Category Archives: Black Birth

Join us as we Renew Rebirth & Retreat

A couple of years ago, while hosting a meeting of black birth workers and birth advocates in New Orleans we decided we should create a campaign to educate our community about the benefits and value of doulas and normal birth.  As the conversation continued, and as we outlined a plan, it dawned on me… it will be great to get our sisters motivated and informed about natural birth and doulas but when they ask “Where can I find a doula?”  what will our answer be?

You see in 2012, when we had this meeting, I could literally count the number of working doulas in New Orleans and the black doulas working in New Orleans… I could count with my fingers.  In a city that has a population that is nearly 70% black… that was a problem! To make it even worse, there were NO local doula trainers.  Not ONE. Every so often a trainer would visit from afar and unfortunately, I have heard most left lots to be desired.

The way I saw it, we definitely had a problem and I set my mind to do something about it. Fast forward to today, and I am preparing to do my third official Sista Midwife Productions’ Birth Sister Training in New Orleans starting May 16.  This is the first of three I am planning this year.  The beautiful thing about my training is that while it is certainly not exclusively for black women, the black women in my community who are drawn to this work are also drawn to my training.  I am proud that my first two classes combined included a total of 16 students, 13 of whom identify as black and more than half of them attended on scholarship.

I am proud that my training is endorsed by individual birth advocates, as well as local doula and community groups. I am proud that I am making a difference by expanding the reach of birth work in my community.  Recently all over web there have been articles and questions about where are the birth workers of color? Where are the trainers of color? *Raises hand* We are here. We are learning and growing. We are working hard to do our part.

“Nicole’s passion for birth work and women’s health rights is infectious! During her training I couldn’t help but be engaged, and afterwards I left feeling like I, and all other women, could shake and move the world.” ~ Shayla B. – Mississippi

Since I conducted my first training, I have been asked… Are you going to take your training on the road? What can I do to get you to Texas, California, Florida, Georgia? And my answer has been, I don’t really know but build it and I will come.  Most recently, I have been asked about conducting a training in Tennessee. AND… when I said “build it and I will come” my sister Angelique “Sobande” Greer, herbalist and founder of Natural Choice Botanica School of Herbalism and Holistic Health took me at my word.

With that said, I am very pleased, proud, and excited to announce that my first “on the road” doula/birth sister training will be taking place June 17-June 22, 2014.  This VERY special event will be far more than a doula training as women come together from various parts of the country to RENEW – REBIRTH & RETREAT.  We will come together to learn, relax, bond, and grow within a serene  retreat center.

Now… not only is my sister Sobande the reason I am travelling to TN, she is also a spiritual teacher, healer, and herbalist who will share her wisdom with us during the phenomenal event.  I had the pleasure to learn from her during the last Wise Women’s Herbal Conference in Ashville NC and she is bout it! Throughout this retreat she will share with us her wisdom, her passion for healing, and her love of nature.

This event gives YOU a unique opportunity to receive my full 36 hour Birth Sister/Doula Training and training and guidance from Sobande all while we sit at the feet of mother nature.  Throughout the training we will incorporate time for self guided meditation and facilitated retreat activities. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey into birth work and you are looking for a foundation, OR you are an experienced doula/birth sister and you want to increase your knowledge base and re-ignite your fire, this training is for YOU!  The back drop for this retreat is the serene Penuel Ridge Retreat Center which sits on 135 acres in Middle Tennessee a short drive outside of Nashville.

I promise you this is an event that you do NOT want to miss.  In order to make sure this is an enjoyable experience for everyone, registration is VERY limited.  The registration for this event is only $850 and this includes EVERYTHING… your training, your lodging, your meals, and your serenity.  Registration is currently open and today you can reserve your spot for $100.  As the training dates approach, the registration rate for this event will increase so reserve your space today!  I look forward to seeing you there and experiencing growth, love, knowledge, joy and laughter with you!  Let’s come together and #BirthSomethingBeautiful!

“My Doula training experience was great! Nicole is a wonderful trainer and I would recommend Sista Midwife Doula Training to anyone!”
~ Queen Hope Parker  – New Orleans

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Roots N Bush – Get your recording TODAY

This weekend I had the honor and the privilege of being a part of the Roots and Bush Online Birth Conference hosted by Intense High and Divine Birth Wisdom. It was a phenomenal event.    This event brought wisdom, honor, passion, and love to birth work education.  If you did not have an opportunity to register for this event and participate live… you still have time to purchase the recordings of the entire conference… through TONIGHT (September 23rd) for only $65!!!  Now… if you wait until tomorrow you will still be able to purchase them but the price will increase to $85 so if I were you I would definitely get them TODAY!!

Not convinced that you should get the entire conference?  Listen in to some of the best sound bites from the FAB speakers.  You can listen in on the event’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/568004039929906/

And then head on over the the official registration page http://intensehigh.wordpress.com/roots-n-bush/  and order your copies of the recordings. Don’t forget…. get them TODAY before the price increases!

