Archives for posts with tag: Chicago

Happy belated May Day ya’ll!!

Today is day 3 of Screen-Free Week! Screen Free Week is a week where families go without TV and other media (outside the use for homework and/or work for parents) for the set period of time.

Organized by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood,

SFW is a fun and innovative way to improve children’s well-being by reducing dependence on entertainment screen media, including television, video games, computers and hand-held devices. SFW is an annual celebration of life, encouraging, people to read, daydream, explore and enjoy spending time outdoors and with family and friends.

I printed their free SFW Organizers Kit as it has a lot of research about the effects of screens on kids, literacy, commercialization, materialism and marketing, provides age-appropriate lessons for school-aged children (in school or unschooled), and offers 101 cool activities and ideas for playtime fun. Note: One can never have too many activities on hand with a 19 month old toddler. They even have some resources in Spanish.

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself watching more and more tube to zone out a little bit from my job as a youth worker. Over-worked and over-stressed from the daily grind (=burnout) often times sends me straight to the tube to stream Netflix in the evenings. I’m thankful for this break in bad habits and humbly grateful that Mother Nature has blessed Chicago with awesome weather this week.

I am thankful of the work that my partner and I have done to make sure our daughter Ahimsa doesn’t watch a large amount of screen media. I must remember though that I have the potential to rub off on her so making the choice now to deal with my stresses in other ways will truly pay off in the long run.

What role does the TV, iPad, iPhone, social media, video games,  etc. play in the lives of you and your family? How do you deal with your daily stresses and/or mini-traumas as workers? What are your favorite screen-free family activities? Let us know!

Endnote: The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood played a huge role in the development of the film Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood. It’s a brilliant film so look out for the review here at It’s Better at Home.

Jeanine @greendivasuper


Free to Breastfeed: Voices from Black Mothers, the book, is in the home stretch and scheduled to be released soon. We want you beautiful, breastfeeding, Black mothers to come out and hang with us for our cover art photo shoot!

Free to Breastfeed Photo Shoot & Cafe

Saturday, March 31, 2012

3-6 pm

618 S Michigan Ave. (cross street Balboa)

Chicago, IL 60605

Bring you gorgeous selves, your babies, and your smiles for a amazing afternoon of breastfeeding goodness!

Meet other Black breastfeeding mothers!

Share your breastfeeding stories!

Be on the cover of Free to Breastfeed: Voices from Black Mothers!

Spread the word!!!

For more info email:

On, Saturday, October 10th (which happens to be International Human Rights Day), the Illinois Single Payer Coalition along with the IL Chapter of a Physicians for a National Health Program and the Chicago Single Payer Action Network, sponsored a Teach-in at Occupy Chicago. The teach-in not only focused on the overall heath disparities within Chicago, but more specifically on how a single-payer health care system will (or will not) address health disparities in Chicago and throughout the nation.

Community groups and organizers were solicited to join the discussion and were encouraged to provide action steps to move the movement of a national health program forward. I was excited to attend the event as I am familiar with single-payer health care program as a whole but never really sat down to think of specific concerns and or questions as to how this type of system will affect the maternal health & medical industrial complex.

The event began with a brief but truly thorough overview by Steve Whitman, PhD, Director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, about the history of racial segregation and access in Chicago, health disparities amongst whites and blacks, and his research over the last 28 years. As highlighted in the event announcement on the Illinois Single Payer Coalition website:

Chicago is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country, with one of the worst records on health disparities by ethnicity and economic class. Responses by major public and private institutions have been ineffective at best, and at worst actively sacrifice public health to the interests of big corporations. Wall Street’s demand for ever higher profits for health insurance and pharmaceutical companies exacerbates disparities instead of addressing them.

Chicago has some of the worst health disparities in regards to maternal and child health. With the countless advances in medicine and improvements in technology, the medical industrial complex has continued to fall short in its ability to adequately provide evidence-based, scientifically proven care to lower income and racially oppressed people. According to the research Steve presented, in 1995 many of the 15 health outcomes his work focuses on were equal when comparing blacks and whites. 15 years later, in 2005 when they re-investigated the current data, 11 of these 15 measures were worst amongst Black people; including ones specific to maternal and child health.

Three of the 15 measures used in his research, Low birth weight, infant mortality, and no-prenatal care, were specific to maternal and child health. His research concluded that after the 15 year difference, Blacks ranked highest for all three measures. The most shocking and most well articulated realization that I have ever heard about the criminality of this segregation is, when you look at all of these measures and look at the “excess death” (meaning those preventable deaths due to lack of access) he says about 3200 Black people died 2005. These excess deaths are due to no other reason than racism. If you do the math, that’s about 9 folks a day. Breaking it down even more, 3 Black babies die each week due to this racism.

According to the 2005 publication of The Birth Outcomes and Infant Mortality in Chicago report compiled by the Chicago Department of Public Health Office of Epidemiology, the following data shows how desperate Chicago (and nationally) is for attention to these disparities in birth outcomes.

