global doula blog

Mind the Gap, Close the Gap



Since returning to live and work in London in 2016 and working as a doula since 2017, I have become increasingly aware of the racial disparities in childbirth here in the UK. Doctor Amali Lokugamage highlights the recent Mbrrace2018 in her article released last week.

Rewind to November 2018 when I felt honoured to sit amongst champions, predominantly women of colour at the UK's inaugural Reproductive Justice Retreat. This initiative was created and run by Mars Lord of Abuela Doulas and you can read her account of the few days we all spent together here.

I was delighted to meet one of my sheroes in the birth world Jennie Joseph there, who is renowned for #theJJWay Jennie is a British trained midwife who has spent the last few decades, very busy, saving black lives in Florida where she runs Commonsense Childbirth.

Having spent those few days with amazing women I was mostly listening. Elsie Gayle spoke about Cultural Safety in Maternity and Nicola Goodall led a session on Decolonising the Postnatal Period. Mars Lord facilitated Birth Activism Listening Exercises.

It was a safe place like no other I have ever experienced. Although discussing life and death issues, there were not many tears (unlike when I have sat amongst a largely white audience and contributed to the water works, lol). The safe factor was important, given the subject matter and the lived experience of how topics such as racial disparity are always met with microagressions and white fragility in public forums. This typically ends with conversations shut down and the black voices silenced, erased. Again.

Our days together were productive and fun and we ate the best food. I have new friends for life.

Jennie Joseph shared about the Perinatal Task Force, a model of trained facilitators creating perinatal safe spots In local communities. Thus, grass roots "villages" are born, birthing people not only survive, they thrive. Workshops are held in the USA and online training will be available at Saving Lives

This week is the second annual Black Maternal Health Week founded in America by @BlkMamasMatter #BMHW19 Only.One.Week to highlight what is going on, particularly regarding Maternal Mortality in the States. And its a bit like Donald Trump and climate change: obvious but some people choose to block it out and carry on as usual.

As a white person I also have that privilege. So do you if you are white. I have done a lot of reading and listening and reflecting in the last year. I have much more to do. It's an ongoing learning, not a one off 40 minute tick the box cultural competence online course.

Meanwhile, consider our daughters, granddaughters, friends, nieces, clients, neighbours, cousins. Women who are Black (5x) Asian (2x) and others from marginalised groups are more likely to die in childbirth than white women and that's not OK. My friends and colleagues, especially black women are leading the way, finding and initiating platforms to bring awareness and solutions.

Here are my reflections in poetry form:


The Gap

For me it begins
In my white skin
Acknowledging life long privileges
And the caressing of remaining in those isolated villages
But that's just sick + wrong
Like the clanging of a gong
Yet I’ll aways have that choice
To turn away
Contain my voice
Whilst my Sisters, Misters, She, Them, Him, They
By whatever pronoun chosen to say, proclaim or name
People of colour, Black or BAME
A preventable erasure,
And even worse, then blamed
Are dying in silence
A mystic, hidden, violence
That's plainly not a mystery
If only we'd acknowledge history
Why won't we listen?
Raised voices not heard?
We're talking Black maternal health
And no we can't put it down to poverty or wealth
Have you seen the statistics?
Even if you missed it
We cannot accept this
Stinking racist sepsis
I'm angry and white
Walking blindly with sight
Not for me to sit + cry
Though deserving tears
No more whitesplaining
It's us that's in arrears
Black women and babies are dying
Leaving devastated loved ones trying
To make sense of what just happened
When it makes no sense
We need to close this gap- it must end
I don't need you to tell me if my poem's what + why
It's the message that's important
So take it and apply

Have a listen to Mars Lord's podcast to see what you can do to spread awareness to Mind the Gap and Close the Gap of racial disparity by taking action.

I would like to thank Kimberly Seals Allers for her recent writing workshop "Writing for Social Change". This is my first poem and blog post written since the workshop last month ago so I'm dedicating this piece to you with gratitude. I highly recommend taking Kimberly's workshop if you get the opportunity. You can find her here and follow her on twitter @iamksealsallers.



Further Reading Resources:
1. Why I'm no longer talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
2. Antagonists, Advocates & Allies by Catrice M. Jackson
3. Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala