What is our Birthright?
Episode 9.5: What is our Birthright? Season Compilation
Kimberly Seals Allers closes every episode asking birthing people, experts and guests: What is our birthright? The answers have been powerful, thought-provoking and inspiring. Defining what Black birthing people deserve as a matter of their birthright is important and intentional work in Black maternal health. We’ve compiled some of our favorite responses here for you to listen and to consider what’s possible and what it will take to reclaim that birthright for all.
Birthright Compilation v3
Kimberly Seals Allers
Welcome to a special episode of Birthright! A podcast about joy and healing and Black birth. In case you didn’t notice, I close every episode by asking, “what is our birthright?” And today, I’m sharing a collection of responses to that question. Many of which never made it to the actual episode. Now, by definition, a birthright is the concept of things being due to a person upon or by fact of their birth or due to them in the order of their birth.
But we know that when it comes to birthing and breastfeeding, Black women in the US have never had the opportunity to live out their birthright. We arrived here as enslaved people, and we were denied our birthright from the moment we were taken captive. Nor have we had the right to claim one. So I decided to change that by asking birthing people, guests and experts on this podcast to start to define our birthright.
Here’s what they are.
I think the birthright is receiving double for our trouble. And that is for our trouble, our momma’s mommas and ancestors and whoever they’re troubled through burn, then now we are on the cusp of receiving double for that in blessings. And children that are coming into the world, solving the problems, are being creative and people just creating things that we’ve been waiting for for a long time, that those are the children that’s coming.
And you, Tina?
Tapping into our power. It is pulling from all the things that our ancestors have gone through that women in this country. We know the granny, midwives and midwives who used to support women, all of that, you know, so. Being able to tap into that and go into an experience and, and have the birth that you want, knowing that you are supported, knowing that there were no necessary interventions, knowing that your voice was heard.
And I’m going to go out and say, being surrounded by people who look like you, you know, cause that’s, that’s a huge piece. We know that, um, midwives make up such a small percentage of the workforce, Black midwives and brown midwives, that it’s disproportionate. So increasing those numbers and making the services that I give and the services that my sister midwives give available to more women is what our birthright is.
Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles
I feel your birthright is to be in an environment where you feel completely safe and protected. And I try really hard with all my patients, not just my Black patients. So if you feel safe and you feel secure and you feel protected, then you can sit back and just really enjoy this wonderful, wonderful blessing, this wonderful process, miracle that is about to happen.
And that was what I feel each woman should have as their birth experience. Just to be able to enjoy it the way that they want to enjoy it without being scared.
Morine, How would you answer?
Morine Cebert Gaitors
Our birthright is to be seen, is to feel heard and is to come out of this experience, feeling empowered and alive. Yeah, that’s all I have.
Our birthright is to be at the center of our care. To be empowered and to be informed.
Anna, what is our birthright?
Anna Malaika Tubbs
Our birthright, I would say very specifically for black women, because it’s been taken from us and people have tried to take it away from us. I should say more. So this attempted removal of our basic ability to say I am human. I deserve respect. I deserve dignity. I deserve to be treated with the same protections and the same supports as other human beings around me. That is our birthright to practice our agency too. Bring freedom to ourselves and to allow others to see us in the freedom that we know we have, but also to push systems that are to match that view that we have of ourselves. That is a part of our right. Unfortunately, for so long, it’s been the case that Black women have had to continue to claim that for ourselves. And I think we’re arriving in a moment. Hopefully through more attention being paid to Black women’s complexities through more of a speaking about us in our wholeness like we’ve done today that can transform from people solely admiring us for our strength and our resilience. And again, only focusing on the grief that we’ve persisted through to transforming that into action and say, Let’s continue to make this birthright that we should all have available to us a reality to all of us and think very clearly about who that’s currently being denied to and participate in this as a nation, as a whole.
It shouldn’t just fall on the individual to say, I’m claiming this for myself. It’s also our nation. Our world should have that built-in so that these birthrights are respected and granted.
Freedom. Power. Respect. Joy. Or as Whitney said, double for our trouble. To receive more since we have been given so less. These are the themes that resonate in these responses.
Now for my Bible folks, I’m going to take you back to a story, the famous story of the brothers, Esau and Jacob. Um, and if you’ve heard this story in Genesis, Esau returned from being famished in the fields, um, and begged his twin brother to give him some of the red stew. Jacob offered to give Esau this bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright, the right to be recognized as the first born and Esau agreed. In biblical times, the birthright has to do with both position and inheritance and by birthright, the firstborn son inherited the leadership of the family and the judicial authority of his father.
Ultimately, Esau had something that he did not value. And for me, the medical system has sold our birthright. Not for a bowl of stew, but in exchange for power, privilege and continuing patterns of systemic racism that have robbed us of our birthright. So now we have a powerful moment to redefine our birthright to say it is valuable to us. We will not let you continue to sell it. And we will reclaim it. And in this moment, we will state it and declare it.
Our birthright is healing. Our birthright is joy and our birthright is to birth babies in this country with no trauma and no underlying conditions or expectations for what the outcome could be.
And then to Angela, what is our birthright?
I think our birthright is freedom. I think people try to take that away, but we are beings that are made in the image of source, whatever it is you call it… and source is free. Free to create, free to be and give and receive love and joy. And I think it is our birthright to be free.
Dr. Lynn Lightfoote
As it pertains to our birthright. I think, uh, the most important thing is that we, providers make it a priority that Black women receive the maternal care, the prenatal care that we deserve, that everybody else deserves that everybody else actually already gets. But the most important thing is that the Black women get the care that they deserve and that they need.
And that these healthcare disparities don’t continue to persist in our community
Folashade,What is our birthright?
Our birthright is peace of mind. And. By peace of mind. I mean, with every single thing that we, as human beings, we as women, I, as a black woman go through, I deserve peace of mind. And especially when it comes to the pregnancy and delivery of children. You want to feel like you have the right and the ability to go through those experiences, being supported, being uplifted, being empowered to do what’s right for you, and what’s right for your babies. And I truly believe that peace brings that.
We are free. And I think that that freedom, our birthright is to invoke power, to be able to sustain joy in every and any circumstance. Everyone should be in full command of their person, um, expect respect and do what they need to control their space.
And what do you say, Keith?
So I think that our birthright is our right to define ourselves. Our right to define ourselves on our terms.
Our birthright is to have, um, The best quality of life and care that we can in whatever ways we define it. There are some things that for me are universal. I think we should have universal equitable healthcare so that people live without complications that are unnecessary, that could have been prevented, but I also want us to live in joy. So whether it is naming your child, something that is unique or joyous or connects you to a familial past, I want, um, Our families to continue to be tools of community uplift, um, models of excellence. And I don’t mean that in a kind of politics of respectability way, but models of excellence, where kinship and community is important.
And to my wonderful mother, what is our birthright?
I think it should be a special, I was going to say glorious experience, uh, simply because you have. Privileged to bring a life into the world.
I hope that these messages inspire you and remind you that we do have a birthright. We have a right to birth without bias to be free of discrimination and to birth with joy. This is our birthright and it has been an absolute honor to help reclaim that birthright one story at a time with you, this podcast season. Stay tuned for our season finale and all the episode extras that you can find on social media @iamksealsallers don’t forget to please support the birthright Patriot and to check out our really amazing merchandise, which also supports our work.
Thank you for listening.