Tag Archives: #blacklivesmatter

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)

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

Oakland Breastfeeding Festival Press Release



MEDIA RELEASE – Sunday, August 27th, 3:00pm-6:00pm

Oakland’s Breastfeeding Festival



On Sunday, August 27th, from 3:00pm until 6:00pm, Hosted by The Better Birth Foundation and Bay Area Birth Justice Fair, Oakland will have its third Annual Oakland’s Breastfeeding Festival in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, and Black Breastfeeding Week.  This event will highlight Oakland’s needs for support, community, and education in breastfeeding for ALL breastfeeding people and their supporters.  This event includes all forms of breastfeeding including parents that exclusively pump, receive donor milk, and the LGBTQ community.  There will be a number of speakers, snacks, as well as a local lactation counselors and educators to provide information and support.  At 5:00pm, we will all breastfeed together for one minute in a communal “Latch On” to mark a moment of community, awareness, and support for breastfeeding and its benefits. Oakland’s BFF is providing the opportunity for breastfeeding women to get together in our community, and identify opportunities for on-going support.  For more information, visit our events page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1328993543879974


Oakland’s BFF will take place at Lake Merritt’s “Kids Kingdom” located next to the Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt, on the lake side of Bellevue Avenue (between Staten Avenue and Perkins Street) in Oakland.  The festival will begin at 3:00pm, with a communal “latch on’ at 5:00pm, and ending at 6:00pm.  This is a FREE event but your donations are welcome to further the work of the Oakland Better Birth Foundation. www.oaklandbetterbirthfoundation.com


On August 2001, to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and the need for global support, United States Breastfeeding Committee declared August, World Breastfeeding Month.  During World Breastfeeding Month, several events take place both nationally and on a global scale.  All of which provide, support, education, and global goals for breastfeeding and its benefits.  


The final week of August also marks Black Breastfeeding Week.  This is a monumental movement in its third year brings awareness to the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates.   According to the CDC, “Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years” (http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/resources/breastfeeding-trends.htm).  “Of infants born in 2011, 49% were breastfeeding at 6 months and 27% at 12 months.  African American Infants in 2011, 35% were breastfeeding at 6 months, and 16% at 12 months” (http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/rates-any-exclusive-bf-socio-dem-2012.htm).  This movement’s goals and the women that founded its direction are calling attention to the nation that support, education, and change is needed to bring up breastfeeding rates.  Please visit http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org/#event-media for more information.  


Breastfeeding contributes to the normal growth and development of babies/children, and babies/children who are not breastfed are at increased risk of infant morbidity and mortality, adult obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer (both mom and baby.) The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life to optimize these benefits, continuing to breastfeed for 2 years and as long thereafter as is mutually desired by a woman and her child.

For more information:

Laura Cox, LauMrg8@aol.com, 831-229-9947

SamSarah Morgan, LSamsarahMorgan@gmail.com, 510-393-7380



Brews for Better Birth Fundraiser in August!

Federation Brewing Pints to Pledge
“Brews for Better Birth”
August 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 (Wednesdays)
5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Our good friends at Federation Brewing are generously offering to pledge $1 off of every pint sold on Wednesday’s in August to support the work of the Oakland Better Birth Foundation!
Stop in, have a cold one and help fund:
Free and Low Cost Doula Care!
Free and Low Cost Childbirth , Pregnancy and Parenting Education!
Scholarship opportunities for people of color wishing to become birth workers. (More about our programs below!)
Don’t drink but want to donate? Please use the paypal address oaklandbetterbirthfoundation@gmail.com
Contact Samsarah Morgan if you would like your donation to be tax deductable at 510-496-3491 or at the email above!
See you in August!
brews postcard

Childbirth Education 4 The Community

We are proud of offer low free slidign scale childbirth education to any family who wishes to attend.


Your instructor is Samsarah Morgan our ED and ICTC Certified Doula Trainer.  Please join our parents group on Facebook to be kept in form of all of the classes and workshops we offer!



Childbirth Education For The Community Face Book Group


Childbirth ed has a open enrollement families can join whenever thy are ready! The slidign scale is 5-80/per family.  Call or text Samsarah for details!


momma statue with sword

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




Yesterday was our country’s celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. A holiday long fought for, and certainly well-deserved. With it, we remember the gifts Dr. King gave to this country, and honor all who worked with him during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s.

This year, this celebration unfolded in the path of our newest incarnation of the Civil Rights fight, the #blacklivesmatter movement. This movement, and the actions carried out under its banner, calls attention to the lives of black men and women at the hands of criminal police personnel. It takes yet another focused look at how racism — individual, cultural, and systemic racism and internalized oppression — leaves African Americans and other people of color out of the American Dream, and sets them up for suffering and death.

To this dialogue, I wanted to add a word about The American Way of Birth. The same infusion of systemic structures makes birthing a child in this country a very dangerous proposition.

