The year 2020 – when anger at long-standing police violence boiled over with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery – is often called America’s racial reckoning. An estimated 15 to 26 million people took part in Black Lives Matters demonstrations in the US that year, making them the largest wave of protests in this country’s history.
That year, Amanda Mullen had recently come on to the staff of Atlanta Birth Center, first in the role of Office Manager and then rising to Director of Operations. “I stepped into a leadership role during a time of great racial unrest,” says Amanda.
“It was a time of heart cry from Black women like myself, a mother of 5 children who had never had a Black midwife. It was a time when it was clear that the Black maternal health crisis reflected a broken system. It was a time to ask hard questions about why we as a country, and Georgia as a state, were not moving to provide the safe, culturally congruent care that Black communities need.”
Thanks to those hard questions, Atlanta Birth Center created a Birth Equity Task Force in 2020, which later became the Black Maternal Equity Council, that now serves the center’s board, gathering information, crafting recommendations, and advocating for change.
“Atlanta Birth Center exists to be of service to our communities,” says Midwife Director Anjli Hinman, a midwife of color herself, who was also one of the center’s co-founders when the center’s vision was birthed over 12 years ago. “Being responsive, evolving naturally and intentionally, has led us to make important changes in our center.”
Amanda and Anjli proudly list key changes Atlanta Birth Center has made in its mission towards equitable birth, including creating and fundraising for a Client Care Assistance Fund in winter 2020, to address the financial barriers Black pregnant people face in accessing the center’s care and additional needed services. In the same year, Atlanta Birth Center established specific support groups for Black pregnant and postpartum people, free to the community whether they are a birth center client or not, as well as a birth workers of color scholarship program to increase opportunities for people of color who are often priced out of training and education in the birth field.
Today, Atlanta Birth Center is guided by Black leadership from its Board President and Director of Operations (Amanda), and the majority of the center’s clients are now Black.
“2020 shined the light on organizations such as ours,” says Amanda. “What does it look like to become a place that is holistically for all people? How do we ensure that birth centers don’t feel like exclusively white spaces?”
While Atlanta Birth Center has made significant changes, director Anjli is adamant that the center’s commitment to birth equity must remain strong. “Birth equity must be a sustained effort,” she says. “There is no beginning or end. This is an ongoing push for liberation that gives me hope for the future and the world.”
Photo: A loving and safe birth at Atlanta Birth Center (credit: www.kaylamadonna.com)