21st Century Wet Nurses by Natasha Marin

Reposted from Atlanta Black Star

Oregon Company Trying to Convince Black Women to Sell Their Breast Milk, Targeting Women in Detroit

Oregon-based company Medolac is offering Black Women money for their breast milk.

Medolac, a company that provides milk, along with the Clinton Global Initiative, is claiming that its initiative of buying more breast milk from Black women is an effort to “seek to increase breast-feeding rates among urban African-American women” and promote “healthy behavior and prolonged breast-feeding within their communities.”

African-American women are historically less likely to breastfeed their children. In 2010, 62 percent of African American babies began breastfeeding at birth, compared to 79 percent of white newborns, according to reports from the CDC. Six months later, only 36 percent of the black infants followed were still being breastfed compared to the 52 percent of white children who were still breastfed.

The company is starting a campaign to raise participation in the Mothers Milk Cooperative, which is the only milk bank owned and operated by nursing mothers. The Mothers Milk Cooperative pays its members who have completed the screening process and blood testing $1 an ounce for their milk. The milk is then given to Medolac, which processes the milk and sells it to hospitals for about $7 an ounce, which is a 600 percent markup, according to The New York Times.

Allowing women to make money from their breast milk seems all well and good, but why is Melodac targeting Detroit, an area that has the lowest breast-feeding rates for Black women in country?

“Targeting low-income Detroit women with the lure of climbing out of poverty by selling their surplus milk raises many ethical questions,” writes Kimberly Seals Allers in the New York Times. “It’s one thing to commodify mother’s milk, but to try to commodify a group of women — specifically black women, who already have a difficult history with breast-feeding — seems, a bit, well, sour. It’s all too easy to imagine how Medolac’s plans could become a part of a continuing racial and economic divide in Detroit and nationwide rather than part of the solution.”

Founder of Medolac, Elena Medo, claims that this initiative will increase the likelihood that Black women will breastfeed their own children because “it just makes sense,” she said in a recent interview.

Whether this is proven to be true—or whether the initiative simply makes money for Medolac—remains to be seen.

Also here.

Black Mothers Less Encouraged to Breastfeed by Natasha Marin

Black mothers have lagged behind white mothers in breastfeeding for decades. Now a recent U.S. government study suggests that key differences in maternity services at hospitals may be a factor in the widening disparity.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that hospitals in neighborhoods with an above-average population of black people promoted nursing at a rate nearly 15 percentage points lower than hospitals located in other neighborhoods. Manufacturers of baby formula also had more success in distributing their products in facilities that had a strong minority patient base. Researchers examined data from 2,600 medical facilities, the U.S. Census, and the 2011 U.S. survey on maternity practices in infant care and nutrition.

“Hospital practices during childbirth have a major impact on whether a mother is able to start and continue breastfeeding,” the study’s authors noted in a press release. “These findings suggest there are racial disparities in access to maternity care practices known to support breastfeeding. This observation could provide insight into the reasons for the persistent gap in breastfeeding rates between black and white babies in the United States.”

The U.S. Office on Women’s Health says that breastfeeding provides infants with the vital antibodies and nutrients needed to stave off illnesses. Breast milk also contains Vitamin D, a nutrient that builds strong bones. Breastfeeding lowers a woman’s risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer and assists in the loss of weight gained during pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse for up to a year to ensure that their little ones gain long-term health benefits that include a lower risk of juvenile diabetes, sclerosis, heart diseases, and cancer.

But African-American women — many of whom don’t receive traditional healthcare services — are more likely to not know about breastfeeding’s health benefits. Many black mothers also have jobs that don’t allow the flexibility needed to nurse. Additionally, many women of color may not have models of breastfeeding whom they can follow. Stepping into this unknown world can be intimidating for some women, especially those who hear loved ones characterize breastfeeding as “nasty” or “painful.”

History might also share some blame in the disparities that the CDC reports. Experts often point to the traumatic legacy of slavery in the United States as a key factor in many African-American women’s reluctance to breastfeed. Throughout the duration of the American slave trade, black women oftennursed their slave masters’ children. The practice even continued in the decades after Reconstruction. When baby formula first hit the market in the 1930s, it became a status symbol for people of color, compelling many black mothers to shy away from the more natural method of feeding their infant.

