Vital Village Networks Community Mobilization AmeriCorps VISTA
Part one of this two part series was centered around my first Black Breastfeeding Week experience as an Americorps VISTA. Now, it is time to uplift the hard work and endless dedication of those who plan and execute BBW. Below we will dive into the stories and messages belonging to members of the Black Breastfeeding Week Committee.
As highlighted in Part 1, it is easy to see how much of a positive impact BBW has on the community. The women who devote their time and energy into making such inclusive events possible hold Black Breastfeeding close to their hearts. When asked what the planning experience was like, words such as phenomenal, exciting, and celebration came into the conversation. Dominique Bellegard CLC, CLE, stated that what makes hosting and planning an event so special is that “as a Village we can create things together. Having the resources and the tools [to do so] has been very helpful and encouraging.” In a similar vein, Euness Cirino CLC, Peer Counselor emphasized that from the first BBW planning meeting, to participating in events, not only is the process a team effort it is also fun and exciting!
As someone who has attended planning meetings myself, I can attest to the feeling of excitement echoing through the Zoom call. This was particularly true this year when ROSE Peer Scholar, Stefanie Belnavis attended her first meeting. While she has not yet participated in an event from the BBW Committee perspective, she expressed her deepest support by stating that “Black Breastfeeding Week for me feels like a very poignant reminder and celebration of the Black woman's body, and all it can do to prepare to support a new life. It has a larger representative component that uplifts the historical contents of BBW to the present day.” Such eloquent words ring true throughout the week, whether it is realized by the masses or not.
Truths such as these hold immense power when considering the importance involvement has on the future progression of Black Breastfeeding Week. “[T]he next generation is able to mimic what we’ve continued to do, by serving our community, celebrating them, and putting our words into practice and action” (Dominique Bellegarde). This does not solely pertain to the youth, however, it is also important to recognize the impact lactation support has on breastfeeding mothers. According to Euness Cirino, “It's really about letting our black and brown women know that there are women who look like them that can help and support.” The feeling of seeing parallels between your story, happiness, and even your struggles is indescribable. Those are the moments the Black Breastfeeding Week Committee brings.
I want to bring you back to Part 1. Ponder again the question of “Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week?” Really take the time to sit and mull over such an important week. When you come to your answer, rest easy knowing that the women behind the scenes are working their magic to bring more peace and unity to you. To get involved and witness such a gratifying display of unity, go to events! “Start with your stories and truth telling” (Stefanie Belnavis). Get involved, ask questions, or just sit and listen. “Just be present to see the joy in other people's faces when they come together” (Stefanie Belnavis).
Vital Village Networks Community Mobilization AmeriCorps VIST
I am not a Black woman, nor am I a mother. However, experiencing Black Breastfeeding Week did something to me. It changed how I view women, the ways in which I acknowledge the vast community of mothers, and most importantly, opened my eyes to the historical societal depravity black mothers have encountered. As a new AmeriCorps VISTA member working alongside Vital Village Network, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In the second week of my new position, I was assigned my first project: Black Breastfeeding Week. Almost instantly I was terrified. A wave of anxiety washed over me as I came to two realizations: that I didn’t know a single thing about breastfeeding and that I wasn’t a black woman. The second was obvious, nonetheless I was consumed with the pressure of “getting it right.” For those of you who have been “keeping up with the times” so-to-speak, it is clear to see that America has the offensively degrading tendency to participate in systemic racism. I knew how important Black Breastfeeding Week was going to be before hearing the details. This was going to be a week designed around advocating, and celebrating, with love, Black breastfeeding families and their communities.
In order to further wrap my mind around the importance of the movement I had to ask a very important question: Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week? By the end, the answer crashed into me like a title wave. Before that, however, the process had to begin.
When looking at the past and present situation that Black mothers had and are facing, of course you want to do whatever you can to help. So, help I did. Albeit little, I did what I could to assist in event creation, advertising campaigns, and communication between Scholars and Coalition members alike. It was gratifying to know that I was playing a part in a week that was so important for mothers across America. In fact, one of the most moving experiences I have ever had occurred during a Black Breastfeeding Week Event. For those of you who were able to attend, you know that the Family Drum and March with Jah/Jah drummers was a gratifying afternoon. It was full of music, celebration, and joy. Yet what struck me the most was the sense of togetherness that was shared. People were drumming, mothers were sharing stories, kids were laughing, and adults were swaying to the music. All of us, in one place, celebrating and uplifting a movement that deserves all that we can give it. I’ll remind you though, that this was only one of many events, each being just as special as the last.
At the end of the day that’s what Black Breastfeeding Week boils down to, connection and togetherness. Between mom and baby, baby and father, mother and mother or community and community. These shared moments are what make us who we are, and who we want to be. This blog post was not written as a call to arms, but rather the upliftment of a people. Looking back on my time and work leading up to Black Breastfeeding Week, I cherish those hours as moments extremely well spent. As far as I’m concerned, we should all consider ourselves lucky to live in a world where a group of mothers, scholars, and activists are willing to share their gifts with us. So, when asked again “Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week?” I replied simply with “why wouldn’t we?”
To the Breastfeeding Coalition, this one's for you.
Daily Milk hosts articles, posts and ideas from various members of our breastfeeding coalition!