(WOMENSENEWS)–We don’t have to look far into the news events to see black children undermined, undervalued and under attack by negative media narratives.
In the past few months we have seen our children needlessly gunned down, pinned down and knocked down as if their lives don’t matter. As a mother of two, including one male, it has been heart wrenching to watch. It is easy to feel powerless against the forces that can senselessly take our children, no matter how much we have prepared them, educated them and loved them.
It is now more important than ever that we do our best to lift our children up and over the many systemic barriers and cultural forces that often prevent them from reaching their fullest potential. This starts at birth.
That’s why I’m particularly encouraged by this year’s Black Breastfeeding Week. The theme is "Lift Every Baby," taking a cultural nod from our black national anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Now in its third year, BBW is a week-long multimedia campaign from Aug. 25 to Aug. 31 designed to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding in the African American community. The 2015 tagline is, "Breastfeeding: So Strong. So Us."
Yes, breastfeeding is the optimal nutrition for babies. But breastfeeding has never really been just about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is about understanding how commercial influences often override infant health, overcoming systemic barriers and improving workplace accommodations. Layer that on top of the cultural nuances of breastfeeding for black women–including the historical trauma of wet nursing and the proliferation of infant formula marketing in our communities–and you have an even thornier issue. It is no wonder that for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates between black women and white women.
It is also unacceptable.
The Best Possible Start
I am a co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week, and as we see it, breastfeeding is more than giving our children the unparalleled immunological benefits and reduced risk of ear infections, respiratory infections and type 2 diabetes.
It is more than a keen awareness that breastfeeding gives our children the best start at healthy eating habits for life. Breastfed children are more likely to have a varied and more healthy eating palette because breast milk tastes differently at each feeding so breastfed children have been introduced to various flavors each day, versus infants who are fed artificial substitutes that taste the same, every day, every time for their first year of life.
Beyond that we see breastfeeding as an act of empowerment and self-determination. It’s one of the many ways mothers commit to giving their children the best possible chance for a healthier life.
Breastfeeding is a declaration that we as black mothers will not settle for a manufactured artificial food substance that is aggressively peddled particularly in our low-income communities. We will not give in to being sold on the message that we can and should settle for "good enough." We will not quickly give in to the corporate influences and profit-making interests that want us to feed our babies synthetic food from birth and then flood our communities with poor food options, liquor stores and cigarette advertising, thereafter.
We are crystal clear about the systemic failures that from day one of life want to give our babies less than, give our schools less than, give our communities less than, then treat our young men and women as less than.
Celebrating and Sharing
On the contrary, "Lift Every Baby" reminds us of all the ways that black families and communities lift up, value and cherish our youngest and most vulnerable members. From breastfeeding to early literacy to quality schools and good nutrition, we’re celebrating and sharing ideas on how we lift our babies; one child at a time.
On Aug. 29 at 3 p.m. EST, noon PST, the first nationally coordinated "Lift Up" will be coordinated in various cities across the United States, including Detroit, Charlotte and Milwaukee.
Black families will gather in predetermined locations to lift up their babies together as a visual display of community support of our children. Whether your "baby" is a day old or 15 years old, if you can lift them up, you can join the Lift Up. I’ll be there with my "baby" who is 11 years old!
Throughout the week we will have various social media events to spread the Lift Every Baby theme, including our signature annual Twitter chat, this year on Aug. 27 at 9 p.m. EST.
Our debut Twitter chat had over 10 million impressions and this year’s hashtag is #LiftEveryBaby.
We invite black parents, aunties, uncles and grandparents to join the conversation online and off to show our collective power to lift up every baby, every family and every community. Breastfeeding is truly, So Strong. So Us.
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