Monday Musing: The more things change…

There has been a LOT of racial shit poppin off in the birth world the past few weeks.  I have been trying to put some words down on paper to talk about some of it and I just kept coming up with a blank page.  I’ve grown tired of tryna get the words perfectly written.  Sooooo imma start with this… The more things change… The more they remain the same.

Black and brown women (people) worldwide… historically AND in present day medicine have been and continue to be mistreated, abused, used as experimental subjects without consent, misled, lied to and used as teaching fodder.  From forced sterilizations and unsafe hormonal contraception, to surgeries without anesthesia, from syphilis to HIV, from antibiotics, to immunizations, we have been the people who have suffered continuously over generations while providing the European patriarchal medical system with the information they need to make claims, decisions and money for themselves all without regard for human dignity or the lives that have been negatively impacted.  As “medical advancements” have been made on the backs of black and brown people, they have not even received an acknowledgement for their participation in the “research”.   That makes sense though because if they were actually acknowledged for their unauthorized and unwilling participation, that would be evidence of their mistreatment and the lies told in the name of “advancement in medical research.”

I could continue to rant in this direction but instead I will try to get to my point from where I started… Like I said… there has been a lotta racial shit poppin off…

Let’s start with AUGUST – Breastfeeding awareness month was coming and going without much fanfare or controversy until a group of WONDERFUL Sistars decided to declare August 25 – 31st Black Breastfeeding Week.  The week had barely been announced, and within hours there were TONS of nasty, racist, degrading comments being made on face book, asking among other things why there needed to be a “Black Breastfeeding Week.”  That set off a number of (v)blogs, more face book posts, tweets and comments. I didn’t address it cause honestly… I see it as a waste of my time to constantly have to educate other folks about the necessity, value, and reason for something that is so obviously necessary.  Women who are open to and interested in working with Black women around breast feeding “get it” and those who don’t.. well… they don’t and so it is.

SEPTEMBER  is Infant Mortality Awareness month.  The birth advocates and birth workers I know and work with who are passionate about eliminating perinatal disparities, are keenly aware of this and talk about it. A few years ago a movement started that uses LABOR Day as a time to talk about “improving birth.” The first time I saw this campaign I blogged about the fact that there is NO mention in this campaign about September being infant mortality awareness month. “Improving Birth Rallies” are held nationwide and they have pretty strict rules about the signs and messages that they believe should be held and displayed at these national rallies.  Some in the Black community understand that you can’t improve birth while IGNORING the facts of perinatal disparities. I attended the local rally in New Orleans and I did NOT carry an “approved sign.” I carried a sign inspired by Sista Midwives  Jennie Joseph and Claudia Booker that said “Black babies die 2 to 3 times more than White babies WHY?” As I held my sign some seemed confused, some nervous and uncomfortable while others were intrigued.  Over in the Improving Birth camp they feel like having signs that say anything outside of their approved messages dilutes the impact.  I say having diluted messages dilutes the impact.  While I have not seen anything directly from them that speaks to race they definitely operate from a place of privilege that does not include the need to discuss or bring to the improving birth movement issues/words/signs that don’t affect THEM.  I carried my sign proudly. The nervous looks and energy I got….. priceless and telling.

NOW…  getting to the issue that inspirited me to really wanna write… this foolishness with Midwife International, a company that says their mission is “to improve women’s health and birth outcomes by providing excellence in midwifery education.”  When you view their FB page and/or website things sounds wonderful:  An opportunity to learn while giving; An opportunity to experience and evolve.  The reality is unfortunately much different.   Based on NUMEROUS complaints and feedback from individuals and international organizations who have had direct experience with Midwife International, their motive seems to be reputation, status, and profits. Anything but the well being of mothers,  communities, and midwifery education.

There has been quite a bit of dialogue about this situation specifically in the online community. Blog posts and open letters have been written and widely circulated yet Midwife International goes on as if nothing has been said.  Their face book page says nothing about the allegations. Their website has a small blurb

“Midwife International is grateful for the strong network of students, preceptors, clinical partners and community members who have stood behind us through all challenges. We acknowledge and regret that in some instances there appears to have been unclear or inadequate communication regarding student programs in Uganda, Cameroon and Cambodia. However, we expressly deny accusations of profiteering, exploitation, bribery, blackmail, secret agreements, non-payment, blatant disrespect or racism.

Furthermore, Midwife International is not willing to cause harm to the midwifery community by having a public dialogue about these accusations, and will be taking action to resolve the issues raised through the appropriate channels, in private. We have no doubt that the truth will prevail.

Meanwhile we will continue to work alongside our partners to host student programs, serving our mission to improve women’s health and birth outcomes by providing excellence in midwifery education.”

Wait! WHAT? You have been publicly accused by More. Than. One. person and organization.  You have been accused PUBLICLY online of “profiteering, exploitation, bribery, blackmail, secret agreements, non-payment, blatant disrespect or racism” and that’s all you have to say?  GTFOHWTBS.

Via the internet, folks have been calling for MI to say something, to pay monies back, to stop admitting students until they deal with the allegations. They have not shown signs of doing ANY of that. They are moving full steam ahead.  Birth advocates are calling out members of their (MI’s) previous advisory board; asking them to speak out about this issue. Many of them remain silent.

To be honest and to provide full disclosure….. I have had not had direct contact with this organization. Most of my information about the allegations come from this website:  Regardless… I know the more things change…

Exploitation of Black and Brown people for medical knowledge and research is nothing new. We do it here in America as well.  MANY of our nation’s top training programs use inner city hospitals as their clinical training sites and the women and families who use them are often meant to feel like they have no choice but to accept substandard treatment from unsupervised medical students, and residents.  I have seen THIS first hand.

Okay… I don’t wanna go on and on. So while this seems to be unfinished… Imma stop and invite you to Join me THIS SUNDAY, September 22nd  for a discussion about this issue as a part of a the upcoming  Roots and Bush online birth conference  Bonus Hour- Midwife International and the Continued Abuse of Black Bodies & Resources for White Learning: Bringing to light the current happenings with the organization called Midwifery International and what the Black community at home and abroad can do to stop the misuse of Black bodies for “catches” and money.  Guest Panelists include:  Claudia Booker, Asiila bintal Garner, Pilar Ma’at, and Shauntee Henry.

Learn more here:

If you care…. Make plans to join us! #FistUP… The Struggle Continues

Roots N Bush


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