5 black women birthworkers you should know about

Black Women Birthworkers were honored at the Human Rights in Childbirth U.S. Summit Birthing Justice Forum & Maternal-Child Health Champion Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles on May 26, 2016.

Black Woman Birthing Justice (BWBJ) collective members Chinyere Oparah, Linda Jones, Dantia Hudson and Sayida Peprah were a strong presence at the Human Rights in Childbirth U.S. Summit Birthing Justice Forum. We contributed powerfully in the discussions on creating a U.S. “consensus statement” to define and identify key action steps toward establish birth justice in America. Through the stories and testimonies that BWBJ has collected over the years on the Black experience of childbirth in California, we were able to bring the key birth justice elements of concern and priority for Black folks, to the table. It is always valuable that we are in the room, when conversations are happening about birth in America. Too often, we are only talked about, but not conversed with, regarding our needs.

The biggest highlight of the day was an awards ceremony “honoring leaders and visionaries for their inspiring and paradigm-changing work in maternal health.” Among the 10 honorees were 5 dynamic Black women we want you to know about.

Claudia Booker, CPM, M.Ed. JD received the “Agent Provocateur Award” (Washington DC)

Racha Tahani Lawler, LM, CPM received the “Agent Provocateur Award” (Los Angeles)

Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM received the “Visionary of the Year Award” (Florida)

Shafia Monroe, DEM, MPH received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” (Portland)

Kimberly Durdin, IBCLC, Student Midwife receive the “Future Leader Award” (Los Angeles)

Take a look at the photos, bios and projects of these powerful black women.

Claudia Booker, CPM, M.Ed. JD

Claudia Booker is a home birth midwife serving the families of the Washington DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia area; and adjunct faculty member at Mercy in Action and visiting presenter at American University and the University of Maryland, Montgomery County. Before beginning her life as a birth worker Claudia served two terms as a Judge with the DC Contract Appeals Board and several years as a DC Assistant Corporation Counsel and Chief Contracting Officer for several of the District’s largest agencies. In 2011 Claudia became a CPM and over the last five years she has participated in several key activities that have impacted midwifery education and licensing. In addition, she has written numerous articles and interviews published in national and international newspapers on the topics of access to care, disparities, health inequities and the benefits of the midwifery model of care. In 2005, she began her birth worker career at the DC Family Health and Birth Center (now The Community of Hope) where she developed one of the country’s first community-based doula and birth assistant programs. In 2009 and 2015 she spearheaded the “Heads Up: For Infant Mortality DC Project”, which collected over 2,000 handmade infant hats and delivered them to local District NICUS. For the last eight years she has been a participant on the District of Columbia Infant Mortality Review Committee. After taking her midwifery skills overseas to serve families in Senegal, Bali, and the birth camps in Dulag, Philippines following Typhoon Yolanda, Claudia recently completed the NARM CPM Bridge program. In 2006 she won the AABC Community Service Award for this program, in 2010 the ICTC National Leadership Award, and in 2015 the Birth Matters Virginia Advocate of the Year Award.

Jennie Joseph, LM, CPM

Jennie is a British-trained midwife, a women’s health advocate, the founder and executive director of Commonsense Childbirth Inc. and the creator of The JJ Way®. She moved to the United States in 1989 and began a journey that has culminated in the formation of an innovative maternal child healthcare system, markedly improving birth outcomes for women in Central Florida.

Jennie has worked extensively in European hospitals, American birth centers, clinics and homebirth environments. She has been instrumental in the regulation of Florida midwives since the 1990’s and has been involved in midwifery education since 1995. She is the chair of Florida’s State Council of Licensed Midwives. Currently she owns a Florida licensed midwifery school attached to The Birth Place, her nationally renowned birth center and maternity medical home in Winter Garden, Florida.

