In part two of this episode, a culturally centered perinatal wellness project, the InTune Mother Society, discuss Black entrepreneurship, ingenuity, how the maternal and child health field can equitably support community-rooted birth justice work.
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Additional Resources Related to This Episode
The InTune Mother Society (TIMS) is Redesigning Birth Work For The Future.
TIMS is working hard to build capacity for our State Approved Perinatal Wellness Coach Certification program. The program is designed to prepare Central Oklahoma residents for a career as a Perinatal Wellness Coach. The program is approved by the US Department of Labor and Training Administration of Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board (COWIB); our participants benefit from pioneering a job market that is focused on higher salaries that result from making Holistic Family Planning options accessible, through in-demand qualifications. Learn more about our community-based social innovation project at: https://timcenter.org/redesigning-birth-work-for-the-future/.
Learn more about Bridget “Biddy” Mason, a slave midwife who became one of the first prominent citizens and landowners in Los Angeles in the 1850s and 1860s
The Willie Lynch letter mentioned in the episode is now believed to not be written by Willie Lynch himself, however it is widely promoted as an authentic account of slavery during the 18th century. Read more here. ***TRIGGER WARNING: This article quotes the Willie Lynch letter, which contains graphic, disturbing language such as stereotypes and racial slurs.
What is Birth Justice?
Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery (article)
Black History Month: The Importance of Black Midwives, Then, Now and Tomorrow (blog post)
African American Nurse-Midwives: Continuing the Legacy (article)
And imagine that, you know, even if every mother had 10 advocates working on her behalf, or 12 advocates working on her behalf, to engage her through these dimensions of wellness that are necessary for her to be able to thrive... If we had that, our outcomes would be different.Maura Leahy:
Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this episode of MCH Bridges. I'm your host Maura Leahy, Program Manager in Child and Adolescent Health, and this is MCH Bridges, the official podcast of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, aso an known as AMCHP. AMCHP hopes that MCH Bridges will help our listeners create new connections to maternal and child health leaders, organizations, and ideas, as well as inspire and guide listeners towards actions that will improve the systems that impact MCH populations. MCH Bridges aims to lift up stories and people from the MCH field by centering the voices, public health workforce, people and communities most impacted by inequities and individuals and families with lived experiences. Today, we're continuing our conversation with RaShaunda Lugrand and Joelisha Fairbanks of the Intune Mother Society, or TIMS, a community rooted organization in Dell City, Oklahoma, whose mission is to invest in community based perinatal health education by modeling a healing justice framework for social change. Thank you both for sharing in part one of this episode, the barriers to your work. And I appreciate your framing. Rashaunda of some of these barriers around the historical perspective of slavery and the oppression of black Americans for our listeners this black history month . Now we would like to shift our discussion to talking about solutions. How can the MCH field and workforce, so organizations like AMCHP and its members, be an accomplice in breaking down some of the barriers that you're facing?RaShaunda Lugrand:
The coach and consultant in me says that we need to create space for conversation deepen and not just conversations that touch the surface. I'll give this analogy. This analogy came to me this morning and I'll tell you I was up all night last night, because I was so excited about this , uh, this opportunity today, I'll take you back to my days and hospice. And when we would do wound care, when we would do wound care, a lot of times the body breaks down when it's not being palpated, right. When it's not being touched when it's not being supported, when it's , uh , when it's immobile, right, we don't get the full circulatory support. We don't get the blood flow. The oxygen is not moving through the body appropriately. So then you get bed sores . And in one way, the only way that you can really clean a bed sore ones that get deep is that you gotta get to the root of it. You gotta clean out all of that dead flesh that's over top so that you can pack it down with new, clean, sterile things that allow that healing to come up from the root. That is what I see in our reproductive and child healthcare system is that we're allowing for , for our families to lay dormant in spaces that show up in ways that are harmful to their health . And the only way for us to really heal that wound, because it's a wound, there's a , a war on reproductive health . There's a war on maternal child health . And we know that with war comes resources. So we know that there are resources available to be able to pay for the gauze that needs to be packed down to that wound , to sterilize it , to really help, to keep turning, to keep turning that community, you know, so that it's not just laying dormant in one in space, but to keep moving and mobilizing so that we can get that blood flowing so that we can get that inertia that back and forth that's needed. So we have to be able to look at this from not a death lens, because we've done that and we continue to narrate it as such, but to look at it from a lens of healing, how can we heal if we continue to put a band aid over a gunshot wound? It doesn't work. You know, so we need to be able to look at ways to mobilize conversations. And for us, especially by looking at solutions in regards to putting the community to work, putting the community to work is , is , is about innovation. It's about ingenuity. I think of individuals that are my, my mentors, you know, individuals like Bridget " Biddy" Mason. You know, if you don't know about who she was, she was a , a , a slave midwife who ended up paying for her freedom as she moved across the state lines into California, he was able to be the first African American woman to buy land in the 1800s. She was considered a multi-millionaire and she did this by engaging her community and in engaging her communities , she created networks. So we have to be able to have networks within our communities to be able to share and show how to build anti-racist practices, how to build, you know, from that lens that we're not looking at white fragility as our aim, to be able to build capacity for this work or nice racism, because there's a whole community of individuals who believe that, you know , um , because you're a woke , you're aware that it still doesn't hold a, a lens of bias and oppression. And so we, we all do, but we have to be able to look through this lens and see, do we really wanna heal? Do we really wanna get to the root? Do we really wanna dig up that dead flesh and pull that out so that we can start to heal so that we can really start to move and mobilize and engage? That's a solution. If you've never read it, any organization that I walk into and I know that it's a majority white led organization as it relates to , uh, birth justice or anything around birth work , I always leave when they ask me, what do you suggest do we? I tell, 'em read the Willie Lynch letter. If you read the Willie Lynch letter, it'll give you a paradigm shifting view of what you are dealing with within the black childbearing community. And then once you read that letter, then come to the table with your compassion, you know, with your ideas about how to solve that, because that is what we're looking at. We're looking at those remnants and with that, we can create solutions.Maura Leahy:
Thank you for sharing. Joelisha, did you have anything you wanted to add around how the maternal and child health field can be doing more to help organizations like TIMS?Joelisha Fairbanks:
Conversation? Yes. Um, definitely conversation, but for me like myself, I would just like to just play my part. Like, there are times where I feel like I don't have anything, but I'm going to find resources whetherthat's to bring it to the organization or to bring it to mothers and just continue to tell my story. Um, but yes, definitely getting deeper into conversations and not sugar coating things anymore . And I mean, everybody needs funding. Everybody needs funding. That's like a big thing. And so I'll just leave it at that just one and meditating on everyone, playing their part, instead of making it work for them. Just having more heart for the community, not "how can I help this situation to make myself look good" or not for themselves, but for the community, for, for birth work , for the children that are being brought in into the world. Because those are our future leaders. Like it's deeper than just organizations or people saying they did something to be a tax write off or something like that. Like it's deeper than all of that to me. And so it's all of that and one, having a heart and putting forth the action on top of getting, having those deep conversations.Maura Leahy:
I think too, like what I've heard from both of you, is also just weight of the community already is doing so much. So I feel like whatever it is, maternal and child health and public health, we need to do it in ways that's not just going to add more weight and add more to your plates, cuz you're already doing so much. We need to figure out ways that, you know, be it funding, that we can just do a better job of being accomplices to advancing your work forward. So we understand that the InTune Mother Society's ultimate goal is to develop a viable black workforce to uplift black led community based organizations, to focus on anti-racist practices in the maternal and child health sector of Oklahoma. With your work in mind, what does black entrepreneurship and ingenuity mean?RaShaunda Lugrand:
Oh , it means that you're taking something that may not have existed, right? And you have a vision in place to engage that thing into a manifested space. Entrepreneurialship is about faith. It's a faith walk, you know, and when we're building workforce innovation for , um, for our community, you know, our work as perinatal wellness coaches is innovative. And we believe that because, when you are looking at training individuals just to become doulas, Or just to become breastfeeding educators, if we could create space for people to have, have multiple concepts around how they're able to build income, how they're able to build their value, how they're able to really show up in their communities, then we can see a difference in being able to build enterprise, build in the marketplace and, and build a way of viability. Right? And so entrepreneurialship means to me that you can produce something from nothing and you can make that thing be a working capacity or capital, a working capital for you to, to be able to do the things that you need to have done. Most of the times what I hear, you know, from other birth workers is that this is poor people's work. And I beg to differ. I beg to differ because they feel that in supporting the community, majority of the community that is targeted are people who would otherwise not have access . So the ingenuity of building a workforce for black led community based organizations is that we're saying it's not about the expertise or letters or certifications or credentials. It's about really understanding needs of what the community is asking for. And if you're not showing up with the needs that they're asking for, but just saying, Hey, this is what we're gonna give you. That doesn't work because everybody is not cookie cut . That's the reason why we feel that like building these practices into, you know, through