Seeking The Ancestors in Natchez, MS: 97.7 WTYJ’s ‘The Bottom Line’ on Black Breastfeeding



If your’e anywhere near Natchez, MS, or can figure out how to stream the show online, then I will be on 97.7 WTYZ fm, on The Bottom Line this Tuesday, September 15th sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 pm Central Time. The producer of the show said he wanted to pencil me in and so I’ll have a 10-15 minute segment within that hour.

I actually just left Natchez on Thursday (I’m here in Jackson) and I already can’t wait to go back. People asked me why I wanted to go to this town — why breastfeeding research there? My initial reasons were to learn about the rich history of slave oppression and resistance, which is very strong, and to connect it to my views about breastfeeding being in the same capacity. But as I was there, it became more and more apparent that I needed to seek these ancestors and find out what they wanted me to know about their lives and stories and how they guide me and tell me to connect it to breastfeeding today. I’m still unsure of what exactly that is yet but I will keep seeking and listening.

It was the first time I had been there, but I really appreciate the town. It is full of incredibly rich history, is extremely haunted (I felt the presence of spirits very strongly at one point while touring an antebellum home), and I also got to hang out with some interesting and important people who are socially conscious and very politically active, and we got to share the important work each of us are doing so that really gave me a rush. My motel room was right next door to a grocery store so that was a change, I bought art from a artist’s co-op,  and I went to New Orleans over Labor Day weekend, inadvertently stumbling upon a small PRIDE Parade that was happening there and had a lot of fun. I’ll write more extensively when I get a chance, but I am currently drowning in writing projects — field notes, transcribing interviews and all things anthropology is no joke, and I’m so behind, but I just wanted to share this info. Listen in if you can.


‘Mammy Caroline’ — this image is from the ticket of the one and only antebellum home tour I went on while in Natchez. After I visited the Visitors Center and saw the short 20-minute documentary on the history of Natchez, it quickly became apparent that this history was told completely from the white perspective, which is why I refused to go on other tours outside of this one which I only went on because it was focused on the owner’s experience of spiritual activity in the house and I was interested in that.

This image is of Nina Simone and it is of a small wooden plaque I bought that was created by an artist while I was in New Orleans. As I was looking over her inventory, she and I got on the conversation on how undaunted Nina Simone was (and continues to be) unlike any other artist we've seen. I'm extremely inspired by Nina.

This image is of Nina Simone and it is of a small wooden plaque I bought that was created by an artist while I was in New Orleans. As I was looking over her inventory, she and I got on the conversation on how undaunted Nina Simone was (and continues to be) unlike any other artist we’ve seen. I’m extremely inspired by Nina.

Black Breastfeeding: Constructing a Framework of Analysis and Action through the Lens of Black Feminist Anthropology

With all of my travel and busy-ness I realized I completely forgot to upload my ROSE poster — so here it is. I presented this poster at the Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere 4th Annual Breastfeeding Summit in Atlanta, that happened about two weeks ago, but seems like yesterday. The summit was in Atlanta, GA on August 19-21, and the topic this year was Building Bridges across the Chasm of Breastfeeding Inequities.There were various speakers — I missed 99% of the presentation by Camara Phyllis about racism and examining and eliminating its impact — the one I really wanted to see — and dang, I was so disappointed. Of course when I finally did make it to the conference center, during the break everyone was talking about it, and subsequently telling me how unfortunate it was that I didn’t make it once they found out I wasn’t there :/

The food was incredible. The my only grievance was that the caterers took it all away so soon after each meal time, LOL, and didn’t leave it out (I can tend to go several rounds when they got it like that — and make it like that). But I’m not bitter.

Anyway, my poster is about viewing how I work to highlight Black breastfeeding promotion via — well, through constructing a framework of analysis and action through the lens of Black feminist anthropology. I’m trying real hard to shine as bright of a light on this vantage point as I can. I want to make Black feminist anthropology as public as I can, and I think that showing this at a conference where there are folks who are both inside and outside of academia is ideal — that’s my kind of audience. Below is the poster. Below the poster is the abstract that was submitted and was published in the pamphlet.

Black Breastfeeding: Constructing a Framework of Analysis and Action via the Lens of Black Feminist Anthropology

Black Breastfeeding: Constructing a Framework of Analysis and Action via the Lens of Black Feminist Anthropology

What is Black feminist anthropology and its relation to Black breastfeeding, and what does an analysis of breastfeeding and action via critical Black feminist anthropology look like? Black feminist anthropology encompasses a body of knowledge that is based upon a multi-faceted set of converging characteristics that construct is framework, and among other characteristics, what is most salient are two primary attributes; being a black feminist an an anthropologist. Most often imposed within this framework are ways to work at instituting forms of thought and unequal treatment across various geographic locations and throughout time. In their distinct locations, both Black feminist and anthropology have too often omitted conversations on breastfeeding. More specifically, when looking at how a society functions, highlighting ways to center racism, Black women’s social position, and also creating an avenue towards challenging the inequity that underscores this legacy, it seems that human lactation never makes a space at the forefront.

How can Black feminist anthropology highlight the greater complexities surrounding the legacy of injustice in Black breastfeeding in the U.S.? Since breastfeeding is a biological function informed by cultural practices, which are influenced by social circumstances, via this rare and crucial vantage point, I will highlight how Black feminist anthropology accesses complexities surrounding breastfeeding injustice, and other less visible blind spots, while underscoring ideas that all operate on an avenue towards strategic and necessary change.

I really liked that I got to attend this year. I haven’t been since the first one, but it was nice being there seeing folks I hadn’t seen in a while, meeting folks I had never met before and hearing some of the presentations. Also, I may join NAPPLSC, which stands for National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color — and it’s a new organization started by ROSE and is geared toward offering support to those in the profession. Now, we all know about my politics and how I feel about the increase in professional breastfeeding services, right?! In case you need a reminder or you have a question mark lingering over your head in order to understand why I’m even mentioning this it’s because I do not believe breastfeeding professionalism it is a form of justice, or that it is working to end breastfeeding inequity. If anything, I believe it is dong the exact opposite and reiterating various formations of injustice as well as establishing new and additional layers of it — including a hierarchy and oligarchy since it places the knowledge of a tradition that has sustained the human race into the hands of a select few who have access to formal education, funding and status — that’s just one reason — I gots plenty. And I stand on my views without apologizing for them. But if professionals of color feel they need to converge to offer a greater level of support to each other in order to offer a greater level of care for their clients, then that’s worth supporting these efforts with a 35 dollar membership fee. I think the founder of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington convinced me of that.

Acquanda talks Black Breastfeeding on the Reverend Rufus Williams Radio Show Greenville, MS!


, ,

My attempt to take a selfie at the studio window sign thingy.

My attempt to take a selfie at the studio window sign thingy.

I just left the 91.9 WDSV (Delta Sounds and Voices) radio station here in Greenville, Mississippi, and was on the Reverend Rufus Williams Show. And I had no idea this was going to happen.

[in studio image coming soon]

The other day I interviewed two participants — a mother and a daughter, who I met while at McDonalds. The mother ended up inviting me to a women’s church service called Women Accepting Responsibility (WAR) that just started today. After the service, I was invited over their place to eat a Sunday meal, and while we were having lunch they mentioned that in about 20 minutes this radio show was going down and she meant to tell me about it yesterday, but forgot and that I can go to the station to talk about Black breastfeeding. I was a bit nerve-wracked at first since I really had no notice but I didn’t want to pass up the chance to talk about this, especially since I’m right here in my research site, and since I’m leaving Greenville soon to go on to the next segment of this trip, Natchez and then Jackson.

Acquanda and Rev Rufus Williams @ WDSV 91.9 studio.

Acquanda and Rev Rufus Williams @ WDSV 91.9 studio.

Being able to do this segment sort of lifted me out of a funk I’ve been in since I’ve been here — from talking to as well as hearing about so many who have really no exposure to breastfeeding or who don’t really understand its importance AT ALL, having no transportation (there is no public transportation or cabs here and the requirements for renting a car seem as if they’re in place to allow only certain people to do so — I’m in the process of uploading a video about my thoughts on all of this). I also, like I mentioned in this segment, with the exception of today, have eaten fast food every single day since I’ve been here because grocery stores are scarce — there’s not really one within walking distance from where I’m staying — plus a few other reasons — some about researching and safety and such which anthropologists never really talk about, so having a conversation about something so important that anyone in the city or on the web who tunes in would hear pepped me up. 

I’ve noticed that since the conversation of breastfeeding is an elusive one I can’t really get too radical up in here, or really discuss my radical politics about it — its history and the other connections that I see and so I had to make sure I kept this in mind while on the air, not to mention Greenville is a very conservative place. Also, WDSV is a gospel radio station and so it was interesting hearing how the Rev discussed purpose of breasts in the context of religious perspectives, which I agree with but I never really go to church and so I never really think of it in this particular framework. Anyway, there’s more to this conversation, and the link to listen to the episode is below. It’s 30 minutes.

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.

Southern Bound: ROSE Summit, Reminiscing, & Understanding Black Breastfeeding in the most Racist State in America (Video)


There are only a few more days left before I head to the South. In case you haven’t heard I’m conducting pilot research — otherwise known as ‘poking an prying with a purpose’ — in this case it’s before the extensive ethnographic research I’ll be doing in about 1.5 years — for about 2 years.

My first stop is Atlanta. I’m excited that I’m attending the ROSE Black Breastfeeding Summit! I’m also presenting a poster there. Right after that I’m heading to the Mississippi Delta: Greenville, Natchez, Jackson! I have the craziest range of emotions about this endeavor and I’ve found myself doing everything from stressing out to crying to reminiscing to… just wondering.

The last time I was in Mississippi was in 2000. It was on the cusp of my 24th birthday and my newly-married self and my then other half, who reenlisted in the ARMY and was stationed on the East Coast, decided he and I couldn’t live without each other for the few months he’d be there. With minimal planning, I drove coast to coast from Southern California to Southern Virginia and ‘dropped down’ into Mississippi on my way. My mom, grandma and entire family rooted me on as they tracked me on the map after I called them at each stop so I could check in and let them know how I was. I met, for the first time in over 21 years, my biological father and some other family members as well as folks who were old neighbors — my family moved west when I was about 3. It was such an intense reunion with all of these people — none I even remembered, who all treated me like we’d been close all that time and like I never went anywhere. My family on the West Coast was so excited and filled with joy about seeing the zillion and one pictures I took of everyone, hearing about how they were coming along. I got to understand what ‘southern hospitality’ really meant — I felt it.

My mom was alive back then, and so were both of her parents and the world felt so much safer. All three of them are gone now. And as the tears are flowing down my face as I sit here and type and think about them, both because I miss them and because they are no longer here and won’t’ see what I’m doing I wonder what they would think of me going there this time and about this critical work that is happening. What would they say?

I am kind of tripped out that I am doing this work. I still have never found another Black anthropologist who concentrates on Black breastfeeding and I think it is strange that I was called to do this — especially since not all that long before I was on the cusp of quitting this field of social science because of its imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. But something kept me here and now I’m using it to explore Black breastfeeding — something that hasn’t been done before in this capacity. I’ve also never breastfed and even though my strong emphasis has always been on decentering the mother-infant dyad in order to get more people involved I am feeling a bit insecure about my place in it right now because of my lack of breastfeeding status.

Mississippi has a sordid history. Time and time again it is referred to as the most racist state in the country. The other day a friend said it was the ‘hearth of slavery,’ and I’ve had a few Black women tell me they’re concerned about me going there alone and I can’t say that I blame them. I know it’s dangerous — mores than the first time I went on that excursion by myself since I’m chartering new territory — my family members won’t be in all the places I go. And I have to admit that if I knew a Black woman traveling to this state by herself I would be concerned, too. There are increased racial tensions happening around the country with the confederate flag, which Mississippi still has as theirs, btw — and with the BlackLivesMatter movement. I noticed that when I was writing in my journal about this endeavor the other day in my attempt to use strategy, I was contemplating renting a car and being by myself and what that image would look like if I got lost in an extremely racist part of town — or taking the greyhound and being around other people and which one would allow me to face racism in the least ostensibly destructive way — if that makes any sense. In my opinion, Mississippi harbors the richest history for Black people — of oppression and resistance, and this just isn’t with breastfeeding. There’s something to be said when artists have composed music and have written songs about its anti-Black racial violence.

Video: Nina Simone ‘Mississippi Goddam’

I see the oppression Black women faced by forced wet nursing and the continued legacy that keeps our babies from our breasts as part of that. There’s a reason for the regional lowest initiation and duration rates. But I expand this conversation to include the entire history — inclusive of all Black people. I believe that the overall climate from Mississippi’s history has answers — and equally as important — via anthropology it will ask an entirely new set of questions. I will be gone for a total of about six weeks, and below is my itinerary:

Atlanta, GA: ROSE Black Breastfeeding Summit: Building Bridges Across the Chasm of Breastfeeding Inequity

Greenville, MS: Returning to my Roots and Random Selection Techniques

Natchez, MS: Mapping Oppression and Resistance

Jackson, MS: Mississippi Department of Archives and History

I still have not collected enough money to help cover the various expenses for this part of my research. My department awarded me with a small amount of funding for travel to, from and within Mississippi and for food but that’s it — it doesn’t cover lodging. I launched a crowd funding campaign about two months ago, and although I have had some awesome folks donate towards this — which I appreciate — it still isn’t enough and I’ve only raised about half of what I need. At this point I need to help offset my cost of lodging. I would be very appreciative if you would click the gofundme icon below and donate whatever you can towards this extremely important work and also share it on Facebook and on your other networks. Black breastfeeding matters! And this work specifically is important no only because it’s about breastfeeding, but it is groundbreaking. Not only is it going to start to change the conversation among those who actually are the ones providing milk to infants, it’s going to start to change how we view it in terms of race, geography, gender and in many other ways and how each of us participates. I totally believe it.


Black Men DO Breastfeed!: Why Black Transgendered Breastfeeding Narratives Matter #BlkBfing


, ,


Bear and his 15-month-old daughter. Image taken and posted with permission.

I found out about Bear when I facilitated a workshop on challenging racism in birth and breastfeeding for a non-profit anti racism organization I volunteer for just over a week ago. The connection came from a white trans* man who was in the audience, and as soon as I mentioned somewhere in my facilitation that for a while I had been interested in hearing the stories of Black LGBTQ breastfeeders, in order to understand breastfeeding through this particular lens but had come up completely empty-handed, he chimed in — and told me about Bear, who he mentioned was biologically female, but is a transgendered male, even binding his breasts at times and breastfeeds his daughter.


Image taken and posted with permission.

I have to be honest that I was just as excited as I was curious about meeting Bear and his 15-month-old daughter who he calls his ‘Mini Me’. Without objectifying or placing either one of them under an ‘objective’ microscope, I had questions. There were things I wanted to know and my inconceivable excitement came from the fact that I had been looking forward to a moment like this for at least a year and a half, searching high and low for Black breastfeeders anywhere along the LGBTQ spectrum (aside from the few Black lesbian mothers in my own social circle I know). When my initial attempts didn’t produce any fruit, I searched some more and when I came up empty- handed there I searched again — more formally but without avail. There was even no breastfeeding in published scholarship about Black lesbian motherhood (Bear himself mentioned he didn’t even know of any other trans* breastfeeders aside from the ones from a group on facebook). I wanted to see how Black breastfeeding is experienced among those considered ‘non-gender conforming,’ those involved in same-sex and same gender loving relationships: the activist in me wants to see more practical breastfeeding among — all Black people. The social scientist and anthropologist in me wants to understand the form and function in Black breastfeeding — nuances. As I’ve mentioned before around here I don’t mean to imply that ‘you’re nobody unless somebody studies you’ — far from it. But I do believe that to be most effective in reaching a goal that combats the inequity among Black breastfeeding and gaining a better understanding of others’ outlook, it requires being multifaceted and holistic — covering all aspects and viewing this tradition through as many lenses as possible in order to acknowledge, as best as we can, how each is experienced, to most effectively work on supporting these different angels. In addition to challenging systematic oppression — racism, class elitism, white supremacy, and seeing how other areas such as mental illness may have an effect, understanding different angels helps us confront our own biases and the significant role they play in inequity. What part do Black breastfeeding advocates play in hindering Black breastfeeding?

