By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA), BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE
You cannot live in the United States and be unaware of the health inequities that face Black families here in this country. Every single major news outlet has been covering this tragic situation with increasing frequency. People are working to raise awareness of the issue of Black infant mortality every single day. Black parents and babies are dying at rates that are magnitudes worse than their white counterparts. Poor outcomes unfairly impact Black families regardless of their socioeconomic status, their education level or even their celebrity status. Black families who have experienced the loss of a baby now have a place to memorialize their child online and stand up and be counted. While policy-makers, clinicians, and researchers are trying to get their arms around the situation and decide how to turn this ship around, many Black families are missing a piece of themselves and trying to heal from the loss of a child, the most significant loss of all.
The new website, The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial, is a resource that doulas who work with Black families should be aware of. The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial was founded by Kiddada Green, the executive director of Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA) in Detroit and one of the co-founders of Black Breastfeeding Week. Kiddada developed this project with her two Black Breastfeeding Week co-founders, Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka and Kimberly Seals Allers.
This respectful and solemn website is a place to tell the world that this small person existed and their life mattered. It is a place to share the story of their child’s life (and death), family pictures and more. Friends, family, and others may leave supportive notes on any of the memorial pages for the family and others to see. According to founder Green:
“The online memorial is the first step towards what we hope to transition into a national monument to bring honor and attention to the untimely and preventable deaths of black babies.”
While the memorial website is in its nascent stages after being launched last week, a visitor can see that people have shared both recent losses as well as deaths that happened decades ago. Families grieve forever. Some of the profiles remembering these babies were submitted by mothers, fathers or siblings. The loss impacts everyone. Co-founder Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka shares:
“For decades Black families have tucked their pain away to keep their lives moving and approach normal again. With this memorial, we hope we have created a warm corner they can turn to so that the hopes those babies represented may live on forever.”
The third co-founder, Kimberly Seals Allers wrote a piece earlier this week on the Women’s E-News website that announced the Black Infant Remembrance Memorial and shared some stories of families who lost their young child. The website will offer grief and loss resources, a way to connect with other Black families who have lost infants, an online community of shared experiences and most importantly, a way to announce to the world that baby child matters.
The fact that Black babies are dying at significantly higher rates than white babies is a shameful secret that has been hidden away for far too long. Funding, solutions, and resources must be allocated and directed to these communities who bear a burden that no community should be forced to endure. This horrific situation needs to change. The families need to be honored and seen. The Black Infant Remembrance Memorial can offer a small refuge of solace and community for those Black families who grieve for their babies every single day. Doulas, please add this valuable website to your resource lists, to be made available to any Black family who suffers a tragic loss of their little one.