By Natalia Sucre, Research and Writing Librarian
Looking Back on Our Fall 2021 Roundtable Series
Last semester, we at the library decided to focus our monthly virtual roundtables on the work of the 2021 NYC Racial Justice Commission. We wanted to explore together with the MCNY community an instance of policy –and perhaps history— in the making. Our first two roundtables provided macro and micro perspectives on the Commission’s work. For our last roundtable in December, we stepped back from the nitty gritty of political and legal strategy and facilitated an open discussion on a stark case of racial inequity that directly affects our MCNY Community: The disproportionately high rates of maternal mortality in Black and Brown communities.
Something Different for December
For this talk, we relied on the expertise, experience, and insights of the MCNY community –students, alumni, faculty, Administration, staff. The result was an intimate, grounded conversation on racial disparities in maternal health and their interconnections with so many other racial disparities. Topics ranged from racial bias, legal reform vs. cultural/behavioral change, patient education, patient advocacy, provider education, the health insurance system, and alternative birthing practices such as midwifery and doula work.
But even more important, the result was that a sort of covenant emerged –a mutual commitment to creating ways to continue exploring the topic together, sharing information, resources, insights, and leading an educational and advocacy campaign for the MCNY community and beyond on the critical importance of Black maternal health.
NYC Racial Justice Commission Updates
Soon after our December talk, the Racial Justice Commission completed its final report and approved three ballot proposals aimed at firmly rooting racial equity in the city’s most fundamental laws. This coming November, New Yorkers will vote on the following proposed changes to the NYC Charter: 1) Adding a preamble to the Charter to establish “an aspirational vision for a racially equitable and just city” (Final Report, p. 42); 2) Creating a citywide racial equity office, plan, and commission to hold all city agencies accountable on racial equity in their planning and budgeting; 3) Measuring the true cost of living in NYC to determine just how much it takes to afford to meet essential needs in this city. Questions and debates arose on the efficacy and choice of these three proposals over others, but in the end a broader, more aspirational approach gained the majority vote among members of the Commission.
The Commission will be conducting an educational campaign in the months leading up to the 2022 elections to make sure that every New Yorker understands what is at stake in these reforms to the New York City Charter in support of racial equity. Together with legislation recently introduced by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on Black maternal health, the work of the Commission creates a framework for change at a macro, legal level. Our December library talk made clear that such reform will only mean real change if it goes hand in hand with work on the ground, the face-to-face work of conversation and exchange among peer groups and across all groups.
The Conversation Will Continue!
At our library roundtable last December, it was clear to everyone present that students want to continue to think about and work on the issue of Black maternal health, this issue that touches the lives of so many of our students and so many in our communities. The library is committed to doing so in 2022. Stay tuned! And if you are interested in learning more, please write to email@example.com.