Revive. Restore. Reclaim! Those words are a balm. It immediately puts me into the mindset that the power to feed Black babies is, and has always been, in the hands of Black parents, families, and communities. We get to go back and fetch it, grab the history, and take it into the future.
Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, Kiddada Green, and Kimberly Seals Allers, three giants in the lactation advocacy community, founded Black Breastfeeding Week in 2013. The theme that first year was Black Lives Matter, which is quite poignant as we consider the historical moment where we are right now. Over the last 8 years, the collective celebration of Black breastfeeding during the fourth week of August has grown exponentially. The dates for #BBW20 were August 25 to 31, 2020, and the theme was Revive. Restore. Reclaim!
In June, the USBC hosted a webinar, "Collective Impact: A Conversation with Organizers of August Breastfeeding Events," and we had the pleasure of hearing from one of the Black Breastfeeding Week founders, Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka. During that live talk, Anayah shared the origin story of Black Breastfeeding Week. Some power words that came through for me during that talk were reckoning, reclaiming, healing, preservation despite hardship, collaboration, and celebration.
I deeply appreciate that for Black Breastfeeding Week, the attention is on an asset-based framework that centers families and uses an inclusive and inter-generational approach that supports the nullification of trauma. At conferences, meetings, and in the research, we often discuss and see data on breastfeeding disparities between Black and other communities, but #BBW20 is not about any of that noise. Instead, there is a lifting of research (both academic and lived), stories, imagery, discussions, and healthy activities, and there is the actual lifting of babies. This all reflects the beauty and veracity of lactation experiences in Black communities throughout the diaspora.
I was concerned about how communities would celebrate #BBW20 amid this pandemic when physical distancing (I am trying to no longer say social distancing) is still encouraged. Coming together to touch and agree, to embrace, to laugh, and to break bread are essential elements of celebrations in Black communities, and I wondered how that would translate to virtual spaces.
On this final day of #BBW20, I can look back and say, "They did that!" The virtual engagement transcended anything that I could have imagined. From the "Million Milk March," organized by Memphis-based BSTARS, which raised money for 19 Black breastfeeding organizations across the country through a virtual solidarity walk throughout August, to the "Movies n Milk" drive-in fundraiser by the Chicago Birthworks Collective, #BBW20 event organizers have been highly creative and industrious. Search the hashtags #BBW20 and #ReviveRestoreReclaim on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The new question is...how will they top this next year?
This is the last day of National Breastfeeding Month and Black Breastfeeding Week, but the work of transforming the lactation landscape continues. It is not too late for you to catch a few final events! This is "ManDay Monday," and we can all tune in to "Breast Milk Feeding: The Tale of Two Fathers" to hear from Dr. Torian Easterling of the NYC Health Department and Bruce McIntyre, who lost his partner, Amber Isaac, after their child was born earlier this year. This event will be live at 8 p.m. ET on the Black Breastfeeding Week Facebook page.
Lift your voices in support of Black breastfeeding, this week and every week.
U.S. Breastfeeding Committee