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Wordless Wednesday: Roots and Bush ~ Learn With Me

Root and Bush

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: http://ethicalmidwifery.org  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:  http://intensehigh.wordpress.com/roots-n-bush/

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

Roots N Bush

Monday Musing: The Spirits That Protect the Youth

The time has come once again, as it does every year, for parents, teachers, and students to do the mad dash to finish the all important “back to school shopping.”  This is not really an issue for me… I don’t have any children and I’m not in that mad rush.  Even so, I have always said… “When I have children… Imma home school”  I didn’t really know what that meant, and had never really thought out exactly how that would work but I DEFINITELY knew homeschooling…  with all of the rights and wrongs, challenges and success, would be a part of my future.  Today there are more and more families choosing to home school. The idea of homeschooling isn’t as far-fetched as it usta seem.  And I still have plans to home school when my time comes.  Why home school?? Because I believe the school/FOOL system is NOT doin right by my community.   Every year, when “back to school shopping ensues” I am reminded that the children in my community are moving forward excitedly to walk into a building/a system that unfortunately does not respect or understand what makes them tick.  They are walking into a danger zone.  One that leaves them without a knowledge or a love of self. One that leaves them lost and confused. One that leaves them continually searching for their purpose, their story, their opportunity.  QUESTION:  What is the solution and who is protecting the spirit of our children?

ANSWER:  A few months ago my brother Samori published a kindle book.  Education for Liberation: The Top 20 Questions and Answers for Black Homeschoolers. 

Dr. Samori Camara

Now, Samori is NOT my biological brother.  He’s a brother from another mother but he truly is like the little brother I never had.   Whenever I see him, which is fairly often, he ALWAYS has something smart to say, always debating, sometimes getting on my nerves… AND makes me VERY proud.  The more I see him, watch him, hear him and learn of the things he is doing I am proud. When his book was first published I promised him a shout out on my blog. I bought the book, read the first 20 pages and well…. Yall know the rest of that story *looks away in shame*

Last week, I was on facebook and saw a post from his facebook page:  Kamali Academy an Afrikan Centered Home School.  “To start Black August, we have put our online classes up for preorders with a discount. The price will go back to the regular price in two weeks. Spots are limited! Classes start Sept. 2nd.  www.KamaliAcademy.com/online-classes” 

WAIT!! WHAT!?! This brother is doin it again!!  I say again cause he is always doing something new and great and quite honestly I can’t keep up.  I woke this morning and realized it’s a beautiful day to #BirthSomethingBeautiful, as it always is, 🙂 and today I decided I was gonna birth a blog post to shout out Baba Dr. Brother. Samori Camara (A.K.A. – Brother Afrika) As a side note… that A.K.A. means Affectionately Known As and as I finished this blog post and allowed him to read it… Said brother told me I needed to add all that. I agreed because I started the Brother Afrika thing anyway and so well…. I did as he asked… but I digress.

I initially met Samori while hanging out and about in the city of New Orleans. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance.  I looked at this young man before me with these pretty locks wearing a dashiki and learned he was finishing up his Doctorate before the age of 30.  Always impressed by THAT, we continued to talk and I learned he was opening his first Afrikan Centered school for children in New Orleans. I thought… “Here is a young man who sees it, knows it and DOES it.” Ya gotta love it.

That was a few years ago and since that time I have come to know him more.  He has proven to be a leader, a progressive thinker, and a real champion of Afrikan people.  He loves Afrikan children and he is all about WORKING to build their minds and their spirits.  Today he is the director of Kamali Academy and not only is he helping to change the lives of the children he works with here in NOLA he is working with Afrikan families nationwide (likely worldwide) through his online education curriculums…  Available up to and including an 8th grade curriculum *in my fast infomercial voice*

I asked Samori recently… Why Kamali Academy? He first let me know that Kamali (which come from the South African Language Shona) means “The spirit that protects the youth” I loved that immediately. Kinda like a midwife ya know?   We are in many ways spirits that protect the entry way for the youth.   It’s also a great name for Samori’s Academy as he too is that spirit.  He tells me “the public fool system is dealing death and we want to save our children from that.”

No matter where your children are being educated, whether at home, in a private school or in the “public fool system” if you are a parent of Afrikan children you really should get to know the works of Samori and Kamali Academy.  “The Kamali Academy uses an Afrikan-centered, project-based curriculum, which places the development of an Afrikan consciousness at its center. This curriculum has been developed to maximize the effectiveness of the transgenerational transmission of our ancestral traditions, morals, and worldview in a family environment. Kamali not only inspires and trains its students to solve specific issues that plague our community, it also develops leaders who can adapt to whatever problem might be thrust upon our Afrikan nation—no matter what continent, no matter what conditions, no matter what form of warfare, no matter what enemy.”

I have to be honest, Samori  motivates me to want to learn more, strive more, do more and reach more.  Being a midwife, a doula, a birth worker… yall know… this work… it’s an honor. It’s a humbling privilege.  We are the ones that help women “give light.”  We are the ones that help create/maintain a sacred space for birth. We are the ones that protect the spirit of the youth as they enter into this world.  It’s wonderful to know that once my job is done, there are people like Samori who will grab the baton and continue to protect their spirits.   When I am so blessed to bring forth life into this world, it will be an honor to trust my children, their minds, and their spirits to the hands of Dr. Samori Camara. He is indeed doing what it takes to Birth Something Beautiful and to help our children do the same.

