It's been a minute! The Birth Justice Podcast NYC team has been deep in process for the last year to bring you season 2 in 2022! But before we jump into a new season, it felt important to revisit and review some of the wisdom and insight from season one. Tune in to take a trip down memory lane and hear highlights from our esteemed guests as well as updates about the podcast.
Also: this podcast will be getting a new name! Stay tuned for details and be sure to support this work on Patreon.com/TajaLindley!
Hosted and Created by Taja Lindley
Produced by Colored Girls Hustle
Music, Soundscape and Audio Engineering by Emma Alabaster
[00:00:00] Taja Lindley (Host): So then you're continuing your relationship with Marcus
[00:00:03] Adrianne Robinson: Yup.
[00:00:03] Taja Lindley (Host): Who ends up being my dad.
[00:00:05] Adrianne Robinson: Yes.
[00:00:05] Taja Lindley (Host): And so, yeah. How was that relationship going and how do you get pregnant?
[00:00:11] Adrianne Robinson: So you want me to give you the details?
[00:00:16] Taja Lindley (Host): I mean, we can keep it PG 13. I'm just curious about...
[00:00:18] Adrianne Robinson: I'm not going to go there. Cause I think I do know when you were conceived.
[00:00:23] Taja Lindley (Host): Okay. I mean...
[00:00:23] Adrianne Robinson: But I'm not going to share how, or where it was.
[00:00:26] Taja Lindley (Host): I think we all know how! I think we all know how! You know, in some ways we don't need to go into...
[00:00:32] Adrianne Robinson: I'm not going to say, yeah, the where and when.
[00:00:33] Taja Lindley (Host): We don't need to know position or how long it was.
[00:00:36] Adrianne Robinson: Okay.
[00:00:37] Taja Lindley (Host): Y'all, that's my momma you heard talking. Adrianne Robinson. And I had the pleasure of interviewing her in the very first episode of the Birth Justice Podcast NYC.
[00:00:50] Taja Lindley (Host): It felt important to start the podcast off with a birth story and with a bit of history. And I got both in this interview with my mom, as she shared what it was like to give birth to me in New York City in 1985. And of course I had to release this episode and kick off the podcast on my birthday. It only felt right.
[00:01:09] Taja Lindley (Host): Now my mom said a lot of things that surprised me. It was my first time hearing my whole birth story, including how I was conceived. So maybe not all the details of how and when I was created, but I got the gist.
[00:01:25] Taja Lindley (Host): My mother was really vulnerable sharing, all kinds of details from her birth control methods to her troubled relationship with her parents. She also shared what it was like to be pregnant as a young woman in nursing school. And what it was like to give birth to me two weeks before her 20th birthday.
[00:01:41] Taja Lindley (Host): Season one of the Birth Justice Podcast, NYC was a wild ride. In a dozen episodes, we covered over 20 hours of content, examining the intersections of race, gender, and birth. We are currently preparing for season two, which will drop later in 2022. But before we launch into a new season, it feels important to review some though, not all, of the wisdom and insight we received in season one. And to share a few juicy details about what you can expect in season two.
[00:02:15] Taja Lindley (Host): After chatting with my mom in episode one, we covered the history of reproductive health, rights, and justice. In episode two. I interviewed Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, author of "Medical Bondage," about the history of American medicine. And we can't talk about the origins of American gynecology without also talking about James Marion Sims, the so-called father of gynecology. His achievements in medicine were rooted in his experiments on enslaved Black women, justified by racist ideologies and beliefs.
[00:02:50] Deirdre Cooper Owens: Sims didn't create the ideology, or set up at least, Black people didn't experience pain or somehow Black women's bodies were constructed in ways that made them give birth, like dogs or rabbits. This had already been established throughout the European world. Right? So when there were things that was original called natural history, that then becomes science that then becomes obstetrics and gynecology. These ideas about black people's difference, or biological difference, had already existed. So Sims doesn't have to create anything. He can just step into place because these systems are already there.
[00:03:29] Taja Lindley (Host): Indeed Sims was not exceptional. Okay? He had peers in the budding medical field who operated in very similar ways. This kind of behavior in medicine and science was considered acceptable. And it begs the question. How do you know when something is quote, unquote wrong if what is wrong is normalized?
