We all must be accountable.
In the week since the devastating death of George Floyd, we’ve borne witness to an unbelievable spectrum of emotions play out across our country. With despair pouring out from aching hearts everywhere, many of us find ourselves asking: where is the humanity? What we can do? How can we take greater accountability toward change? Is change even possible?
All of us at EMC believe that change is, indeed, possible. But we must start by changing ourselves and addressing the systems that have allowed the injustice to reach this point. We must move beyond intention toward actionable impact. We not only have the power to change, we have the potential. The time is now and we must recognize that this is long overdue.
So, that’s what we’re doing…we’re starting. Here’s how.
We’re examining our language.
Words are critical, and for years we’ve been hearing that “race affects maternal health experiences and outcomes.” The truth is, race does NOT affect experiences and outcomes. Racism does. It is exposure to implicit bias and structural and interpersonal racism that makes pregnancy and childbirth more dangerous for Black and Indigenous mothers.
We’re getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Having real conversations can be hard, and hard conversations are uncomfortable. This week, we’re doing both. Instead of focusing our annual staff retreat on the usual subjects of budgets, strategies and roadmaps, our team will participate in a day-long (virtual) workshop this week focused on achieving equity and justice in all its forms.
We’re taking accountability.
Change requires accountability which begins with taking responsibility. We are re-examining what it means to be a responsible non-profit organization in this day and age, and will work harder than ever to replace outdated colonial models with trust-based giving and shared decision-making, listening to partners from marginalized communities every step of the way.
We’re uplifting and amplifying our partners.
For years, we have supported community-based organizations on the front lines of racial and birth justice—partners that include Ancient Song Doula Services, Changing Woman Initiative, SisterWeb and Village Birth International. Our job is not only to help sustain their work to have the greatest possible impact for mothers, everywhere, but to uplift and amplify our partners as leading examples of equitable, compassionate care to be emulated.
We’re centering the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities.
To do our work transparently and inclusively, we must continuously center the voices of individuals and communities historically harmed by systems of oppression. We are renewing our commitment to create front-and-center space at a collective table for all stakeholders, not just our own community, in all we do.
We’re taking action.
We know that there is a direct relationship between racism and the disproportionate rates of maternal deaths among Black and Brown communities in the United States—the only developed country in the world with a worsening maternal mortality rate. To end this inexcusable trend, we must relentlessly demand better from our leaders. Take action today by joining us in calling on State and Federal leaders to act to protect and uplift the needs of mothers and families.
As members of our community and supporters of our work, we welcome you to join us. And if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together this Black Maternal Health reading list as a starting point for self-education.
Christy Turlington Burns
Founder, Every Mother Counts