The infant mortality rate among black infants is 2.4 times higher than that of white infants, primarily due to preterm birth. http://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/matte/pdf/CDCMatteReleaseInfantMortality.pdf
The private nature of infant mortality has made it a quiet crisis, lacking the public discussion or high-profile campaigns that accompany cancer, autism, or postpartum depression.
African-Americans fare far worse: Their rate of 13.3 deaths per 1,000 is almost double the national average, and higher than Sri Lanka’s. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/15/us/efforts-to-combat-high-infant-mortality-rate-among-blacks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 Statistics are comparable among Native American infants.
The CIA publishes a list of the world’s countries, ranked by their infant mortality rates. At the bottom, with the highest rates of neonatal deaths: Afghanistan, Angola, Somalia. At the top: Monaco, Singapore, Sweden. Where’s the United States? It doesn’t even crack the top 30, falling behind nearly all of its “first world” contemporaries. Recent studies show that the US overall has among the worse infant and maternal mortality rates among industrialized countries. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-copelandcarson/saving-our-future-remembe_b_1666409.html
“This racial disparity may be caused by socioeconomic disparities not just in adulthood but across the lifecourse, stress and discrimination, environmental quality differences as a consequence of residential segregation (e.g., pollution, crime, access to parks and supermarkets), and also differences in infant sleep practices,” says Peter C. van Dyck, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Administrator for Maternal and Child Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration http://www.minoritynurse.com/article/quiet-crisis-racial-disparities-and-infant-mortality#sthash.k0sjlE2c.dpuf
Recent increases in black infant mortality also coincide with significant cuts in programs designed to assist the poor, and an erosion of benefits in jobs held by many poverty-level workers.
Blacks have consistently had higher infant mortality rates compared with other racial/ethnic groups in the United States. This gap continues. Blacks had the highest infant mortality rate during the 2002-2004 period (a three-year period yields greater statistical stability), when nearly 14 black infants died for every 1,000 births http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2007/ColorDivideinInfantMortality.aspx
Second generation African women now have the same infant mortality rate as their African-American sisters.

A read though that information above should give a caring person pause. It should shake us to our core as American citizens, and move us to make the changes needed to stop this relentless and unnecessary stream of death.

As we consider the phrase #blacklivesmatter, I would like us to consider all black lives: those of Women, Men, Children, Elders, and Infants.

I would like to remind American citizens of all races that the deaths of people of color is simply the chirping of canaries choking in the coal mine, and that it ought to be the desire of every American citizen to consider making the American Dream align more closely with the dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

These dreams must be made available to all citizens. Our constitution says that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This great country has the resources to facilitate healthy happy pregnancies for mothers of color. The loss there is directly linked to issues of poverty and its resulting stress. It is tied to racism, and to the weight exerted upon a human being living in an environment that tells her over and over again that she is not worthy of life.

Any mammal would have a difficult time with pregnancy and birth in a hostile environment; humans are no exception. The prevailing energetic atmosphere for people of color (and for poor people of any color) in this country is deeply threatening.

Maternal and infant death happens, even if everything is done “right”, but this ought to be a very rare and heartbreaking event. Take a look at the statistics above and imagine the cloud of grief hanging over the homes and hearts of African Americans grieving for lost babies, named and unnamed. How do you imagine the loss of these children and their mothers affect the quality of life for the loved ones left behind?

#blacklivesmatter reminds us all of the outrage of a life wasted, and reminds us of our responsibility to one another as human beings and citizens of this country. To this end, I am inspired by all of the nonviolent direct actions that have been sweeping the country and especially the Bay Area. I am inspired by my fellow citizens as they take to the streets to call again and again for social justice and an end to systematic racism. I pray that those actions remind our government of their responsibility to answer the call of the people, as opposed to the call of monied interests whose aim is quite clear: the padding of their own pockets on the backs of the nation’s children.

I add to this chorus a reminder of the “least of these”: the mommas and their babies, who also have a right to life, liberty and the ability to pursue happiness. I believe that Dr. King would be very proud of the Bay Area protests, of all of the protests.

May we keep working till the work is done.

(Thank you, Nicole Vranas, for your invaluable research.)

A word to the life bringers 11.24.14 as the events unfold in Ferguson MO and across the country

Pregnant mommas, especially pregnant mommas of color. I am going to make a very hard request of you, For the sake of your heart and that of your unborn child (especially if you know your baby is a boy. Get off face book and turn off the TV. Take a warm bath and try to rest – let your village fight for you as you do us the honor of bring the next generation into the world . your baby can be very negatively affected by your fears and concerns – and this doesn’t meant hat your stick your head in the sand – but pace yourself with the intensity thats flowing in your country tonight.
I love you and want you to have the blessing of a well born child.
Talk to your baby and assure him or her that you love it ….And that it is safe with you.
You are not alone, nor is your baby.
Pace yourself.
Walk in beauty.
Eat well.
What is growing inside you is our future.
Who knows?, perhaps one of your children will be the one who makes true change happen.
Do the best you can to surround yourself with as much beauty as is possible. Perhaps by meditating on the love you have for your baby.
Hold older children close and limit how much of this they are exposed to.
I send you all of my love.
Samsarah Morgan/ urban nana



On Ferguson 11.24.14

you deserve

The Oakland Better Birth Foundation, rises in support with the protestors in Oakland Ca., Ferguson MO and New York, NY.. We decry the decsion to not even dignify the Michael Brown killing with a trial. We see this as a slap in the face to families of color in this country and to any citizen who truly values justice. Our prayers are with the family and friends of Michael Brown and others on the eveer growing list of black brown and poor youth killed by criminal police officers.
Samsarah Morgan, Executive Director , Tess Clabby, Xandrea Sanford, Alexandra Thomas – Board Members and volunteers