[00:03:51] Taja Lindley (Host): Despite his lack of exceptionalism, Sims is often honored in medical schools and in monuments, like the one that was recently removed in East Harlem under pressure from local activists. The people worth honoring, however, like the enslaved Black women, he repeatedly experimented on are often unnamed in part, because we do not know all of their names.
[00:04:16] Taja Lindley (Host): But we do know a three. Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy. Many people, including Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, refer to them as the mothers of gynecology. And as she was navigating her own reproductive health care, dr. Cooper Owens was reminded that she lives in the wake of their legacy.
[00:04:39] Deirdre Cooper Owens: And here I was, had all the box ticked as a "respectable Black person." I was married. I was a professor. I had a PhD. I lived in Manhattan. All of these things that was supposed to protect me. And ultimately none of that matters when you have been reduced to other people's stereotypical ideas about who you are and what you represent. And so that really was what that afterward was about. I am Anarcha's daughter and Lucy's daughter and Betsy's daughter, and all of those other countless women whose names had not been recorded in the historical record that I am their daughter.
[00:05:16] Taja Lindley (Host): Indeed. We are the daughters. I too am the daughter of Anarcha, Betsy and Lucy. And we honor their legacy in our lives and in our organizing.
[00:05:29] Taja Lindley (Host): In episode three, I chatted with Leslie Grant Spann about teen moms organizing for dignity and education in the Bronx in the early 2000's. In addition to sharing her birth stories, she also gave us some insight about what it was like to organize among her peers of pregnant and parenting teens with a group called Sistas on the Rise.
[00:05:48] Leslie Grant Spann: At least 30% of the young women that we were serving were in foster care. It wasn't just the fact that now this young person was a pregnant and parenting teen, life was happening to them on a lot of different fronts. And they were interacting with a multitude of city and governmental systems that had zero interest in their survival. And so that's when the reproductive justice framework started to make more sense to us when we started understanding the institutional oppression that our young people was facing.
[00:06:19] Taja Lindley (Host): Leslie went from being a member of the organization to a staff person and later the executive director. And during her tenure with the organization, Leslie was able to grow her leadership skills and strengthen her voice.
[00:06:33] Leslie Grant Spann: And Sistas on the Rise came right at the right time. The work that it was doing, helped me to find a voice at a time where I was completely voiceless, completely invisible, right. A teen in the juvenile justice system, a pregnant teen and a homeless teen. I was like rocking out on a lot of different fronts in terms of people not wanting to see me, not wanting to hear my voice, my voice being one of those voices that shouldn't matter because something about whatever I had done in my life, my choices didn't "qualify" me to have a voice. Sistas on the Rise, helped change my perspective and really activate me to push back against the world that was telling me that I didn't need to be seen and I didn't need to be heard. And that somehow all of my life choices were a mistake.
[00:07:13] Taja Lindley (Host): The reproductive justice framework supported Sistas on the Rise with taking an intersectional look at how education policy affected teen moms. And in episode seven, professor Lynn Roberts shared about how the intersectional nature of the reproductive justice framework inspired her undergrad students to question the New York City Health Department's "Maybe the IUD" campaign about seven years ago.
[00:07:38] Lynn Roberts: They brought to my attention a need to work with the Department of Health in New York City around a campaign about long-acting reversible contraceptives. It was students who were interning there who said, "well, maybe this framework we learned about in professor Robert's class..." made them think about you know this campaign that was going to be rolled out at a predominantly Black student campus, in New York City, Medgar Evers. By choosing Medgar Evers, it was almost like they were saying: "we really want Black women to have these, you know, young, Black women."
[00:08:12] Lynn Roberts: And that does feel a little bit like population control. If you aren't concerned about their whole health, their whole body experience. And are you doing that because you think that becoming pregnant is the worst thing that could happen to somebody? Are you also interested in what their other needs are? Their other sexual reproductive health, but also their broader, you know, social, economic needs? Or even just their needs for basic human dignity. And to be able to have those conversations, bringing that to the Department of Health, they eventually led to broader conversations about their work and an introduction of the framework itself.
