This Conversation Is Just the Beginning

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Words - Morgan Ersery

Womanly Issue No. 4: Black Maternal Health is right around the corner. To kick off the conversation, Womanly Magazine EIC Attia Taylor sat down with Pascale Bernard, VP of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund and Anthonia Akitunde, Founder and Editor of mater mea at Meg Shop in Downtown Brooklyn to discuss some of the challenges that are surrounding Black motherhood and child rearing. Here are some takeaways from the panel discussion.

The medical industrial complex is real.
As a result of surviving decades of disenfranchisement in medical care, many Black people are distrustful of doctors and health care professionals. But through large-scale allyship and changes in the health care industry, the national conversations are shifting. Black women are now being elected into positions of power--from the NY State Attorney General to the State Senate, and the General Assembly--and are pushing legislation based on their personal experiences. Additionally, organizations like Planned Parenthood are working tirelessly to ensure that providers are as diverse as their patients, which is a key part of the trust that must be cultivated in order for Black women (and Black parents) to receive adequate care.

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It takes a village
When Anthonia started mater mea in 2012, she was interested in having conversations about motherhood in New York City, but she didn’t see anyone in the media who looked like her having these conversations. As a journalist, Anthonia began interviewing and photographing real mothers who she admired. She shortly found that there was a space ‘for all kinds of Black moms,’ and noted that Instagram is a great platform to find thriving communities of moms offering advice or a listening ear. Pascale has also seen communal groups regain popularity as Black women, empowered by shared stories, are starting their own groups for in-person support.

The conversation is expanding
All three women mentioned not being aware of family medical histories or having frank conversations about bodily functions that would have made navigating care as adults easier. Attia hopes that social media and platforms like Womanly Magazine and mater mea will help reduce the stigma of talking about these topics.’

It doesn’t end there. A key part of widening knowledge and empathy around Black maternal health is also about sharing stories of Black adoption, fertility struggles, and raising Black LGBTQIA+ children.

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This is just the beginning
Pascale, who has been working towards solutions since the 90’s, is optimistic that the improvements she’s been fighting for are starting to bear fruit: “As Black women, we are taking more ownership of our own bodies, and of our own medical health, and our journeys. My hope is that we continue to do that.” The fourth issue of Womanly Magazine hopes to spark conversations both within the Black community and beyond by illustrating the misconceptions as well as the joys of motherhood, so that Black women and their allies can better advocate for the care they deserve.

 

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