The MCNY Black Maternity Health Initiative (BMHI) is a student and community engagement project that seeks to respond to the existential crisis of Black maternal health in the U.S., New York City, and most specifically, the Bronx. 

The initiative grew out of a roundtable conversation the MCNY Library hosted in December 2021 on the many social determinants that shape the drastic health inequity in maternal health in our communities. In April 2022, the library secured the Libraries Transform Communities Engagement Grant from the American Library Association to support the call to action on Black maternal health that students, alumni, faculty, and staff forcefully articulated in December.  

Key to the initiative are the library’s partnerships with Bronx-based community groups working in the field of Black maternal health. This collaboration fosters a rich exchange that will support MCNY students and alumni in taking on leadership civic engagement roles in the broader MCNY community. 

The Peer Leadership group is at the heart of the MCNY Black Maternal Initiative. Recruited from among MCNY students and alumni through an application process, Peer Leaders will have the opportunity to meet and work with the project’s community partners as well as with other leaders in public health, medicine, political advocacy, activism. They will do research and discuss the issues among themselves, drawing from an array of different life and work experiences and leveraging the knowledge and practices of their own different academic disciplines.  

The Peer Leadership Group is tasked with engaging the MCNY community in deep conversation and advocacy around this longstanding crisis. This will include, among other things, designing select library programming over the next two semesters. 

See the MCNY Library Special Collection on Black Maternal Health

Meet Our Community Partners

Dr. Melissa Barber

Dr. Melissa Barber completed her medical training at the Latin American School of Medicine (LASM)/ La Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM) in Havana, Cuba and is the author of Thirty Days of Thanks: A Journey Towards Healing and Deliverance and the CEO of the consultant company Thirty Days of Thanks. Dr. Melissa Barber takes a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary approach to public health research and advocacy. Her work as principal investigator on the COVID-19 Community Pesquisa Project, co-founder of South Bronx Unite, and founding Executive Board Member of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewarts Inc. addresses the social, environmental, health, and economic wellbeing of communities in the South Bronx, where she was born and currently resides with her daughter. In addition, as an ambassador and advocate for the international maternal-infant organization, the Birthing Project USA: the Underground Railroad for New Life, Dr. Barber brings to the MCNY Black Maternal Health Initiative a deep knowledge of practices that promote the health and wellness of birthing people and babies of color.

BX (Re)Birth and Progress – BX-RAP

BX-RAP is a collective dedicated to building alternate systems of care that protect and honor birthing people in the Bronx and their families. The collective was founded in 2020 by longtime birth workers Carmen Mujica, Evelyn Alvarez, and Nicole JeanBaptiste to address the deepening inequities in Bronx maternal health exposed by COVID, as evidenced by the case of Amber Isaac. In early 2022, BX-RAP established a no-cost community-doula program for Black pregnant people at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. Offering open community trainings and leading advocacy and direct-action campaigns, the collective hopes to create a hub for birth work in the Bronx that does not center whiteness and uplifts a new model of community-based doula care. 

As individuals, each of BX-RAP’s founders have deep roots in birth work and the Bronx.  

 

Carmen Mojica

Carmen Mojica is an Afro-Dominicana, born and raised in the Bronx, a certified professional midwife, writer, and reproductive rights activist, focusing particularly on birth justice and Afro-Latina identit.

Evelyn Alvarez

Evelyn Alvarez is a mother, trainer, coach, doula and founder of Prom King as well as of Radio Caña Negra where she facilitates workshops about parenting, reproductive justice, and restorative practices in schools.

Nicole JeanBaptiste

Nicole JeanBaptiste is a mother, doula, lactation counselor, yoga instructor, and oral historian who served as a community doula consultant for the New York City Health Department’s COVID-19 Perinatal Taskforce and founded Sésé Doula Services.

Listen to Them Discuss BX-RAP’s Mission and Work

Meet the Peer Leadership Group

The Peer Leadership Group is comprised of fourteen undergraduates, graduates, and alumni from across a range of MCNY programs including Public Administration, Emergency and Disaster Management, Community Health Education, Human Services, Business Administration in Healthcare Management, Business Administration in Health Services & Risk Management, Education, Project Management, and CASAC. As such, the Peer Leadership Group benefits from a multidisciplinary perspective as well as from the unique life and career experiences of each of its members.  

Peer Leaders Host the 1st Virtual Roundtable for the Library’s Black Maternal Health Initiative.

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Community Resources

Bronx Health Link
Citywide Doula Initiative

An MCNY Library Special Collection