[00:08:51] Taja Lindley (Host): Speaking of the New York City Health Department - in 2019 I was selected to be the inaugural Public Artist in Residence. But, because of COVID, my large scale public art project in the Bronx was indefinitely postponed and pivoted to create this podcast.
[00:09:12] Taja Lindley (Host): Because this project started in the Bronx it felt important to feature Bronx voices, perspectives and analysis in the inaugural season of the podcast. I invited all of the co-founders of the BX Rebirth and Progress Collective on the show. And thankfully they all said, yes! BX Rebirth and Progress began as a mutual aid project in the Bronx, providing diapers, wipes, and formula for families during the pandemic. They have since expanded with additional services to support pregnant and parenting people in the borough.
[00:09:45] Taja Lindley (Host): In episode five, I chatted with Carmen Mojica- a midwife, mother, doula, and co-founder of BX Rebirth and Progress. What really stands out to me is when we examined the limitations of maternal mortality statistics.
[00:10:01] Carmen Mojica: I think some folks act like it's happening in a vacuum. Like we're just addressing the fact that somebody is dying. We're not talking about: what was the long journey that it took for that person to die? Because that person didn't just die instantaneously. Decisions that were made based on racism that made that happen. I do want folks to stop dying obviously, but I'm also more invested in folks that are having really whack prenatal care, right. Like folks that are experiencing trauma and are alive, but now they have this trauma to contend with, while they're trying to raise their child. And now we're continuing to pass on intergenerational trauma at the hands of the medical system.
[00:10:39] Taja Lindley (Host): So then the question becomes, what do we do with the hospitals that are causing this harm?
[00:10:44] Carmen Mojica: We need to get the fuck up out these hospitals. The task of creating racial equity and eradicating racism from the United States is so many years in the future that we can continue to work on that, but if we want this to stop effective immediately, we have to create our own spaces to give birth safely. Period.
[00:11:07] Taja Lindley (Host): And if you're unfamiliar with what harm looks like for Black birthing people in hospitals. The other co-founders of BX Rebirth and Progress gave us some poignant examples.
[00:11:18] Taja Lindley (Host): In episode nine, I interviewed Nicole Jean-Baptiste. Who, in addition to being a co-founder of BX Rebirth and Progress, she's also a mother of two, a full spectrum doula, and the founder of Sese Doula Services.
[00:11:31] Taja Lindley (Host): During the time of producing the first season of the podcast in 2020, a 26 year old Black woman by the name of Amber Rose Isaac died during an emergency C-section in a Bronx hospital.
[00:11:42] Taja Lindley (Host): Before she lost her life, Amber tweeted about the disrespectful treatment she experienced at Montefiore Hospital. Nicole shared how Amber's death spurred her into action.
[00:11:52] Nicole Jean Baptiste: I planned an action outside of Montefiore Hospital on the same day that her partner was going to hold a press conference where people would gather and say Amber's name and demonstrate to the public that this is a site of harm. you know because I think one of the interesting and fortunate, but unfortunate things about what happened was that she called out the hospital. That's very unusual that people are made privy to the actual institution at which the harm and oftentimes death occurs. And what that is is it's a cover up. Why is it that such great lengths are taken to protect the spaces when very little regard is given to actual human beings? So I say that to say: I felt moved enough to end my self-imposed quarantine to stand up for this level of injustice. And what's happening now is her partner, Bruce McIntyre is actively working to honor her name and to do his part, to ensure that these preventable deaths during pregnancy and birth do not happen anymore.
[00:13:15] Taja Lindley (Host): And I also want to be clear, not all racist and disrespectful treatment ends in death. Sometimes it's in the more subtle interactions with healthcare providers.
[00:13:26] Nicole Jean Baptiste: There's less of a need for white patients to have to repeat themselves, you know. And sometimes it's, as basic as that. What is being requested by them is almost instantly respected and understood and not undermined, and not questioned either.
