A couple years ago I decided to take a chance, put myself out there, and act on an idea that would reroute the trajectory of my life. Little did I know how far it would take me in such a short amount of time.
Unearthing Tradition's first year was full of amazing opportunities and lessons that will influence the future path of the organization.
This year's highlights:
1. I'm proud to say five families have chosen Unearthing Tradition to be alongside them for their journey to parenthood. We talked about their fears and concerns, laughed about the strange things happening to their bodies, and cried when things didn’t always go according to plan, but a healthy baby was born despite the odds.
2. I completed an internship with Colorado's Elephant Circle where I had a great deal of exposure to direct services, fundraising, and research projects. I learned a crucial aspect of postpartum support after completing a legal doula training with Elephant Circle where I learned how best to support a family going through legal issues.
3. In September 2016, I attended Ancient Song Doula Services 1st annual Decolonizing Birth Conference where I connected with folks doing incredibly radical work in birth communities around the states.
More than a year later and I realize I never formally introduced Unearthing Tradition to the world. Let’s start at the beginning...
I'm forever indebted to the space created by INCITE! at their 4th biannual Color of Violence conference. Organizations and community leaders from all over the world met in Chicago one weekend in Feb. 2015 to strategize community based resistance against violence toward queer and trans communities of color.
I got to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of activist-scholars Dr. Angela Davis, CeCe Mcdonald, Yvonne Swan and Renata Hill. I met some of the most fabulous, “this is who I am and you don’t have to like it but you will respect me” community driven people that weekend. In a workshop titled “Breastfeeding, Incarceration, and State Violence: Maternal Rights in Prison and the Criminalization of the Black Mother” Ayanna Harris, Charity Tolliver, and Lakeesha Harris schooled all those in attendance. Throughout the workshop, I heard this unfamiliar word being thrown around... "Doula"! I took notes and promised to come back to doula.
When I got home I researched everything I could find on doula. My search led me to find the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC). After weeks of preparation I submitted my application to participate in ICTC’s full circle doula training program in Portland, OR. Thankfully, I received a scholarship on top of an acceptance letter into the program. In Feb. 2016, I completed my doula training alongside 10 other doula students.
At the end of my training with ICTC we were asked to envision our business model of care. We began to draft a business plan and consider the details of the types of services we wanted to provide. I presented what I had at the time, but wasn't satisfied with it as a final project. When I got back to Denver, where I was finishing my masters program, I continued to craft until it felt right.
I wanted the name of my organization to be memorable and embody its intentions. Once I selected a name for the organization I partnered with Fatima Rashad, black business owner and mom of two, to create a logo that would represent the organization. On September 12, 2016, I launched my website and began accepting Unearthing Tradition’s first clients.
What's in a name?
Unearthing Tradition is a reproductive justice organization dedicated to addressing modern issues with ancestral practices through a continuous process of rediscovery.
Sankofa, or “go back and get it”, is a West African concept encouraging people to constantly and rigorously refer to the teachings of the ancestors to navigate everyday life. Be it the tremendous successes or the heart wrenching shortcomings there is much to learn from those who came before us. We see birth as a rite of passage into parenthood that blurs the lines between the physical and spritual worlds. Too often families most in need of support are denied this right. We believe it is possible to eliminate fear, misinformation, and lack of support as a stepping block to sustaining healthier communities.
We strive to support informed decisions, to achieve fulfilling birth experiences, and to access healthy birth outcomes while considering the overall well-being of our communities. Every tactic imaginable has been deployed unto our communities with the purpose of dismantling family dynamics, livelihoods, and peace of mind. At Unearthing Tradition, we believe in prioritizing a restoration of all these things and more. We believe it begins at birth.
We value collective knowledge and healing as a revolutionary means to survival. I do not seek to become an expert in which I possess a package of knowledge inaccessible to the communities I serve. Instead I seek only to create and support means of communal knowing. At Unearthing Tradition, through shared experience and knowledge, we learn, grow and heal together.
In the years to follow, Unearthing Tradition will take on new projects. I envision expanding Unearthing Tradition’s services, building a team, and collaborating with other community organizations.
I can't do this without you. In order to push the concepts, practices, and actions of Unearthing Tradition forward I'll need the input and support of all of you. If you’re interested in collaborating or contributing please reach out. If you're reading this, you're here for a reason. Please take time to share with your partner(s), family, and friends.
I hope to use this blog as a way to communicate with the communities I hope to work with and reconnect with my passion for writing. Nothing is off limits here: we will talk the good, the bad and the bloody. Truly, my hope is that we can have creative, thought-provoking, unapologetic dialogue. Will you join the conversation? #UnearthingTradition