This summer will undoubtedly be memorable! I’ve always aspired to be an advocate, a source of empowerment, and an innovator, and during my internship at the Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP), I’ve been flooded with sisterly mentorships and advice on how I can become that leader. Prior to interning at RSP, the women of my family shared similar experiences of maternal complications, which helped me survive and prepare for Black womanhood and a professional career as a health administrator. Nevertheless, it is good to have examples of resilience, healing, and grieving to create spaces for young Black individuals like myself to understand our interconnected identities. These anecdotes and real-life experiences can be used to formulate policies, resolutions, and cultural competency in the medical field, which is why I am grateful to be a part of RSP, a Boston-based reproductive non-profit!
RSP was founded in 2012 by Lilly Marcelin, who has dedicated her career to furthering reproductive health education and access. Their mission is to educate and empower women of African descent regarding common but rarely discussed diseases of the reproductive system that disproportionately affect them. RSP approaches these diseases and associated issues through a cultural and social justice lens. They believe that poor knowledge of reproductive health is primarily related to health, racial, and socioeconomic disparities. These diseases include: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, as well as breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Their slogan, “Creating windows into reproductive health,” exemplifies their work with Black women and young adults to address health and medical inequities based on deeply-rooted racial discrimination, oppressive cultural/gender norms, environmental/food injustice, and other social determinants of health that perpetuate the silence, secrecy, and inaction surrounding these diseases.
The Resilient Sisterhood Project has a Youth Advisory Leadership Council, which is made up of young professional women of color from Boston and Washington, D.C. who work with RSP staff to raise awareness about reproductive health concerns that affect women of color. RSP is building safe spaces for young Black women and extending the notion of early access to reproductive health care. Furthermore, RSP has many strategies for addressing injustice, such as hosting multiple webinars and events about reproductive health conditions such as “The Harm of Medical Racism as Experienced by Black Women Physicians,” “Exploring the Intersection of COVID19,” and more.
As a summer intern, I am conducting a research project on preconception health awareness of Black women ages 21 to 40. Preconception refers to the health of one during their reproductive years, when they are able to produce a child. It focuses on taking measures to protect the health of a baby they may have in the future. It also entails understanding how certain health issues and risk factors may affect a pregnancy and an unborn child. Some foods and lifestyle choices—even certain natural hair and makeup products—can harm your baby even before he or she is conceived. Myself and the RSP team will be distributing a survey on preconception health in the coming weeks. To end my internship, I will create a resource guide and podcast regarding preconception health for Black women, which will both be published on the RSP website.
Overall, I have learned a lot in a short period of time. RSP has taught me about the professionalism that comes with working in a nonprofit, particularly in public health. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn these skills early on, such as how to write and design a research project, as well as how to create a health-based resources guide for Black women. I am excited to see the end product of this project on the RSP website! Although my project is only a small part of what needs to be done, it all contributes to improving reproductive health access and equity, which serves to the greater RSP vision.