While the CDC reports that breastfeeding among women of color has increased in the last decade, experts say that there’s much more work to be done. The Surgeon General issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding in 2011 that appealed for programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling; methods that have been proven to improve breastfeeding rates among all women. Nurses have also received training to provide breastfeeding support as part of an effort to make hospitals more “baby-friendly.”

Many black mothers have also taken matters into their own hands, launching organizations that aim to make breastfeeding less of a taboo subject. The African-American Breastfeeding Network (AABN), for example, has armed expectant African-American mothers with accurate information about breastfeeding since its 2008 inception. Next month, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit plans to host an event during which guests will learn how to safely partake in the bonding activity. The hosts will also guide expectant fathers in maintaining a breastfeeding schedule and creating a healthy environment for their children.

Another nonprofit organization by the name of the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBA) aims to increase nursing rates among women of color by teaching cultural competence to public health workers, hosting gatherings for breastfeeding mothers, and connecting expectant mothers with services they can use long after childbirth. As BMBA’s founding executive director Kiddada Green explains in a video on the nonprofit’s website, breastfeeding is an activity that African-American women should enjoy because it gives their child a healthy start in life and it brings families closer.

“I had a great experience breastfeeding my child,” said Green. “It’s not something that’s shunned. It’s important [that mothers] not feel isolated. I want people to realize there’s a reward for breastfeeding your child that [comes in the form of] the relationship you build and the lifetime benefits. It’s even setting the standard for what black motherhood should be.”

Red Paint Hill Reviews MILK! by Natasha Marin

The amazing part is that the writing does not feel the need to pander to a dominant audience – this book is bravely and brazenly female.
— Jesi Buell, redpainthill.com

by Jesi Buell

published 2014, Minor Arcana Press
e-book, $4.99

Natasha Marin has done something I consider incredibly brave with her recent publication,Milk.  She documents a gendered experience unapologetically, without genuflection towards a male authority.  

While there is a universality to the sentiments expressed (pain, uncertainty, fear), Marin is writing about an experience that half of the world’s population and her readers will never be able to experience.  The amazing part is that the writing does not feel the need to pander to a dominant audience – this book is bravely and brazenly female.

            “Close your eyes to follow my tidal rhythm:
            hear how I can moan like the wind with you inside me –

            Howling through my empty spaces, every nook and crevice quivers,
            like you used to live here.” (53)

            There are elements of this book that don’t pander to me either, for that matter, even though I am a woman.  At one point, Marin states that she “understand[s] as much as a childless white woman can understand” (41).  There I am - in her narrative, unbeknownst to the author herself.  But Marin draws thick dichotomies and I know I cannot understand the experiences of a black mother.  So I, as a reader, must acknowledge my ignorance and latch onto what I can understand (creation, hunger…). This positioning and leverage is what make Marin’s Milk tangibly powerful.  

            While the entire book maintains an undercurrent of Marin’s concern for her son, the text oscillates between many worlds and eras in episodic vignettes.  Yet, Milkmanages to feel thoroughly modern through the use of color, art, and hyperlinking to Wikipedia entries and online content, augmenting the experience and creating a complicated but engrossing ambiance to nurture her reader.  References manage to jump from slavery to Facebook updates or from crabs and wolves to Family Guy without feeling muddled or forced.  The poems place you in a specific time within a specific mood flawlessly and the surrounding aesthetic choices create a living and breathing atmosphere.

Poetry about race and motherhood is nothing new.  Neither are women writers. Yet, still, there seems to be some sad miracle in experiencing it, and even more so when the writing is this beautiful and poignant.  

“To the wind, a bird offers nothing but fragile applause.” (19)

Milk is available from Minor Arcana Press via e-book, and may be purchased by clicking here.