[00:13:46] Nicole Jean Baptiste: I keep going back to the epidural scenario because that's one of the more common ones. I've been in too many situations where people will make it known that they want to avoid that form of intervention. And yet, it's being pushed on them. I was recently at a birth earlier this year where my client successfully circumvented the epidural. And after her baby was born, she was speaking with the nurses. And one of the nurses who had been coming in, and who was one of the main culprits where this whole epidural push and coercion was concerned, she outright confessed. She was just like, "you know, I really thought you were going to fold. I really, that, I didn't think that yeah, most of our people, most of our people, they, they go for the epidural." And then that was also very telling it, it made me wonder whether this is the way that most of the hospital staff think.
[00:14:52] Nicole Jean Baptiste: A lot of times people will report that they did not feel like they were being listened to and what that turns into, oftentimes, is a distraction for the birthing person. You're trying to focus on the process and the experience of birthing. But you're finding it difficult because you are in what feels like a fight with other people when that should not be the case.
[00:15:19] Taja Lindley (Host): In the season finale, I interviewed Evelyn Alvarez, the third co-founder of BX Rebirth and Progress. She is also a mother, doula and trainer. She told this story of assisting a birth.
[00:15:33] Evelyn Alvarez: My client was a trans man and they kept telling me: please ask them not to say mom."
[00:15:39] Taja Lindley (Host): Your client is asking you to tell the staff...
[00:15:42] Evelyn Alvarez: My client is asking me to tell the staff not to say mom. "If they're going to address me to please say like, you know, Joey, for example."
[00:15:50] Taja Lindley (Host): Okay, like use their name or something.
[00:15:52] Evelyn Alvarez: Use their name. Right. Or just use the pronouns, the preferred pronoun. It was like nine hours of refusal to use the pronoun. Everybody that came in the room: "Hey mom, how's she doing? It was warmth in the tone, but just complete dismissal of the request.
[00:16:07] Taja Lindley (Host): In season one, we examine some of the ways pregnant and parenting people experience harm that's not often centered or discussed in mainstream maternal health conversations. For example, in episode 10, I chatted with Erin Miles Cloud. A mother, a lawyer and the co-founder and co-director of Movement for Family Power.
[00:16:28] Taja Lindley (Host): In our conversation, she thoroughly breaks down the child welfare system. And the ways that system interacts with pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.
[00:16:36] Erin Miles Cloud: Pregnant people who use drugs are seeing removals, and investigations and surveillance of their home and body that are inconsistent with medical practices, that are inconsistent with what we see with white people who are also using substances at same or higher rates.
[00:16:51] Erin Miles Cloud: And we're seeing this legacy of the war and drugs center itself, and actually be ground zero in our child welfare system. And we accept that in our society because we have this idea of what pregnant people are, what they should do and what mothering should be that is inconsistent with what it means to be human. It's a pathology and a concept that this person's now a horrible parent. That there's nothing that they can do.
[00:17:14] Erin Miles Cloud: And what we know is that a drug test is not a parenting test. That drug use and parenting are two different inquiries and someone could be a great parent and use drugs. And someone could be a terrible parent who doesn't use drugs. Those two things are different inquiries, but we still see a massive conflation between those concepts.
[00:17:35] Taja Lindley (Host): In that episode, Erin further explains how the war on drugs has translated to a war on Black birthing people. And listeners got to revisit that conversation in episode 11, when I interviewed the folks at the National Harm Reduction Coalition. Nathalia Gibbs, a Harm Reduction Coordinator at the Coalition, gave us some additional insight.
[00:17:55] Nathalia Gibbs: If you were not a person using drugs, being a Black birthing person in the City is already dangerous and criminalized. So if you're a Black birthing person, who's using drugs and pregnant, these are all things that whether explicitly or not people hold and think about and, and make it difficult to navigate care.
[00:18:12] Nathalia Gibbs: Like you're already talking about somebody who might be at a baseline going into the hospital and not being listened to. And so to know that you are a person using drugs, who's already not listened to and criminalized in all of these other spaces, that's going to compound.
[00:18:28] Nathalia Gibbs: If you were a pregnant person who was using a drug and went to get prenatal care, they might not give you good care right off the bat. They might not give you care at all. They might turn you away.
