I am a Black feminist anthropologist, Full-Circle Doula, and a Certified Lactation Educator. At one point not so long ago I had hopes of becoming an IBCLC — a Lactation Consultant, certified through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, but stopped pursuing that after obtaining that CLE. I am also a PhD student of sociocultural anthropology, researching breastfeeding among people of African Descent in the US. What all of this means for me, is that rather than focusing on clinical applications and mechanics (how to latch a baby to a breast, information about breast pumps, milk storage, etc.), I focus on social theory. Breastfeeding is a biological site and serves as a gateway to explore the greater complexities around this tradition. Viewing this through a critical and holistic framework, it allows me to view a larger picture and explore areas of culture and biology, social organization, areas of domination, environment, gender, as well as community empowerment and various others via a historical, contemporary and cross-cultural context. My ultimate goal is to become a professor of anthropology and bring the culmination of these topics to higher education — as well as participate in applied work outside of the academy, and also continue to engage the general public.
Even though much of what I do has become a love of my life, my entry point in this area may or may not be like others you have heard of. I wasn’t placed here because I had an obsession with birth and breastfeeding, like many of us who consider ourselves ‘junkies’; far from it. Being here is the last place on earth I would have ever imagined myself.
The universe drew me here one day through a literal whisper to begin exploring this area. Besides the fact that I’d grown up around breastfeeding and around breastfeeders — my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, and my friends were some of them — at that time, I couldn’t have imagined why on earth (or any other planet — or anywhere in this galaxy) it was on my mind, and why I had begun to think about it day and night, almost becoming obsessed and didn’t know why. This was all before I learned that statistically Black women have the lowest initiation and duration rates of any group in this country. And this was also before I learned the devastation this causes us — and everyone – in infant mortality, in infant and maternal health, and in our community’s overall health and well-being.
Being able to equip myself with the proper tools and information to challenge these and help end injustice is the reason for my participation. That’s why I’m here.
But this is a journey. It is not simply a task where I try and learn the steps of attaching an infant to its mother’s breast. That’s the easy part. I work to help provide practical and creative ways to show the links that exist in this area and throughout our society. My dream is to help create and maintain a positive atmosphere for Black women and all women, and to continue to raise awareness around this topic. I believe the current conversation on this tradition must change, in order to formulate ways to encourage more breatfeeding among Black women. And to help enact radical social transformation that I believe is possible through this avenue.