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Syracuse celebrates Black Maternal Health Week

Flyers about Black maternal health on top of a table
Anjana Dasam
April saw the first global Black Maternal Health Week

Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, for diverse and often preventable reasons, including inequitable access to health care.

To raise local awareness, Syracuse nonprofits and health organizations – including Upstate Medical, Planned Parenthood and Doula 4 a Queen – are celebrating Black Maternal Health Week.

It kicked off on April 11, the first-ever global Black Doula Day, with a Doula House Party.

A growing number of Black women are using doulas for clinical and emotional support before, during and after pregnancy. Or even if they decide they don’t want a child at the moment, said Doula 4 a Queen founder SeQuoia Kemp, “individuals who decide that termination is best for them and still need that additional support throughout those processes.”

Kemp was one of the organizers of the House Party and says doulas are like surrogate family, but with vital health information.

“I think the main role is making sure that people have health literacy, understanding what is normal versus when things are concerning,” Kemp said. "So that they can communicate with their providers if they need further clinical support.” 

Kemp says the entire week is also about putting joy back into maternal health for Black women. Like Mia Wade, who came to the party with her baby, to celebrate their doula.

“The support and advocacy that she brought, especially while I was in labor, it was more than what I realized. I didn't know what to expect,” Wade said. "In my corner, she was the biggest support I had.”

Other events included line dancing, a fundraiser and a panel on reproductive justice.

Black Maternal Health Week ends with a collective art exhibit on April 17, hosted by Upstate Medical at the Spa at 500.

Anjana Dasam is a Broadcast Digital Journalism at the Newhouse School.
Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.