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A young African American woman is holding her young son's hand, while he's walking on the side of the road

Source: Maca and Naca / Getty

Five blocks away from the historic Auburn Avenue where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. lived and led the fight against the unfair treatment of African Americans, hundreds gathered in solidarity at Selena S. Butler Park in Atlanta, GA this past Saturday.

The cause: Black women’s maternal health.

For the third year in a row, Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA) hosted the Black Maternal Health Walk to raise awareness around the topic as part of Black Maternal Health Week. This year the organization partnered with the City of Atlanta and 4Kira4Moms (4K4M) to make it the biggest yet.

 

BMMA Co-founder and Executive Director, Angela Aina, was “overwhelmed with gratitude” at the community response. “We started four years ago with no resources but with a lot of advocates concerned about the cause. Unfortunately [Black women] experience pregnancy in dire and sometimes violent circumstances, even when we interact with the healthcare system. Black women have been the main ones to respond to that. For all of us to come together to share resources it means a lot,” she explained.

In tow were various Black women-led organizations dedicated to bettering the Black maternal experience such as Irth, Mom’s Mental Matters, and Sister Song. Olympic Gold Medalist, Sanya Richards-Ross, was also present with her organization, MommiNation, to lend support. “We want all Black moms to have a chance to go home with their babies. Us showing up here with other organizations doing the same thing will allow us to meet that goal,” she said.

This year’s corporate sponsors included Pampers, the Bump, Happiest Baby, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and Aetna. Andre Greenwood, Aetna Better Health of Georgia CEO and President, says the company is happy to create a covenant with BMMA to eradicate the issue. “The mortality happening with Black females is unacceptable. We’re putting our dollars, resources, and providers behind it by incentivizing Black doctors to stay in Georgia to care for Georgia mothers,” he shared.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States. Accounting for 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, they are three times more likely to die from birth complications than White women.

The untimely death of Kira Johnson following the birth of her second son led her husband Charles Johnson to launch 4K4M with a mission to lessen that percentage. Working alongside BMMA, 4K4M is fighting implicit bias against Black women in the healthcare system. Executive Director, Gabby Albert, says they believe if you solve the issue for one, you solve it for all. “We want to make sure all mothers in America can give birth without the risk and concern that they won’t make it,” Albert shared. She explained mitigating that risk starts with advocacy, awareness, education, and ultimately legislation.

Advocacy was a hot topic in Saturday’s event discussions. Samantha Walker, a Black mother and nurse, emphasized the importance of advocating for yourself. “My experience hasn’t always been pleasant. What made the difference for me was not being afraid to move around when choosing my practitioner. I moved until I felt comfortable with who I believed could advise me best for my personal situation.” Walker wants Black women – and all patients – to know it is their right to move until they find a healthcare professional they believe will provide the best care. She states the best healthcare provider is one who listens more than they speak, educates and presents options, and gives the power of choice.

Aina’s vision for the future of BMMA includes helping more Black women, and their supporters, to feel confident about their maternal journey, healthcare, and the providers who assist them as with Walker. She says BMMA will continue the work necessary to change policy by ringing the alarm about maternal mortality.

Black Mamas Matter Alliance Hosts Nation’s Largest Black Maternal Health Walk  was originally published on elev8.com

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