Category Archives: Public statements and press releases

The Pregnancy To Prison Pipeline

I wrote this at private request but decided to post it here as well. Its a short essay about what I call the Pregnancy to Prison Pipeline for Black Babies. (their prison being the foster care system). Your thoughts are welcome.

The Pregnancy to Prison Pipeline (Jail for Black Babies)

By Hakima Tafuni Payne

My name is Hakima Tafuzi Payne. I am 55 years old. I am an obstetrical nurse, nurse educator, IBCLC, IBCLC preceptor, doula, doula trainer, childbirth educator, and midwifery student. I have nine children, the last 6 of whom were born at home with midwives. I had my first child at the age of 15 in the ‘county hospital’ and my last at the age of 46 at home with a Certified Nurse Midwife. I have a BSN in nursing, an MSN in nursing education and am currently pursuing a doctorate in nursing education. These are my observations about Black women and their birth experiences.

Prenatal care is not care at all in the current system, but a means of surveilling ‘suspect’ low income women using Medicaid. They are suspect merely because of these factors and we live in a time when having a low income is considered tantamount to immorality. The poor must be punished for being poor or at least watched and lectured to and shamed. Poor people, by today’s standard are poor by their own fault. It is considered an outcome of their laziness, unintelligence, and bad morals. The following are touchpoints in pregnancy that ‘criminalize’ the pregnant woman and put her under greater governmental scrutiny. The healthcare professions are used as ‘mandatory reporters’ making them the guardians of ‘right-ness’ over who is and is not worthy of government subsidized care. Black people are almost never considered worthy.

The following contains ‘touch points of surveillance” to catch women (particularly women of color) committing criminal acts or acts of immorality while pregnant, is what the current prenatal care system is designed to do. We will look at the case of a recent client whom I’ll call Sandy. Sandy contacted me at about 12 weeks of pregnancy. She had been looking for a Black midwife for weeks, found out there wasn’t one, but that I was a Black midwifery student. We settled on my being her doula. She started with a homebirth midwife, started care, and then was later ruled out of homebirth care because of test results. She was referred to a hospital midwife, whom she transferred care to, who re-ran the test, to now find it negative. Sandy tried to return to the homebirth midwife, but now her roster of clients was full. She stayed with the hospital midwife who was not available when she went into labor. Neither was I as the doula, as I was out of town (Sandy knew that that was a possibility given my due date and my travel schedule). Sandy waited till she was pushing to go to the hospital to avoid the cascade of interventions that had happened with her first baby that resulted in a cesarean birth. She longed for a homebirth/VBAC but a midwife assisted hospital birth was as close as she got. She arrived at the hospital ready to push and pushed her baby out in about 20 minutes. The nightmare began for Sandy after she had given birth. Her baby was diagnosed with jaundice and placed in the NICU for several days. Her breastfeeding was supplemented with formula. She was denied a border room and spent two nights sleeping in a chair next to her baby’s crib. Her baby was drug tested because she was ‘late to prenatal care’, even though her entire pregnancy was spent seeking a care provider of her choice. She was told that most people are late to prenatal care because they are doing drugs. She was forced to give her permission for the drug test on her baby or threatened with a DFS (Division of Family Services) visit from a social worker. She signed the consent.

At no point was Sandy ever given the benefit of the doubt. Physicians and nurses have leverage and are allowed to use their professional judgement in matters of application of policies and protocols. Patients of color are often seen as suspect. Dominant culture clinicians often see themselves as the guardians of the infants against the parents. There is no acknowledgement by the system of the personal racially-motivated bias that finds its way into professional decision making.

Often the bias in prenatal care reveals itself as soon as the pregnant individual enters care. If they come to soon, they are put off for weeks for an available slot. If they come ‘too late’ they are penalized like Sandy was. Typically after 12 weeks gestation is considered ‘late entry into care’. Patients are often plagued with questions about illicit drug use, alcohol use, violence and abuse and are expected to disclose all ‘unfavorable’ behavior. African-American patients are assumed to have engaged in some illicit behavior, especially if they are young, are Afro-centric in appearance, or use Medicaid as their insurance. They are usually assumed single, even if accompanied by a partner. They are routinely denied informed consent because they are deemed not intelligent enough to understand. They are often steered toward the options that the care provider prefers. The women of my community often speak of feeling unheard and unseen.

The pregnancy to prison pipeline, begins with drug testing. The babies are often drug tested without parental consent or knowledge and needs only a Dr., nurse or social worker to order one for any point of suspicion. They do not need to justify the decision or account for their suspicion. If the baby’s meconium is positive for any illicit substances, then the mother is tested, a case is opened with Division of Family Services, and the mother receives a visit from a social worker while still in the hospital. Often a home visit is part of the investigation. For certain drug use, DFS will take custody of the infant and a case referred to family court. Often drug treatment is ordered and with Black families, termination of parental rights may be initiated early in the case, and visitation allowed only with supervision. This can go on for months and months. I’ve seen mothers reach one requested milestone only to be told to reach another. These babies are often fostered by white suburban families with intent to adopt. The mothers don’t literally end up in prison, but separated from their infants for long periods of time that may ultimately result in the destruction of the family. It is the infant who ends up imprisoned, severed from their family of origin and given to strangers. If ever returned to the family, the bond is irreparably damaged.