Racha Tahani Lawler, LM, CPM

Racha Tahani Lawler, LM, CPM is the granddaughter and great-granddaughter, great niece, and second cousin of midwives. After being in attendance of her cousin’s homebirth right out of her teens, she immediately answered her call to midwifery. While working as a nurse assistant at a local Hospital in the women’s wing, she was privileged & honored to train with a community midwife as an apprentice. Racha moved to El Paso Texas where she began a formal midwifery education at Maternidad La Luz. Upon graduation she sat for and passed her NARM in 2004 and became a Certified Professional Midwife (exp. 9/2014) & Texas Licensed Midwife. Racha returned home to California with her family in 2007, completed the California Challenge Process and earned her California Midwifery License in 2008. She has been blessed to sit at the feet of over 600 birthing women, and hundreds more as a physical & emotional support. With the help of family, friends and countless supporters she has recently opened The Community Birth Center. A freestanding birthing center in South Los Angeles that provides well woman, pre-conception, prenatal, labor/birth and postpartum care to families in the city of Los Angeles. She is committed to providing midwifery care to ALL who seek it regardless of race, socio-economic status or gender. Her passion is to aid in the great maternal child health disparities seen with women of color. Racha gave birth to all three of her children, post date, at home in water and they have attended upwards of 100 births in their own right. Her mission, is to “Grow our community, one baby at a time”, in reducing prematurity rates in women of color and infant deaths. She is currently guiding student midwives in their journey as they work towards licensure.

Shafia Monroe, DEM, MPH

Founder and President of International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) and community activist devoted to infant mortality prevention, breastfeeding promotion, and increasing the number of midwives of color. In addition to being a Certified Midwife by the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance, she is also a Childbirth Educator, a Doula Trainer, and mother of seven children. Shafia M. Monroe is a health activist, organizer, and international speaker. She holds a BA in sociology, with a concentration in medical sociology, from the University of Massachusetts. Monroe is the founder and President of the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC); the nation’s first Black midwifery training, breastfeeding promotion and capacity building non-profit organization, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Shafia is the visionary behind the prominent Black Midwives and Healers Conference that brings midwives and other health care providers together to galvanize resources and implement strategies for reducing infant mortality and strengthening families.

Kimberly Durdin, IBCLC, Student Midwife

Kimberly Durdin is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Doula, Childbirth Educator and Student Midwife. After experiencing Cesarean delivery with her oldest child, Kimberly knew she wanted a different experience with future children. Kimberly was attended by homebirth midwives for her subsequent births, which empowered her greatly to learn how to help other families who were desiring empowered, supportive births and breastfeeding experiences.

Kimberly’s 25 years of experience includes being a La Leche League Leader and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the WIC program in Brooklyn, NY where she also worked with Brooklyn Doula Service providing post-partum and birth doula care to families. Kimberly worked in Washington D.C. as an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) where she joined the BLESS Project (Breastfeeding Lactation Education Support Services) at historic Howard University Hospital in creating their first ever lactation clinic providing 24 hour lactation services free of charge for HUH families. Kimberly was named one of the Top Lactation Consultants in the area by Washington Families Magazine.

Kimberly worked as a Lactation Consultant for the Watts Healthcare Corporation’s 5 site WIC Program after moving to Los Angeles, where she trained staff, oversaw breastfeeding peer counselors, and provided one on one LC care for families throughout South LA. In 2009, She joined the groundbreaking company The Sanctuary Birth & Family Wellness Center, and acted as the Director of Lactation Services. She has been an LC for twelve years and has begun teaching a 45-hour Lactation Consultant Exam Prep Course, as well as mentoring IBCLC candidates.

When not working with the families of Los Angeles, Kimberly enjoys spending quality time with her husband, her six children ages 3 to 23, and her 2 year old grandson. She holds the vision in her life and in her work, that ALL families deserve access to the highest quality of respectful and supportive care from providers as well as the community, during the childbearing years regardless of income level, race and/or gender identity.

Congratulations to our honorees and much love and light to all of you out there working to shift to tied toward wellness among Black families.


Sayida Peprah

Sayida Peprah, has a Doctorate of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, with a Multicultural Clinical-Community Emphasis, from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. Dr. Peprah completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology and Religion at Spelman College. Dr. Peprah’s background, both academically and in the field, afford her unique competence in instructing courses, counseling and consulting, from a multicultural perspective. Dr. Peprah has a strong belief and background in cultural competence and, in effort to expand this, has participated in numerous international, cultural immersion studies. Previously, she has traveled to Ghana, Mexico, Egypt and India, studying mental health approaches, indigenous culture and local spiritual traditions. Dr. Peprah is also a Birth Doula, who has worked with women of diverse backgrounds, and is a Board Member and Instructor with The Association for Wholistic Maternal and Newborn Health, teaching cultural awareness, cross-cultural communication and perinatal mood disorder content for the organization’s trainings. Sayida is a Psychological Consultant for the organization's clients both individual and corporate. She is also a BWBJ collective member.

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