Y do Black Midwives NEED their OWN Conference?

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attended the 7th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference sponsored by the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC). This was my third time attending the conference and it was wonderful to see how the organization has grown.  There is so much I want to share from the conference that I’ve decided to separate it into a couple of posts….

From the ICTC website:  The International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Inc. (ICTC) is a non-profit African centered organization located in Portland, Oregon. ICTC was created to promote the health of women and their families and to train Black women aspiring to become midwives. We provide recruitment, education, and support to those desiring to serve their community…  We educate and advocate through community workshops, study groups, or just one to one support. ICTC is inclusive in its membership… The early beginnings of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing( ICTC) date back to August 1991. We were then, and are now a grassroots organization, responding to critical health care needs. We are determined that the early death of babies and mothers, an aftermath of slavery and a legacy of poverty, shall be reversed.

Mothering Magazine was present and accounted for at the conference because they realize that while the conference was titled the 7th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference ALL were welcomed to attend and participate.  Unfortunately one of their facebook fans was confused and posted a comment about the need for Black Midwives to have a “separate” conference.

From Mistie on facebook: “I’m going to stir the pot here and I *know* I’ll get some “hate” responses, but I don’t care, after all, aren’t we the women to speak out about the things we feel are injustices? … Why do Black Midwives have their own conference? Why are they not Midwives with all the… other women who work together (or are supposed to work together) to bring healing and empowerment to other women? Are these black Midwives excluded from any of the other conferences, forcing them to have their own? All I know is that shouldn’t we all be coming together instead of excluding others or forming racial clicks? I understand the issues that black women have over come in America, it just seems to me that (by a singled out conference such as this) the issues of all other women in America haven’t existed, have been brushed aside…  We will never get the support of our nation to stand behind us if we won’t even stand united with each other… ” (read more including responses by visiting Mothering Mag facebook fan page)

Hmmmmm *scratches head in confusion* Quite a number of people responded to her to her question. (None of them included hate BTW) I did not participate in the facebook conversation but I would like to make a statement about it here…

The number one take away that I got from this year’s ICTC conference… WE have an epidemic in OUR community and WE have to save OUR babies. WE have to save OUR sisters. The saving of OUR babies and women has to be a grass roots effort. If WE don’t do it… it won’t happen so WE must take the charge to make it happen. This is one of the reasons we have a “separate” conference.

“Are these black Midwives excluded from any of the other conferences, forcing them to have their own?” No… but there is no other midwifery organization, nor any other conference where the saving of Black Women and Babies is THE focus. Other conferences have great topics about all things midwifery but you would be hard pressed to find a session specifically focused on saving Black women and babies. At the ICTC conference we had not just one session on the topic of saving OUR babies but a few sessions.  ICTC realizes the importance of this issue, not just from lip service but in a way that creates an urgency.  And please keep in mind… the ICTC conference is NOT exclusive. There were many non-Black women there and we welcome EVERYONES attendance, membership and involvement.


ICTC all Inclusive



Me and Geradine Simkins (Midwife and President of MANA)


“I understand the issues that black women have over come in America…” I would have to say respectfully, as a white women NO… you can’t REALLY understand the issues that black women have “overcome” nor the issues that CONTINUE to plague our communities, our families, and our perinatal outcomes. This is the reason for the question. If one really understood the issues there would be no need to question the need for a “Black Midwives” conference.

The Black Midwives and Healers Conference was/is always a WONDERFUL experience. In addition to helping us learn about ways to help our community it is about so much more.  I love ICTC and the founder Shafia Monroe. I love the


Me and Shafia Monroe (Midwife and ICTC Founder)


mission of ICTC. I  LOVE the sister LOVE I receive whenever I attend the conference. I enjoy being around other midwives of color who are supportive of me and provide me with positive energy to move forward in my passion. I love this conference and the way that it rejuvenates the spirit and the soul in a way that only a midwifery conference can. I love being a part of this circle of women who believe in birth, who believe in women, and who are specially committed to black communities here in America and throughout the Diaspora.  I love being a part of this group of women who are committed to supporting, nurturing, mentoring, and providing advice guidance, and love in the spirit of black women, and midwifery. The love is unmistakable, genuine, rejuvenating and life giving.

