From reproductive health care, sexual health care, perinatal care, to lactation support and family planning assistance, midwives are an essential part of the health care team helping to providing safe, health and compassionate care for their client. And while numbers of practicing Black midwives have dwindled over hundreds of years, in the past two decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in out-of-hospital birth, including delivery at home and in birth centers.
According to data from the CDC, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women. This data has driven many Black pregnant people to seek the care of Black midwives with the hopes of having a safe and empowering experience that is aligned with their desires. Black midwives carry with them the wisdom traditions that are passed down generationally and weave ritual and ceremony into their clinical practices.
According to a 2020 report by the American Midwifery Certification Board, of nearly 13,000 midwives in the U.S. only 6.85 percent of Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) and Certified Midwives (CM) in the United States identify as Black, compared to 85.5% white CNMs and CMs.
There are Black midwives all across the country working to keep the birthing process safe, healthy, and dignified for Black women and birthing people. This Black History Month, we salute some of our favorite Black midwives who are continuing the tradition of our ancestors.
Racha Tahani Lawler Queen, CPM,LM, Crimson Fig Midwifery
Racha Tahani Lawler Queen is a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), Licensed Midwife (LM), Registered & Certified Sangoma (South African Traditional Healer Herbalist). Lawler (Queen) chose midwifery after studying nursing at midwifery school, Maternidad La Luz. She went on to earn her license after her son was born at home in 2004. With four generations of midwives preceding her, midwifery is literally in her blood. She has served at over 1,500 births, and in August of 2020, she will celebrate 20 years of midwifery work. The mother of three delivered all of her children via water births at home, and they have attended nearly 300 births by her side. For a decade Lawler (Queen) has prioritized Black midwifery students as a clinical preceptor and academic preceptor.
Lawler (Queen) is the co-founder of the nonprofit Black Farm Studio House with her spouse dana washington-queen that amplifies artists, urban farmers, and advocates for the wellness of LGBTQIA2 folks across the African diaspora.
Kimberly Durdin, LM, IBCLC, CE, DT, Kindred Space LA
Kimberly Durdin is a Licensed Midwife, Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Childbirth Educator, and Doula Trainer. Energized by a need to combat the maternal health crisis disproportionately affecting Black women, she co-founded Kindred Space LA, the area’s only Black-owned birth center with Allegra Hill. In addition to providing a safe alternative space for births, Kindred Space LA also provides education, enrichment, and support for the parents they serve.
Durdin also wants to encourage more people of color to pursue employment as birth workers. So in 2017, she established The Birthing People Foundation, a non-profit which provides free and low-cost education, training, and certification. To date, The Birthing People Foundation has trained over 250 people of color.
Nubia Earth Martin , MS Midwifery
While pregnant with their third child, Nubia Earth Martin and her husband decided they wanted to give birth at home with a midwife. But as she began her search, Earth Martin was surprised to learn that there were few viable resources in her area. Six months into her pregnancy, she began studying to become a Childbirth Educator. Today, the mom of five works with The Birthing Place, a team of BIPOC birthing professionals who provide natural and safe birthing alternatives to the hospital. The group prides itself on collaborating with families to curate an experience that meets their individualized needs.
Shafia Monroe, DEM, CDT, MPH
Shafia Monroe is a Direct Entry Midwife, doula trainer, motivational speaker, and cultural competency trainer. She was first inspired to pursue birth work when her family relocated from Boston to Portland while she was pregnant with her sixth child. Monroe was disappointed at the scarcity of midwives of color in the area. So she decided to take matters into her own hands and formed the non-profit International Center for Traditional Childbearing. Known today as the National Association to Advance Black Birth, the organization works to train and organize thousands midwives and doulas of color in hopes of improving birth outcomes and breastfeeding success in our communities. .
Angelina Ruffin Alexander, CNM Touch of Osun
Angelina Ruffin-Alexander is an accomplished Atlanta-area medical professional. She has practiced as a Certified Nurse Midwife in Georgia since 2014, beginning hospitals and eventually expanding her practice to home births. In 2016, she founded Touch of Osun Midwifery, named after the African goddess of love, creativity, and sensuality. Ruffin-Alexander seeks to empower women at every stage of the birthing process through her practice. She also serves as the Vice President of the Georgia chapter of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
Aiyana Davison, CNM, WHNP Luna Mother Collective
Aiyana Davison is a Certified Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner based in Southern California. A passionate professional, some of her most pressing priorities include: shedding light on and aiding to eradicate the inequalities that exist within healthcare, addressing the crisis that Black womxn (people) face in the U.S., the provision of quality care for all individuals and families, and the preservation of the legacy of Black midwives and birth work. Her work has been steeped in erasing racial inequality in the medical community. Her blog, The Vagina Chronicles, is a safe space for women to discuss issues pertaining to birthwork, gynecological health, and empowerment.