Mamazine Moment, Self-Care, The Journey, Uncategorized, Wellness

Restoring Forward: Actualizing Afrofuturistic Realities for Black Women

intou Diarra, A.B Candidate | Medical Anthropology, Brown University | February 20, 2023

With the release of Black Panther in 2018 came a pop culture conversation about the relationship between the African diaspora, culture, science, and technology. Coined in 1994 by Mark Dery, Afrofuturism acknowledges the interplay between diasporic populations, technological and scientific advancement, Black pride and culture. At the center of Afrofuturistic principles is the notion that the past and present inform our futures. While many understandings of Afrofuturism center technological safe havens like Wakanda, the concept of Afrofuturism is nestled within practices that are not necessarily as showy or obvious. The godmother of Afrofuturism, Octavia Butler gave rise to historical fiction that provided a liberatory framework for us to use as a map for imagining Black futures. Black women and femmes in the United States are leaning into Afrofuturism as birth work and individualized care reemerges as a form of salvation for Black birthing people. Through this framework, they are envisioning and designing a path forward, centering community care. 

Black Women’s Blueprint, which now lives inside Restore Forward, exemplifies the work of employing Afrofuturistic principles in the molding of a liberatory future for Black women. Black Women’s Blueprint began with the head goal of filling gaps in Black women’s care in the United States. At the time of its establishment, there existed few spaces and services offered by and catered to Black women and survivors. With time, Black Women’s Blueprint harnessed its healing and advocacy power to advance the head goal of the organization. In their endeavors at sustaining and promoting additional growth, Black Women’s Blueprint wishes to build on the teachings of the past to transition to a future “where Black women can live lives of sovereignty and dignity and change the course and discourse around power”.

The scope of Black Women Blueprint’s work is quite expansive. They provide individualized health and holistic healing programs that acknowledge the social determinants of health—or the ability of factors outside of the hospital setting to impact one’s well-being. Their vision for new paradigms include farming, capacity building workshops that incorporate doulas and midwives, designing for equity in health care systems, and increasing food accessibility on their farms. 

Sevonna Brown, Co-Executive Director of Black Women’s Blueprint, is a birth worker and reproductive justice activist, and the ancestral nature of her work ultimately informs her vision for Black Women’s Blueprint. She dedicates her work to the principles of afro-futurism by centering survival strategies that Black women build from aspects of the past—rituals, sacred truths and intergenerational narratives of their reproductive histories. “As a National Director at Black Women’s Blueprint, I am compelled to find ways to center health and healing in broader Social Justice efforts and movements, and to find holistic and strategic pathways that could intervene on the lack of access and provide more on-ramps for traditional healing methods. I do what I do because our lives, bodies, communities and futures depend on kinship and collective care strategies that center our humanity.”

Ultimately, Black Women’s Blueprint wishes to uphold empowering structures in a longitudinal effort to decolonize health. At the core of their holistic healing work is their understanding of the relationship between embodiment and possibility. “I wish more people talked about the culturally sound evidence that proves that Black maternal wellbeing is dependent on autonomy, joy, culture, power, safety and trust,” says Brown. “We have research and evidence that can prove this. I wish more folks would not just talk about it but trust the evidence of it so we could integrate it into comprehensive maternal health care globally.” With this in mind, they reject the current structures of injustice to practice their liberatory models of liberation psychology, ecopsychology, pedagogies of tenderness, and more, to catalyze individuals’ healing within our specific historical, cultural, and political context. 

Addressing our nation’s long-standing health inequities calls for work on the ground. Black Women’s Blueprint addresses structural challenges by employing mobile services to bring resources to those at the margins. Their framework places those impacted by violence and maternal morbidity at the forefront—the power, opportunities, and access to health equity is ultimately in their hands. Among their mobile services is the Sista Van, a wheelchair-accessible healing unit where people can give or receive PPE, toiletry kits, menstrual products, clothing, and more. Additionally, their Veggie Van brings freshly-picked and local foods to those in need to heighten food security in New York City.

Sevonna Brown accompanying a laboring person in the hospital.

Black Women’s Blueprint is committed to long-term sustainability, and in their efforts to uphold it, they administer an information and resource center to create structural change. At the foundation of their center’s work is advocacy and social justice. They facilitate training, collaboration, and communication to heighten the strength of necessary work in the fight for liberation—organization and activism. For their trainees and community members, Black Women’s Blueprint tools are pivoting points for them to tap into their transformative potential. Brown names this aspect as her favorite part of her job. “My absolute favorite part of my job is connecting with incredibly powerful and generous folks in the community who are learning how to heal themselves, trust their intuition in their healthcare, and be most aligned with their values as they seek healthcare and wholeness. I love witnessing community members thriving in the power of self determination and their own culture as health.” They can not only dismantle inequitable structures, but also plant new structures that promote racial equity in their place—for themselves and others.

While Brown is more than happy to show up, she understands that the intensive work building a new future requires is not without difficulty. “There are days in this work that are incredibly devastating, and there are days of triumph. The journey is long and it requires great heart, love, and courage.”

The work of Black Women’s Blueprint is a testament to the position of Afrofuturism as a framework in examining and improving societal conditions for Black women and girls everywhere. A current focus of the organization is reproductive health and postpartum care plans that localize the Momnibus. Additionally, they are making strides to bridge the gap between local realities and global conditions. Strengthening these relationships will enable them to ground themselves in ancestral knowledge, and gain lessons from their partners across the African Diaspora about tools and innovations that center maternal vitality.

Read more about Black Women’s Blueprint

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