Hakima Tafunzi Payne

Executive Director of Uzazi Villiage

My deepest thanks to the author for her gracious permission to repost her words here!

Samsarah Morgan ED Oakland Better Birt Foundation


sherry payne

Hakima Tafuni Payne (Sherry Payne)

The Red Road – A call for submissions!

Hello dear ones , I am collecting stories for a new book.

First period , births , c sections , abortions , miscarriage , still birth , and menopause .plz submit your story to me at:

All stories submitted will be published and all authors will receive a free copy of the book once completed .
Inbox me with questions .
All genders invited to submit.
Thanks and love , Samsarah

A journey in red…


After you submit your story or stories – Join our Facebook Groups and lets stay in touch!

The Red Road Virtual Village on Facebook

Charlottesville Statement

The Oakland Better Birth Foundation                     August 23rd, 2017

Jessalyn Ballerano, Author


When various factions of armed, torch-wielding White supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, VA this month, to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, they came prepared and anticipating a violence that has long defined their role in American society. As shocked as some may be, in truth it is no surprise that their protests, in which they chanted “Blood and Soil”, screamed racial slurs at onlookers and anti-fascist demonstrators, and symbolically destroyed Jewish imagery in the name of racial purity, resulted in the death of a young woman and many more injured. The young man who drove his car into a group of counter-demonstrators, and those who support him, have openly embraced this violence and show no remorse for the deaths of people who support an inclusive, equally accessible society.


Because it is built on a hierarchy of separateness, White supremacy inherently invites conflict and requires consistent demonstrations of stubborn force to maintain its structure, control dissidents, and inspire fear-based loyalty in its subscribers, lest they realize the risk of becoming a target should they themselves be deemed “impure” in belief or practice. This authoritative practice spills into White supremacy’s necessary pairing with male supremacy, as “bloodline purity” (a physiological myth) requires absolute reproductive control, and therefore the subjugation and objectification of women as (otherwise useless) vessels of the continuation of the bloodline.


Just as White supremacy is built on the notion that Black and Brown people are less than human – and just as this hateful concept has been practiced through the multigenerational enslavement of Black and Brown bodies as tools, objects, playthings, and resources to be extracted for profit – so too is the history of obstetrics built on the abuse and calculated dehumanization of the bodies of women – particularly of Black and Brown women, and particularly of enslaved or very poor women of color. It is a well-known historical fact among birthworkers that J. Marion Sims, the “father of modern gynecology”, regularly performed experimental surgeries, unmedicated, on Black enslaved (or very poor) women. He, and many others, believed they did not feel pain. Well-documented are the instances of forced sterilization, the purposeful infection of unknowing patients and study participants with disease, and other abuses of people of color within the reproductive spectrum – including millions of rapes, murdered families, kidnappings, forced childrearing, forced breastfeeding, and other horrors of the duplication of White supremacy and anti-Black/PoC oppression over the years.


These painful truths are terrible to read, but they must be spoken to – we clearly cannot view the incidents in Charlottesville as an isolated case. The pride with which White supremacy rears its ugly head this month has long been fermenting and propagating, and so while this month, we see it blatantly and undeniably, its presence is purposeful, planned, and has long infected our institutions, our systems of exchange, and our day-to-day interactions. Under current government, yes, it is true that racists and fascists of all kinds feel more emboldened than ever to strike out at those of us who would sustain a truly free, humane society, but their hate and fear has defined much of the lives – and deaths – of all citizens since before this country’s founding, when the least successful, rather spiritually marginalized, most desperate sons of Europe colonized indigenous peoples with disease, weapons, economic manipulation and an entire spectrum of physical traumas.


Today, we must acknowledge that Charlottesville is only one of many instances in which we, as a society, have allowed our fear, ignorance, guilt, self-loathing and cowardice to overwhelm our powers of courage, insight, compassion, and loving peace. Every day, in the world of birth, we see people stripped of their agency, assigned harmful stereotypes, verbally abused, and mistreated in their bodies and spirit based on factors of race, gender and class. Every day, we see women terrified of their own bodies – fearful of their very life force – imprinted with decades, if not centuries, of the expectation and belief that they are inherently broken…less than…dysfunctional. Every day, we see medical care providers alienate, dismiss and outright insult the very process of creation. Even well-meaning practitioners wield an often careless authoritative knowledge, based in an oppressive power dynamic born of brutal inhumanity at a time when some people were not considered people, and women and their babies are dying as a result. If you are enraged at the outright assault on life that is occurring in our cities, then also be enraged at the subtler but insidious forces that aim to dehumanize and belittle birth, streamline parenting into a mechanical consumer act, traumatize and retraumatize generations of people into a numb complacency, and subvert our natural capacity for wellness so as to make our entire population dependent on the profit-based workings of the industries that benefit from our collective suffering.


