Today is the federal observance of Juneteenth, which is the abbreviated version of “June Nineteenth” — the day in 1865 when federal troops took control of the state of Texas and U.S. Gen. Gordon Granger stood in Galveston and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
The country’s 4 million slaves were not immediately freed in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and it took 2 ½ years for the executive order to be fully implemented.
And yet today, 159 years later, we still see the echoes of slavery in the structures and systems that make up American society. Black people in the U.S., die at alarming rates compared to non-Black residents. They are over-represented in the carceral system, and under-represented in the conversations affecting their communities.
We have to designate Black Maternal Health Week, Black Breastfeeding Week and Black History Month because the issues and progress these events highlight aren’t woven into the fabric of our nation. But we are getting better, thanks to those who spend 365 days a year working to dismantle the racist systems and structures in our country. A small sample related to the work we do includes:
- Black Mamas Matters Alliance — The founder of Black Maternal Health Week, this national entity works to advance Black maternal health, rights, and justice, and uplifts the work of locally based, Black-led and Black women-led maternal health initiatives and organizations.
- The Black Wellness and Prosperity Center of Fresno — A community organization that conducts research and provides resources that address how racism causes adverse birth experiences among Black women.
- The BLACK Course — A full-scope lactation and breastfeeding education course made by and for Black people and folks supporting Black breastfeeding.
- The Melanated Mammary Atlas — The only image repository that shows how breast conditions manifest on patients of color.
- Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere — ROSE seeks to enhance, encourage, support, promote, and protect breastfeeding throughout the USA, by working to reduce the breastfeeding disparities among African American women, and to strengthen the health of their babies and families through, mentoring, training, breastfeeding support groups, social support, outreach, education, legislation, health policies, and social marketing.
- The Irth App — A Yelp-like mobile app produced by Narrative Nation that provides a forum for Black and brown families and care providers to leave and read prenatal, birthing, postpartum and pediatric reviews of care.
- Black Women for Wellness — An organization that advances the health and well-being of Black women and girls through health education, empowerment and advocacy.
Organizations and services such as these are leading efforts that are changing what birth and lactation look like for Black families, which ultimately improves health care and health outcomes for all.