Black Maternal Health Week: The Topeka Doula Project

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Black Maternal Health Week: The Topeka Doula Project

Categories: Advocacy, Racial Justice, Social Justice

Black Maternal Health Week was founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a national network of Black women-led organizations and professionals. This week is a chance to amplify the voices and experiences of Black birthing people and Black-led maternal health programs, and center reproductive and birth justice.

Local Resource: The Topeka Doula Project, Inc.

Here in our community, the Topeka Doula Project is leading the way in providing education, support, and guidance during pregnancy, labor & birth, and the postpartum period. They are a volunteer-run nonprofit with a focus on empowering teen mothers, incarcerated and reintegrating mothers, and low-income mothers and their families. Executive Director Abriona Markham shared some of her background and passion with YWCA to honor Black Maternal Health Week.

When did you first realize your passion for birth work? 

“My journey started in 2014, way before I had children of my own. In 2014, I was 18 years old and I saw a Black woman breastfeed for the first time. It struck me that I was raised surrounded by women and I had never known or seen breastfeeding in my life, at least that I could remember. So, my research started with “Why are black women not breastfeeding?” and it led me down a road of no return, thankfully. I found that black women were indeed breastfeeding, but an issue is that we lead in maternal and infant deaths in the U.S. but also right here in Kansas. That’s what changed my path from lactation to doula work. I answered the call and haven’t looked back since. Black women should be able to survive childbirth, especially when the things killing us are preventable. So I have started doing the work so that Black women can have informed consent and body autonomy. When we start saving Black women, we will start saving the world.”

Abriona Markham, Topeka Doula Project

What is something you want the world to know about Black mothers and/or their babies?

We are the blueprint. From the conception of the United States, Black women have led the way in motherhood. So, with that being said I want the world to know that we are resilient, tenacious, thriving, healthy, soft, and so much more. Black women’s way of care looks a little different, but that doesn’t mean we are not doing it “correctly”. Our child-rearing is tough, but it is also soft and loving. Our children are bright, smart, strong, and resilient. We have systems in place that put us in boxes that we were never meant to be in. We are the definition of ingenuity. Black families deserve to grow old.

Do you have any events planned or would you like to showcase any events happening during Black Maternal Health Week?

Kansas Birth Equity Network is excited to host Healthy, Thriving, Black Families: A Conversation on Black Maternal Health and Birth Equity! Join us April 15th in person or online to celebrate Black Healthy, Thriving, Communities and hear from our keynote speaker Dr. Stacy Scott and panelists about their efforts and successes working towards birth equity. Before and after the event you will get to interact with Black Owned Businesses and other vendors from Kansas & the Kansas City Metro. There will be food, swag for attendees, daycare, chair yoga, affirmations, and prizes for parents!  You’ll hear from keynote speaker Dr. Stacy Scott and an amazing panel of parents, providers, policymakers, and professionals! This will be a free, family-friendly event with food, vendors, swag bags, daycare, chair yoga, and raffle prizes for parents. If you plan on bringing your child with you, be sure to complete our Daycare Sign Up Form here! We encourage in-person attendees to arrive at 10:30 am to begin checking out our 20 incredible vendors! Let’s celebrate Healthy, Thriving, Black Families! Register today!

Wrap-up: Why focus on Black maternal health?

Maternal health disparities are rooted in societal structures, such as access to quality and affordable healthcare, implicit bias, and structural racism. Closing the gap in racial health disparities will strengthen the entire community. According to the CDC, Black birthing people are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy related cause than white people, and that gap affects multiple realms of maternal health:

  • Maternal mortality
  • Maternal mental health
  • Breastfeeding
  • Reproductive Rights & Justice/Access to Contraception

Click here to read more from the Black Mamas Matter Alliance 2023 BMHW Toolkit. Click here to read more about the Momnibus Act, a federal legislation package sponsored by the Congressional Black Maternal Health Caucus.