Recently, a colleague reflected on her experience during our staff visit to the Village of Healing clinic, in Euclid, OH in November 2022. Village of Healing Center had just opened its doors earlier that year. Similar to her, I was in awe of the space and the important work that Da’Na Langford, MS, CNP and Tenisha Gaines, MBA are doing to ensure that Black women have a space to receive quality care and supportive programs from providers and other moms who look like them, and to heal.
Da’Na and Tenisha walked us through each room, with all of their colors, flair, and artwork paying homage to Black individuals who have played a major part in helping to advance modern medicine, including Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy—known as the Mothers of Modern Gynecology—three enslaved women who were grotesquely experimented on in the name of gynecology.
We were quite literally standing in the manifestation of the hopes and dreams that they had weaved together and brought to fruition.
Up until this point in the tour, I felt so much pride listening to these two Black women who had a vision for their people, and saw it through. We were quite literally standing in the manifestation of the hopes and dreams that they had weaved together and brought to fruition. It felt so affirming to hear them speak about the issues that many Black individuals experience when seeking medical care—woman or not, pregnant or not—and what they were doing everyday to combat those disparities.
When we reached these particular rooms in the clinic, I was reminded of why, as a Black woman, I have recently come to the realization that I am not sure that I want to endure childbirth. Any child I, and any other Black parents, would bring into the world is another that has to endure the stifling weight of racism. But in addition to that, pregnancy and childbirth can be extremely traumatic experiences for any woman, especially Black women given maternal health disparities.
There’s no easy way to describe the experiences that many Black individuals have when they interact with health systems—the dull responses, the disbelieving comments, the refusals to do more tests, the personal sense of confusion and powerlessness. I thought of all of my loved ones who have had birthing complications or endured miscarriages. How some of them, and other Black moms I have serviced in previous jobs, struggled to find support for basic necessities while being pregnant, because of where they lived, not having a car, not knowing where to find help, or limitations in the programs that are offered. All of these issues are very common for women who look like me.
All of these thoughts rushed upon me during this tour, to the point of needing to take a moment to breathe and step away to wipe tears from my face. In this moment, I saw how intrigued, impressed, and excited my colleagues were as they nodded, smiled, and chatted about how amazing Village of Healing’s work is. But for a time, I could not bring myself to paint a smile on my face for the sake of being professional. It took everything in me not to scream or rush out of the door. I couldn’t suppress the deep sadness, anger, and honestly, fear, that I felt. For the Black friends and family in my life currently carrying life… For myself…
A colleague finally noticed and asked if I was ok. I felt angry at first at the question. I was frustrated at why it seemed like were they not easily able to understand. I took a quick pause and just responded, “No,” hoping they would drop the subject. But eventually broke and just said, “This is…my life…and the life of people I love.” And we just sat together in silence.
At the end of the tour, I HAD to let Da’Na and Tenisha know how grateful I was for the work they are doing. I have told every Black pregnant woman I could about their services, since that visit. I left feeling so many things. But, one of them was a sense of gratitude that there is a place for US. Black women. To have the support and care we need to overcome this issue in Cleveland.
In the same way that Da’Na and Tenisha chose to use every room in Village of Healing to pay homage to the women before us who have made a difference in medicine, I use this piece to pay homage to THEM.
In the same way that Da’Na and Tenisha chose to use every room in Village of Healing to pay homage to the women before us who have made a difference in medicine, I use this piece to pay homage to THEM. To say that, Village of Healing is making a difference for Black women across Greater Cleveland. To say, THANK YOU BOTH for everything you are doing. And, that The Village you are building has created a space for healing for Black women, but has also become a beacon of hope for Black women like me.