When he and I met at Starbucks and decided to walk around downtown for a few minutes while we tried to determine where to go sit down and chit chat, my first inclination was not necessarily to conduct an interview. Of course there were things I wanted to know — there was a lot I wanted to know — but it wan’t actually until all three of us were seated is when I asked if I could ask some specific questions, record the responses and post them on this blog.

The first thing I asked if it weirded him out when he found out I wanted to meet him so badly — a Black breastfeeding trans* man that he had heard about through his friend that belongs to a weekly transgendered meetup group he started. He responded that he wasn’t weirded out. That he was actually excited about it and thought it was ‘cool’ because of educational purposes — he said because it provided the opportunity to educate people. People don’t understand him, he said, and people are scared to ask questions. On that note I asked Bear (whose name comes from his friends) that myself, as a staunch breastfeeding activist and someone whose work inside and outside of my graduate program concentrates on Black breastfeeding, that although I have searched extensively I had yet to come across one single instance highlighting a Black trans* breastfeeding narrative, and that quite possibly upon publishing this post it may be the internet’s inaugural such write-up, what he would like anyone who came across it to know? His first response was to ‘not let anyone fuck with you!’

I believe that was a discussion on other trans* people. This, we know, comes from sentiments that surround transgendered people these days with outright prejudices that come from not conforming to what we may have been ascribed by society. Anthropologists will tell you that even though there seems to be a ‘quest’ these days to transform gender — some attempting to eradicate it altogether, that gender has always been around. And that even though there is a large critique of the binary, categorizing people as simply male or female, it has always existed. This is perhaps a response to colonial impact which castigated anything outside of the binary and the so-called normative model. But this isn’t to say that there weren’t additional genders in precolonial times because there was. But changing one’s causes contention. And it adds to the layers that Black people already contend with — so this is the case for someone who was born and is still biologically female, who lives as a male.

Bear said that he’s a ‘free spirit’ and a ‘gender bender’ which he says means he makes his own pronouns, but mostly identifies as him or they.

So, this was exciting. Even though he openly breastfed ‘Mini Me’ in public, at times having his breasts fully exposed in the food court, he said that he usually covers, but that he forgot it that day but doesn’t pay anybody any attention — meaning he doesn’t care about the opinions of others when it comes to public nursing. He said he really didn’t care what people thought. Bear didn’t seem comfortable talking about his past at all — his childhood, which I was inclined to ask about as far as how he viewed himself, what life was like as a child — on when he came to understand his gender, and also where his breastfeeding influences came from but it was clear that that was not the most comfortable topic so I didn’t. When I asked him where he got his inspiration to breastfeed, he did mention that he didn’t receive any ‘inspiration’ or ‘encouragement’ from outside sources, but it was just something he knew he wanted to do. He did have a doula at his birth and also took breastfeeding classes. When I asked more about his breastfeeding experience he said that they had some issues in the beginning — sore nipple made breastfeeding hurt at first and then ‘Mini Me’ had trouble latching on but they got through it.

Bear and I didn’t have the chance (I really wanted) to discuss what additional layers are superimposed on his identity — what makes Black trans* breastfeeding Black trans* breastfeeding and the complexities of challenging racism in addition to all other facets — there was a little one who thought it would be better to play and romp around rather than have us talk identity. But we’ll get to that conversation soon enough, I know it.