the healing justice programming that we have. Our healing justice program is nine weeks. And at the end of that nine weeks, you have actionable plan that you can work through in order for you to see how do I show up in the community? How do I practice anti-racism, how do I really embody healing justice ? You know, and we use this time to really go over and see what are all these social determinants of health that's impacting us to be able to build that bridge forward, you know, and not only just looking at it from a space of, of deliverables, right, or of products or of services, but looking at it from a mindset as a provider. So as a provider, you have to be able to have, you know, a mindset of transformation so that you can even receive. Because as a entrepreneur, that's what your goal is, is to be able to receive something in return or in exchange for what it is that you're providing, that's how you build economy. And when we can build an economy that looks at this work from a lens or from a view that says that is , is viable, is a career that can be utilized amongst many professions. There's, there's no profession out here that is specifically focused on perinatal health or reproductive health. You know, it , it has to tie into behavioral health. That's when you see some of these, and they're still not a place that they're really focused in , in , on childbirth and birthing bodies. We're focusing it in there because we understand that if we're saying that majority of the population of childbearing communities are having a hard time, then that's where we need to focus. You know, we need to focus on the black body and how we can really bring what I've coined and termed reproductive consciousness to a marketplace that makes sense for all, because when you fix it for one, you're fixing it for everybody.Joelisha Fairbanks:
So I could say , um, that in this time of my apprenticeship , um, I have always been a hard worker. And so before I came into this work college dropout , 19 year old pregnant, I enrolled into massage school. That's probably one of the biggest, most rewarding thing I could ever do for myself, cuz I can always make money for myself. However, we have, we as a people have been trained to just low ball ourselves and it wasn't until I got into this work that I, you know, I started looking at big numbers. I'm like, okay, I , as a worker for me to put my all into something, I deserve to wake up and not have worry. I deserve to have financial freedom. I deserve to not live my life paying bill to billl. And so when I think of ingenuity, it is the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful. So when we started to really look at the numbers and calculate, and my mentor RaShaunda, she really coached me on this. And I started to like a part of me was ashamed like, oh, you know, I need to double that number. And I'm like, you know, why do I feel bad for thinking I deserve 120,000 a year? People make that in their sleep. And so for me, it's like, okay, I'm exhausting myself. I'm waking up, I'm doing this. I'm paying bills, taking care of my three children. And then I'm giving all of me to the community. And so as far as entrepreneurship goes, we have to know our worth. Money is just a tool. So why does it cause us to feel ashamed for asking more when we're just in the wrong spaces that have trained us to feel like we don't deserve that? It was, I think , uh , our week eight assignment we had to know and including everything, whether that's a car note, gas, how much money it takes for you to eat, all bills, rent, mortgage, we had to calculate every single thing down to the T and my mind was blown. I'm like, yeah, I got a lot of work to do as far as financial and putting a actual plan to fit how I'm gonna take care of myself while still being devoted to my community because my heart is in it. My heart is what brought me to this. So I'm not thinking about financial as much as I should. And that's why I like the InTune Mother Society. Like we understand that our heart needs to be number one, but we also need to get paid for what we do. Because if we don't, we're gonna be in the same boat as our community stressed out, trying to make ends meet. And it is just, that's not a cool way , way to go about it or to, to work because then I should be able to sleep at night knowing that I'm good. I can eat tomorrow. My gas is gonna go. My car is gonna go, cuz it has gas in it. And I can go serve the people I need to serve without being stressed out. And so that's what black entrepreneurship is to me right now is just not even asking but demanding. And if you cannot help with that part, then that just means is that that organization or those people are just not for me at the time. That doesn't mean that it will never come. And so I sleep well knowing that, and I don't give up, I know that we will get the help community, perinatal wellness, coaches, midwifery, all of that will be taken care of because of how strong we believe in the work. We don't turn our head. We don't cry when somebody tells us no, we just keep pressing forward. And that's what it , that's what it takes. That's what entrepreneurship is to me. You don't give up, you keep going until the universe says, okay, you took 10 nos . So we're gonna give you five yeses that amount greater to what you even asked for. And that's the rewarding part.Maura Leahy:
I feel like that is a brilliant transition to our last question. Um, so we'd love to hear what you all feel like are just, or equitable approaches to partnerships between governmental public health, healthcare or payer systems. What are equitable and just approaches to partnerships between those organizations and community based organizations or efforts like TIMS, how can we, being AMCHP, being the maternal and child health staff in state and territory, public health agencies, work alongside you.RaShaunda Lugrand:
I think of this as a twofold approach, right? So on one side we need the governmental public healthcare systems to see that there is a need in the healthcare system , you know, for such support services. And then the healthcare systems can see it. But when the government can't see that, right, that's where we end up falling, you know, short in building those relationships. So one of the ways that I feel that it can really work is by, you know, maybe for creating introductions, maybe creating space for reappropriation of funds in some capacity or another, or looking at ways to engage funding around piloting programs. You know, that potentially, you know, can be utilized to show how these types of support services can work. And building, starting in Oklahoma, where we are, you know, opportunities for us to engage with payer systems, you know, blue cross blue shield, Humana, Tricare to make systems of care that wrap around, and that build anchors in the community because that's basically what, what I feel like could be a great start. You know, even if that's looking at saying, Hey, how can we build a relationship inside of the, you know, the healthcare system here in Oklahoma that has a relationship with the , uh , the department of mental health and substance abuse, how can we have something , um , in relationship with the healthcare authority, because we've tried to make those connections, but those connections have, I think been hard to, to stamp in specifically now, even with this whole pandemic issue, that these are long term goals and not short term reaches, right? So if we could create, you know, a space to where we even maybe have something within the department of health, that's , you know, the perinatal wellness task force or , um, perinatal wellness workforce innovation department, that we are the place where people can go in and train and work with SNAP and TANF families to build that economy around putting those resources back into the community so that the community can serve itself, because that becomes a problem, right, every time. And so if we can build efforts to organize systems that allow room and space for those types of relationships to intersect, then I think that would be a great place to start. And to look at being able to uplift those individual who are in these programs to have viable occupation, to have economic security and resources that are poured into their education that is invested into their wellbeing. And we are building that bridge and we're building that economy around what it, it s like if we really served the community at the capacity that we could will , we see lower maternal death rates? Will we see lower infant mortality rates? Will we see lower prematurity? You know, will we see lower issues with preeclampsia high blood pressure, diabetes, gestational diabetes? Will we see a shift in, a change in those things? Will we see a shift in postpartum depression and mood disorder? If we saw a nucleus come together, right? I'll say this, as a beekeeper, we actually, my husband and I , we keep bees , right? Hints to the name Beehive b irth consulting. We do this as a sustainable model. In my studies in anthropology, we study human origins. We study behaviors. We study the concepts of living and longevity. And what I've learned from keeping these is t hat queen B has 60,000 advocates working on her behalf. Imagine that, you know, even if every mother had 10 advocates working on her behalf or 12 advocates working on her behalf to engage her through these dimensions of wellness that are necessary for her to be able to, to thrive. If we had that, our outcomes w ould be different. It's not just about checking off boxes in the community to say, well, she showed up today, you know, or she initiated breastfeeding, or she tried to use this product or this product to help. We're talking about really engaging in intimate spaces, you know, inside of a beehive, that's the most closeness and intimacy that you can see in human nature. And if the bees go, I don't know what we gonna do as humans on the planet. You know? And so our, our concept is that, is that if we can look at, if we start to see a increase in deaths in one population, then what does, how does that impact us globally as a population in and of itself? We need each other. And if we don't come together in a way that is supportive in our infrastructure, that's supportive in the way that we, we build from our environment to our education, to our , um, economics, to the way that we are able to be employed, then we're not gonna see empowerment. And those are our five pillars at the InTune Mother Society: environment , education , employability, economics, and empowerment. We need those, you know, I had an elder say, we need to add two more enlightenment and entertainment. We need to be able to facilitate that space because that's what keeps us whole, that's what brings us together is the , what environment we grow up in, how are we educated in that environment? How are we employable in that environment? What does that environment produce for us economically? Does that uplift us and sustain us to a thriving perspective in the overall empowerment of our wellbeing? It can, if we work together in creating those systems. And so that's what we can ask is how can we get in a conversation with, how can we get in a conversation with maternal child health to really look at this from a futuristic lens? If we have a solution and place to be able to build and train and educate community members, to be able to serve themselves and to serve their population, what a difference that would make. How much of a load off would that be on other healthcare workers that they know that when their clients come to see them, they're coming in healthy. And if they're not healthy, we're creating pathways for them to get there. And that's our vision is to be able to build that broad spectrum of care that's community based , that's collective in its orientation. And that provides the opportunity for us to really see perinatal wellness work.Maura Leahy:
Thank you for that. Joelisha, did you have anything you wanted to add?Joelisha Fairbanks:
From my perspective, I would say I would just like to see more people reach out, like when you are building a relationship, it's not a one time thing. It's not a one conversation. Then I'll check on you in five years. Like you should, if it's something you're about like call that CEO once a week, twice a month, whatever it is, whatever your capacity is, just check in with that organization and see, you know, how can my people help your people and less conversations about show us how this can work? Because we have the proof. We have the proof of how it is working. I am the proof. I have women who I can, like she said, 10 to 12 women I could call. If one is busy, I'll call the next. If that one is busy, I'll call the next. I know that I have a network within myself that I have been able to build over a year's time span. It took a little bit, but I have that. A lot of women can't say that. I have friends who I'm probably their only person. I have friends who, you know, have nobody they can call on who will just sit at home in the dark depressed, who don't have that sense of urgency for themselves to say, okay, I need this. I , there's no way I can sit here by myself today. I need somebody. And so I want people to have that luxury and that security for themselves, every mother should have a team, a squad , a support group. No one should just feel alone. And so that's what it is to me is just consistent support, not something that's like, oh, I'm gonna give you $5,000 and go far with that. Well, no, and it's not even just about the money. Call and see, ask us about the mothers that were , are helping , you know, come visit us, come, come see the center, come just be a part of it. And not something that's just a , a call, a phone call or a wire transfer. We need people to come to our events, come see what our child birthing classes are about. Come see how we help facilitate entire families, not just the mother , but the father too . Come see how we , um, help develop children while parents are so wrapped up into a new birth . And they, you know, they can't be there to nurture and give their previous children the attention they need because they're preparing for something new. So it's, it's more consistently checking in. I feel like that would help a lot. If we had people who really were passionate, who had the capacity to, cuz I know we're all busy, I'm a busy person, but stuff I care about, I literally plan it out. I write it down. Okay. I can't get it to it this month . I'm gonna get to it next month. Plan us, fit us in your schedule, fit organizations like this into your mind, to where it is, it is not just a thought that passes. Oh, I hope they do good. I hope they make it. I hope, I hope God sends someone their way. What can you offer? Who do you know that can put forth the effort? And I'll just leave it at that consistently checking in.Maura Leahy:
Thank you so much. We just wanted to give you both the floor to see whether there was anything else that you wanted to share with our listeners today.RaShaunda Lugrand:
I would just like to say, thank you, you know, thank you for, for being committed, you know, and committed to your word and committed to the option and opportunity because when you guys reached out from AMCHP to say, this is what we wa nna do to uplift the work that you're doing at the InTune Mother Society is, you know, oh , can we get you on this interview? And we were like, I think that would be a great opportunity, you know, and I'm just excited and I'm grateful. And for those individuals who, you know, wanna know more about our organization, you can definitely find us on the social channels at , uh , www.timcenter.org . And if you have any questions or, you know, would like to be a part of helping us build our campaigns, you know, around our work, you can find that information on our website and we definitely appreciate the support and the audience and for making this , um, time for us to be voiced and heard .Joelisha Fairbanks:
And I would just say that I feel really special. I feel honored to sit next to RaShaunda Lugrand cuz she is somebody that is very important to me. This is my very first podcast or anything like that. So I'm excited to see and re-listen, and just how we can connect through this outlet. And I'm just thankful to be here.Maura Leahy:
Joelisha, I would not have known that. I would've thought that you were a like seasoned podcast guest . Truly.Joelisha Fairbanks:
I appreciate that.Maura Leahy:
On behalf of AMCHP, I just wanna thank you both for your time for sharing your, your expertise, your storytelling. I feel like I could just listen to you both for hours and I've learned so much during this time and I know I have a lot of sort of immediate next steps in learning that you're sharing has spurred in me. And I think it's probably spurred a lot for our listeners as well. Thank you all for joining us for this episode of MCH Bridges. We kindly ask that you take a few minutes to fill out a quick feedback survey and let us know what MCH related topics you're interested in and who you want to hear from on future episodes. A link to the podcast feedback survey, as well as a transcript of this episode can be found at www.MCHBridges.org. For those interested in learning more about birth justice work, we've shared several additional resources in the description of this episode at www.MCHBridges.org. Be sure to follow AMCHP on social media. We're on Twitter and Instagram at @DC_AMCHP. We hope this episode created some new connections for you. Stay well and I hope our paths cross on the next MCH Bridges. This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, of the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, as part of an award totaling $1,963,039 with 0 % financed with non-governmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author a nd should not be construed as the official position or policy of nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA,, HHS, or the US government.