Celebrate! Black History Month

Throughout the month of February, FAM will pay due homage to midwives of African descent. Practicing midwives, midwifery students, and the legacy of Grand Midwives will be spotlighted.  We will also provide resources and tools to increase awareness and the promotion of increasing birth equity. We hope you find this series inspiring and that it moves you to action. To make a donation to promote birth equity click here.

Nubia Martin, Midwifery Student – Yonkers, New York

Where do you plan on practicing midwifery?

I plan to practice primarily in Yonkers, NY.  I was born and raised in Yonkers, and have lived here my entire life, so I know firsthand the deep need we have when it comes to options for where and how we birth. I want to continue to work with the women and families in my community who will benefit from these much-needed resources.

What do you believe about midwifery?

I believe midwifery is vital, midwifery is necessary, and midwifery is essential. Crucial elements of a positive healthy birthing experience include providing factual information, arming women with knowledge, and fostering a relationship in which they have an active part in the care they receive during pregnancy and at one of the most sacred times in their lives when they give birth.

Why is this work important?

This work is important, because somewhere along the way, the trust and confidence in our bodies were not only lost, but snatched away, and placed into a system that puts profit over people.  We must fight to return it, and begin to heal the years of unjust birth care practices by returning to core skills of midwifery; using our hands and our hearts to touch the women that we serve.

Why is this work imperative for the Black community?

Midwifery is of particular importance when it comes to the Black community for so many reasons, but the top on my list are the statistics of poor birth outcomes and maternal mortality and morbidity rates that are significantly higher for Black women across the board. Historically speaking, the Black woman’s body has been used for profit and gain when their childbearing was a commodity during slavery.  Once their ability to breed in rapid succession was no longer profitable, assaults against the Black female body took place in an effort to halt their procreation (forced sterilizations, eugenics programs, experimental birth control methods, increased c-sections leading to tubal ligations, etc.)  We must fight to regain control of our bodies, and to do that we must first understand the many ways in which this control has been encroached upon.  As a midwife, I plan to help shed light on these multifaceted issues, bring awareness to what is taking place, and work to provide a community resource that brings together the pieces which are currently missing.

For services: http://birthfromtheearth.vpweb.com/About-Us.html


JayVon Muhammad, Midwife – Northern California

Where is your practice located? 

I am the Chief Executive Officer of a Federally Qualified Health Center with four sites in Northern California.  I travel between all four sites, including the main site in Marin City, a satellite clinic site in San Rafael, a birth center in San Rafael and a satellite site in San Francisco.

What do you believe about midwifery?

I believe that midwifery care is the best care for low-risk and healthy women, especially poor women who usually receive a lower quality of care simply because of the lack of financial resources.  I believe that most midwives surround women with love and support.  These are two gifts that are critical during pregnancy, especially when you are alone in the pregnancy or suffering from poor socio-economic realities.  Midwives empower women!

Why is this work important?

Midwifery work is important because it honors women and their families.  My work is important because I am offering poor women and Black women access to midwifery care.  This provides them with access to comprehensive education that is tailored to them and their unique situation.  We also offer women who see themselves as powerless or less worthy -options.  Western medicine does not honor the women’s choice and capability to make decisions about their care.  This denial of autonomy can be deadly for the woman.  At the Marin Family Birth Center, we put Black women in front of midwives who look like them, and have even had similar journeys in some cases.  We surround them with culturally appropriate and compassionate doctors, doulas, dentists and birth assistants.  We support them.

Why is this work imperative for the Black community? 

Our work is important for the Black community because it is our community that continues to suffer the worst pregnancy outcomes.  This is unacceptable and at the end of the day, WE have to save US.

For services: http://www.marincityclinic.org/


SciHonor Devotion, Midwifery Student – New York Tri-State area

Where do you plan on practicing?

I plan to practice anywhere that there are women and families in need of education, support, and quality care.  This journey could eventually lead me to travel the world. However, my current primary focus is on the Northeast region of the United States, specifically the New York City Tri-State area (NY, NJ, CT) and Philadelphia.  I plan to start at home and then go abroad.

What do you believe about midwifery?

In contrast to obstetrics and the medical model of care, midwifery focuses on the whole family unit and maternal well-being.  It pays attention to the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout her childbearing year.  Midwifery allows mothers access to education, counseling, prenatal care and hands-on support during the labor, delivery and postpartum periods, which is easy because the mother and midwife have developed a relationship and have spent much time with each other.  Women need that attention.  Midwives are amazing people, they care.  I learned in just a few moments the day that I gave birth to my first child that… A midwife’s hands are special hands.  They are wise hands.  They are healing hands.  They are hands that do not consider race, religion, class or any other divisive characteristic when they are at work because they are loving hands that have a purpose.  They are hands that know how and when to be gentle and hands that know how and when to be firm.  And a midwife is skilled in knowing just how to balance all of that.

Why is this work important?

Midwives have always carried the community as wise women and healers.  And as women, we are always in need of some wisdom and healing.  Midwifery makes connections and builds bonds with women and community resources.  Women go to midwives not just because they are pregnant but for well-woman and breast care as well.  Midwifery empowers women and helps to assist parents in finding their way.  Midwifery starts from the inside out.  It starts small with the mother and child, then the family unit then uses community resources to support the family.  The Midwifery Model of Care doesn’t leave parents confused and alone to figure things out because there is some continuity of care that goes beyond the actual birth of the baby.  Midwifery care has a value to it that can’t always be found in the modern day medical society.  Birth is not an illness.  It is a process.  When low-risk women understand that, having access to midwifery care could be of great benefit to them and their babies.

Why is this work imperative for the Black community?

The statistics of infant mortality and maternal morbidity among African-American and Hispanics are horrifying.  Here in the Northeast, they mirror much of what the macrocosm is across the United States.  In 2010, the infant mortality rate amongst African Americans was almost 3 times higher than that of Whites, while the Hispanic rate was almost double that of Whites.  My community is definitely an underserved community with lots of people of color who do not have the access to affordable, equivalent health care; and definitely not continuous health care.  Unfortunately, this is pretty much the same experience across the states with very little variability.  Midwives act as catalysts and transmit not only love and support but also education.  That’s what is needed.  The community lacks awareness.   We’ve lost what has always been natural to us and our birth outcomes are suffering because of fear and lack of knowledge.  Midwifery helps to alleviate all of that.

For services: http://thedevotionhouse.weebly.com/


Martine Jean-Baptiste, Midwife – New York City

Where is your practice located?

Martine is the co-founder of JJB Midwifery started in 2002 along with Karen Jefferson, (homebirthnyc.com),  “We are a midwifery home birth practice which covers the 5 boroughs of New York City. We offer homebirth, home gynecology, and home insemination and fertility care.”

What do you believe about midwifery?

The midwifery model of care provides a safe space for woman and families to learn, experience and appreciate the emotional as well as the physical changes encountered during a woman’s lifespan. In New York State midwives care for women from menarche through menopause.

Why is this work important?

This work is important in that it is evidence based yet allows space for shared decision- making and individualized care. That being said…it is a basic human right.

Why is this work imperative for the Black community?

Midwifery care is imperative for the Black community because the “Black community” is so culturally diverse and underserved.  Being a midwife is so much more than just “catching babies”. We are counselors, social workers, activists, friends, etc. Midwives specialize in informed choice, shared decision-making and the right to self-determination. Underserved communities, especially Black communities, often are not given a platform in which to be heard.  Pregnancy and birth are normal physiologic and developmental processes that have a profound impact on a person’s life. The best way to empower a people is by offering the basics: evidence-based, culturally sensitive, competent care. This not only has an impact on the individual but on generations to come.

Together with others, I founded and am board president of FAHM, Inc. (Foundation for Advancement of Haitian Midwives) www.fahminc.org  FAHM’s  goals are to help educate more Haitian midwives living in Haiti and promote the midwifery model of care. Our goal is to help decrease Haiti’s high maternal and infant mortality rate through a sustainable, proven model of care: Haitian midwives for Haitian women/families.

For services: http://www.homebirthnyc.com/


Jennie Joseph, Midwife – Winter Garden/Orlando Florida

Where is your practice located?

The Birth Place Center – West Orlando’s only pregnancy care center where you can have YOUR baby, YOUR way! Our midwifery care team is ready to support you to achieve the birth of your dreams.

What do you believe about midwifery?

I firmly believe in patient-centered, woman-centered care, which is the midwifery model of care. I work to support the systems, providers, and agencies charged with delivering that type of care and I believe any willing provider can practice a midwifery model of care.

I also believe that until all women and their loved ones feel that they have enough knowledge and agency to be part of the decisions around their care, and until they have access to the education and support that they are lacking, they will continue to be at risk.  Every woman wants a healthy baby, and every woman deserves one.

Why is this work important?

In the United States racial and class disparities continue to grow, in fact, the gap is widening for maternal child health outcomes, which are worse than most of the other developed nations of the world. African American and Native American women and their babies suffer most, with between a 2-4 times higher likelihood of low birth weight babies, prematurity, infant mortality or poor maternal health or even death as a result of pregnancy. I have found that by offering non-judgmental, ‘easy access’, culturally safe care to women most at risk, that the poor outcomes that we spend so much money taking care of on the back end are all but eradicated, and women and their babies thrive inside of models such as this.

Why is this work imperative for the Black community?

African American women, regardless of education or socio-economic status, are more likely to have a poor birth outcome when compared to white women, which speaks to the fact that there is an inherent risk just from being Black in the USA. Institutionalized racism compounds on other determinants of health including the ‘weathering’ and excess allostatic load that is carried by people of color. Our model of placing Perinatal Safe Spots in ‘materno-toxic areas’ throughout this country has the goal of connecting community-based providers, leaders and organizers to be a resource for moms and families while developing a pipeline to maternal child health careers including nursing, midwifery and medicine. Building on and supporting the already existing resilience in the Black community has led to the empowerment and improved health of both moms and babies while developing a strong business model to replicate and scale. This work is imperative because it is a matter of life and death.

For services: http://www.commonsensechildbirth.org/