N.C. A&T English Department to Present Second Annual Black Maternal Health Conference on April 17

By Jackie Torok / 04/16/2021

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (April 16, 2021) – The North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Department of English will present its second annual Black Maternal Health Conference on Saturday, April 17, from 10 a.m. to noon. The theme of the free, public virtual event is “Dear Mama: Knowledge Is Power.”

“It’s one thing to know something is a problem, but it’s another thing to understand how to fix the problem. With this conference, we have contextualized Black maternal health from a reproductive justice lens,” said event coordinator Kimberly Harper, Ph.D., an assistant English professor in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. “Reproductive justice is the right to have children, the right not to have children, and the right to raise children in safe and healthy environments.”

The first part of this year’s conference, Reproductive Health for Black Families, is from 10 to 11 a.m. with panelists Michaela Penix of the March of Dimes, Joy Maddox of Planned Parenthood, and Wanda Mackey, a Smart Girls Life Skills facilitator/trainer with the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services. They will discuss understanding the needs and language of the community, preconception needs, and sexuality and sexual health.

The second session, Working in the Field of Maternal Health, is from 11 a.m. to noon with panelists Janiya Williams of the North Carolina A&T Pathway 2 Human Lactation training program, DONA International Southeastern regional director ShLanda Burton, and Atlanta-based midwife Adilah Muhammad of Celebrating Sacred Connections. The purpose of this practitioner roundtable is to provide students and other interested individuals with access to pathways into maternal health care.

The conference is happening just days after distinguished A&T alumna Congresswoman Alma D. Adams, Ph.D., spoke on the U.S. House floor about the proposed Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. The act, sponsored by Adams and fellow Black Maternal Health Caucus co-founder Congresswoman Laurel Underwood of Illinois, along with Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, is a package of 12 bills designed to comprehensively address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America to save lives and end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.

Harper, who writes about and researches the ethos of Black mothers in America, said the English Department presents the conference with support from faculty in the School of Nursing. For example, Yvonne Ford, Ph.D., an assistant nursing professor in the John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences, discussed the need for culturally sensitive approaches to breast cancer treatment at last year’s conference.

“Part of my argument is that Black women have poor maternal health choices and experiences because of implicit bias and racism in the medical system,” said Harper. “My work is situated in the rhetoric of health and medicine and I simply decided that I wanted to have a conference on campus that would discuss Black maternal health and reproductive justice.

“Additionally, with the growing understanding of medical humanities and the importance of written communication it’s a good, albeit different, fit,” she said. “I hope that as each year passes this grows into a major event that is inclusive of more departments and community health partners.” 

To participate in the conference, register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/148409598103 and then follow the instructions provided in the confirmation email to join via Zoom.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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