Be enraged, and, we ask, do something. It is the mission of the Oakland Better Birth Foundation to reduce infant and maternal mortality and to protect all families’ rights to birth where, and with whom, they choose, to raise their children in safe, consensual environments, and to be supported in their own unique healing and wellness practices. Our work means being present with women and other birthing people’s growing awareness that, to achieve this, they must become empowered agents of their own bodies and choices in the face of destructive forces. It means facilitating our collective awakening to the reality that we do not need to suffer at the hands of an imagined “other”, if we unite against the power of fear, disconnection, addiction, manipulative delusion and hate. It is in protecting the process of reproduction – with love and understanding for diverse situations and identities – that we can give our children a future in which they move through the world with a confidence that they are accepted, they belong, and they are loved, with no need to harm or subjugate others. When all children are valued, and all parents respected, people across diverse cultures and communities can come together in supporting practices that benefit worldwide health, create opportunities for sustainable resource systems, and heal the wounds that, if left unaddressed, threaten to destroy the shared valuing of Life that makes us human.


Note:  Thanks to Jessalyn Ballerano for best being the author of this document on behalf of Oakland Better Birth Foundation . This statement speaks for me as well as the undersigned members of our advisory board .


Samsarah Morgan , DD ,CD (ICTC) LC, Founder and Executive Director

Tora R. Spigner, RN

Libertad Rivera, RN

Laura Cox, Lactation Educator

Heather Moore-Farley

Xandrea J. Sanford

Asatu Musunama Hall-Allah CPM

Al Jazeera report on Charlottesville


how many more by Mary Englebreit

Special Invitation

Momma, take a moment. Don’t tell yourself that you are going to “try’ for a natural childbirth. Educate yourself, empower yourself, feed yourself, bring your best health to the forefront, hire a midwife, and a doula. And have your natural childbirth. Surround yourself with people who already envision you powerfully birthing your child – rather than those who are educated in the worst case scenario!
The odds are on your side!
Go for it! Hard!
And from this place – be open hearted to how your birth progresses – if interventions are needed accept this – see them as tools that bring you to your ultimate goal – your beautiful child and you healthy and strong. There is no failure here. One only fails if one never tries.
Remember, the odds are on the side of a healthy pregnant person- go for it!
Samsarah Morgan ED, Oakland Better Birth Foundation

Regarding the Slaying Of Jessica Williams

obbf round image

Regarding the Slaying of Jessica Williams

We, the founder and board members of Oakland Better Birth Foundation decry the murder of African American expectant mother, Jessica Williams on the streets of San Francisco.   We are fed up with excessive use of force by police upon unarmed citizens; and feel that police should receive training adequate to assist them in the apprehension of an unarmed pregnant citizen. Surely there are details of this crime that must be revealed – but no matter the story or situation, no one should have to die because they “possibly” stole a car.

And no matter the story or circumstance, the loss of this human being and her unborn child is a crime, which deserves to be fully investigated , explained and resolved; with appropriate restitution given to her family.  Even as we know that there is no way to ever fully compensate her family and our community for the loss of 2 generations of one family in one awful act.

We wish to extend our heart felt condolences to Ms William’s family and friends.

 #‎SayHerName Jessica Williams


Samsarah Morgan, Xandrea J. Sanford,Heather Moore-Farley, Laura Cox

Christina Urista, Tora Spigner


Report from SF Examiner

Woman Killed by Sf Police SF Gate


Our Mission Statement:

To expand the conversation around reproductive choices and to address the appalling rate of infant and maternal mortality in the City of Oakland as well as the County of Alameda in its entirety.

To promote and educate the public about the vital role of traditional midwifery services and securing good birth outcomes for all women and especially women of color.

To provide financial support and education to those wishing to avail themselves traditional midwifery and doula services as well as other traditional health practitioners historically shown to support and improve birth outcomes.

To provide financial support and mentoring to those wishing to pursue a career as a traditional midwife, doula or childbirth educator.

To address the mental, emotional and spiritual concerns that arise on our parenting/child rearing journey, by providing therapeutic services, educational workshops and skill building for children, couples, parents and families, individually or in groups, at affordable prices.

L. Samsarah Morgan, DD Cht., Executive Director 510-595-5534

Announcing Shiphrah’s Circle!

The Oakland Better Birth Foundation will be offering a unique doula practice to the Bay Area Community, Shiphrahs Circle Community Doula Program!
Join us in the circle for a hearty breakfast and to receive the following resources:
Pregnancy Testing
Birth Doula Support
Full Spectrum (Abortion) Doula Support
Childbirth Education
Breastfeeding Education
Bereavement Counseling (Grief support for loss due to miscarriage, abortion, or infant death)
Parenting Education and support
Referrals to local midwives and OB’s
Adoption information and referrals
All services are offered on a sliding scale and are free if needed.
Our target start date is April 2016 – RSVP here or check our website to receive notification of of our meeting place and time!
We look forward to serving you!
Samsarah Morgan
Executive Director and Doula
Call 510-496-3491 with questions!
samsarah and elijah