Today marks a week long celebration of Black Breastfeeding! A seven day tribute to those mothers of color, that want to lift up their journey, in visual imagery!
I know the very first topic that seems to come up is, why do we need a BLACK breastfeeding week? All of August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the first week of August is World Breastfeeding week. Isn’t that enough? Well to be honest, no, it isn’t. It isn’t enough when those movements tend to be void in regards to women of color.
Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for far too long there has been a huge racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women choose to breastfeed versus 58.9% of black women. By all accounts, black babies are nursed at a far lower rate than other infants and those that do feed, do so for a far less length of time.
Why is this? Why do Black women breastfeed at a lower rate than any other demographic? Is it the fact they don’t have tangible lactation information and methods they can relate to? Is where they choose to birth, hindering their efforts to promote breastfeeding? Is there a stigma to overcome that comes from a lack of cultural support? Perhaps they don’t see themselves represented in these movements or projects and thus can’t see themselves as part of the bigger picture. This is how my project was born…
A number of months ago, I met China Tolliver (Urban Doula of Denver) at a local doula meet up. We hit it off right away- she is pretty fabulous! We got to talking about my work as a birth and lifestyle photographer and my desire to empower women of all colors! We began to talk about her experiences in the black community and how visually they aren’t represented in the birth/breastfeeding world. We had ideas on why that was, but instead of just pondering that, we set out to fix it.
Initially we wanted a small gathering with mamas of color, breastfeeding in real life, for me to photograph. However it quickly became much bigger and we set out to possibly have an exhibition of these images, to showcase these women proudly! That is where Feed My Soul was born. The Feed My Soul , Honoring the Art of Black Breastfeeding was going to encompass photographers across the Denver region and really highlight that Black women do breastfeed! We wanted to show their beauty in this magical time and honor their gift! What we set out to do was visually show their strength and courage, to their own community and beyond. That is exactly what we did!
When and how an exhibition will happen is still in the works, but I am proud of the work this community of photographers and mamas produced. Breastfeeding should be honored for all women and seeing themselves in images, only helps to normalize what IS normal. We set out to make sure black women were honored and I am so in love with my time spent within this community. I was accepted and trusted to capture an intimate moment, that will live as an encouragement to other generations. Black or white these images will empower ALL women to own their breastfeeding journeys and know that it is normal, amazing and truly life changing!