MILWAUKEE — Hundreds came together Saturday to take part in the Black Birth Symposium hosted by Milwaukee Film and Black Lens to share conversations on the disparities that black women and babies face.
According to the Milwaukee County Health Department, black infants in Milwaukee are 3 times more likely to die before their first birthday compared to their white counterparts. This data drew city leaders, health experts, and non-profits to rethink healthcare for black women and babies.
"It is truly rooted in so many controllable factors of our institutional racism, our healthcare system," said Erica Olivier, Milwaukee Health Department deputy commissioner of community health.
According to Centers for Disease Control, Black mothers are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white mothers. Dr. Janine James has spent her career fighting this statistic throughout the country helping women of color receive proper maternal care. She shared her thoughts on the future of women's care.
"I have a new grand-baby who is 9 months old and I had a chance to see firsthand how women are treated. Had I not been a high-risk pregnancy specialist my grand-baby would have been at risk of dying," said Dr. James.
She realized this level of care is rare for black women.
"Her labor was induced at my insistence bc the baby wasn't growing well and no one had picked that up. Not everybody has a grandmother this process in the way that I do."
Dr. James' story is just one of many the health department hopes to put an end to.
"We see all that it's gonna take to make a difference bc I can't do this by myself as the city health department, I need the community partners, I need legislation, I need community-based organizations like we all have to do this together," said Olivier.
HBO Insecure actress, Christina Elmore, who played Candola, shared her experience being pregnant with her second child. She found out she was expecting the same day she learned the death of George Floyd.
"As the country was sort of going through this racial reckoning, I was sort of going through one of my own sort of determining what I wanted my motherhood to look like and what I wanted the community that surrounds me to look like," said Elmore.
She was able to find an all-black care team to help in giving birth to her second child. While she realizes this level of care was a privilege,
she now wants to use her platform to spread awareness on the level of care all black women deserve.
"I'm happy to see that more black women are able to access the care they want and deserve. My goal is more women are informed of their choices and are able to make the best ones for their families."