Yes we go to other midwifery conferences but the experience of being around a group of women who look like me is unmistakable. If you have any doubts… whether you are Black or White, Asian, or Latina, Purple, Green, or Blue… put the ICTC conference on your calendar.  Make a point to attend the conference next year. And you will see for yourself… we are NOT exclusive. We are ALL INclusive.  We have a special mission and hope that you will join us. More from conference to come… In the meantime…

Be Blessed and Birth Well


8 responses to “Y do Black Midwives NEED their OWN Conference?

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have yet to attend the conference, but definitely plan to in the coming years as I pursue my own journey through midwifery. I have never been able to understand why some people with privilege are troubled by affinity groups gathering. I’m sure that woman has some niche groups she’s a part of. That doesn’t exclude her from also being a human, woman, or anything else she may categorize herself as. Anyhow, brava to you for a passionate post.

  2. THANK YOU!! for reading, understanding and caring about making a difference. Hope you have been well!! I am still here 🙂

  3. Hi Nicole!
    Miss running in to you online…..
    I have to say Thank You for helping me understand better. I can not possibly know much about some of these specific issues you’ve described here… but now I feel a better understanding. I have read many references in the literature about the racial disparities of risk/survival/perinatal outcomes especially in the preterm population. I have always looked at that from my perspective as a nurse caring for these infants and not from any other angle.
    I feel I must broaden my approach and “roll up my sleeves” so to speak as Jill described. So much needs to be done. For so many things.
    Thank you again

  4. I’m a white woman who has educated herself about birth/home birth and the scary statistics of death for women and babies in the US hospital system. After repeatedly knowing how much worse it is for black women to give birth on this country I am RELIEVED to see so many stand up together to take this life and death issue of our mothers and babies AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!! THANK YOU!! Yes of course black women need to have their own midwives conference! You are the only ones who can fix this! Thank you.

    • Thanks Julia for chiming in and for your words of support. May I make one correction: TOGETHER we can fix this. Yes the issues are real and dear in a different way to us however…. ALL of us have a role to play in eliminating disparities you included :-))

  5. I’m pretty sure it’s the same question you hear in a university setting about why you can major in African-American Studies, Chicano Studies, Women’s Studies, etc. People wonder why there isn’t a White Studies without understanding that there *is* white studies. It’s built into the curriculum. It is the curriculum.

    It’s kind of the same in this case. My two-bit take on it is that out-of-hospital midwifery in the U.S. bases the “curriculum” on the majority of its clients, which are healthy, low-risk white women. The major conferences that I’ve attended—CIMS 2009 and AABC 2010—both covered racial disparities in the U.S. and black infant and maternal mortality rates pretty thoroughly. The major difference I noticed in the presentations at CIMS and AABC versus ICTC is that there wasn’t a need to spend time on a “101” at ICTC. The lingering effects of slavery, segregation and institutionalized racism are already understood, experienced and dealt with on a daily basis. Research is finally catching up to what women in the black community have been saying for decades. The mainstream approach of trying to quantify and remedy perinatal health disparities as a prenatal health or lifestyle/behavioral problem failed. Rather than informational presentations on black maternal/infant health, the time could be spent rolling up sleeves, organizing, motivating and taking care of business.

    Another observation: I’m pretty sure there were more white people at the ICTC Conference than there were women of color at CIMS and AABC. There were more men at CIMS and AABC than ICTC. I didn’t keep a tally or anything… just observations for what they’re worth.

    I second the recommendation of attending the conference and supporting ICTC. I’m glad I got to attend and wish I could have stayed for more than a day.

    • Hey Jill!! Thanks for reading, commenting, and supporting ICTC. We wish you could have stayed more than one day as well. I would add that I think in general the bases of the curriculum for all midwifery, both hospital and out of hospital birth is the same. This does not negate the work of midwives of all races who serve women of color especially in the public health clinics around the country it just is the reality. You make a great observation… there is no need for Disparities 101. HA!! Nope we get that. What we want to do is revitalize each other and get down to work.

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