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Black Midwives: Celebrating Legacy and Advancing Maternal Care with Cessilye Smith

podcast December 31, 1969

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In light of Black Maternal Health Week, this episode revisits key issues in black maternal health with Cessilye Smith, exploring the historical and ongoing role of black midwives through her personal story and discussing the work of entities like Abide Women's Services to better black mothers and infants' health outcomes.

Cessilye R. Smith, an inspiring maternal justice advocate, joins this episode with rich stories and insightful reflections on her work. She is the driving force behind Abide Women's Services, an organization dedicated to reducing disparities in black infant and maternal health outcomes. As a liberator, justice seeker, and mother, Cessilye is deeply connected to her heritage, tracing her roots to the resistance-driven Kru tribe of Liberia. Through Abide, she works tirelessly to ensure black women and their babies receive adequate and culturally respectful care during one of the most critical times of their lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Black midwives have played a crucial and often uncredited role in birthing not only black but also white babies throughout history, birthing the nation as a whole.
  • There's a sacred legacy in the resistance of colonization evident in black maternal lineage, vital to understanding the depth of black women's reproductive experiences.
  • The celebration and amplification of the black midwifery tradition are crucial for advancing maternal care and combating disparities in black maternal health.
  • Abide Women's Services is an exemplar of empowering and quality maternal care, focusing on community health and honoring the black maternal experience from pre-pregnancy to postpartum.
  • Mental health for black women can be supported through culturally sensitive community gatherings, celebrating their life, and offering spaces for rest and collective healing.

Notable Quotes:

  • "Black women were catching everybody's babies, black, white, you know, and they brought their cultures, you know, their ancestral wisdom and knowledge." – Cessilye Smith
  • "It's in my blood. So, yeah, that's how it ties into the work I do today." – Cessilye Smith, on her connection to the Kru tribe and its influence on her advocacy work.
  • "Reparations begin with birth because it begins with life and transitioning the next life forward." – Katina
  • "We're saying no, we're going back to our roots and where we are going to heal from the beginning. From birth." – Cessilye Smith
  • "Events like this address mental health. Being able to gather in a space curated specifically for black women is part of our mental health journey." – Cessilye Smith


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