By: Nate Morris, senior editor
TULSA, OK – In the United States, Black women are up to 400% more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women.
This statistic from National Partnership spans wealth and income gaps and demonstrates the deeply-rooted racial injustices that exist for expectant Black mothers across the country.
To change this reality, the Black Mamas Matter Alliance has fought to expand awareness and push for significant policy change in order to create “a world where Black mamas have the rights, respect, and resources to thrive before, during, and after pregnancy.”
Today, on the first day of Black Maternal Health Week, eleven community organizations (including the Take Control Initiative, Community Service Council, Tulsa Health Department, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and others) came together to host a screening and panel discussion of the films “Death by Delivery” and “Kira’s Story“.
The panel, moderated by Councilwoman Vanessa Hall-Harper, included community leaders Dr. Regina Lewis, healthcare expert Candice Brantley, Black maternal health advocate Marnie Jackson and public health strategist Sandra Braun.
“The driving force behind this effort is the fact that Black women’s maternal mortality has remained higher than white women’s risk for the past six decades,” said Maurianna Adams, Education & Outreach Director for Take Control Initiative. “We want to make it known that this is an issue happening right here in our own community.”
Nearly 100 community members attended the “completely packed” event, learning, sharing stories and asking questions of experts in the room.
Raynell Joseph is a local community organizer and was one of those attendees at today’s event.
“As a Black woman, we already know these things. We’ve either lived it or someone in our family has, but to hear the stats and experiences presented in the film is still scary to think about,” said Joseph.
“That’s why I am grateful for the work that groups like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance is doing to ensure that awareness is being brought to the issue and that people that look like me are getting the care and respect they deserve.”
In addition to a heightened chance of mortality for the mother, the 2018 Tulsa Equality Indicators shows that infant mortality rates for Black children born in the city are three times higher than those for white children. It also shows that 1/4 of Black residents in our city do not have access to health insurance; an uninsured rate nearly 167% higher than that of white Tulsans.
“It’s essential that we center Black women in this dialogue and work as they suffer from maternal mortality at higher rates and are most severely impacted by institutional racism.” said Laura Bellis, Executive Director of the Take Control Initiative, a contraceptive access program participating in the event.
“The solutions we, as a community, develop for them will positively impact all women when accessing healthcare and ultimately save lives.”
To learn more about Black Maternal Health Week, including to register for upcoming webinars, click here.
Nate Morris is the senior editor of the Black Wall Street Times. Nate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tulsa in 2012 after graduating from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2015. Nate is a Teach for America alumnus and has worked in schools throughout the Tulsa area.