Are you following Sherry Payne's Walk for Black Infant Mortality Awareness? She's walking across the state of Missouri to "bring attention to the invisible epidemic of African-American infant mortality - babies dying prior to their first birthday." We connected with Sherry before the walk began to learn more about her path to midwifery, her projects at Uzazi Village, and how we can all support the walk. You can also hear her speak at the upcoming MANA convention.
Q: You have had a complex journey on your path towards midwifery. Can you tell us about it?
I spent many years trying to decide which pathway would be appropriate for me. I hope to eventually have both a CNM and a CPM credential. I have started working with my CPM preceptor and have applied to CNM schools and am waiting to hear back. My path has been like many others. I started 20 years ago as a homebirth mother, then became a doula, then went to nursing school. I had a career as a labor and delivery nurse, then returned to school to get a masters in nursing education. I taught for a few years and then decided the time was right to pursue my midwifery education now that my youngest is now seven years old.
Q: This has not been a simple path for you. Why is becoming a midwife so important to you?
My passion is perinatal health, and my mission is decreasing perinatal health inequities, so midwifery care is an important component of that. I believe the midwifery model of care is appropriate for my community, even though the women of my community are the least likely to have access to a midwife. Becoming a midwife is important to me and my community to demonstrate what is possible when midwifery care is applied in a culturally congruent manner.
Q: Do you think there are challenges common to women of color who are working towards being a midwife?
I think there are tremendous challenges to becoming a midwife for women of color. Chief among them are the tensions associated with working with dominant culture preceptors and their dominant culture clients. Will your preceptor understand your cultural context? Will the clients accept you as a care provider? I once had a client barely speak to me or answer my questions. When the midwife later entered the room, the client had nonstop questions. Afterward the midwife asked me why I hadn’t answered the client’s questions. I told her the client barely spoke to me even when I asked repeatedly if she had questions. I was in an awkward position: either look incompetent to my preceptor or present her client as not wanting to work with me. It was a very uncomfortable situation. Taking on a woman of color as a student will be fraught with such landmines. A lot of preceptors even unconsciously decide they don’t want to take this on. It can pit them against their own clients if their client is uncomfortable having a woman of color touch them. Some midwives don’t want to discover this about their clients or maybe even about themselves. All across the country I hear midwife students of color say what a difficult time they have finding preceptors.
Q: Tell us about your work at Uzazi Village.
Uzazi Village is a community-based nonprofit devoted to improving perinatal health in the urban core. We provide culturally congruent education for childbearing families, doula and breastfeeding support services. We also work with providers, offering continuing education on culturally congruent care and other perinatal topics. Finally we offer training and support for candidates of color pursuing perinatal careers.
Q: Can this model be replicated in other communities?
We have several replicable programs intended to be duplicated in other communities of color. The Chocolate Milk Cafe is a mother-to-mother support group model specifically for African-American women to support them in their breastfeeding journeys. Our Sister Doula Program™ pairs specially trained doulas with pregnant women on Medicaid. Finally, our Lactation Consultant Mentorship Program places IBLCE candidates in our free walk-in clinic, paired with qualified mentors to achieve mentorship hours required toward the credential. This program is designed to increase the number of IBCLCs of color.
Q: Tell us what you are speaking about at the MANA conference this year.
My two breakout session topics in October will be: “Saving Ourselves - Black Midwives and Doulas Impacting Inequities” and “What You Don’t Know Hurts Us: Racism, White Privilege, and Perinatal Health Inequities”. These two sessions will showcase what doulas and midwives of color are doing around the country to positively impact their communities and show how allies can assist in these efforts. It is always difficult to hear the structural racism and white privilege talk. Midwives, especially those who work with women of color and in communities of color, want to believe that they are doing good works. Having to confront structural racism in organizations and institutions they love and are committed to can be very challenging. I hope in my presentations at MANA to challenge midwives to really look at their own privilege, whom they do and don’t serve, the structural cultures of their organizations, and what work they need to do to move into a more aware space that would make room for students, apprentices, and clients of color. Not just having them there, but making them feel welcome and wanted.
Q: Tell us about the Black Infant Mortality Awareness Walk.
I plan to walk across the state of Missouri from September 1-10, 2014. My goal is to raise money for Uzazi Village Sister Doulas Program™, bring awareness to Black Infant Mortality, and engage my state in conversations about solutions to the problem of perinatal health inequities in my community. I have a support team that will accompany me. I plan to stop in towns and cities along the way and speak to churches, and universities, and hospitals. My first stop will be to legislators in the Missouri state capital to engage them on problems with Medicaid and to ask for Medicaid expansion. I have been planning this walk for months and training to get myself in condition. I’m hoping it will be a catalyst for others around the country to take on similar projects. Black infant mortality is a complex, multifaceted issue that needs to be addressed on many levels.
Q: How can readers support your work?
- Go to our fundraising website and make a donation.
- Get pledges, track my walk, and collect donations based on the number of miles I walk
- Go to our website and learn more about our organization and our programs www.uzazivillage.com
- Make a donation to Uzazi Village on its donation page
- If you are local to Kansas City, volunteer for one of our groundbreaking programs
- Knit or crochet Boobie Hats for our mothers for gifts
- Donate new and used babywearing gear for our Babywearing Fashion Shows
- Schedule a talk or presentation with Sherry for your group or organization
- Schedule a visit to Uzazi Village to learn more about what we do
- Attend one or both of my sessions at MANA to learn more about health inequities
- Track my daily progress on my walk
- Join me on my walk for a day or two
- Tell other’s about my work and mission
- Tell me about others doing similar work
- Friend me on Facebook, or like my Walk for Infant Mortality page or Uzazi Village page
- Drop me a line, I can be reached at email@example.com 913-638-0716
Sherry L. Payne has a bachelors of nursing and a masters in nursing education. She is pursing midwifery education and works part-time as a seminar presenter and nurse educator. She is a lactation consultant and a certified nurse educator. Upon completion of her midwifery studies, she plans to open an urban prenatal clinic and birth center. Ms. Payne founded Uzazi Village, a nonprofit dedicated to decreasing health disparites in the urban core. She owns Perinatal ReSource an education, training and consulting firm. She is an editor for Clinical Lactation Journal, and sits on the board of CIMS, Coalition to Improve Maternity Services. She also sits on her local FIMR Board (fetal infant mortality review). She presents nationally on perinatal and nursing education issues. Her career goals include increasing the number of midwives of color and improving lactation rates in the African American community through published investigative research and application of evidence based clinical practice and innovation in healthcare delivery models.