"One mother’s fight on ‘the front lines of a revolution’ to save Black mothers, babies"
"Portraits of Black, breastfeeding Kansas City mothers, seated on chairs, stoops, next to a pond, hang on the walls surrounding Hakima Tafunzi Payne as she works. They are a constant reminder of those she’s been called to serve.
On a brisk February day, Payne stood in the middle of the old candy factory that has, over the years, served as the location for a car wash and then a community center on Troost Avenue near East 43rd Street. Now it’s Uzazi Village, a nonprofit Payne built from the ground up. The organization was conceived from her determination to build an army of advocates for laboring Black mothers and their children.
Payne, a born and raised Kansas Citian who has given birth to nine children herself, is a fierce champion and protector of Black mothers and babies. She knows that for some women, the act of bringing life into the world can end in unnecessary death.
For nearly every three white babies who don’t survive past infancy, nine Black infants die, according to the Kansas City Health Department. Payne called these statistics, which in recent years have seen a widening gap, 'maddening.'
Across the United States, where maternal mortality rates rank high among the developed countries, Black mothers are three times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy or birth than white mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So when Payne, a co-founder and CEO of Uzazi Village, trains doulas — professional companions during pregnancy and labor — to stand beside Black women, she begins by telling them they are 'freedom fighters on the front lines of a revolution.'
Though she deals in the world of child-bearing and birthing, Payne says the essence of her work is anti-racism.
'Race shouldn’t have anything to do with whether you survive the child-bearing process, and for it to fall so heavily on the Black community, something’s wrong, and nothing’s wrong with us, so we have to look at the system,' she said."
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