  • Out the highest amounts of births in Chicago, Blacks rank #2 after Hispanics*
  • % of births with no prenatal care; Blacks rank highest at 3.3%
  • % of births that were premature; Blacks rank highest at 16.1%
  • % of singleton babies born with low birth weight; Blacks rank highest at 13.2%
  • % of infant mortality; Blacks rank highest at 14.7%
  • % of neonatal mortality; Blacks rank highest at 9%
  • Lastly, there were 4 maternal deaths in the year 2004 and all 4 were Black

Knowing this information and overstanding the need for immediate action to reverse 15 years (really more) of the harm imposed by the medical industrial complex, what is in store for us within a single payer health care system?

In thinking about access, race, and the current state of affairs for maternal and child health care (i.e. birth justice) I can’t help but have a few questions about how this system will support low income, mothers of color.

One of my greatest concerns about a single-payer health care system is how will this program increase mothers of color’s access to those “evidence-based” practices that I mentioned earlier?

How will this system make maternal and child health more accessible to our communities (i.e. low income, POC, limited-no access to services, birth workers, and/or midwives)?

How will it provide options to poor and marginalized women to make decisions about their pregnancy, birth and parenting without the policing of their bodies and/or reproduction?

How will policies change to support birth justice within the medical industrial complex as well be provided to our sisters in the prison industrial complex?

How will a single-payer system allow greater opportunities (including financial) for birth workers (midwives, doulas, lactation specialists, childbirth educators), healers, and practitioners of color to achieve education and/or certification (if they choose) and practice?

How will this kind of health care reform close these gaps in disparities and improve outcomes for Black women thus improving community health?

Will holistic and modestly cost public health interventions and preventative care (i.e. massage, acupuncture, yoga, etc) be accessible and covered under a single-payer system?

To add, will the midwifery model of care and out-of-hospital midwifery practices be seen as an adequate and viable option for consumers or will the “standard of care” continue to be based on profit-driven, insurance company rules and regulations and not based on evidence and research?

Will a single-payer health care system hold space for increased accurate, client-centered, public health promotion and communication around most importantly, breastfeeding, SIDS, nutrition, fathering, postpartum depression, pre-conception health, and accessing prenatal/postpartum services?

Lastly, in contrast, will Obama’s Health Reform fill in any of these gaps and concerns I have mentioned in discussing a single-payer system?

Well, I am waiting… (crickets).

The International Center for Traditional Childbearing, the Midwives Alliance of North America, and Citizens for Midwifery all have statements that include recommendations** for some kind of health reform (mostly recommendations for Obama-Biden’s Health Reform); many of which can be applied to the single-payer system as well.

I challenge the administration to really step up and address the social and economic barriers that directly affect the overall health of Black and Brown people and in addition make the birth outcomes of those disproportionally affected a continued priority.

It’s clear that what we have now is not only broken but absolutely criminal and barbaric.

*Language provided by the researchers

**Resources for your enjoyment:

International Center for Traditional Childbearing President’s “Healthy Babies are Everyone’s Business”

Midwives Alliance of North America’s “Reforming Maternity Care in America: Recommendations to the Obama-Biden Transition Team on Maternity Health Care”

Midwives Alliance of North America’s Working Group Recommendations

Citizens for Midwifery’s “Maternity Care: A Priority for Health Care Reform.”

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives’ “Maternity Care and Health Care Reform: Opportunities to improve quality and access, reduce costs, and increase evidence-based practice”

Physicians for a National Health Program’s “International Health Systems.” Check out the Cuba and South Africa profile, written by me back in 2004.

Chicago winters are full of snow. Once the blankets of white draw up around us, it will be months before we see any green again. Recently, I took a picture of this bush branch pushing its way up through the weighty snow. One word immediately came to mind. Determination. Seeing this bush made me laugh to myself as I have been thinking a lot about what I am determined to do. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my purpose and life work.

I am not a big resolution person. I don’t feel like “resolve” has the same meaning and motivation that being “determined” carries for me. I try to make some short-term and long-term goals for my Earthday yearly so, I have decided to create 11 determinations for this 11th year in the century.

Most of you who read this blog know that I am a big Dead Prez fan. The words from their song, Discipline, have become my “Determinations Mantra.”

It goes:

Discipline makes things easier, organize your life…Uh um, uh um, it’s gonna be alright…Uh um, uh um, it’s gonna be fine…Discipline, discipline (Practice makes perfect)…Discipline, discipline (Health is wealth)…Discipline, discipline (All things in moderation; Plan your work, work your plan)

I listen to this song daily to stay focused on what I have to accomplish.

So now that I have my mantra, let’s have some Determinations.

Determination #1: Spend as much time with my family as possible

(“organize your life”)

Someone recently asked me, “what was the most memorable thing you did in 2010?” For me it was having my daughter. It was such a life changing event for me and really showed me what is important in this world.  Although it’s still a work in progress, I’m actively trying not to sweat the little stuff and trying get a little freer. My Ahimsa is showing me that. I learn a lot from mothering Ahimsa. She is the main one that understands what being determined means. Each day she grows a little more and is always fearless. I learn from her and I hope she continues to teach me.  This is her Determined face…

Spending more time with her and her father is my number one Determination for this year.

