Taking a Mission Moment with Brenda Reyes

The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee hosted a Special Membership Meeting on Thursday, September 24, 2020, to install our 2020-2021 Board cohort. At the beginning of the meeting, our Immediate Past Secretary of the Board, Brenda Reyes, delivered the "Mission Moment" (reproduced below), a grounding moment to connect the work that we do to the lives that we aim to serve.

Brenda's words are an important reminder of why public health is critical and why the work of policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change is the way forward as we seek to transform the landscape of lactation support. We must work to change the context through PSE interventions and commit to addressing the social determinants of health (SDoH) that shape that context. This takes us to the expansive space of deeply recognizing that the families we serve all live, work, and play within a broader milieu that exhibits disproportionately oppressive forces on some peoples and communities.

We know that human milk feeding is a powerful public health intervention with the ability to save lives. We seek to promote that message to families, communities, providers, funders, and legislators, but in doing this work, we have to remember that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

A single-minded focus on breastfeeding without attuning efforts and interventions to a communities' genuine plight is short-sighted and likely ineffectual.

Thank you, Brenda, for centering us and sharing your words of wisdom about the realities that families, especially those from priority populations, are experiencing right now.

Listen to the recording of Brenda's Mission Moment, or read the transcript below. 

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I want to thank everyone for joining us today. I would like to pause and invite all of us to take a deep breath. I want to give reverence to my ancestors and acknowledge that we stand on Indigenous land.

Today marks the 10th day in Hispanic-Latino-Latinx Heritage Month that takes place from September 15-October 15.

I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Latino people who have worked tirelessly to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding in our communities during this pandemic which has disproportionately impacted Latino, Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), migrant farmworkers, and undocumented people.

I want to specifically highlight the contributions of Alimentación Segura Infantil (ASI) in Puerto Rico for their leadership in advocacy to protect access to human milk and lactation during emergencies and modeling for us grassroots collective organizing. USBC and ASI's work is crucial now more than ever due to a pandemic that continues, natural disasters due to global warming, and COVID-19 rates that continue to impact Latino Families and BIPOC communities.

I want to acknowledge the backbone of breastfeeding support who so often go unrecognized for their amazing work in our Latino community: our promotoras de salud and breastfeeding peer counselors who during this time have worked to support lactating families, in addition, to helping communities navigate social determinants of health, such as job loss, economic insecurity, housing, childcare, healthy food, mental health, and social injustice, such as the deaths of black and brown people at the hands of police and separations of families by ICE.

Last week we experienced the loss of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, information was released of hysterectomies being conducted without consent at an ICE facility in GA, a clear violation of human rights, and yesterday the Grand Jury decision to not charge officers who killed Breonna Taylor was released.

It takes courage to use our voice to speak out against injustice and inequities. The sterilization of our bodies is not new, genocide is not new, the coercion of birth control is not new, the dehumanization of people of color in labor while giving birth is not new, and neither is our resiliency and strength throughout it. These practices embody white supremacy, colonialism, imperialism, institutional and systemic racism, and patriarchy. Our resistance is not new.

In order to move forward with our practice of equity and inclusion at USBC I encourage all of us to continue to self-reflect on the power, privilege, and bias we hold and how the systems we engage with or work for continue to perpetuate inequities. At USBC we have an opportunity to work collaboratively to develop policies and co-create new systems that begin to address racial inequalities and institutionalized racism.

I want to congratulate the USBC COVID-19 constellation stewards: Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute and U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, and all organizations participating in creating a "Joint Statement on Infant and Young Child Feeding in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States." This is an example of leaders coming together to address policies that impact lactation and access to human milk.

May we continue to center equity in our practice and work towards transformation and change collectively. Gracias.

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