“Don’t worry Anny, when you have your babies, I will come where you are and show you everything you need to know…”
Within a year of my mother saying those words to me, she had become an ancestor. That is one of the few statements that I can still hear in her actual voice, and I have spent the past 25 years, through births of my own and many others, chasing her words and trying to figure out what she would have shown me.
Initially, my questions lead me to elders in my life. But then I visited Africa for the first time and recognized similarities between how they do some things and what we did during the many summers I spent at my grandparents’ farm in rural Alabama. I clearly saw our connection as people of African descent. I saw traditions that affirmed our “Africanness” and practices that until about 50 years ago had been passed down from generation to generation to ensure our survival.
Until a half century ago, when the U.S. granted people of African descent full citizenship, Black women practiced the same birthing skills that had been practiced for centuries prior, brought to this country by African women. Some fifty years later, in a time when maternity care is assumed to be the most advanced, Black mothers and babies are dying at increasingly alarming rates higher than the general population of women.
How can this be happening in the world’s most industrialized, western societies?
It is clear that something is wrong… I would go even further to say, “Something is missing…” or better yet… “someONE is missing…” And I will walk all the way out on the tip of the ledge and say that the SOMEONE missing in OUR story is THE BLACK WOMAN. I believe that in recent decades, we have been missing in our own story. And I believe that WE are and have always been the secret ingredient that allowed us to sustain ourselves during childbirth and beyond.
While more and more attention is being drawn to the ways modern medical systems have failed Black women from the beginning, there is also room to point out our need to “RECLAIM OUR BIRTH RITES” and practices.
What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers know that allowed them to support themselves and others during childbirth that we no longer know?
What knowledge and skills about childbirth did families use when they were not allowed into modern health facilities?
What resourcefulness have we abandoned as “the old way” that was actually keeping Black women and children safe in the face of so much systematic oppression and adversity?
Have times changed as much as we think they have? Or is it just time for us to SANKOFA… to go back and get all that has been lost, stolen, abandoned, forgotten and surrendered.
Daughters of the African Diaspora Alliance (D.O.A.D. Alliance) was established to assist us in our journey to RECLAIM what is ours, so that we are once again the first resource and the first line of defense for our women and children.
It is my prayer that we as Black women who are mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends will CATCH THE MANTLE OF CARE AND NURTURE FOR BIRTHING WOMEN that has been left behind by OUR MOTHERS WHO ARE NOW IN THE HEAVENLY REALM; and intensify our efforts to learn and RE-MEMBER WHO WE ARE so we can “HELP ourselves to HEAL ourselves, and SAVE OURSELVES!”
Visit www.DrDoula.com for a SPECIAL OFFER IF YOU JOIN DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY.
P.S. Daughters of the African Diaspora Alliance was launched on February 5, 2019, 25 years after my mother Johnnie Mae Gray Little became an ancestor. I recognize this day as her Legacy Day and a time to celebrate her legacy and how it has influenced and been manifested throughout my life. May she be pleased with the work I am striving to do.
For Daughters of the African Diaspora