[00:18:39] Taja Lindley (Host): That baseline that Nathalia talked about, that not being listened to, is exactly what Nicole Jean-Baptiste discussed as well.
[00:18:49] Taja Lindley (Host): The other through line here is coercion. Nathalia mentioned folks who use drugs are sometimes encouraged to terminate a pregnancy.
[00:18:57] Taja Lindley (Host): But what happens when you're pregnant in New York City, and want to get an abortion, but instead you're coerced into carrying the pregnancy to term? Essentially coerced into childbirth and parenthood? That question is what Elizabeth Estrada and I discussed in episode six.
[00:19:16] Taja Lindley (Host): Elizabeth is the New York Field and Advocacy Manager at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. In her role, she works with New Yorkers and advocates to blow the whistle on organizations that are fake clinics posing as abortion clinics.
[00:19:31] Elizabeth Estrada: The point of the organizations is to confuse and detour and it is by design that they are stationed nearby, in front of, next to, in the same buildings, legitimate abortion clinics. In this particular case here in the Bronx with EMC, it's located across the street from Planned Parenthood.
[00:19:50] NARRATION: And if you think fake clinics are rare, you're sadly mistaken.
[00:19:54] Elizabeth Estrada: Even in a quote unquote "liberal bastion" that we live in, fake clinics outnumber the amount of real legitimate healthcare providing clinics in New York. 120 fake clinics live in the state of New York.
[00:20:08] Taja Lindley (Host): That number blew my mind!
[00:20:12] Taja Lindley (Host): And speaking of numbers, my interview with Natasha Johnson also brought up some startling statistics. Natasha is an activist, an artist, an advocate and an attorney. And in episode eight, we discussed female genital mutilation and cutting. Or FGMC for short. And the ways it impacts the sexual and reproductive health of New Yorkers.
[00:20:33] Natasha Johnson: When you have a number like 65,000, just in the New York City metropolitan area, half a million in the country, we all know somebody who's experiencing this or a threat of it. Whether we actually know that consciously or not. They are our colleague. They're our friend. They're our students. They're our neighbor. They may be us.
[00:20:53] Taja Lindley (Host): If you're unfamiliar with FGMC, here's some of the ways that it impacts sexual and reproductive health.
[00:21:00] Natasha Johnson: My experience has been, most folks don't come into a hospital or medical facility with leading FGMC symptoms. They have other symptoms that are oftentimes created because of FGMC. For instance, they may have severe keloids, or severe bleeding, or really pronounced UTIs (urinary tract infections) that prohibit them from you know the normalcy of life, comfort and ease. Or they might be pregnant and be coming for prenatal services and, this often happened to a lot of my clients, doctors realized, wow, you've been modified.
[00:21:33] Taja Lindley (Host): And while these numbers and this information can be startling, I want to be clear. On this show, we don't just talk about statistics and problems. We also discuss and examine potential solutions. Questions to live through. And finding our way forward.
[00:21:49] Taja Lindley (Host): That's why I love this beautiful and important message from Chanel Porchia - mother, doula, and founder and director of Ancient Song Doula Services, who had the pleasure of interviewing in episode four.
[00:22:01] Chanel Porchia: What does it mean for us to center intergenerational hope? For us to understand that the present that you're standing at right now is the hope of your ancestors that they had in the past. And like, what you're working towards in the present is a hope for the future.
[00:22:17] Taja Lindley (Host): Speaking of the future, stay tuned for season two in 2022. Where I will be switching up the format and widening the scope while maintaining a commitment to birth justice and reproductive justice.
[00:22:31] Taja Lindley (Host): Now before we go, I'mma leave you with one more moment from Evelyn Alvarez, which captures why this podcast matters.
[00:22:40] Evelyn Alvarez: Because when you lift Black women who lift everybody else. Period. Like that's it. When you lift black women you lift everybody because so much of the work of humanity falls on our back So it behooves everybody to look out for us because when you look out for us, we look out for everybody. And then, you know just a reminder that like all health is maternal health. There is no space that does not impact maternal health.
[00:22:58] Evelyn Alvarez: When we talk about economic justice, that's maternal health. If we're talking about restorative justice, that's maternal health. If we're talking about reproductive justice, that's maternal health. So all health is maternal health.
