Breathe, Thrive and Grow.

I am writing this on the heels of my May 27, 2020 post titled, “Exhausted.” Lots of changes have taken place in communities across the nation since my previous post. Several posts remain in “draft” status as my intention is to remain on task by discussing all that has taken place during the month of June. Our nation is currently in the midst of a movement. In the words of National Radio Hall of Fame Inductee, Joe Madison, “the difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.” Salute to the foot soldiers on the frontline of the movement while the nation is in the middle of an active pandemic. You are indeed making a huge sacrifice as COVID-19 did not magically disappear. Your activism is needed. I see you. I hear you. I support you.

“The difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.”

Joe Madison

Many of us are still exhausted; yet we are only half way through the current year. This month two memorial services for Brother George Floyd were televised. We also witnessed the killing of Brother Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police. He was laid to rest yesterday. The month of June presented the notion that Black men are suddenly hanging themselves from trees in an attempt to complete suicide. I refuse to believe that these lynchings are the result of suicide. Dr. Stacey Patton discusses this eloquently in her article written for the The Washington Post. Throughout June I have continued to provide mental health support to clients in a virtual format and have discussed all of the above events almost daily. The weight of the last few months is readily apparent with pain and powerlessness serving as the overarching theme.

During the first week of June I stumbled across a photo of an unknown nursing parent on social media. The photo was shared by a number of people but details about the parent and origin of the photo were unknown. I shared the photo but initially hesitated to do so as I had no way of giving credit to the owner of the photo. Within a few days the parent, Autumnn Gaines, was discovered thanks to social media. The photo was taken by Autumnn’s wife, Jania Gaines, and is being used here with Autumnn’s permission.

The photo and caption sends a much needed message, however, I cannot turn a blind eye to the racial disparities that exist for Black breast / chestfeeding mothers (parents) that impede our ability to provide our offspring with human milk. Breast / chestfeeding isn’t always an option for us. Studies show that Black women (parents) breast / chestfeed at lower rates when compared to other ethnic groups. It is imperative that we unpack the following: 1) structural racism in healthcare settings where access to quality healthcare isn’t always guaranteed; 2) medical settings that discourage Black women (parents) from breast / chestfeeding by solely offering supplemental feeding products; 3) working in environments where one does not have the option of maternity leave; 4) inadequate support; and 5) a complicated history where our enslaved African ancestors served as wet nurses to the slave owner’s children leaving our children to go without the nourishment of our milk. For some, a sense of pain and powerlessness is a theme starting the moment that our children are birthed into the world. I will explore this further in August as we celebrate World Breastfeeding Month and Black Breastfeeding Week.

“At the root of what’s happening to black women and their birth outcomes, as well as their disparities with breastfeeding, is an issue about racism and bias.”

Kimberly Seals Allers

This month I am grateful for Autumnn’s photo. It was a breath of fresh air to stumble across it while aimlessly scrolling through social media. Breast / chestfeeding is life-sustaining and the photo speaks volumes with very few words. Timing is of the essence and the photo was posted at a time where many Black people feel powerless. When I look at the photo I see a mother that has made a powerful choice in determining how to nourish her son in a world where some parents are robbed of this choice. Autumnn represents another mother that debunks the myth that Black women (parents) do not breast / chestfeed. I see a mother that is unbothered and unashamed to feed her son in a public setting. Note that some parents have experienced ridicule for choosing to nurse openly in public. Lastly, this photo represents a mother that has made a healthy choice for herself, her son and her family. June is Pride Month and I celebrate Autumnn and her family.

“I’ll feed him, but you have to let him Grow.”

Autumnn Gaines

Black lives matter and making the choice to breast / chestfeed is a good start to closing the racial nursing gap. It serves as an example of finding empowerment through positively reframing an experience that was once deemed to be negative. Shifting from pain to purpose is a very necessary step. It is also necessary to exist in a world that provides support so that our people can breathe, thrive and grow.

