Portland, OR — On October 9, 2015, Erykah Badu, four times GRAMMY® Award winner, singer/songwriter, and holistic healer joins midwives and healers from across the globe to open the three day Black Midwives and Healers Conference to embrace our future.
Over two-hundred attendees comprised of midwives, nurses, physicians, public health professionals, community health workers, lactation consultants, doulas, birth workers, and students representing the Africa Diaspora, will gather in Portland in October at the University Place and Conference Center in downtown Portland.
The goal of our conference is to improve birth outcomes, diversify the midwifery and doula profession and increase civic engagement of our youth to increase the number of people of color who enter the midwifery field. Currently there is a severe shortage of midwives and doulas of color, to service pregnant women and new mothers, and who are needed to positively impact maternal and infant health in the Black community.
African Americans babies still have the highest infant mortality rate of any race in this country; the national average for white America is 5 infant deaths per 1000 babies and 14 infant deaths per 1000 for African American babies. The Black midwife has a legacy of combating this problem; she provided culturally based prenatal care, taught sound nutrition, built self-esteem, supported breastfeeding and included the father, keeping him connected to the birth experience. The need for Black midwives is increasing. This conference will support and foster the resurgence of Black midwives who are needed to meet the growing demand.
The conference is an important convening of midwives and healers to engage one another and create safe spaces to develop solutions to a number of key issues, including: diversifying the midwifery, doula and birth worker workforce; bringing attention to the high maternal mortality rate for Black women with the multiplier effect of helping to eliminate poverty; reducing infant and maternal mortality in communities of color; discussing advocacy for breastfeeding practices and engaging our young people to enter midwifery; and addressing the field of birth work through the lens of civic engagement; and understanding the global community of maternal, newborn and infant needs.
The conference will address the impact of racial inequity on birth outcomes in communities of color and the underrepresentation of birth workers of color in health care institutions and schools. While the research shows that midwives lower the infant mortality rate, there remains a shortage of midwives of color to service their communities in culturally appropriate ways that improve birth outcomes. Currently the national profile of midwives is majority white women, with less than 2% being black women with only 13% black women being served by certified nurse midwives (CNMs) compared to 57% of white women being serviced by CNMs (Goode, K.L., 2014).
The conference is inviting educators, credentialing organizations, funders and policy makers to create strategies to increase enrollment of people of color into the midwifery and doula professions.
Over three days, the midwifery model of care for better birth outcomes will be highlighted to promote cultural competency, with an emphasis on racial equity to reduce infant and maternal mortality. It will celebrate the past accomplishments of Black midwives and embrace the future of midwifery and doulas in communities of color to improve birth outcomes.
In addition to cutting edge research by seasoned midwives, doulas and physicians in the field of perinatal health, this year’s conference features veteran midwives, including Sondra Abdullah Zaimah, Debra Lewis, Rita Aparicio, Nandi Hill, and Shafia M. Monroe who will lead a conversation on midwifery education and credentialing to diversify the midwifery profession. Doulas and community health workers will share their vision of improving birth outcomes through integration in the home and hospitals as members on the birth team, and how to offer cultural competent perinatal services.
The following activities will take place at the 9th International Black Midwives and Healers Conference:
Erykah Badu, Four Times GRAMMY® Award Winner and ICTC International Spokesperson will speak on healing and birth; attendees can nurture themselves in the Red Tent, and visit the vendor village for an educational and cultural experience, and join the Quilting Bee, to honor the past.
Learn the history of the African American midwife by viewing the famous “Bringin in Da Spirit” Documentary by Rhonda Haynes. Grand Midwife UmSalaamah Zaimah Abdullah, who has delivered thousands of babies, and is the founder of “Midwives on the Move,” will speak on international midwifery and training.
The conference represents a Black midwives and healers movement for birth justice to give voice to what Black women experience during pregnancy, birth and nursing, and what midwives endure to serve them.
The necessity for Black midwives and healers to gather to learn, share and organize will remain paramount as long as perinatal health disparities and low breastfeeding rates continue in African American and in other communities of color. The conference will build camaraderie, teach best practices and reduce health disparities, increase civic engagement, support our youth, and address racial equity to diversify the midwifery work force.
The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) is a non-profit infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion and midwife and doula training organization, founded in 1991. The ICTC mission is to increase the number of midwives, doulas and healers of color, in order to empower families to reduce infant and maternal mortality and increase breastfeeding rates.
For more details, visit www.ictcmidwives.org
#BlackMidwivesMatter, #BlackBabiesMatter, #ICTCMidwives
Zalayshia Jackson, Conference Coordinator