Black Women Birthing Justice invites you to join the conversation about our new book Birthing Justice. Every two weeks, we will post a new chapter from the book on our blog alongside messages from the editors and contributors. Readers are invited to read the chapter, and comment on the questions from the Discussion Guide in the space below this blog. Please indicate your name and location and any organizational affiliation when you leave a comment.
You can also host a Kitchen Table Reading Circle in your own home. Kitchen Circle Reading Circles are intimate, safe spaces where we can share our own experiences and explore how they connect to birth justice themes. Invite your friends, meet biweekly, read the posted chapter and share your responses to the Discussion Guide questions. You can share your comments and thoughts online as we move through the book together.
When you and five friends or colleagues purchase at least 4 copies and read the book together, we will thank you by sending a special BWBJ gift (while supplies last). Just send us your location, names and email addresses for your Reading Circle members and a photo of your group holding the books.
This week's reading is the Introduction to Birthing Justice, titled "Beyond Coercion and Neglect: Black Women and the Struggle for Birth Justice." Here is a message from the co-author of the essay Julia Chinyere Oparah:
"Co-creating Birthing Justice has been a way for me to speak back against the experience of being disempowered by a medical industry that viewed me as an at-risk pregnancy statistic rather than a human being. The book was inspired by my journey to taking back my power, and the realization that it was possible to have a transformative and sacred birth experience against the odds. I am so grateful to my co-editor and all of the BWBJ sisters for their incredible love and support and to you, the reader, for your willingness to go deeper and truly engage with the material gathered here."
We encourage you to discuss and comment on these questions as you read the Introduction:
1. When Chinyere is experiencing difficult memories about her own birth, her midwife tells her: “This is your new birth story. This time you get to make it turn out differently” (page 3). What is a story of breaking family patterns or bringing new birth experiences to your family or community?
2. “We turned the hospital room into a sanctuary” (page 3). What experiences of hospital birth have you or your family experienced? Should we focus our energies on making hospitals more mama-friendly, or on promoting home births outside of the medical industrial complex?
3. The introduction asserts that negative pregnancy and childbirth experiences are not only the result patriarchy, but happen as a result of multiple systems of oppression that affect black women’s lives. Can you think of ways that your reproductive freedom has been impacted by racism, sexism, class oppression, sexuality, or combinations of these?
4. This chapter explored the histories of black women’s relationships to obstetrics, midwifery and alternative birth movements. Which of these histories resonated with you, and why?
5. Define “medical apartheid” and “obstetrical apartheid” in your own words (page 10). Have you or family members experienced this? Using the information shared in the introduction to guide you, discuss how white women have benefited from these systems.
6. Prior to 1964, most Southern hospitals were segregated. What are your family stories of segregation and segregated hospitals? If you have older family members from the South, ask them to share their experiences of segregated health care, and of giving birth in black hospitals, hospital wards, or at home. Consider recording their story and sharing it with BWBJ.
Read the full Discussion Guide here.
Purchase Birthing Justice here.