Until Next Time,

💙 Salimah

Peace, Love & Breastmilk

References

Jones, K., Power, M., Queenan, J., & Schulkin, J. (2015, May). Racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410446/

(n.d.). Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.slaveryfacts.org/classroom/breastfeeding-master-s-babies-the-wet-nurse-slave

The Maziwa Tribe blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content from Maziwa Tribe’s blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this blog is intended for general consumer understanding. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your family doctor or other medical professional to obtain medical advice.

Exhausted…

I have a few posts that are in draft status. Today I am straying away from them for a moment to address the here and now. No cool pictures. Nothing fancy. Not today. Here goes…

In my March 24 post I discussed elements of self-care to assist with navigating the pandemic and doing away with media that one may deem to be disturbing. To save you a bit of time here is what was written.

“Media – Media is a tool that serves a multitude of purposes – both positive and negative. It is acceptable to take a break from news and social media outlets as the constant stream of information can be emotionally disturbing. Set time limits for watching news outlets and be sure to get information from reputable sources. Take it upon yourself to modify social media settings to hide triggering words, posts and videos. You can also choose to refrain from engaging in threads that bring about distress and angst.”

Maziwa Tribe

It is a common occurrence to view looped footage displaying the killing of humans, specifically Black people, throughout various forms of media. We received the memo that navigating public spaces while Black is a matter of life or death long before social media was invented. Simply leaving home can be worrisome for many Black people because we have seen unfavorable outcomes play out too many times. A walk in the park can take a turn for the worse. Recall the Central Park Five and most recently Christian Cooper and his interaction with Amy Cooper (no relation). How about others – there are many – that did not make it home safely? Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd come to mind. One can be in their home; or in bed, and have a similar fate. Botham Jean, Brionna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson have this in common. Many of us carry these experiences with us simply because we exist and have no other choice. Additional complexity is added with having to explain these events in a language that our children can understand. Having a conversation with our Black boys because they “fit the description” is must-have conversation that no parent looks forward to. Georgina Dukes explains it in depth here.

“Being Black is America should not be a death sentence.”

Jacob Frey – Mayor of Minneapolis, MN

A death sentence is by no means an over exaggeration – it is reality. So much needs to be unpacked. Where do I start? Do I begin with dissecting the United States and its history of oppression? How about the hypersexualization of Black bodies, racial profiling and cultural conditioning resulting in the belief that Black people are inferior? What about racial bias which makes Black people appear to be threatening? Add in the criminal justice system and the over-policing of Black people and Black communities. Let’s not forget about stereotypes that Black people are larger in stature which leads to the belief that we are more threatening than others with a similar stature. Do I begin by unpacking institutionalized racism and privilege? I honestly do not have the mental capacity to go there today because I am tired. This is exhausting.

“Racial trauma, or race-based trauma, consists of the mental health symptoms a person experiences as a result of racism or discrimination, which has often been compared to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

Culture and Mental Health Disparities Lab (CMHD)

The psychological turmoil doesn’t just disappear with every new hashtag that is created. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” NIMH lists that living through dangerous events, seeing a dead body, and feelings of helplessness or extreme fear as factors that increases the risk of developing PTSD. It makes sense that one may develop PTSD after watching death via various media outlets on a regular basis. I strongly urge connecting with a mental health professional if you believe that your mental health has been impacted by recent (or past) events.

Self-care is an area that is within ones control. It can equate to shutting the television off and taking a break from social media platforms. You do not owe it to yourself to watch videos that are psychologically damaging. It may also be helpful to refrain from sharing such videos. I have given myself permission to partake in the above forms of self-care for my overall sanity and well-being. I value my health, therefore, it no longer serves me well to engage in dialogue where I must explain why humans that look like me deserve to live. I refuse to do it and I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

My three year old is sitting next to me as I put the finishing touches on this post. She is content with her milkies and has no idea about the harsh reality of the world in which we live. In her world, infant wipes – we buy them in bulk – are the solution for cleaning up minor spills and everything else that is wrong. If only it were that easy, little one. If only… I need to have a conversation with her but I am saving it for a later date.

Until Next Time,

💙 Salimah

Peace, Love & Breastmilk

The Maziwa Tribe blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content from Maziwa Tribe’s blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this blog is intended for general consumer understanding. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your family doctor or other medical professional to obtain medical advice.