Commentary Strange Fruit

While becoming a mother is often a wondrous, exciting and joyous endeavor, it can also be wrought with anxiety, fear and even danger for many black women.

We begin this week by speaking with author Dani McClain about the politics of black motherhood, and her TIME essay “I Won’t Let Racism Rob My Black Child of Joy.” In the essay, McClain recounts being pregnant with her first child in the summer of 2016 — the same summer that Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota were killed by police.

“Reading the news of these men’s deaths brought to mind black children who had died just as senselessly: 17-year-old Jordan Davis, gunned down at a Florida gas station by a white man annoyed by the music Davis and his friends played; 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed by police in a Cleveland playground as he held a toy gun; 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, shot and killed by police during a middle-of-the-night raid on her home.”

In order to avoid succumbing to her fears, McClain made a plan to interview black mothers, grandmothers and other experts about how she could raise a carefree joyous child while still keeping her safe. The result became her first book, “We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood.”

“I understand that simultaneously demanding that our children be allowed to be children and carefully introducing them to the realities of black life in this country are just part of the work,” McClain writes. “Dancing, laughing and finding pleasure in the small things may be of value to most families, but for black families, engaging in joyful practices is necessary to our survival, to our ability to fully claim our humanity.”

Later in the show, we speak with Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet, MD, about her work as executive director of Merck for Mothers, a global initiative to reduce maternal mortality worldwide.

In her op-ed, “Black Women Dying From Childbirth Is Persistent, But Here’s How We Can Reverse This Unacceptable Trend,” Etiebet notes that more women in the United States die today from complications of pregnancy and childbirth than 20 years ago. Further, Black women are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy or childbirth related complication than white women.

We examine the causes of this trend and the work being do to reverse it.

Listen to the show: