Harambee Village is a collective of community-based doulas that address maternal and child health care gaps, needs, and barriers in Dane County. The vision of this social enterprise is to improve the childbearing experience, empower women through doula support, advocate for research-based care, and to engage community stakeholders around racial equity concerning maternal and child health.
The Harambee legacy isn't new, it was envisioned decades earlier by Miss Betty Banks in an untold trailblazing story – one that has been fearlessly revitalized:
During the late ’80s and throughout the early 2000s both the historical and profound work that was done on Madison’s southside was championed by what was then called the “South Madison Health & Family Center” (SMHFC). Founder of SMFHC, Banks said, "SMFHC really stood for community building and the whole idea of self-empowerment," she said. "We had people come from all over the world — China, South America, Ukraine, South Africa — to look at us and learn from us. So I think we were a model and did make a difference in many places far and wide."
This mission of SMHFC was revived in 2014 by Tia Murray and Tamara Thompson inspired by their own stories of local birth disparities. They came together as black mothers, to restore the work of SMFHC because of the impact they left decades before. Inspired by historic efforts that SMHFC led on decreasing Black preterm birth rates and infant mortality rates in Dane County (2007), Tia and Tamara harnessed their strengths to begin improving birth outcomes in their community, through radical birth and reproductive justice work. Shortly after this consciousness, Harambee Village was created.
In 2019, Tia Murray and Micaela Berry joined forces to move the work of Harambee Village forward, utilizing their entrepreneurial skills. Now, the community-based doula collective is reaching families on a significantly larger scale with the same vision of their elder’s work from SMFHC in the ’80s – 2000s.
In the fight for birth equity, Harambee Village is convinced that the solution for equitable care will be found by providing access to a birth center run by providers, doulas, and women of color. Especially a birth center that has an unwavering focus on community-based care, safe birthing and culturally-inclusive maternity care for all birthing experiences.
Why this would work?:
In short, because it worked before. In the 2000s, when the South Madison Health and Family Center (SMHFC) was active, Dane County witnessed the deepest decline in black infant mortality and black preterm birth rates (Figure 1).
“It was the first known example of the black-white gap closing in any one state or county,” read a Newsweek article titled “A good mystery: infant-mortality drop in Wisconsin.”
FIGURE 1. Infant mortality rates per 1,000 live births, by race --- Wisconsin and Dane County, 3-year moving averages,* 1990--2007
In 2019, Harambee Village realized that it was time to set the example of what it is going to take to fill in the gaps needed for better birth outcomes – a birthing center. With your partnership, the Harambee Village Birth & Family Center (HVBFC) will be used to provide perinatal and reproductive health services in Southern Wisconsin, for birthing people expecting a healthy pregnancy. The HVBFC will be committed to spending the necessary time throughout the perinatal period to ensure birthing people have both a safe pregnancy, delivery, and successful parenting experience.
Why is this urgent?:
According to a Public Health Madison Dane County 2019 Maternal and Child Health Data Book; since 2008, infant mortality rates among Black infants were at least twice as high as the infant mortality rate among White infants, across all years.
Structural racism has been linked to birth outcomes, making it imperative to have “systems-level change” (as opposed to individual-level change) to eliminate structural racism in health care and promote birth equity (Hardeman, Karbeah, Almanza, & Kozhimannil, 2019).
Harambee Village knows that a “systems-level change” will be found by providing access to high quality, community-based, and culturally-inclusive maternity care through the Harambee Village Birth & Family Center.
Who is our target client?:
We aim to dismantle disparities of race, class, gender, and sexuality, that lead to negative birth experiences; especially for women of color, women with economic barriers, survivors of trauma, immigrant women, as well as queer and transgendered women. We put mothers and babies first, working effectively with their entire support team; including partners, family members, and midwives or medical personnel to provide well-rounded care.
Our philosophy is founded on the concept that birth is a normal and natural process. At Harambee Village, we trust that each woman knows how to give birth instinctively, and we believe that offering information, guidance, the power of a touch, and a range of support, can replace questions with answers and worry with empowerment. We recognize that sustainability means building a different approach to long term success.
We envision this approach for perinatal and infant outcomes, for all birthing people, by providing:
- Community-based care for each family using the midwifery model of care
- Providing phenomenal care not only to our families but also to our staff
- Embracing our intergenerational team that leads from experience and legacy
- Championing community-led and community-based programming
- Using a familial approach to service-providing, including “Community Mothering”
- Creating a network of streamlined and comprehensive support from our community partners
The Harambee Village Birth & Family Center will encourage better birth and parenting outcomes by providing practical support to women and families during pregnancy and across their lifespan. Our innovative programming allows us to identify our babies before they are born, keep a watchful eye on them during their childhood, and invite them to participate with their parents in our family support programming. We believe it is imperative to support the whole child, and thus the whole family.
Harambee Village goes beyond the work of traditional doulas. Harambee Village not only believes in offering unmatched care to support birthing families; but also in policy change to address disparities in perinatal health care, particularly for families of color. You’ll often find Harambee Village working with local stakeholders to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes that are necessary to combat maternal disparities.
Harambee Village’s triple bottom line for their policy change and social justice work entails the following:
- Environmental & Ecological Health Policy - This can include healthier people, healthier communities, community ownership, which are all connected to the impacts of improved maternal and child health outcomes.
- Policy that Affects The Community & Our Collective - This can include measuring equity and access to social resources, health and well-being, quality of life, social capital, and job-generating opportunities.
- Economic Development & Sustainability Policy - Which can include civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, and creating economic development opportunities for the community we are serving.
Your investment in the Harambee Village Birth and Family Center will help us with:
- Securing our Building for The Harambee Village Birth And Family Center
- Purchasing Center Furnishings, Technology, And Patient Personal Care Items
- Creating and Supporting Local Job Opportunities for Health Professionals
- Sustainable Access To Community-based Doula Services
- Continuing To Provide Family Support And Programming Services
Harambee Village has achieved much over that past 6 years, including:
- Success amongst championing our cause:
- Babies being born at later gestational ages
- No incidences of maternal mortality
- High breastfeeding initiation rates
- Lower incidences of low birth weight babies
- Trained over 40 doulas in Dane and Milwaukee Counties
- Awards, recognitions, and accolades from our community:
- 2018 – Force for Positive Change Award, University of Wisconsin Alumni Foundation (WARF)
- 2018 – Empowering Our Mothers, Saving Our Babies, BRAVA magazine
- 2018 – Ones To Watch List of Madison Magazine
- 2018 – Community Breastfeeding Award, Breastfeeding Coalition of SC Wisconsin
- 2019 – MList Awards of Madison Magazine
- 2019 – Lullaby Project Album, in partnership with our mothers and Carnegie Hall