Tag Archives: Midwives

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


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


Wordless Wednesday: Birth Herstory Conference – Get Registered!!

Birth Herstory Conference

Until Racism Ends… We Will Need a Black Midwives Conference

It’s July 2012 and in three months, the membership and supporters of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) will descend upon Miami for our 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference.  The last time we had such a conference we were in Long Beach CA in 2010.  During that conference a question came up on the face book page of Mothering Magazine. A reader wanted to know why black midwives and doulas have their own conference??!! Weren’t we all in the same business and shouldn’t we all be working together she wanted to know.

I was quite annoyed with her question/comment and wrote this blog post about it…

Today as I re-visited that blog post and the notion of US having OUR own conference I re-affirm that a conference for, by and about black women, black babies, and black birth workers remains a necessity and Until racism ends… we will need a Black Midwives Conference.

The history of black women giving birth in this country is filled with stories involving physical and emotional pain.  For centuries birth for black women in this country was often unsupported, forced, lonely and void of compassion. Even more disturbing is the fact that black women today continue to give birth within an obstetrical system that disrespects, judges, and demeans them.

Research has shown that racism both, inside and outside of the medical establishment has a clear negative affect on the birth outcomes of black families.  This is a reality made plain and easy to see in the PBS Documentary:  Unnatural Causes.  Today, while national data shows a decline in overall infant and maternal mortality rates, the black white disparity gap not only persists; it continues to widen.  For black women, who are often maneuvering a system filled with racism, assumptions and in some cases sheer contempt, quality compassionate care can be difficult if not impossible to find.  The current system is not set up to create better birth outcomes in black communities.

While the climate for black women giving birth is bad, those of us who seek to make changes in that system are fighting battles of our own.  As we try to build bridges to make maternity care safe for all women we are up against a racist machine that attempts to block us from caring for our sisters that we are committed to caring for.  As women’s health care practitioners, as doulas, as midwifes, and lactation consultants, as outreach workers, mentors, and birth advocates, we face a racism that is often discussed quietly if ever at all.  But if you ask just about any black midwife, she will be able to share with you stories of racism that came up during her training or continue to come up in her professional practice. From the “professional” organizations, to the educational institutions, whether it’s the CPMs or the CNMs, racism exists on all levels.  These realities were recently highlighted during a series of blogs, notices, emails and public discussions that took place when the leadership of the MANA Midwives of Color Committee resigned from their leadership positions. Blody Show wrote a great post  about it:  Institutioal Racism White Privledge and MANA.

When racism is brought up in a conversation people get nervous.  Many want to pretend it doesn’t exist yet the actions and non-actions of many continue to prove that it does and continues to be a serious problem.  Until racism ends, we will need a black midwives conference.  This reality was highlighted by my sista friend Darcel of the Mahogany Way Birth Café when she asked “When Will You Care?.”  Sista Denene Millner wrote a telling piece where she gave us some direct examples of the racist treatment she received Birthing While Black in a New York hospital.  Yes, racism is alive and well and its killing Black women and babies.  Still don’t believe it. Check out the 2010 and 2011 reports from the Amnesty Internationals Deadly Delivery Series. The list goes on but I will stop here as I affirm AGAIN… Until Racis Ends… We will need a Black Midwives Conference AND I am happy to say we are having one and I challenge you… if you care about making a real difference in maternity outcomes… if you care about REALLY helping eliminate perinatal disparities YOU should make plans to be there.  YOU should make plans to join us in Miami. Shafia Monroe, President and CEO of ICTC said it perfectly:

This is an important year for Black midwives to be in solidarity worldwide, to end systemic racism in the midwifery profession that creates barriers for Black women to serve their community in order to end maternal and infant mortality that is disgracefully too high, and yet is preventable. This is a health inequity in the public health lens and it is a human rights issue, because it burdens the quality of life for Black families. ICTC needs your presence Oct. 19-21, 2012 at the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference to create a social and birth justice agenda. Along with learning and healing on the beach, there are several social justice plenaries for us to address this issue. We want everyone to attend. This is a call to action to ensure that our stories are told, honored and included in midwifery history, so that our daughters and sons will see our faces and our historical contributions to this beautiful profession of midwifery. ICTC wants to see all midwifery institutions make a measurable effort to increase the numbers of Black midwives and midwives of color worldwide and particularly in the USA. We can return power to birth when we use our power to end the discriminatory practices that we know exist within the midwifery institutions.

So with that being said… I challenge you to join me…  All of you… Black, White, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Purple, Green…. Join me in Miami… October 19-21 for the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference:  Returning Power to Birth – Reclaiming Our Culture.  Early bird registration ends this month. REGISTER NOW  Don’t delay.  Our mothers, our sisters, our friends, our babies, our children… they are depending on us.  I’m going to Miami in October. Who’s commin with??

Can’t make it to Miami, join the cause through your donation.  Purchase an ad to support the work of ICTC here. Become a paid member. Send a donation. We need all hands on deck.   Our work continues.    #FistUp

Dear NYT: I’m Not a Status Symbol… I’m a Midwife

Last Friday, I received a tweet with a link to That NY Times article… you know the one… the one suggesting midwife deliveries are up because it’s “trendy.”  I skimmed the article quickly… gave out a small sigh of annoyance…  thought of writing a blog about it… decided against it… and went about my evening duties (I was busy finishing my 2010 AND 2011 personal income taxes and well……  that’s all I have to say about that LOL)

Then on Saturday, over on facebook, my friend Jill at The Unnecesarean posted the article with a question:  “The second question is just for the midwives here. How do you feel about being defined as a “status symbol for the hip?”  I scrolled down, reading through the many comments and began to type one of my own. It quickly turned into the beginnings of a blog post and so I deleted the comment and here I am a few days later… back where I started with a sigh of annoyance.

