The Black Mamas Matter Mural Project in Athens, Ohio grew out of a desire to draw attention to the black maternal health crisis in the US in an artistic way. It is a permanent outdoor mural that will be installed in April 2021 in time for the fourth annual Black Maternal Health Week.
Did you know that the US has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world? Did you know that black birthing people are disproportionately bearing the brunt of that?
According to the CDC, white women accounted for 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2011 to 2013. During that same period, however, black women accounted for 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. That means black women die from pregnancy-related issues nearly four times more often than white women!
Did you know that in Ohio, the infant mortality disparity is just as shocking. According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2018, the infant mortality rate for white infants was 5.4 per 1000 births while black babies died at a rate of 13.9 per 1000 live births— that’s more than double that of their white counterparts!
Research has shown the reason for the disparity is not biological, but rather the result of health care, social and economic determinants. And at the root of those determinants is racism (ColumbusAlive, 4/11/18)
In many areas of the country, the need for increased access to black care providers is emerging as a crucial component to addressing the black maternal health crisis. There are many organizations and individuals doing the important work of supporting and training black midwives and doulas to serve at-risk populations. Please consider supporting them.
Birthing Beautiful Communities
Black Mamas Matter
About the mural itself...
With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining traction in the beginning of 2020, it highlighted the disparities and systemic racism that have been happening for hundreds of years in the US and are a daily, unavoidable reality for many. I personally wondered what resources I had at my disposal to be of help. One answer was my midwifery practice in Southeast Ohio. As a practicing Certified Professional Midwife I have the ability to help black student midwives have access to clinical midwifery experiences. My practice has since been working to support and train black students. (While I recognize that it would be ideal for black students to have black teachers and preceptors, many prospective students in our area simply don’t have access to such a situation yet so we are making due).
The second thing that came to mind as a resource I have that I can use is an office building. It seemed to me, as a visual person, like a canvas, a space that is currently blank that could be promoting black maternal health. I spoke with my friend and artist Bonie Bolen who immediately helped me congeal a vision for the mural and offered to help make it a reality (her art can be found here https://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/b/bonnalee/ ) Model Tasha Waters also liked the idea and was willing to be involved as the subject of the mural.
The goal of the art work is to provide a visual in Southeast Ohio of a healthy black pregnant person while drawing attention through an artist’s statement to the disparities that inspired the work. The artist’s/creator’s statements will be posted on a website which directs people to a continually updated list of organizations doing the work to change outcomes for black birthing people both as a resource and to encourage donations to these organizations.
The mural will be 8ft by 8ft, of pregnant Tasha, glowing with health and surrounded by local plants that are traditionally used for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The plants represent the goal of black birthing people being surrounded by the providers, community, support, and healing they need.
We are excited to bring a new mural to Athens County and help promote black maternal health! If you’d like to see the project happen, consider contributing to the mural project (and to the organizations listed above)!
Note: This project is not officially affiliated with blackmamasmatter.org . I came up with the name for the mural project and found in my research later that it shared a name with a great organization doing important work, but they are not officially connected. I do however encourage anyone inclined to donate directly to their organization!