It’s Black Maternal Health Month. These two advocate moms are taking action.
Black women are superheroes.
We don’t wear capes. We don’t have magical powers or superhuman strength. We don’t have high-tech weaponry to outfit ourselves to fight insidious evil in the world.
What we do have is will, determination, and mental fortitude to see a job through. It’s enough to not only save ourselves, but the world.
That’s a good thing, because we’re going to need it to solve the Black maternal health crisis.
This disparity is equalized across education and socioeconomic status. Black women with at least a college degree are more than five times as likely to die during childbirth compared to white women with the same education.
These statistics are alarming, yet they have been recorded for more than a decade with a seemingly silent erasure.
Still, the unimaginable and insurmountable losses of women and mothers, like Kyira “Kira” Dixon Johnson, Sha’asia Washington, and pediatrician Dr. Chaniece Wallace, can’t be healed without real, actionable change.
The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate last March, has taken a backseat in priority to preventing the spread of disease and death from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enter the superheroes.
Lisa Price and Latham Thomas are mothers, entrepreneurs, and lovers of Black women.
Price is the founder of the global natural hair and body care line Carol’s Daughter, which she started in her Brooklyn apartment kitchen in 1993.
Thomas is the founder of the global maternal health company Mama Glow and the co-founder of the Mama Glow Foundation, an organization committed to advancing reproductive justice.
In 2020, the two began texting with each other about ways to create advocacy around Black maternal healthcare.
As a result, they’ve launched the Love Delivered advocacy campaign to empower, support, and care for Black birthing people and babies when they need it most.
Their work was inspired in part by their own birthing experiences.
Price recalls a mostly positive experience with the birth of her first child, Forrest, who was delivered by cesarean section, or C-section, and is now 25-years-old.
However, the birth of her second child, Ennis, was different.
Labeled a geriatric pregnancy from the outset, Price decided to have a C-section, and not even try to labor, because of how she was being treated in the hospital.
“I couldn’t labor, because I couldn’t move,” Price says. “I had the fetal monitor hooked up. I had an IV in one arm. I had the blood pressure cuff on another arm. And I could only stay on my back,” Price says. “It just never felt like the comfort of the mother was being taken into consideration. It was the protection of the healthcare facility and the doctor.”
She was later told by the medical staff that a C-section was the right decision, because the doctor spent the first 45 minutes of the procedure cutting away scar tissue from her first C-section before he could even deliver baby Ennis.
“My story is not particularly horrific,” Price says. “No one abused me or yelled at me, or anything like that. But I just didn’t feel as if I had an active role.”
Thomas’s role as a doula and the head of Mama Glow isn’t work to her. It’s a calling. It’s all about making sure birthing people, especially Black birthing people, have an active role in their birthing experiences.
It all started after she delivered her son at a birth center in New York.
“It was an amazing experience, but it was also something that I felt like was not accessible,” Thomas says. “I had an experience that everybody else didn’t get to have. And so I’m thinking to myself, ‘How do we make sure everybody gets this? How can you have the support and a feeling like you won, that you’re incredible, that you felt safe, felt seen, felt heard, felt empowered?’”
Price and Thomas are making sure all Black people experiencing birth are equipped with information to keep themselves healthy, safe, and alive.
Price and Thomas bonded over their experiences and are now working together to make sure all Black people experiencing birth are equipped with information to advocate for themselves and keep themselves healthy, safe, and alive.
“A lot of what happens inside medical spaces, unfortunately, is violent,” Thomas says. “People will [say] ‘Oh, yes, somebody was rude to me, or dismissive of me, or I felt a little bullied. I felt a little coerced.’ All that is actual violence. It’s actual abuse, and it’s accepted in some spaces.”
Thomas educates her clients on the difference between informed consent and patient cooperation.
She also tells them to remember one key question when dealing with medical staff: “Is there a medical reason for this?”
According to Thomas, this singular question can hold medical professionals accountable to answer patients honestly. It also requires them to document the care that’s being given or declined and the rationale behind it.
Price says she wants birthing people to remember that they’re walking miracles growing and carrying life.
“When you recognize that you’re the miracle, you’re the goddess, you’re the powerful one in that scenario, then you end up taking the control back and not letting it be: ‘Well, the doctors said. The nurse said.’ Eff them,” Price says. “They’re at work. You’re giving birth. They’re at their job. This is your baby.”
With that powerful advocacy in mind, Price and Thomas say their goal for Love Delivered over the next 3 years is to activate 10,000 advocates and touch 100-million people in impressions.
Through the Love Delivered website, those who want to get involved can access a 13-page resource guide that will link them to legislation and educational resources, like podcasts, books, articles, and essays.
“We actually have the resources within,” Thomas says. “We’ve always been community-resourced. We’ve always been folks who problem solve, [and] we’ve always been folks who, when we put our minds to things, can get things done. And when I say we, I mean Black women.”
Price believes advocacy for Black Maternal Health will spread and grow in the same way her company did in the ’90s and 2000s. Through something her husband coined as the “sister girl network.”
“I’m telling you: You’re going to tell someone else. [Thomas is] going to tell somebody. They’re going to tell their sister. They’re going to tell their cousin. We’re going to put out a video, [and] somebody is going to share that video… and you start the conversation,” Price says.
“You’re the miracle, you’re the goddess, you’re the powerful one… They’re at work. You’re giving birth. They’re at their job. This is your baby.”
– Lisa Price of Love Delivered
In starting this conversation, Price and Thomas say people should be on the lookout for the advocacy behind Love Delivered everywhere — not just for Black Maternal Health Week.
Their mission 3 years from now is to hear the positive impact this campaign has had on the Black birth experience.
“There are a lot of people that are ready to, not necessarily solve, but definitely ready to exploit the problem. We are here to solve,” Thomas says.
See. Superheroes. No capes necessary.
Nikesha Elise Williams is a two-time Emmy award-winning news producer and author. Nikesha’s debut novel, “Four Women,” was awarded the 2018 Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Award in the category of Adult Contemporary/Literary Fiction. “Four Women” was also recognized by the National Association of Black Journalists as an Outstanding Literary Work. Her latest novel is “Beyond Bourbon Street.”