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Reflections Series: Black Women Organizing and the Black Maternal Health Conference

In preparation for this year's conference, the RJ2 founders share their reflective thoughts on their 2018 experience at BMHC in a three-part blog series, leading up to the #BMHC21. You can also find us showing up and showing out at this year’s conference. Join our session “Problematizing and Reframing Self-Care from a [RJ Squared] Critical Foundations Framework.


It has been over two years since the inaugural Black Maternal Health Conference (BMHC) in Atlanta, 2018. BMMA hosted this conference as a national forum dedicated to Black maternal health and the disparities that face Black women. A robust learning experience, brimming with opportunities for organizational, intellectual, and holistic capacity building; networking; and honest discourse on the conditions needed to improve Black women’s well-being. BMHC is the catalyst that prompted Rebecca and Jasmine to found RJ2, LLC.


BMMA explicitly informs research, policy, and cultural consciousness for Black maternal health disparities/inequities through a reproductive justice lens. You can learn more about the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and sign up for their listserv by visiting their website at www.BlackMamasMatter.org.


In this series, we are offering three things as seen in the titles of our series:


Initial Reflections (in conversation with Rebecca and Jasmine about BMHC18), available 4/12/21.


Centering Reproductive Justice in Healthcare (publishing 4/13/21)


Recommendations for Public Health Through a Reproductive Justice Lens (publishing 4/14/21)


Initial Reflections: Distinct yet intersecting points of entry

Rebecca: The anticipation of attending the conference for me was laced in a bit of apprehension and intimidation. Coming into space with an academic understanding of Public Health, but with only ancillary experience and a lens shaped by years of work in child welfare and child abuse prevention, I felt a little in over my head. Despite this, I anticipated that this conference would further my understanding as a person reasonably new to maternal health; and quell my apprehensions about being a Black, cis-gender woman in America contemplating starting my own family one day. I prepared myself to be intentional in my absorption of the information I was to receive.


Jasmine: I have had the honor and privilege of serving as a Black Mamas Matter Alliance Collaborator with other brilliant thought leaders, researchers, birth workers, and clinical providers. My foundational training in the field occurred in a local health department participating in anti-racist strategies to reduce infant mortality rates and closing the Black-White gap. This experience primed me for reproductive justice-centered work.


However, “reproductive justice” is not evident in public health practice. The Black Maternal Health Conference offers a space for public health and reproductive justice to converge.


I arrived at the Black Maternal Health Conference with optimism, joy, a sigh of relief. It felt like returning from an extended study abroad in which I was the only one from my “tribe” on the trip, and no one understood the nuance of my language. My ten+ years of experience in sexual and reproductive health education have unlocked doors for my consciousness of the Life Course Perspective and the Social Determinants of Health.


I entered the Loudermilk Convention Center to a sea of earth-hued women, gender non-conforming, and other bustling with the excitement of the event. Being there was like being at Grandma’s house. Florida water, honey, and coconut milk, incensed with the beauty of our joy and the joy of our beauty; strengthened with our resilience, numbed by society’s need to ignore our pain; and healing with our knowledge and shared practices for how we can move ahead. Story. Listen. Share. A joy! The beauty of my people, my tribe, my fellows in Reproductive Justice. I embraced colleagues from across the United States, overtaken by the dynamic beauty of participants in the opening plenary session. I was HOME!


Picture: https://blackmamasmatter.org/bmhc-2021/

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