The NY Times article asks the question:  “Are midwives becoming trendy, like juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes?” HUH?? *scratches head* Likes Juice cleanses and Tom’s shoes? Side bar: I have NO idea what or who Tom’s shoes are but I can assure you… pregnancy, childbirth, and midwives are NOTHING like them.

And then the article immediately answers its own question:  “It seems that way, at least among certain well-dressed pockets of New York society, where midwifery is no longer seen as a weird, fringe practice favored by crunchy types, but as an enlightened, more natural choice for the famous and fashionable.”  Huh?? *side eye*

So here’s my answer to the question posted on FB…

I really don’t like it when I read things that make midwifery seem elitist; Articles such as this one that create the image of midwifery as something only for “THEM.”  This is not a new phenomenon. First, as this article points out, the rumor was/is… midwives were/are only for the hippies and crunchy types.  Now this article wants you to believe midwifery is no longer just for them (the hippies) it’s also now for THEM:  the rich and famous and fashionable types who wear Tom Shoes and who apparently want to be up on the newest “baby trend.”   This type of writing and thinking is not only annoying, its detrimental as it creates a mental barrier to midwifery for many women who can benefit most from the care of midwives.

The reality is…. Midwifery is best for ALL women.  Even “high risk” women can benefit greatly from midwifery care.  In my opinion, midwifery care should be the golden standard and midwives the required entry point for prenatal and birth care in this country.  Yes, we are seeing an increasing number of women choosing midwives.  This is something we should celebrate.  When we do, instead of calling the rise in midwifery a trend of the rich and fashionable, it would better serve midwifery and women if writers looked at the facts.  Facts BTW that women are learning and FACTS that women are using to make better and more informed choices for themselves and their families.

Fact – Women choose midwives because midwives provide more compassionate holistic care. Midwives decrease interventions and have lower cesarean section rates.  Midwives have longer appointment times and take care of families and communities not just pregnancies.  Midwives are most often women themselves and provide choices as partners not as dictators in pregnancy care. Midwives will be with you in labor cause that’s what we are and what we do… we are “With Woman.”

A mother quoted in the NY Times article said “When you go to a doctor, you’re left alone a lot. You don’t have someone sitting there, looking you in the eye, getting you through it. When I thought about what I wanted for my child and how I wanted to have my child, every sign pointed to going to a midwife.”  Now that’s a direct quote and I see nothing there that talked about fashionable trends, famous people or status symbols… did you?  Ummmmmmm right… u didn’t…. so where are these writers getting this foolishness from??

I do believe it’s important for midwifery to be written about in a positive light and over all… this article is positive.   We have to demand however that articles in these publications focus on FACTS… on better perinatal outcomes, costs savings, increased breastfeeding, decreased litigation, better relationships etc.   American women are not stupid and certainly the NY Times readership is far from unlearned.  It’s a shame that the NY Times felt a need to take midwifery and “dumb it down.”

The fact that this article was featured in the “Fashion and Style Section” says it all.  It certainly explains why they felt it was reasonable to write an article comparing the important work we do,  to something “Hip and trendy” like SHOES *BIG Eye roll*

I am NOT a status symbol… I am NOT a trend… I am a midwife with a goal to help women #BirthSomethingBeautiful….

So… I have said my piece… What did you think about that article??

Be a Presenter: 2012 ICTC Black Midwives & Healers Conference

“The 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference (BMHC) will take place October 19-21, 2012 at the Newport Beachside Resort in Miami Beach, Florida. For the eighth time, the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) will convene midwives, doulas, birth workers and healers from around the globe to explore cultural traditions and best practices in the care of pregnant, birthing and postpartum mothers.”

  EYE!!!   CAN’T!!!    WAIT!!!

Are you familiar with ICTC?  Click the link and find out more. If you follow me on twitter you may know that since Thursday I have been playing hostess and participating in the New Orleans ICTC Full Circle Doula Training. It has been a wonderful experience and it has gotten me all excited about going to Miami.  In addition to the doula training, I am also working on my submission/proposal to be a speaker at the 2012 conference and that has me excited as well.

In 2010 I had the pleasure of not only attending, but actually being a presenter during the 7th BMHC, in Long Beach California.  Now THAT was a great experience. Here are a few nuggets from the 2010 conference.

 Have YOU ever wanted to be a presenter at a conference? Are you thinking of attending the ICTC BMHC in October? Do you have some information you want to share with others that you know will help women and babies?  If you answered yes to any of those questions… you should answer the Call for Papers to speak at the 2012 Conference.  Time is of the essence. Submissions are due June 1st.  Take a look at the Call for Proposals and be a speaker at the 8th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference: Returning Power to Birth:  Reclaiming Our Culture. 

Don’t want to be a presenter. Just join in the fun, culture, learning and experience ICTC up close and personal.  I look forward to seeing you in Miami!!

In Birth and Love
Nicole (Follow me on Twitter @SistaMidwife)