[00:23:08] Taja Lindley (Host): Periodt. Okay. Reproductive justice is an intersectional framework and that's exactly why a third of the season featured conversations that are not widely discussed or centered in maternal health.
[00:23:23] Taja Lindley (Host): This project was my first podcast y'all. And I give thanks for the thousands of folks who tuned in every week to learn more about how New Yorkers are navigating sexual and reproductive health.
[00:23:35] Taja Lindley (Host): I also give thanks for our esteemed guests who helped us make sense and meaning of the challenges, and also gave us questions and insight to consider as we find our way forward.
[00:23:45] Taja Lindley (Host): In the next season you can expect to hear from more than one guest in an episode, and for the focus to shift from NYC to nationwide.
[00:23:53] Taja Lindley (Host): And P. S. this podcast will be getting a new name. So stay tuned for announcements and details. Be sure to support this podcast on Patreon. Like many things in our world, the Patreon has transformed. It does more than support this podcast. It supports all of my creative projects. If you'd like to support my work and the sustainability of this podcast, I encourage you to consider: join my Patrion for as little as $8 a month. During season two, there will be some exclusive additional content that will only be available via Patreon. Visit Patreon.com/TajaLindley to learn more.
[00:24:31] Taja Lindley (Host): The Birth Justice Podcast NYC is created and hosted by yours truly, Taja Lindley.
[00:24:36] Taja Lindley (Host): Produced by Colored Girls Hustle.
[00:24:38] Taja Lindley (Host): With the music, soundscape and audio engineering by Emma Alabaster.
[00:24:43] Taja Lindley (Host): Outro Music
[00:24:44] Taja Lindley (Host): See you soon.
Co-Founder, Doula, Facilitator, Mother
Evelyn Alvarez facilitates workshops for educators and parents about Restorative Justice and practices, race and equity, and other topics. She is also founder of Prom King, a nonprofit that donates clothes to urban students to enable them to participate in special life events. She is one of three lead trainers at Radio Caña Negra, where they lead workshops about anti-Blackness in the Latinx community and co-host the Radio Caña Negra podcast. Most recently she is a co-founder of Bronx Rebirth and Progress. This collective donates diapers and formula to families in need. Bx Rebirth offers low cost doula support, mentoring to new doulas, and supports advocacy efforts that seek to improve maternal health outcomes for Black people in New York.
Harm Reduction Coordinator, Doula
Nathalia Gibbs (They/She) is a queer black doula, organizer and passionate believer in harm reduction. They joined Harm Reduction Coalition in September 2019 as LGBTQ and Harm Reduction Coordinator where she is currently working on building the Lighthouse Learning Collective. The Collective’s goal is to build between LGBTQ service providers, substance use service providers, and communities to transform systems of care for people who use drugs.
Co-Director, Co-Founder, Mother
Erin Miles Cloud is the co-director/co-founder of Movement for Family Power, and a former family defense public defender. She is Baltimore born, and Bronx living. She is Black mother of two beautiful children.
Doula, Co-Founder, Mother
Of Southern American and Caribbean ancestry and based in the Bronx, New York, Nicole Jean Baptiste strives to center the borough and the Black experience in the birth and social justice activism in which she engages. Nicole is currently a Community Doula Consultant for the New York City Health Department’s COVID-19 Perinatal Taskforce. She is the founder of Sésé Doula Services and co-founder of the Bx (Re)Birth and Progress Collective.
Artist, Activist, Attorney
Natasha Johnson has been an educator for 21 years and an attorney for 15 years. In 2015 she founded Globalizing Gender (GG) where she educates, prevents, and reforms Gender-Based Violence (GBV) through capacity building, rule of law, governance, and awareness. Natasha organized NYC’s inaugural march to end FGM/C in the United States and is currently co-authoring NYC’s first holistic FGM/C legislation. As an artist she curates public forums and creates editorial-styled work that critiques and raises awareness of GBV. Natasha earned her Juris Doctorate from CUNY School of Law, her yoga certification from Breathe for Change, and her Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia University.
