In what capacity EXACTLY do Black breastfeeding advocates support Black breastfeeding?: Ruminations during #BBW15

Image taken in Greenville, MS in 1937.
Image of Black woman breastfeeding taken in Greenville, MS in 1937.
Selfie of Black feminist anthropologist researching Black breastfeeding rates taken in Greenville, MS in August 2015.

The other day I received a direct message from a follower on Twitter. This person mentioned to me that they had an incident with a breastfeeding promotion group who they were attempting to get some info or help from, and in this message, this follower was very frustrated and said that sometimes ‘they be on some bullshit’ because ‘they support the poster child but not the human being’. They were referring to the fact that while in the spotlight some tend to be about ‘the cause’ but when it comes to being ‘on the ground’ things are different. When I received this message I thought it was interesting. The reason is because only a few days before this something else happened that made think about Black breastfeeding support and wonder exactly what does it mean to Black breastfeeding advocates when they say they want to see more Black breastfeeding — and support of Black women. I hadn’t mentioned this to this follower, but I thought that it was eerily consistent with something else that happened just a couple of days before receiving this message.

Here’s what it was.

As you may or may not know my research site is in the Mississippi Delta. A couple of months ago I created a gofundme page in order to help pay for lodging during my pilot research trip to the cities I’m visiting because the funding I received from my department at school only paid for the bare minimum — plane ticket, food, and getting around while in town. I’m not personally on Facebook or it may be easier, but plenty of others are and I’ve been tweeting as well as asking people to share the link. Someone did just that and shared it on a closed Facebook group page that is specific to Black women’s breastfeeding, but within minutes the administrator deleted it. When asked why this happened the admin mentioned that it was ‘advertising’ and that advertising is not allowed in that group. The follower mentioned that she didn’t really think it was advertising and questioned if it really was thought of as such since it is quite specific to the topic of the page — supporting more Black women breastfeeding. The administrator mentioned that it was and then she and the follower apparently had a few back and forth comments with each other about the validity of the post — the follower mentioning that it seems hypocritical to delete something that is extremely congruent with the page and the importance of Black breastfeeding, then mentioning to her that she noticed that when she shares the link on Black pages these are the ones who never mention anything about it — they ignore it, don’t share it and finally in there it was deleted. I don’t know what else happened exactly between the two (I don’t really remember) but what I do know is that the administrator deleted this person from the page entirely! Yes, stemming from sharing a link about understanding more about Black breastfeeding. I was dumbfounded — and to be honest I almost didn’t believe it. But the reality is that it reflects what I’ve even seen about this important project. What I’ve noticed, to my incredible surprise, is that most of the people who have supported this endeavor have been NON-Black. In fact, the bulk of what I can say about Black breastfeeding advocates is that while I have felt some support, I’ve felt more pushback than anything else.

These instances make me questions in what capacity EXACTLY do Black breastfeeding advocates support Black breastfeeding? I’m nervous that the narratives above are what Black breastfeeding promotion is about or what it is becoming. I’m not saying ‘things’ are all about the person on Twitter or the woman who was deleted from Facebook, but I have a strange hunch that these aren’t the only stories like this.

I’m disappointed about both of these circumstances, but at the same time I think it provides the perfect opportunity to address it. I think real support for those of us interested means we cater to each other, learning how we can encourage each other and then going out of our way to do it! For all of us who celebrate, with this year’s Black Breastfeeding Week theme I hope that we start working to #lifteachother just as much as we say we work to #lifteverybaby. And that we try to save ourselves as much as we’re trying to save the lives of our future generations, making sure we don’t leave them a legacy of our b.s.

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