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!