By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO Contributing Editor

Yes…Black Maternal Health Week is a “thing.” In fact, 2023 marks the sixth Annual Recognition of Black Maternal Health week, with workshops, events and support sessions across 13 states and the District of Columbia. 

Beginning on April 11, Black women, mothers, fathers and men of all ages will reflect and give voice to the health policies, practices and innovations that can lead the way forward from the gross disparities in Black maternal health outcomes that have plagued Black mothers for decades in the U.S. 

The infant mortality rate for black infants is currently the highest in the United States. According to the March of Dimes, the overall infant mortality rate declined more than 12 percent  between 2009 and 2019, but black infant mortality rates remain at unprecedented high levels, regardless of income levels. 

The Centers for Disease Control indicates black women have more than 3 times the risk of pregnancy related mortality (41.4) compared with white women (13.7 percent) per 100,000 women. 

 This year’s Black Maternal Health Week, will include a special emphasis on reproductive health, according to the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), the founding organizational sponsor of Black Maternal Health Week.  

“As we reckon with the upending of Roe V. Wade and the relentless attacks against reproductive rights and bodily autonomy, this year’s Black Maternal Health Week campaign speaks to our strength, power and resilience, and our unassailable right to live freely, safely, and joyfully,” said Angela D. Aina, BMMA Co-Founder and Executive Director.  

Black Maternal Health Week is designed to feature and applaud the agents of positive change in Black maternal health outcomes as well as sound the alarm regarding the risks Black Mothers face daily. 

In the District of Columbia, the National Birth Equity Collaborative will host several events from Wednesday April 12 to Monday April 17.

Wednesday April 12:  Valuing Black Voices [Virtual] | 3:00 pm ET: (Virtual Event) A preview into the concept and plan for the Respectful Maternity Care initiative prior to the formal convening of stakeholders in May 2023. Learn about the tangible ways hospitals can review the performance of clinicians to aid in holding them accountable for less than equitable care.

Thursday April 13: Not Without You: How Can We Learn From Each Other: (Virtual Event) 2PM EDT: A roundtable discussion with mamas from the US and South Africa discussing solutions to the trauma and effects of patriarchy and white supremacy Black women face whether in the US or in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Monday April 17: The Time Is Now: Lessons from Roe era in Real-time | 3:30 pm ET | Washington, DC: An intergenerational conversation discussing the urgency for sustainable policy changes to advance and protect maternal & reproductive health and create an environment where all, but especially Black families, can thrive.

One of the key features of this year’s national celebration is the NEW Black Doula Directory, developed in collaboration with Sista’ Midwife Productions. BMMA will co-host a virtual panel discussion and launch of the Black Doula Directory on April 13th at 2:30 p.m. EDT with Baby Dove. Register here.

Doulas have a time honored tradition of women serving as a guide while providing support for persons during the labor and delivery process. They have partnered with Black women through the centuries. 

In modern times, the rate of infant mortality in Black communities has skyrocketed, doulas have been credited with facilitating healthy birth outcomes for Black women. 

“They [doulas] work to understand their history, their needs, their birthing preferences,” said Leigh Purry, senior manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Community Health Team, speaking about the success of a pilot program targeted at Black women in Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento, California.  

Black Maternal Health Week takes place each year during National Minority Health Month and coincides with the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights on April 11th. The theme for this year’s campaign is, “Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy.” Their goal is to capture the spirit behind collective efforts to amplify the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black women and birthing people, according to event organizers. Washington D.C. Black Maternal Health Week events can be viewed online here: