The Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund (SFJ) honored four grassroots Black maternal health organizations during the New York Liberty vs. Minnesota Lynx game last Friday.
The Tsais launched the SFJ in 2020 in Brooklyn with a commitment to fight for racial justice and plan for the economic recovery after the COVID pandemic. SJF will match donations up to $25,000 to Brooklyn Perinatal Network, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, Haven Midwifery Collective, and Irth organizations as part of their “You Belong Here” campaign.
The campaign aims to promote a culture of belonging across Brooklyn with a focus on raising awareness about the racial disparities in maternal mortality and health this year.
“Health equity is an essential right and critical to belonging and equality. Given the disparities in Black maternal health, this is especially important for our work toward social justice here in Brooklyn,” said Clara Wu Tsai, vice chair of BSE Global, in a statement. “We started the Social Justice Fund to bring together people and organizations with a shared commitment to inclusivity, justice, and equal opportunity. We are proud to support these four organizations dedicated to improving health outcomes for pregnant people of color in Brooklyn.”
Statistically in New York City, Black mothers are a little over nine times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts due to inequities in health care access and quality. The highest rates reported are in neighborhoods such as Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Bushwick, Canarsie, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, East New York, Flatbush, and Williamsburg.
Brooklyn Borough President (BP) Antonio Reynoso dedicated millions in the fiscal capital budget as well as launched a maternal health campaign focused on getting critical resources to Black and brown birthing people. Black maternal health leaders in Brooklyn said that they appreciated Reynoso’s attention to the issue, but a majority of the funds went to city-run birthing centers and the hospital system.
They felt left out financially from a mission they helped build.
SJF Executive Director Gregg Bishop said that the Fund specifically wanted to support and fund organizations that were already doing meaningful work in the community.
The organizations were recognized during the New York Liberty vs. Minnesota Lynx game at Barclays Center. Joe and Clara Tsai are the billionaire owners of the Barclays Center, the New York Liberty team, and the Brooklyn Nets.
Representatives of the organizations showed up to enjoy the game and take center court during halftime. Attendees included former journalist Kimberly Seals Allers, Brooklyn Perinatal Network (BPN) Deputy Executive Director Denise West, Certified Midwife Trinisha Williams, BPN Executive Director Ngozi Moses, Caribbean Women’s Health Association Executive Director Cheryl Hall, organizer and educator Xamayla Rose, and BPN Chair Bettie Mays.
Each woman had their own story to tell about why they have dedicated their lives to helping other Black and brown women safely have children.
Moses is originally from Guyana in South America and studied as a pharmacist. She said she got involved with maternal health and BPN when she felt disrespected at a local clinic. “They threatened to call the police on me because I challenged a prescription that was written for my four-month-old. What they didn’t know was that I was a pharmacist and I could read the prescription. It was adult doses,” said Moses. “I was dismissed as ignorant and my accent was very Caribbean. But she made the biggest mistake of her life because here I am advocating 35 years after, organizing against that kind of care.”
Allers had a fraught pregnancy experience at a highly-rated hospital despite having done research. She created the Narrative Nation and the Irth app, which lets users leave a Yelp-like review of doctors, hospitals, and obstetrician-gynecologists.
“This seems to be one area where the system has continued to fail us,” said Allers.
West said that her own mother was left temporarily blind for a month after giving birth to her. She believes in preventative maternal health care.
“Our biggest obstacle is capital funding. This health disparity has caused a lot of people to die,” said Williams, from her firsthand experience as a midwife for 21 years. “I don’t feel that midwives or people like myself should now fund the healthcare system in order to make change.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visitinghttps://bit.ly/amnews1.