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Black Babies Awareness Month



Campaign highlights national policy agenda and research exploring long-standing inequities and the effects of COVID-19

Black Babies Awareness Month, a campaign to promote and center the needs of Black infants and toddlers, kicks-off November 1st. The initiative coincides with the release of the first-ever National Black Child Agenda.

Led by the Equity Research Action Coalition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the new campaign calls for protecting, promoting and preserving the wellbeing of Black families and babies. There are 11.5 million Black babies in the U.S. Over 60 percent of Black babies live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is more than double the rate for White babies (29 percent).

The Equity Research Action Coalition unveiled the National Black Child Agenda, an ambitious plan that calls for actions to dismantle structural racism and systemic inequities that have negative effects on Black children’s school and life success. The agenda was co-developed with research and child development experts from the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and POINTS of ACCESS, LLC.

The agenda asserts that Black families are better supported when there is a strategic focus on designing systems, and implementing programs and interventions that build upon the cultural assets and strengths of Black families. It calls for promoting Black children and their families’ economic security, health and access to quality early learning opportunities, while also preserving their cultural identity and heritage. Black families and babies experience multiple adversities prior to and after birth, but the cultural wealth of Black families has proven to be transformative in navigating against structural racism and other negative experiences.

The Black Babies Awareness Month campaign will include an open virtual roundtable with key experts to share recent research, the national policy agenda for Black children, a social media toolkit and calls-to-action for the public to get involved.

“For every parent, our precious Black babies are our pride and joy and they are more than deserving of the warm, safe and nurturing caregiving that will contribute to their health and long-term brain development,” states Equity Research Action Coalition Founder Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka. “We hope that Black Babies Awareness Month and the National Black Child Agenda together will build national public awareness around the issues that impact them the most, and lead to a concerted push for inclusive policies that will improve their life outcomes.”

“When you think about it, our children exist in a duality of ‘the land of opportunity,’ and ‘the home of racism and debilitating inequities,'” said NBCDI CEO and President Dr. Leah Austin. “This ground-breaking agenda reflects a post-2020 America, and serves as a launchpad for empowering advocates and communities everywhere to better serve the needs of the 21st century Black child,” she continued.

The resource identifies ten pressing policies of focus such as child tax credits, universal access to early childhood education and culturally-responsive training.

Ten Policies of the National Black Child Agenda:

  1. Maintain child tax credits and income supports
  2. Address racial disparities in wages and career advancement opportunities
  3. Invest in Black-owned and Black-led businesses, organizations and institutions
  4. Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act
  5. Expand health insurance
  6. Expand universal access to early care and education
  7. Address harsh discipline practices
  8. Ensure equity in early intervention and special education
  9. Ensure culturally responsive curriculum and practices through workforce development and training
  10. Pass reparations

Research on Black Babies and Families:

The Equity Research Action Coalition also recently released the report “Black Parents and Their Babies: Attending to the First 1,000 Days.” The research explores quality of life, racial trauma and socio-economic issues in greater detail. It includes first-hand accounts and action items from Black families. The report surveyed Black parents on a weekly basis from May through December of 2020, and incorporates data from the RAPID-EC project at the University of Oregon. The report provides three essential recommendations:

  • Protecting Black babies and their families from racism, discrimination and material hardship is necessary to ensure babies thrive throughout their life course
  • Promoting economic security, health and access to early learning opportunities is essential to mitigate against the biological and social vulnerability Black babies and their families face due to racism, discrimination and bias
  • Preserving Black babies’ cultural identities in the early years is as essential as the “three Rs” of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

To read the full report and learn more about Black Babies Awareness Month, visit the Equity Research Action Coalition’s website.

About the Equity Research Action Coalition

The Equity Research Action Coalition co-constructs with practitioners and policymakers actionable research to support the optimal development of Black children prenatally through childhood across the African diaspora using a cultural wealth framework. The Coalition will focus on developing a science-based action framework to eradicate the impact of racism and poverty, and all its consequences on the lives of Black children, families, and communities, and to ensure optimal health, well-being, school readiness and success, and overall excellence.

For more information about the Equity Research Action Coalition, please visit the group’s website and follow them on Twitter at @FPGInstitute.

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In Search of a Black Doctor 




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Black Life Texas

We Have To Help Our Obese Children




Children and young adults lead busy lifestyles. They are often in activities outside of school, so working parents often have little time for sit-down yet healthy meals. It can be easier to swing by McDonald’s or pick up a greasy pizza.

Three to four days of this routine can wreak havoc on a child’s nutrition and set them up for obesity, especially if they are not involved in athletics or active programs. The prevalence of children of color being obese is so high that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that teens over age 13 should be evaluated for metabolic and bariatric surgery if they have severe obesity.

These new recommendations should sound alarm bells in Black and Brown communities. It’s no secret that San Antonio is a hot spot for diabetes. While the city’s demographics mean more of the Hispanic community struggles with this disease, the Black community, as a whole, has a disproportionate amount of children and young adults suffering from obesity, also known as a chronic disease.

More than 14.4 million U.S. children and teens are considered obese, according to the National Library of Medicine. The risk factors associated with obesity include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic liver disease. Because a child or adolescent with obesity is 70% more likely to struggle with their weight as an adult, it is imperative to work on reducing weight as a child.

The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination from 2015-2016 demonstrated that class I obesity was highest among Black females at 25.1% and Hispanic males at 20% compared to 13.6% and 14.7% in white females and males.

What are the solutions to decreasing obesity rates in children? First, it will have to start with parents, teachers, or adults overseeing kids.

