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Jessica Roach: Midwifing a New Social Reality for Black Women and Mothers

Nuggets From Jessica Roach's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Jessica Roach.

Jessica Roach is the Co-founder of Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT), a nonprofit providing community-based maternal-child health and birthing support in Columbus, Ohio. Roach's family stories reflect the communal birthing tradition that's rooted deeply in black history. Her great-grandmother was a healer who assisted local women in childbirth in an area of Irondale, Ohio, before women of color were admitted to hospitals. Roach came to appreciate the vital role her great-grandmother played in supporting the community only later -- after Jessica had her own varied experiences with childbirth, became a nurse, and embraced similar healing practices. ROOTT, a Black women-led reproductive justice organization, offers affordable doula services, healthcare provider trainings, and consultation to meet their clients' environmental stresses and to address the staggering infant mortality rates in the African American community.

We'll post the transcript of the call soon, but till then, some of the nuggets that stood out from the call ...

  • The Health Risk Behavior of Racism: The experience that I had as a woman giving birth in the U.S. that the story that was being told about us was not true. And it became consistent as I moved into doing this work as a doula and a birth worker and training as a home birth midwife. Really watching the difference how my patients were being treated simply based upon the color of their skin or the judgment that was happening in that or the health communication that was immediately starting out with “You’re at risk because you are African American.” And for me I knew that was the thing that would set off that course of events, that would cause those real physiological changes. Because if the first thing you are told as a woman when you walk in to see someone who you are supposed to trust, and they tell you on some level that you body is broken and you are more at risk to put your child at risk, it immediately sets off a stress response. And it had nothing to do with our genetics or our biology. It had to everything to do with some of these systems that been created and had developed these levels of health communication that automatically assign risk factors for race versus the very real conversation about the health risk behavior of racism.
  • Empowerment: It is not about empowering anyone. It is about being witness to the power that everyone has.
  • We have this internal source of power, if we take the time to trust our own instincts then that can extend out to others.
  • Taking a Pause: We take time to take that deep breath. Breath is life.
  • We are going to take pause for the whole room. We are all going to ground and pause. This is not about the fight against; this is about the fight for.
  • Ego comes from a place of insecurity and feeling uncomfortable and not taking a pause.
  • Validation: We end up validating something they [clients] come with but don’t have the language about…We help them navigate what their inner voice is already telling them.
  • Our voices are valid. That the validity does not start with a degree as much as it starts with the validity of the experience of the individual. We start with the basic principal of listen to black women, trust black women, trust black families. Understand that we know more than you may believe or have been taught to believe. And if you can just be involved and engaged in a relationship with us, you’ll understand that there is an interdependence happening.
  • On the other side of fear is hope. We can make a difference in ourselves, and hopefully in our environment.
  • When we open to sharing then we also open to receiving.
  • You can't get to the rainbow without going through the storm.

For more information on Jessica's work go to You can also check out this article that Jessica published at Columbus Alive.

Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!

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