The Power of Rest & Reflection
SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
Dear Staff, Board and Partners of Birthing Beautiful Communities,
It is with a full, happy and healthy heart that I announce my leave for Sabbatical.
In my 5th year as Birthing Beautiful Communities’ (BBC) leader, I now call for rest and reflection.
For three years, beginning in 2011, I began my journey in community development, learning much about stakeholders, neighborhoods, real estate, wealth, business and health. I noticed a common recurring theme in all of these important but separate conversations, the racial
My work intersected with my life as a resident of Glenville, and former resident of Hough. What the people in those rooms were missing, was more people who looked like me and had my experience. The edge that gave me was the ability to culturally cross connect.
The language in those rooms and in the streets were essentially the same. People were quite aware of who was at a disadvantage, and who was not. In 2014, I finally was fed up enough about the racial disparities in Cleveland, that I wanted to be a voice and a part of an active solution to bring significant and long-lasting change to the Black community. Given I could speak both languages.
I had a passion for the beautiful arrival of babies through the labor and delivery process, but I had an equal passion for ensuring their ability to thrive outside of the womb. My experience taught me that required assisting parents along their journey of parenthood, while confronting inequities within the systems those parents interacted with.
Those being the same systems that make up community development: stakeholders, neighborhoods, real estate, wealth, business and what others mostly refer to as social determinants of health.
I understood that supporting the mother and family through the pregnancy to a full-term birth was challenging enough, given the toxic stressors of daily life, but the likelihood of the baby surviving past the age of one painted a much dire picture of our society than we wanted to
admit, because that required a dive into historical facts.
In 2015, I set out to find a team of Black doulas who would be willing to work with me on building a Black doula collective. What we built was what I hoped, in addition to providing many much-needed services that we hadn’t considered in the beginning, such as transportation, housing assistance and support during stressful times interfacing with the legal system, or the threat of having children removed from the home.
What became clear to me was that in order for us as a community to save babies, what we had to do was empower families and hold systems accountable. A macro-level approach that BBC was not designed to provide but what services we did provide became highly requested,
growing us to become the gap fillers that systems had created. We filled the holes that have existed in our society for centuries, and business as usual was not going to change that.
Being a Black leader in a time and place where our country is resistant to truth and change, it is imperative that rest and reflection be as much a part of the work, as the work itself. The mental and emotional toll that the on the groundwork takes, in addition to structural racism and its expectations of the few Black leaders in the racial equity space can be counter-productive to the mission and overall goal.
When we seek to minimize distractions, so our missions remain the focus, we are labeled uncooperative or unresponsive, without the consideration of the many people seeking to tap into our expertise.
After years of rewarding, tireless work of building and leading Birthing Beautiful Communities, expanding to Akron, securing reimbursement contracts, advocating for legislative change, serving over 750 families, training over 60 women as doulas and perinatal support professionals, providing services free of charge, sustaining a new organization, conducting research, raising over 3 million dollars and setting the standard for Black maternal and infant care, I am taking a break.
I will be on a two-month Sabbatical from September to November. In this time, I will rest and work on building the aspects outside of BBC, that greatly impact our work. That is, building new infrastructures and models that provide equitable economic opportunities for new parents and guiding institutions to be on the right side of health equity history this time.
I have full faith and trust in the BBC team. Their commitment, passion and love for the families they serve is immense. In the interim, Jazmin Long, will serve as the acting CEO. She has been instrumental to the continued growth of the organization.
When I return to BBC, the organization will be in an even stronger position than it is now, functioning as the premiere Black women’s health center in the Northeast Ohio region, as we take our branding and services to a new level. My time will be spent as an adviser, researcher,
speaker and fundraiser. I hope to assist those looking to make a real impact in empowerment, economic and health equity.
Any inquiries about this work can be made at