Bear did said that he is slowly transitioning from female to male, intending to fully transition but said he wants to take his time and that maybe one day he will have another child. He said that he’s on a small amount of ‘T’ (testosterone), and that  ‘T’ is safe to take in low doses while breastfeeding since it doesn’t interfere with milk production. For now I asked him if he had any advice for other Black trans* breastfeeders. His was to ‘don’t let them get to you. It’s natural. Tell them to leave you the fuck alone.’ I think that says a lot.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

P.S. at the end of next month I am going to Mississippi, USA to research Black breastfeeding and to connect it to a larger picture on the history of Black people as a whole, in order to find answers and to continue working on eradicating inequity and disparities. I received a small amount of funding from my department for this pilot research but it does not cover all aspects. I created a gofundme account to help with costs not covered by my department. Please consider visiting the link below and helping to support this important work by pitching in what you can.

Injustice at the Breast Anywhere is a Threat to Justice at the Breast Everywhere! Help support Black Breastfeeding Research in Mississippi (Video)


I’m finally going to Mississippi at the end of this summer! And when I say ‘finally‘ I mean that I actually received some funding for the work that I do — that I’m looking to expand. It is extremely hard to get funding from my perspective. What I can guarantee you is I get denied because I am a Black woman who wants to make radical changes with my community and throughout society overall. Because I approach my research proposals with an anti-racist, decolonial, radical Black feminist tone and am not a person who is looking to do nothing at all except go off to some foreign land and study the ‘Other’ in order to objectify, vilify and further deem how superior the Western world is — to uphold the colonial legacy of anthropology — they always get shut down. I refuse to give in and even change my language in order to acquiesce to a dominant paradigm that wants me to be ‘objective,’ and ‘conforming’. In other words, I refuse to whiten myself up.

This time, a donor and her husband (said husband who mentioned how ‘comfortable’ he is with Black people — I’ll tell you this story soon enough), gifted the department a generous amount of funds to pass out to various graduate students for pilot research, whose work fits within medical anthropology — and I was one of those students — even though I don’t consider myself a medical anthropologist. I received enough money to pay for travel from Seattle to Mississippi, to travel between cities in Mississippi: Greenville, Jackson, Natchez, to pay fees to visit slave plantations which is part of my research, and to eat but this funding does not cover everything — like room and board and other miscellaneous fees associated with such a trip, which is why I created a gofundme account to help cover costs of these important components.

Black women in this country have the lowest breastfeeding rates of any group, and breastmilk is literally the difference between life and death for many babies, Black women also have one of the most complex histories. Mississippi has the lowest breastfeeding rates of any state in this union, and I believe that this state has the richest history of both oppression by the state and resistance by the people, who have voluntarily and involuntarily given their lives in order to resist dehumanization. Looking at this trajectory, I believe breastfeeding fits right into this paradigm. But the legacy of disenfranchisement, anti-Black woman sentiments, fragmentation of Black women, radical dispossession and reproductive control among many other dominating facets rooted in a racist history, I believe continue to operate through this biological site. This perspective — one from a  Black feminist anthropological vantage point has never been done before, and I’m going down to confront this legacy. In the video below, I briefly share more about my work and this endeavor.

If you feel you’ve been inspired by any facet of the work that I do then please consider visiting the icon and pitching in what you can. Thank you in advance for any consideration. And thanks for helping me spread the word!

Where in the World is the Black Feminist Anthropologist? Researching #BlkBfing in the Mississippi Delta!


, , , , , , , , , , ,


I’m going down south this Summer! I received some funding from my department to travel to the Mississippi Delta area and begin exploring Black breastfeeding, which I plan on doing in September after I teach my course!

I’ve been looking at Mississippi as a site to continue my work and conduct critical research for the past couple of years. What initially sparked my interest was learning that it is the state with the lowest breastfeeding initiation and duration rates of any group in this country, has some of the highest infant mortality rates, and also the fact that it has some of the greatest percentages of Black people so I wondered what the connections are with these.

But my interest in Mississippi is just as personal as it is political. In 1980/81 my mother, a 30-year-old single mother of five, along with help from her younger brother, drove all of us kids from Greenville, Mississippi to Southern California. This was directly on the cusp of a migration of the remainder of my immediate family, including my maternal grandparents and other uncles. The deeply entrenched racism and oppression in the state is what spawned this migration and it was done with hopes of providing us all with a better future.