Fist Up Brotha Afrika…  Revolutionary Love!

Do you homeschool? Do you know Dr. Samori?  Share your story!

Memories & Motivations from Trinidad

I am always excited after attending an event with the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC).  Last week I returned home after a 7 night stay in Maraval Trinidad.  While there, I was working, bonding, eating, sleeping, sharing, growing and learning with a group of phenomenal women.   The women who attended are doulas, nurses, midwives, and mothers… sisters, daughters, American and Trinidadian.

Healing Hands

Healing Hands

As I sat to write this blog post, I thought back to February.  I wrote an article titled “Black Motherhood” that was published in the online publication Oya Nsoro. Below are some excerpts from that article.

Often times, when we use the word midwife in the black community it conjures up images of elderly women walking from house to house, dressed in all white catching babies by moonlight and kerosene oil.  For many, the idea of midwifery also brings up images of dirty old women who are uneducated, undertrained and unskilled.  These negative beliefs about midwives were shaped in our communities systematically as the government, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology worked together to rid America of its “midwife problem.”  A war was waged on black so-called granny midwives and they were slowly eliminated from our communities.  This systematic elimination that started with the Sheppard Towner act in 1921 continues today.  The Sheppard Towner Act, created “training programs” for midwives and forced many of them to abandon the historical knowledge and practices that had been passed down for generations.  Integration and the introduction of Medicaid brought poor, rural, and black women out of the homes and into hospitals to birth.  Maternity care become a VERY profitable business… there was then, and continues to be, money to be made regardless of the birth outcomes. 

While midwifery in the black community traditionally was an honored profession, today many hold to the false beliefs that midwifery care is second rate, something for the poor and the underprivileged. Or in some minds, midwifery is for “them” i.e. the rich, the granola crunchy types, the natural hair wearers and the vegans. 

Fortunately, in spite of these false beliefs, the practice of midwifery carries on today and is gaining momentum.   To those of us practicing “modern day midwifery” there is honor and respect in this profession.  We understand the shoulders upon which we stand and we carry on the legacy of the so-called “granny midwife” with passion and reverence. 

Midwives are, and have always been spiritual people.  Most midwives will tell you they were “called” into this business and no other profession is more directly linked with both life and death. They took care of the community. They had to because no one else would. They succeeded because they had no choice.  Today, we “modern day midwives” work with this passion and pray we can do the same.

I came into midwifery knowing that women in my community were NOT being treated the way they should be during labor and birth.  I was moved to become a midwife so that I could be a part the solution.  At that time, I had no knowledge of granny midwives and during my midwifery education; I don’t remember learning much about the legacy of black midwives.  In 2001 I was introduced to Rhonda Haynes the award winning producer of Bringin in Da Spirit, a wonderful documentary that not only celebrates but tells the truth about the legacy of Black midwives.  It was through meeting her that I began my slow and continual journey to learn more.  Through Rhonda, I learned of ICTC and met Shafia Monore, the midwife and visionary behind ICTC, The International Black Midwives and Healers Conference, and The Full Circle Doula Training.  It has been my involvement with ICTC, especially over the past 3 years, that has accelerated my learning curve and given me a bigger passion not just for helping birthing women but also to learn about the legacy of black midwives and healers.

It was with much excitement that I registered to attend the recently held combo doula training in Trinidad with ICTC.  While there, I started down the path to become a Certified Full Circle Doula Trainer.  Have you taken the ICTC FCD training? If not, no matter what your previous birth work training is, I definitely recommend it.  You can take it this July in Chicago 🙂 This training, is like no other training.  It is an international training that celebrates the legacy of the black midwife and brings to light our full and rich history.  It educates, informs, and inspires.  It allows us to learn, to grow and to bond.  New friendships are forged and new passions are ignited. This is the ICTC way.  Today, as I work to improve birth outcomes in my community, I salute all of the midwives and doulas working to create better births for women. Extra Hugs… Love… and Light to those of you working in the trenches, taking care of black and brown families regardless of ability to pay.  You do not walk alone.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Mamatoto Birth Center

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Returning Power to Birth ~ The 2012 Black Midwives & Healers Conference

Back in October 2012, I had the pleasure to attend the ICTC 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference.  If you were there… WHAT??!! You already know 🙂

If you weren’t there… well… as is often the case with my blogging, I had plans to blog about the conference as we went along and blog again once I got home. Welp… that never happend. Ya just get kinda caught up in the moment of things.  Fortunately for me/for us… My Sista Midwife Walidah Muhammad is expanding her skill set beyond the birthing bed to documentary creation. I LOVE it!!! Soooo with that said… take a look at the videos below. There is no way these clips can bring you the full energy of what we shared, did, learned, and felt during this conference. But perhaps they will give you a glimpse and help you understand what a gem the International Center for Traditional Childbearing is for all of us!

We… who believe in freedom cannot rest