Post 3: Finding Power in Coalition Building and Communal Growth

Hey everyone!

This week I have been thinking a lot about what change and progress look like for me and for my internship organization. In thinking about the goals of my organization–which are very much centered around social justice–I am both excited and hopeful at the possibilities, but it is also easy to feel overwhelmed by the worry of whether we are taking the most effective steps to reach such goals.

With the goal of making equitable maternal healthcare accessible to low-income families as well as black and brown folks, Ancient Song Doula Services wears many hats as a community-based organization. It is important to note that this lack of access to healthcare, resources, food, and housing stems from a much larger root cause: anti-blackness. Because of this, reaching our goal as an organization is not solely about providing resources to our communities, but also involves taking action around the systems and institutions that first put these barriers in place.

At Ancient Song Doula Services, we are constantly multi-tasking, taking on different roles, planning for community outreach events and reaching out to other organizations for support and/or partnerships. We are always looking for different opportunities to spread the word and collaborate with other social justice collectives because it is crucial to identify the intersection of different movements, whether it be birth justice, food justice, environmental justice, etc. It can be very stressful–especially for a small organization–to take on such a wide range of tasks, but this is why we stress the importance of collaboration and solidarity.

” A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Click on the image to watch the full panel!

So, what does change or progress look like for me? Progress, I’ve learned, is very much rooted in, and driven by, coalition building and communal growth. Recently, my supervisor was a panelist in an event called “A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where the panelists engaged in a conversation around the recent policies regarding the separation of immigrant families and discussing ways to take action. One of the main things discussed was how crucial it is for communities to gather in support of each other, stand in solidarity as allies, engage in dialogue, and most importantly, listen to each other. Listening and trusting one another gives marginalized identities agency over their own narrative and experience. At Ancient Song, we often practice this is, as we not only hold events by and for the community in collaboration with other organizations, but also center our workspace around physical and mental wellness.

There is power in unification as it is crucial not only for the healing of marginalized identities, but also, in standing firmly against or for a movement and demanding action. This is progress.

Post 2: The Importance in Standpoint Theory as ASDS Testifies at NYC Council Hearing For Birth Equity

Hey everyone!

Its been another busy week at Ancient Song and we’ve made many great strides. Last week, Ancient Song’s founder and executive director, Chanel Porchia-Albert, testified at a City Council hearing at City Hall. Chanel Porchia-Albert advocated for bills on reporting on maternal mortality, assessing the need for doulas for folks who are pregnant, and evaluating how available low-cost to free doula services are (a testimony that I was super excited to have co-written!).

During this testimony, Chanel described the valuable and important work of Ancient Song in providing doula services and accessible maternal care to marginalized communities, highlighted the trauma and oppression within the history of black and brown people in medicine and health care, and emphasized the importance of community-based and culturally relevant doulas and birth workers to be experts and key sources in addressing the racial disparities in maternal health.

The testimony was particularly impactful because it gave Ancient Song the opportunity to speak on a matter that Ancient Song has been tackling for over ten years, but has only just recently gained the attention of the council members of New York City. It made me think of a concept I was introduced to in a previous course I took at Brandeis with Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman called Black Feminist Thought. One of the many concepts she introduced to me was the standpoint theory. First described by Patricia Hill Collins, the theory acknowledges the knowledge that stems from social positions and the importance of theorizing from “below” (in terms of class, nation, sexuality, political need). It highlights the fact that often seemingly objective or “scientific” accounts of something may ignore the perspective and experiences of marginalized identities. This is why we must prioritize the perspective of the most marginalized identities to inform the objective.

This connects back to why we think it is crucial to have community-based and culturally relevant birth workers at the forefront of the movement towards birth equity. It also drives much of current community-based workers’ concerns in NYS Governor Cuomo’s proposed Doula Pilot Program. How is the government going to effectively address racial disparities in maternal health without having a holistic understanding of the needs of those most affected?

Before the hearing began, Ancient Song held a rally for birth equity in front of City Hall where birth workers, reproductive justice advocates, and members of the community attended and spoke on their experiences. This reminded me of the importance of making this information as accessible to the communities most affected as possible. A lot of folks from these communities are not aware that these hearings are taking place and how much of a difference their voices can make. This is why the work we are doing around community outreach is crucial to achieving birth equity.

Thank you all for reading, I can’t wait to update you all again next week!

Post 1: Doulas Crucial in Ending Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

Hi everyone!

My name is Marleny and I am a rising junior and STEM Posse Scholar at Brandeis University. This summer I am an intern and co-coordinator at Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn, NY-based and low-cost doula service.

As a reproductive justice organization, our goal is to serve families of color and low-income families who do not have access to doula care. Through a collective of several services and resources for parents of color and low- income families, we ultimately aim to bridge racial disparities in maternal health by addressing racial and implicit bias.

In New York City, the maternal mortality rate, for example, is 12 times greater for Black women than for white women. Given that systematic oppression is a social determinant of the high Black infant and maternal mortality rate, shifting tasks and responsibilities down the hierarchy of the healthcare system are both necessary and ideal for the survival of marginalized communities. For these reasons, the most crucial aspect to birth equity is free and low-cost doulas services such as Ancient Song Doula Services.

Given that there have been recent opportunities for reform within maternal health as New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo proposes a state doula pilot program that includes Medicaid reimbursement as well as a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, Ancient Song also centers their work around political reform and advocacy for the marginalized communities it serves. Prioritizing the reimbursement of community-based and culturally-relevant doula services through Medicaid is key to bridging racial disparities in maternal health, so we have been gearing most of our attention towards this lately.

A lot of my responsibilities, as of now, include community outreach, writing testimonies to present to the city council, planning events to gain momentum for our #ourtimeisnow campaign for birth equity, and creating promotional material to share with the community and with other local and national organizations.

Additionally, while we continue advocacy at such a crucial time, I am responsible for coordinating our third annual Decolonizing Birth conference called “Decolonizing Birth: Addressing The Criminalization of Black and Brown People within the Healthcare System,” which is being held September 22-23. This involves looking for sponsors, keynote speakers, and reviewing proposals for prospective workshops. My internship requires a high level of responsibility and I am really enjoying my time at Ancient Song for the second year.

The work I am doing is super important and falls in line with my career goals. By the end of the summer, I hope to have improved my ability to manage my day to day tasks and become more familiar with the policies that have been and will be put in place to address the disparities in maternal health. I am looking forward to sharing my journey at Ancient Song with you all this summer and I am looking forward to what is to come!