I will be looking at three areas. First I will begin in Greenville where I am from. I figure this is a wonderful place to start since it I want to see how people respond to questions about Black breastfeeding. This means I don’t mind talking to strangers. And it’s exactly what I plan on doing, influenced by Zora Neale Hurston and her ‘random selection techniques’. I will also be going to Natchez and Jackson. Natchez because I want to know a greater connection to the slave resistance and Jackson because I’m going to be looking up some archival material. Here is just a snippet of my research design:

Location and Duration:

I will spend 30 days in the Mississippi Delta area, from August 29, 2015 through September 28, 2015. My research will begin in Greenville, where I am most familiar and I will also visit other areas which offer a significant historical component to Black history. These places, including Natchez and Jackson, will be visited in phases, each lasting 10 days.

Research Design:

Phase 1: Greenville, MS August 29-September 8: Returning to my roots, and ‘Random Selection Techniques.’

In Greenville, I will be exploring the land and becoming familiar with the people. I will spend time informally researching by working to gather the feelings of nostalgia of my ancestral roots since myself and all of my siblings, with the exception of my youngest sister was born in this state. In order to get a more in-depth understanding of how people interact with each other and get to know them on a more personal level, I will attend dinners, engage in infamous Southern porch conversations, go for walks with participants, fish, play dominoes, and reminisce with the people. Since church is an integral part of Black life and especially in the South, I will attend as many church functions as possible during my stay and after church dinners, asking the residents their ideas and opinions and ask for suggestions for my next steps. I will also employ ‘Random Selection Techniques.’

The method of ‘random selection’ involves impromptu approaching people in order to get unrehearsed responses from an unstructured pool of participants. I will conduct random selection techniques by approaching those who are ostensibly Black and African American, regardless of their location. I will approach Black people I see in parking lots at places such as the shopping mall, casinos, in the grocery store, and anywhere else in order to ask a series of open-ended questions, in order to gauge each person’s view of breastfeeding as it relates to U.S. History. I will solicit responses to a set of preliminary questions and this would allow for a larger conversation, enabling me to gain further insight.

Phase 2: Natchez, MS September 8-September 18: Mapping Oppression and Resistance

Phase 2 involves visiting Natchez, where Black people radically resisted oppression. Resistance by people who faced physical punishment and even death must be viewed via an extremely critical lens, since ways this resistance was actualized varies from tacit practices to overt, where many Black gave their lives voluntarily and involuntarily. This phase will also involve emotions, feeling, crying while visiting plantations where slaves revolted such as the case in Natchez. It will hopefully include a walking tour, conducted by a local. I will get stories on the past and current ways Black people have overtly and covertly countered racist tactics.

Phase 3: Jackson, MS September 18-28: Mississippi Department of Archives and History

The final phase of this pilot research will be spent in Jackson, Mississippi doing extensive research in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. I will spend time researching the history of this state regarding slavery, reconstruction, birth rates, demographics, birth and breastfeeding narratives. This will allow for the opportunity to gather information from various aspects across the state.

I have had many challenges with being an anthropologist and going somewhere to conduct research. Anthropology has such a sordid history of being a discipline that ‘studies’ — aka has radically exploited people for its own selfish gain. Even though that is far from my agenda, I still feel as if there must be a more crucial reason for going into someone’s neighborhood and gathering information. What I feel save me from that disconnection, is that I am from there, I still have family there, and I have a vested interest in the history and how it connects with Black breastfeeding and am invested in this goal. This is what I have for now. If anything changes, then I’ll make sure to update. And if you have any suggestions, words of wisdom or any other info you think may be helpful, then please let on.

I created a gofundme campaign which you can click here or in the sidebar of this blog to visit, because although I received funding for travel, it does not cover the cost of lodging and other miscellaneous items that I need to record information and process this. Please consider pitching in what you can so I can do this important work and thank you in advance. And thank you for helping to spread the word!

No, I’m not thrilled about this CONFEDERATE flag, but it’s the pattern of the state. Is that crazy, or what?!