Smarter Choices – It may not be realistic to cook home meals daily or afford the healthiest options. However, relaying to kids to make smarter choices can introduce small changes. Instead of french fries, choose baked chips or fruit. Also, encouraging smaller portions can reduce calories since most fast food and sit-down restaurants serve enough for two people. Learn to read nutrition labels so kids and adults understand what’s going into their bodies.

Girls on the Run/School Sports – Many schools offer active programs for kids, such as the low-cost option of Girls on the Run, which encourages girls to run. While some kids may not like playing sports or running, other after-school options include dance, volleyball, and even golf – even these activities include some form of exercise conditioning.

Netflix’s 2017 documentary “Sisters on Track” followed the Sheppard sisters and their mother, who went from homelessness to all three sisters pursuing their Jr. Olympic dreams. Their mother, Tonia Handy, signed her daughters up for Jeuness Track Club for girls in Brooklyn to give them something to do and stay out of trouble. The club’s coach, Jean Bell, can be seen in the documentary not only coaching the girls but also helping with life challenges and expenses. After the documentary aired, Tyler Perry paid for rent to help the family move out of a homeless shelter. Brooks Running set up a $25,000 educational fund for each sister, totaling $75,000. Brooks also donated $5,000 to Jeuness Track Club to help cover expenses for families who can’t afford it.

Gaming – The world of gaming is keeping our kids more sedentary than ever. Encourage reduced times or no gaming during the school week. Try to incorporate active video games that often have the user learning dance steps and kickboxing – sometimes with a VR or virtual headset. If your child goes to a recreational center after school, encourage them to invest in active gaming equipment.
Overall, it’s up to parents and adults to break that cycle of obesity. This includes making healthier choices, incorporating activity, and eating high-calorie food in moderation.

And while there is much debate about food deserts in low-income communities, we have to do something despite that. Food deserts are defined as low-income communities where the nearest supermarket is more than several miles away and access to affordable and quality foods is limited.
Brookings recently reported that after analyzing the distribution of grocery stores in several large U.S. cities, they found that premium grocery stores are less likely to be located in Black-majority neighborhoods, regardless of the average household income of those neighborhoods, and are substantially more likely to be in areas where the Black population share is less than 10%.

In other words, businesses and the broader real estate and financing sectors aren’t investing even in prospering Black-majority neighborhoods, which devalues these communities and hinders growth opportunities. This is true in San Antonio. Even those grocery stores considered organic or upscale are in select parts of the city where income levels are high. While some supermarkets have returned to the city after leaving due to competition, they are now offering costly delivery services – not realistic for families on a tight food budget. And while the nearest Walgreens, CVS, or gas station store may not have fruit, salad, or healthier choices, they do have crackers, baked chips, and protein bars – which are better options than candy. And instead of buying high-calorie sodas, many drinks now have low-sugar and no-sugar options. And there’s even water sold with a hint of fruit. How clever is that – water and good old lemon!

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Black Life Texas

The Mothers of Gynecology



By Melissa Monroe

I bet you have never heard of the names Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey in the history books. But I’m damn sure the name Dr. J. Marion Sims has been put on a pedestal, especially in medical journals. 

Black women, in particular, should get free gynecological healthcare because these three Black Queens, let me say their names again – Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey –  unwillingly were tortured by Dr. Sims in the name of medicine. In the 1840s, he took Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey from their slave plantations to experiment with them WITHOUT anesthesia. They all suffered from a condition called fistula, which were unhealed tears in their vagina and rectum/anal area, often from childbirth. Anarcha first came to the doctor because she couldn’t deliver her baby after three days of labor. After her baby was stillborn, she developed fistulas, and he claimed he could “heal” her. In three and half years, he performed 30 procedures on her.

Lucy and Betsey were also his “patients,” and several other women. He said he was able to cure the women of their injuries by using silver thread and a “clamp suture” mechanism that would soon be abandoned. The doctor eventually relocated to New York City to capitalize on his methods and tools (he developed the precursor to the speculum in his experiments). And a decade later, he’s coined the “Father of Gynecology.”

The forgotten stories of these women are thankfully being told by another Black Queen – Michelle Browder – who’s making sure the Mothers of Gynecology and some of our Civil Rights leaders are memorialized in Montgomery, Alabama. Browder started More Up Tours, a family business, to educate tourists about these little-known stories. I had the honor to take one of her tours thanks to Northwest Vista College – a part of the Alamo Colleges – which sponsored a history trip for faculty and staff. 

Browder said it shouldn’t have to take the death of George Floyd and the buzzword of DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) for people to practice basic humanitarian principles such as being kind and having respect for one another. 

The More Up campus is right across the street from the Peace and Justice Memorial, which in itself, is a stark reminder of the brutality African Americans endured. At the memorial, one of many signs depicted why some Black people were lynched. One read: “Warren Powell, 14, was lynched in East Point, Georgia, in 1889 for ‘frightening’ a white girl.” And just think 123 years later, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed because he too “frightened” a neighborhood watchman. 

Back to the Montgomery doctor (who shall not have his name mentioned again in this article), was experimenting on slaves in a hospital in Montgomery that eventually increased from four to 12 beds. Alabama proudly has a historical marker outside his hospital telling the story of his “successful” procedures. In a turn of fate and hundreds of years later, Browder was aided by allies in Montgomery and purchased the torture hospital at a deep discount. The person who owned the building said it was “haunted.” Hmm..I wonder why? Now she plans to renovate it to use it to help improve medical care for women.

In honor of Anarcha, Lucy and Betsey (let’s say their names one more time), Browder, who is also an artist, created three, 15-foot monuments to honor them and shine a light on the ongoing racial disparities in the healthcare industry. The sculptures depict Strength, Beauty and Femininity.

Her website ( says, “The monument stands as a symbol of all of the enslaved women who were experimented upon in the quixotic pursuit of a modern “science” of gynecology.”

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