Black Women in Activism: Addressing Racial Health Disparities

| Reproaction

By: Evonnia Woods

Black Women in Activism is Reproaction’s new event series centering the reproductive justice work of Black women in Missouri. The first event in this series was a panel organized as a part of the University of Missouri’s celebration of Black History Month. The panel consisted of five Black women from across the state who have experience working from a variety of angles to address racial health disparities. The discussion covered maternal and infant mortality, HIV and AIDS, and domestic violence within a global, national, and state context. Panelists communicated the importance of not only having these discussions publicly, but centering Black women in these discussions – all Black women – while also considering how trans men’s experiences are also vital in discussions involving maternal and infant health outcomes.

The event was standing room only, with close to 100 people in attendance. Panelists included Jannis Evans who is a retired health advocate specializing in sex and HIV and AIDS education, and Dr. Ibitola Pearce, an emerita sociology professor of the university who blessed attendees with her expertise on health in Africa, with an emphasis on Nigeria, and how that compares to the U.S. The panel also included Brittany “Tru” Kellman, a current student midwife on course to becoming the first Black midwife in the state. Tru is also co-founder and executive director of Jamaa Birth Village in Ferguson, Mo., and brought historical context to the discussion. They were joined by Justice Gatson, founder of Reale Justice Network where she works with domestic violence survivors in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City organizer for ACLU-MO  where she is working on several pieces of legislation in Missouri to improve health outcomes, spoke from her experience as a community organizer and domestic violence survivor. Rounding out the panel was Brittany Ferrell, a registered nurse working on her Master’s in Public Health who is also on Jamaa’s Board of Directors and a leader with Black Futures Lab, who spoke from a clinical standpoint and her role as a community organizer.

This event was the first of many events to come that will highlight the work Black women are doing to improve health outcomes for everyone. As emphasized in my previous blog post, Words Mean Things: Reproductive Justice Doesn’t Need to be Redefined, reproductive justice extends beyond reproductive health and reproductive rights; therefore, discussions regarding reproductive health have to be intersectional. Discussions must also center the voices of the most marginalized within a given context.

You can help us continue to advance these much-needed discussions that uplift the work of Black women activists by staying tuned for future events in our Black Women in Activism series. Join our mailing list, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and please donate to support our work.

I hope to see you at our next event in Missouri!

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