The most important memory of the experience for me was just the buzz, the excitement, of black women gathered to bring to light issues of birth in the black community.
The vast majority of professional birth workshops, trainings, and conferences have very few black folks in attendance. So walking into the meet and greet on the evening we arrived, and then into the conference itself the next day, and seeing that I would be among so many black women, was an incredibly thrilling feeling.
Something else that stood out to me was the intentional introduction that clearly centered the needs and experience of black attendees. We were informed that there was an intentional space set aside for self care, a place to rest, rejuvenate, and connect to self. A white Birthmark member also spoke to make clear that Black Birth Matters was first and foremost for black women. She reminded everyone that although white sisters were welcome, all general questions about race and racism, how to “solve” the problem, “what can I do,” etc., should be addressed to her, not to the black participants or presenters. This made it feel safe to just be in the moment without having to worry about fielding such questions and demands for education that create so much exhaustion.
I will also never forget the collective swell of voices chanting the mantra “Aham Prema” (“I am Divine Love”), led by community elder Nana Anoa Nantambu. This spontaneous moment — which came after a deeply emotional panel-and-audience discussion of the reality of what is happening in our communities, our families, and in ourselves, just because of the bodies we are all born into — was healing, validating, and necessary to the project of continuing to care for ourselves so we can support families who are at risk. It brought me to tears.
When I originally came to BFW, I felt an immediate deep connection with the philosophy. I knew it had a lot of healing power. That’s why it was such an honor, in New Orleans, to bring a specifically black perspective to the BFW conversation, and, as a black practitioner, to help other people of color think about how BFW speaks to their needs and experiences. The BFW understandings of working in-awareness through trauma and ordeals, and taking things one step at a time while finding ways to care for the self, are validating concepts for black women, who are usually told to just push their emotions down and power through painful experiences in the past, present, and future. I have practiced BFW for so long that I often forget its power and magic.
Presenting at Black Birth Matters helped me to see the magic of BFW through beginner’s eyes again, which was so exciting and rejuvenating, especially because it was specifically through the lens of the black experience.
Koyuki and I were lucky enough to have conversations with many participants as they came to our table after the workshop. It was clear to us that folks seemed to really get something out of the Labyrinth. There was a yearning for more. What we shared was just a taste, but it provided a balm, and a tool to create space for further healing. I hope to work with this community again, and Koyuki and I am looking forward to the possibility of co-leading a Crossing the Threshold in New Orleans.