Professor, Associate Dean, Mother, Grandmother
Dr. Lynn Roberts earned a BS in human development from Howard University (1984) and a PhD in Human Services Studies from Cornell University (1991). She is the Associate Dean of Student Affairs & Alumni Relations and a tenured faculty member in the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. Prior to CUNY, she oversaw the development, implementation and evaluation of several programs for women and youth in NYC. She is an emeritus board member of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and co-edited the anthology, Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique (Feminist Press, November 2017).
New York Field and Advocacy Manager
Elizabeth Estrada serves as the New York Field and Advocacy Manager at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice. Previously, she served as the Civic Engagement Manager where she worked to raise the voices of Latinas nationally for policy change at all levels of government on issues that impact people's reproductive freedom and self-determination. Elizabeth immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 4, where she remained undocumented until age 13. She began as a Sexual and Reproductive Health “Promotora” for the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Elizabeth has had the honor of organizing hundreds of women on reproductive justice in her 10 years of grassroots organizing experience.
Midwife, Activist, Co-Founder, Mother
Carmen Mojica is an Afro-Dominicana born and raised in the Bronx. She is a midwife, writer and reproductive health activist. The focus of her work is on the empowerment of women and people of the African Diaspora, specifically discussing the Afro-Latina identity. She utilizes her experience as a midwife to raise awareness on maternal and infant health for women, highlighting the disparities in the healthcare system in the United States for women of color. She is a cofounder of BX (Re)Birth and Progress Collective.
Commissioner, CEO, Doula, Mother
Commissioner Chanel L. Porchia Albert CD, CPD, CLC, CHHC is the Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Ancient Song Doula Services; A reproductive health organization of over 70 full-spectrum community-based doulas focused on providing resources and full-spectrum doula services to women of color and marginalized communities throughout NYC and Northern New Jersey. She is a certified lactation counselor, midwifery assistant, and vegan chef who has
served on various advisory boards throughout the country. When she is not working on legislative policy or facilitating workshops, you can find her spending time with her six children.
Former Exec. Director of Sistas on the Rise, Mother
Leslie Grant-Spann began her work in social justice as a 15-year-old-mother working with Sistas on the Rise in the South Bronx. Leslie organized other young mothers around access to education and childcare in New York with intersections to the larger reproductive justice movement.
Leslie has served in a number of leadership positions: Executive Director of Sistas on the Rise (2007-2011); Secretary to the Board of Directors for SisterSong (2007-2013); and as a member of the Standing in our Power Leadership team (2013-present). Leslie is the Director of Conferences and Convenings for Race Forward. In this role, Leslie is the Executive Producer of the Facing Race National Conference: the largest multiracial racial justice conference in the United States. Leslie also manages the production of over two dozen in-person and virtual events for the organization annually. In 2019 Leslie founded 31st Event Productions LLC which supports organizations and businesses to produce unique and inclusive in-person and virtual experiences to drive mission and brand awareness.
Author, Professor, Scholar, Historian
Deirdre Cooper Owens is the Linda and Charles Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is an Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer and has won a number of prestigious honors for her scholarly and advocacy work. A popular public speaker, Dr. Cooper Owens has spoken widely across the U.S. and Europe. She has published articles, essays, book chapters, and think pieces on a number of issues that concern African American experiences. Her first book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology (Univ. of Georgia Press, 2017) won the 2018 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians as the best book written in African American women’s and gender history. Professor Cooper Owens is also the Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the country’s oldest cultural institution. She is working on a second book project that examines mental illness during the era of United States slavery and is writing a popular biography of Harriet Tubman that examines her through the lens of disability.
Adrianne Robinson has always had a passion for science and helping others, while growing up her passion translated into her career. Adrianne obtained her degree in nursing at Beth Israel School of Nursing, completing her program while 7 months pregnant with her first daughter, Taja Lindley. She likes to joke that Taja has an honorary degree in nursing because she graduated with her. Adrianne is currently an RN with 30+ years of experience in various areas of the healthcare industry including geriatrics, hospice, and homecare. Adrianne has concluded that the hardest thing about motherhood is keeping your cool when others try to come for your kids.