By Tiffany Forte A lot of popular images in the media are not so positive. However, Steve Johnson is fighting to change this with his “Be… Fearless” clothing apparel line. The Fearless Five concept is based on a team of young, black children spending their free time using their imaginations to be superheroes. “As parents, [...]
As a parent, there are several things that make us cringe, and the word “entitled” is one of the big ones. It not only means our children think they are owed something, but most of the time they think we are the ones from whom it is owed. How are we to teach them the value [...]
I confess, I love Tonya Lewis Lee. As a mother of two, a champion for infant health, a best-selling author and a creative force, she inspires me everyday. And, she commands her own shine even when standing next to her husband, filmmaker Spike Lee. Her star will be shining even brighter on Friday, September 20 [...]
Why Trayvon Martin Has Everything To Do With Black Women’s Birth Outcomes
By Kimberly Seals Allers
For years I’ve been talking about all the research that shows that stress is a key cause of the ongoing poor birth outcomes of black women. Often, I get pushback and confusion. But the truth is, black women, regardless of socio-economic status, are still twice as likely to have a low birth weight baby, three times more likely to die during childbirth, and twice as likely to have a pre-term baby.
The fact that more African American babies are born too small, too sick or too soon is a key factor in our three times higher infant mortality rate–and my key motivation for getting in to breastfeeding advocacy work. These infants are the ones who need the nutritive and immunological benefits only found in breast milk the most–for them, it can literally mean their survival.
I have also received more than my fair share of *side eye* glances from people who ask me why black mothers need their own parenting destination, like the Mocha Manual I am often questioned as to how black mothers’ parenting experience is any different than a white mothers’ experience.
To respond to Side eye point A regarding birth outcomes, I usually point to groundbreaking research, like that of Dr. Michael Lu on the life course perspective on birth outcomes. Watch the video above on how racism impacts pregnancy outcomes or Dr. Fleda Jackson’s many pieces of research at Emory University and for the Joint Center for Poltiical and Economic Studies.
I share how Scientists know that stress on the mother causes her to produce stress hormones, which can adversely effect the development of a fetus’ hippocampus and amygdale, two areas of the brain associated both with the fight-or-flight response, memory formation and anxiety. And that prolonged stress in the mother decreases the sensitivity of those two areas of the brain to mediate its own stress response, which has been linked to, among other things, ADHD. Still, so many people don’t really get it.
So I often share my personal story of how when I was first pregnant, I prayed to God for a girl–literally–because I was afraid that I was not capable of successfully raising a black male child in this society. I feared raising a black male child in this society. And that fear was a constant source of stress. That stress was probably rooted in growing up watching my own mother fear for the safety of my younger brother. I remember her constantly warning him to not wear baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirts because police (especially in New York City) stereotype young black men with that type of clothing and often shoot first and ask questions later.
I remember her sitting by the window or pacing the living room on nights when my brother was not home by curfew.
I remember both my parents giving my brother the “talk”–not the sex talk–but the life-saving one on how to respond when you are inevitably stopped by the police for no reason but for DWB (driving while black).
And let me just say, that I grew up in a middle class section of Queens, in a private home, with two cars, and a mother who was at home until I was in middle school.
Even still, these were her fears. And she knew that neither money nor education–my brother attended Hofstra University–would not protect him nor assuage her.
So somehow my mother’s fears became my fears. God answered my prayers and gave me a girl as my first child, but my son came four years later.
And so like many mothers, and likely every Black mother, especially those with a young black male in their care, I shed tears last week over the verdict in the case over Trayvon Martin’s unnecessary death.
I cried because I know the world is full of George Zimmerman’s–people who assume our young men are “assholes” and up to no good even when they themselves have no good reason to think that. And that in a jury of so-called peers, my innocent yet dead child would be referred to as “that boy”–unworthy of being called by his name. The real possibility that a George Zimmerman could come in contact with my son, and possibly brutally end his life, continues to stress me. And haunt me.
And so I hope that in the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, there lies proof of exactly the kind of unique stressors black mothers contend with. I hope the people who have questioned how stress could be connected with pre-term labor or low birth weight babies or challenged me as to why black mothers face issues so unique that they are deserving of their own online community, can see exactly what researchers mean. These are not the worries you can Calgon-bath or Yankee-candle away.
And I sincerely pray that both of these issues, questions and challenges can be silenced, once and for all, and forever laid to rest in peace right alongside Trayvon Martin’s 17-year old, bullet-shattered body.
It’s the last weekend to catch the hit family musical, WANDA’s MONSTER featuring the music of Laurie Berkner, plus this weekend you can meet Laurie live and in the flesh at a special benefit performance on Saturday, May 11th at 2pm. Making Books Sing presents WANDA’S MONSTER, The Musical Music and Lyrics byLaurie Berkner Book [...]
Breastfeeding Chef’s Apple Molasses Oatmeal Makes 2 nursing mama servings Don’t be fooled by what looks like a long list of ingredients, this tasty breakfast comes together quickly and easily. Plus it was created with the breastfeeding mother in mind. Here’s what’s good about some of the ingredinets. OATS: known and widely used in North [...]
We’re closing out Women’s History Month by motivating all women (and everybody, really!) to find their passion and turn it into a money-making business they love! Having trouble finding your passion? Don’t fret! Start here with a quick self-assessment to get you on your way: 1.What are you doing when you feel happiest? 2. What [...]
We are pleased to announce that MochaManual.com and BlackDoctor.org, the leading resource for African American health, nutrition and weight loss information have formed a new content partnership, that puts MochManual.com’s award-winning content in front of BlackDoctor.org’s nearly 1.8 million monthly users. MochaManual.com, the premier pregnancy and parenting destination for African American parents, announces new content [...]
Kimberly Seals Allers visits the set of Katie. Read the post she wrote after listening to Olympic medalist Gabrielle Douglas share her pain over the criticism she received from the black community about her hair. Also, check out Kimberly’s behind-the-scene pics. Read the post here: http://www.katiecouric.com/features/my-apology-to-gabrielle-douglas-from-african-american-moms/
Over the years, statistics have shown that most babies are born between the months of August and September, which means many women were catch getting a little too cozy while hibernating during the brutal winter months. Well ladies, if you are expecting or know someone who is, here are a few products for the new bundle [...]