Black Women Who Are Changing History for Families
In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting a few Black women who are making a lasting impact on the health and safety of children and families.
Founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund: Marian Wright Edelman
Photo: Johnson Publishing Co.
“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.” That’s not just a quote from lawyer, civil rights activist, and trailblazer Marian Wright Edelman, it’s the way she lives her life. Back in 1973, Marian founded the Children’s Defense Fund, which is the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. Thanks to Marian and the CDF, today we have the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which ensures students with disabilities are provided free public education tailored to their needs. She also fought to expand Medicaid funding for children, increase tax credits for families with children, and boost financing for programs like Head Start, which provides comprehensive early education, health, and nutrition services to low-income children and families. And that’s just a taste of what Marian has done. She’s the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, the first female alum elected to the Yale Board of Trustees, she’s the former director of Harvard’s Center for Law and Education...the list goes on. Marian has received over 100 honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy lifetime achievement award.
Co-founder of Mama Glow: Latham Thomas
In 2003, not long after the birth of her son, Latham Thomas started Mama Glow—a holistic maternity endeavor that works to support women during fertility, pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood. It was through her own pregnancy and birth experience that Lathman discovered a great need in the birth space for mothers to advocate for themselves—and to have advocates by their sides. “I felt really compelled by the vision of Harriet Tubman and carrying people to safe passage,” says Latham. “That’s what we do [at Mama Glow]: We carry mothers to safe passage through darkness and we help navigate a really uncharted territory for most people.” MamaGlow offers a variety of pregnancy through new motherhood doula services, plus yoga, meditation, spiritual self-care programs—and doula education programs. Recently, Latham—a doula herself—took her dedication to new and expectant parents further and founded of Mama Glow Foundation, which is committed to advancing reproductive justice through education, advocacy, and the arts. Her ultimate goal? To help foster a generation of physicians that support Black mothers in everything from fertility to breastfeeding.
Co-Founder of Black Breastfeeding Week: Kimberly Sears Allers
Even though Kimberly Seals Allers had her first child at one of the best-ranked hospitals in New York City, her entire birthing experience left her feeling disrespected and traumatized. “I had a c-section I still can’t fully explain, my baby was given infant formula despite my explicit direction that I was breastfeeding, and I had to fight and cry to have my baby with me in my room,” she recalls. It was that ordeal—plus the struggle to find postpartum support—that pushed Kimberly, an award-winning journalist, to begin her work advocating for maternal and infant health equity. “Everyone deserves an empowered birth experience where they are honored and respected for who they are, not treated differently or inadequately because of who they are,” says Kimberly, who’s working hard to make that happen. She co-founded Black Breastfeeding Week and founded Narrative Nation, a non-profit that works toward eradicating health disparities. Her latest achievement: Irth—as in Birth but without the B for bias—is an app that allows parents of color to share their experiences with prenatal, birthing, postpartum, and pediatric professionals, so expecting and new parents can better find unbiased care. Kimberly has also written several books including, The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding and The Mocha Manual series of books.
Co-Founder of Kindred Space: Kimberly Durdin
Photo: Rebecca Coursey-Rugh
Kimberly Durdin, a licensed and certified midwife, doula, and lactation consultant, is well aware that Black moms are four times more likely than white moms to die due complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. And she knew it was time to do something about it. First, Kimberly founded the non-profit Birthing People Foundation with fellow midwife and doula Allegra Hill to start addressing maternal and infant health disparities in communities of color. The organization, in part, provides free and low cost education, training, and certification to doulas, lactation consultants, and midwives of color. Next, the pair co-founded, Kindred Space LA, which provides inclusive classes, support, and midwifery services for new and expecting parents as well as birth workers. “Allegra and I [weren’t] comfortable just being like, ‘Wow, that really sucks. All this terrible stuff is happening’,” Kimberly says. “We literally pledged our lives to be a part of the solution.” And today the pair are doing more than ever: Kindred Space has grown to be a full-fledged birthing center—the only Black-owned and operated birth center in Los Angeles.
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