August 25, 2019

 Women of Color Taking Back their Birthing Experience One Gathering at a Time

Ashley Causey-Golden

When you type in the words Black, women, and pregnant the first thing you see are articles about the Black maternal death rate. Whitney Robinson, a product manager, sought to change this current reality. After experiencing a miscarriage, she sought to create something different that was rooted in community, personal experiences, wisdom, and creativity through The Renée.

The maternal death rate is not a new topic. Even though it has piqued the interest of the 2020 presidential candidates, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, Whitney saw that the Black maternal death rate is an issue waiting for solutions from the community who is directly experiencing that trauma.  Organizations like Ancient Song, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and Sister Song are just a few of the Black-led organizations that are addressing the maternal death rate for women of color through education, advocacy, and policy but Whitney wanted to take a different approach—using technology.

Picture a beautiful lit room with comfy chairs and plants positioned around the room. There is a hum of conversation coming from every corner of the room. Colorful post-it notes adorn the wall armed with solutions to address the maternal death rate.  This is a radically different experience for women of color when talking about pregnancy. These are jam sessions with The Renée.

The Renée is a movement focused on using design thinking to solve the issues of maternal health by hearing from women of color with various backgrounds and experiences with pregnancy. So far, The Renée has hosted jam sessions in Durham, Baltimore, and New York City with Atlanta coming up in September. These jam sessions are rooted in joy and empowerment by creating space for women to not only tell their stories but to come up with collective solutions to impact change in their communities as well as the medical field. Whitney hopes to create a tool using technology to assist women of color throughout pregnancy. The Renée’s goal is to create a product that is inclusive and adaptable to the women who use it.

To the women of color who may feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information about how you should or shouldn’t birth. Whitney has this to share, “The silencing of our women and birth workers has hurt us. Reopen those channels and sit with your grandmas, reach out to a doula, etc. Do all you can to take in a diverse pool of wisdom and even then, take it all with a grain of salt, ingesting only what is uplifting and giving yourself space to process the parts that are not.”

If you are interested in learning more about The Renée or having a jam session in your city, join the movement at The Renée.