When we distributed our statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and those taking action against racist police violence, we received an interesting email from a course participant. They expressed appreciation for our statement, and respectfully requested that we provide more details about what Birthing From Within is doing to combat racism in the world, in the organization, and in ourselves.
The sender of that letter is absolutely right: racism and white supremacy in our country represent a state of emergency. To say that publishing a black square with white letters is inadequate would be an understatement. Public statements of solidarity and equity are not unimportant, but if that is all that any individual or organization can muster, then change will not occur. We were so grateful for our participant’s email, because it gave us the chance to explicitly articulate what Birthing From Within is doing as an organization to promote equity and racial justice.
We were granted permission to reprint the questions and our responses; read on below. Consider: how might the organizations in which you take part (your workplace, academic institution, union/professional organization, fraternity/sorority, charitable/philanthropic organization, church/mosque/synagogue/temple/meeting house, your children’s school, etc.) answer these questions? Have you asked them?
Thank you for acknowledging the #BlackLivesMatter movement! I have been very moved and grateful for the growing support and inclusion of racial justice in Birthing from Within social media and communications.
I would like to follow up to learn more about how your organization is taking active steps to ensure Black people, particularly Black mothers, are not only seen in this moment, but supported and lifted up from this moment on.
While as an organization we don’t usually work directly with birthing people, we train and support the people who do; thus, we place a high value on providing in depth anti-racism training, resources, and growth opportunities for our Facilitators (professional trainers), members, and course participants. Additionally, we support organizations that are providing direct service to Black birthing people through amplification of their voices on our social media, and through financial donations. We also provide scholarships to people from marginalized and oppressed communities who want to become childbirth educators and doulas serving their communities.
Our Childbirth Educator and Doula certification program‘s curriculum includes training on anti-racism, inclusivity, birth justice, and marginalization within the perinatal care system, via readings, resource lists, and personal inquiry work. We are in the process of launching a BIPOC support system to help ensure that BIPOC mentors and doulas in our programs receive equitable support during their training with Birthing From Within.
What are your plans for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Black owned businesses, or Black-led community organizations with funds or other resources?
Part of our equity plan to support Black-owned organizations is to support them via visibility in our social media, resources we promote and share within our membership and courses, and financially through donations. We donate as an organization, and members of our leadership donate personally, to organizations supporting Black birthing people and to individual Black birth workers.
How many Black people are employed or trained with Birthing from Within, particularly in leadership and on your Board of Directors? What are your plans to increase these numbers?
We have two Black people, one nonblack person of color, and three queer people in leadership. We have one Black person, one nonblack person of color, and two queer people who are facilitators (trainers) for our organization. We don’t ask for racial identifying information from our course participants and members.
We grant scholarships to people from marginalized and oppressed groups, which also includes white LGBTQIA and disabled people. As of this writing, we have awarded 61 scholarships since 2018, and continue to process applications daily.
We have developed an equity-based leadership pathway that includes identifying, supporting, mentoring, and training BIPOC course participants and members for leadership positions – including Director positions, Facilitator roles, and Ownership. Our hope is to have at least one non-white owner by the end of 2020, and at least half of the owners to be BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ by 2021.
What steps have you taken to pay Black people who are doing anti-racism education to assist you in creating or strengthening your strategic plans for diversity and inclusion?
As a historically white-owned and white-led organization, we have hired a white anti-racism trainer to guide us as white people dismantling white supremacy and creating an anti-racist organization. She brought in a Black anti-racism trainer when it was appropriate. All have been paid roles. We also have contracted with, and compensated, a Black member to mediate a conflict with one of our Black students, and to lead the development of a support system for BIPOC students in our courses.
What protections and processes are in place or being created to respond to hate and bias incidents within Birthing from Within members or the greater birth work community?
We provided anti-racism training to our facilitators (the group of folks who lead courses and calls within our membership and community) as well as our leadership team, including how to address racially-motivated incidents and microaggressions. We provide Guidelines for Engagement to all students entering our courses, which include information for white participants on how to learn about, develop, and create anti-racist environments.
How do you plan to address the roles and responsibilities of individuals on your team that benefit from anti-Blackness and racism to do their own self-reflection and take action?
When we interview members who are applying to become a facilitator within our organization, we ask about their commitment and experience with anti-racism work. We provided in-depth training to leadership on creating an equitable and anti-racist organization. Then we provided that same training to our Board of Directors and Facilitators. It is a requirement for our Board of Directors and Facilitators to commit to anti-racist education and self-relection in their role with Birthing From Within, which they sign when they consent to take on these positions.
We also offer a support group, Equity From Within, for our white members and students to discuss and learn about anti-racism in a space that protects BIPOC from emotional labor.
Thank you, I appreciate your efforts and willingness to speak out.
We truly appreciate the opportunity to say more about our present work and future goals for equity as an organization.