Determination #2: Get at least one client a month

(“all things in moderation”)

I first completed my birth doula training in 2007 in New York. I trained with Debra Pascali-Bonaro, creator/director of Orgasmic Birth (great movie for those interested). I met some interesting women at the training but didn’t feel too connected to the birth community like I do now. I volunteered at the Family Health and Birth Center in Washington, DC before moving back to Chicago. Once back here in Chicago, I kind of fell off as a doula until I began my studies to become a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM).

As soon as I started my classes, I became pregnant. Again, I put my doula training on the back burner and just focused on taking care of and de-stressing myself during my pregnancy. Since having Himiwe, I am now back in the game. I have been blessed to be present for some awesome births with loving and conscious parents. I have been attending about one birth a month and am determined to continue this throughout the year.

Determination #3: Expand doula services

(“plan your work, work your plan”)

To add on to my 2nd Determination, I want to expand my doula services as the baby gets older. So with that said, I need to develop my website, business cards and marketing strategies. In the meantime, I hope you keep checking out this blog.

Determination #4: Start my business

(“plan your work; work your plan”)

I have been thinking incessantly, about the future in terms of my financial role in my family. I’m constantly thinking about how to maximize my income where I can, again, be more present for my family. I am determined to devise a three-year plan where I can do birth work more consistently and ultimately create a business with this knowledge I have. So, another Determination for the next few months is to really think about what I SPECIFICALLY want to do, create a (business) plan for my work and then work my plan.

Determination #5: Dance, dance, dance

(“health is wealth”)

I’ve started taking West African dance classes at Old Town School of Folk Music with Harry Detry from Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago. It is awesome!!  I really love the instructor and it feels so GOOD to be dancing again. I danced in DC but again, since moving back to Chicago, I’ve been so busy with work that I’ve kind of lost myself. I can’t wait for Tuesdays to roll around so baby and I can hear the drums and mama can move her body. Ahimsa attends class with me and “plays” a baby djembe. She actually just stares at us and holds her djembe sweetly.

Determination #6: Study, study, study

(“discipline makes it easier”)

I have been studying to become a Certified Professional Midwife for a little over a year. I have come to terms that this journey may take longer than I anticipated; especially with a little baby. CPMs are specifically trained to attend out-of-hospital births. They are illegal in some states, one of those being Illinois. Because of this it is a bit harder to find someone to apprentice with so right now I have been doing the “study” part with the hopes to travel somewhere else to get birth numbers. A Determination I have for this year is to make time to study more. I’m determined to organize my life where I can study for a least an hour a day.

Determination #7: Travel out of the country

(“health is wealth”)

My partner and I have a list of places that we want to visit as a family. This list includes Dakar, London, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, and St. Croix (and there are plenty more). I am determined that we go out of the country every year.  Our goal for this year is visit family in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands.

Water, beaches, fruit, sun, and a relaxed atmosphere are EVERYTHING I need at this moment. I’m really looking forward to it.

Determination #8: Do more art; have a show

(“all things in moderation”)

Many people don’t know that I am a textile artist. I do quilts and textile design as well as design clothes. This is one of my greatest loves. I’ve had huge shows in the past but again, I have lost my way. When I was pregnant I started a quilt for baby. Needless to say, I never finished it. A Determination I have for this year is to finish Himiwe’s quilt but to also do more textile work. Even if I don’t have a showing of my work this year I want to begin to add to my portfolio, to finish some projects I started, and to possibly show some new work early next year. The picture below is a quilt I did for the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood’s exhibit, Stories of Mothers Lost back in 2008. This was on Capitol Hill.

This is a textile piece I created for a fashion show I designed a line for:

Determination #9: Be vegan (again)

“health is wealth”

Another Determination at this time is to return to the land of Veganism. I’ve been a vegetarian since 2000. I became vegan in 2006 and stopped in 2010; going back to lacto-ovo-vegetarianism. I want to go back to how I used to eat; in consciousness. I became vegan again at the start of this year and it feels so good to me. I feel lighter and freer. My body just works and does what it needs to do; something it wasn’t doing before. People always ask about how this will affect Ahimsa. I tell them she will know from the beginning how to “eat to live” and know that our lifestyle, including what we feed her, has everything to do with our intentions in parenting. We’ll tell her this was our main intention behind naming her Ahimsa.

Determination #10: No procrastination

(“organize your life”)

I am the master of procrastination. Sometimes I’m so stimulated by things and wore out from work that I put other things–things that I want to do–aside for later. Not this year. I want to master time management and really put an effort in to doing what needs to be done right now. My 10th Determination should in fact be the 1st so that everything else can manifest.

Determination#11: Live more, laugh more

(“health is wealth”)

This last Determination brings be back to the first. Without love and life with those that love me, I remain stagnant. I am determined to be more PRESENT in my experiences with my family and friends. I’m determined to not let fear, my lack of financial creativity, worries, or things that don’t matter deter me from a better life.

And with this, I will close. Until my next Earthday I have a lot to focus on and accomplish. Many your new year bring you closer to your goals!

Hey mamas, what are some of your Determinations for 2011?

%d bloggers like this: