The Black Mamas Matter Alliance was sparked by a partnership project between the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective (SisterSong) that began in 2013. The two organizations collaborated on story collection on the obstacles that Southern Black women face in accessing maternal health care, leading to poor maternal health outcomes and persistent racial disparities. These findings were included in a joint report – “Reproductive Injustice: Gender and Racial Discrimination in U.S. Health Care” – submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
Monica Simpson of SisterSong, Katrina Anderson of CRR, and Elizabeth Dawes Gay co-organized a convening in Atlanta in June 2015 that brought together experts, activists, and stakeholders from a variety of sectors who were concerned about Black maternal health. “Black Mamas Matter” (BMM) was an outcome of this meeting, along with a call to action to produce toolkits for activists in the South working to improve maternal health. Over the course of the next year, CRR, in collaboration with members of BMM, created the Black Mamas Matter Toolkit.
A second convening was held in Atlanta in June 2016 to launch the toolkit and discuss how to implement it in Georgia, where some political momentum on this issue seemed to exist. At this meeting, members identified the myriad strategies needed to effectively tackle the crisis of maternal health (advocacy, culture shift, research, and service provision) and called for a Black women-led initiative to leverage these strategies.
Recognizing the need for the BMM project to become its own entity, CRR and SisterSong initiated a process to create a Steering Committee to guide BMM into its next phase. In November 2016, BMM hosted its first Steering Committee retreat. At this two-day meeting, the group decided on the “alliance” structure, and crafted a vision, mission, values, goals, and work plan for the upcoming year.
The founding Black Mamas Matter Alliance Steering Committee members include Angela Doyinsola Aina, Elizabeth Dawes Gay, Joia Crear-Perry, Kwajelyn Jackson, and Monica Simpson.
In June 2018, Angela Doyinsola Aina and Elizabeth Dawes Gay became co-directors of the Alliance; expanded the alliance to include over 18 Black women-led organizations; launched the first ever Black Maternal Health Week National Campaign; and established the first Black Maternal Health Conference and Training Institute, all in 2018. The rest is Herstory!