. Michele Rountree, Ph.D., Founder of BMCC, recalls an urgent message from a new mother whose electricity was in danger of being shut off. BMCC and the community of Black mothers rallied to get her the resources she needed to keep the lights on.
of women who looked like her.
Rountree said, “It meant that she could keep her children with her and also keep them safe and healthy. Mentally and emotionally, she knew she had the support of women who looked like her. It matters.”
Black mamas at higher risk
Rountree, who also serves as Associate Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, points to alarming statistics. Black mothers experience maternal death rates 2.3 times higher than white women, regardless of income, education or marital status. That means that the “weathering effect” of the social and political marginalization experienced by Black women is a determining factor.
Rountree says, “Cultural relevance is critical. An impactful maternal health intervention has to focus on the interruption of institutional racism. Using a race equity lens to inform healthcare practice and policy has to be a priority in tackling maternal health disparities.”
“It is one thing to talk about data, and it is another thing to be the data.”
“It is one thing to talk about data, and it is another thing to be the data,” says Nakeenya Wilson, BMCC’s inaugural Executive Director. Wilson experienced a traumatic birth and has been with Black Mamas since the beginning of the social movement, both as a member of the leadership team and as a participant in Sister Circles and the homevisiting program.
A collective of everyday women
The Black Mamas Community Collective is made up of researchers, social workers, policy makers, public health professionals and community activists and consists primarily of Black women who have survived their own pregnancy and birthing traumas.
The Collective works to interrupt the institutional racism that is contributing to disparate health access and outcomes for Black women.
BMCC tackles the issue of health inequity from many fronts. In addition to the Sister Circles, the collective works to interrupt the institutional racism that is contributing to disparate health access and outcomes for Black women by providing training to healthcare professionals on the upstream determinants of health. It fosters partnerships to invest in a sustainable pipeline of Black health care professionals. It also collaborates with academic and community researchers to improve health equity and change the public narrative.
Support from St. David’s Foundation increases impact
Black women do more than survive.
BMCC was one of several organizations that received a St. David’s Foundation grant in 2018 as part of the Focus on the Fourth Women’s Health Initiative. The funding supports BMCC’s engagement of Black women in community-based participatory research and strategic planning to further its mission to have Black women do more than survive.
– Magnela, Black Mamas ATX client