Black Cultural News Feature by Natasha Marin

Hugh Rudolph is a generous gentleman and still a virtual stranger to me. These two things can co-exist. Our friendship began as many do in this brave new Digital Age-- online. I believe Hugh first reached out to me on Facebook to offer me some help and although I ended up making it through this particularly rough-patch without his assistance, I never forgot his generosity. And then he upped the ante by giving a damn about my work. Well chile, you could've knocked me over with a feather!

Turns out Hugh is the editor of BLACK CULTURAL NEWS which is a nifty e-delight of news-nibbles about anything and everything that might fall under the auspices of "black cultural news," (that's a wide net, folks!)

Please do not let the fairly insistent site pop-ups stop you from checking out this beautiful write-up of my current projects including MILK! Thank you, Hugh!

Read the full feature:


Blogroll by Natasha Marin

I was invited to join the Blogrollers by the one and only, Anne Liu Kellor. On her blog, she says:

"Giving birth in 2010 to my son, Cedar, radically changed the landscape of my life ...

The focus of my blog shifted ... to concentrate on the intersection of writing, motherhood, paradox and love. I now teach several online and in-person writing workshops, including Writing Motherhood, Writing Your Birth Story, and Writing Transformation. I also work one-on-one with writers as a mentor and editor. "

Read more about Anne's work at  www.heartradical.blogspot.com .

Read more about Anne's work at www.heartradical.blogspot.com.

1) What am I working on?

It's been a busy year, I just released my first book, MILK last month. I adapted poems from an unpublished manuscript into a multimedia performance for the CD Forum's Creation Project, and helped several people of a wide variety of ages and backgrounds create Red Lineages at the Red Lineage Community Workshop at the Northwest African American Museum. And as much as I'd like to report that I've been writing as well, I haven't. I'm a bad bad writer. It's ok to judge me.

I have however been reading, which I feel strongly as important to the writing process as actually putting words down on the page. A friend of mine gave me the book Emotional Intelligence and I am stealing away every chance I get to read more of it. 

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I enjoy playing in multiple dimensions. My first chapbook, Fando & Lis, is an ekphrastic work based on a film that is based on a play. MILK uses the ebook format to include images, links to additional sound, text, and video to be more inclusive and inviting to those of us who are thinking and exploring our way through the Digital Age. I've also put out three exhibition books related to my work with Miko Kuro's Midnight Tea, an international art project that uses time, tea, and technology to create one-of-a-kind experiences for traditional and non-traditional creatives alike. The latest of these, :33 documents my journey to Helsinki, Finland, where, Bonnie Brooks and I collaborated with 12 amazing individuals to co-create a ritual based on the concept of Nurturing at the FORUM BOX GALLERY

Functional glass teapot breasts (worn during Midnight Tea in Helsinki) by Spokane Artist,  William Hagy .

Functional glass teapot breasts (worn during Midnight Tea in Helsinki) by Spokane Artist, William Hagy.

3) Why do I write what I do?

For me, writing is a technology that allows us to circle into the heart of the matter. This year, all of my projects are an attempt to explore the often treacherous terrain of Vulnerability. Earlier this year, I was invited to participate in StereoTYPE, curated Stranger Genius nominee, Davida Ingram. I created 33 porcelain tiles, hand-inked, and installed them at LXWXH using my own hair and my daughter's hair. When I write, it's often part of a larger creative process that takes many forms: video, performance, sound, and immersive events. Some of the best writing takes place in emails. I have had more than one friend recommend that my next book be a compilation of Found Poetry from my inbox.

4) How does my writing process work?

Juggling the many hats of worker, mother, partner, community organizer, writer, and artist requires a lot of laughter and an ability to be resilient. I've always taken Arthur Ashe's words to heart when sitting down to write or to create anything.

Next Up on the Blogroll:

Bettina Judd's collection of poems titled Patient, won the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Book Prize and will be released in the fall of 2014. Judd has performed for audiences in Vancouver, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Paris, New York, and Mumbai and will be presenting at the National Women's Studies Association Conference in Puerto Rico in November.

Amber Flame is an award-winning writer, teacher, and performer. She recently moved from Seattle, where she repped hard for the slam community, to the Bay Area where she competed to become Oakland Slam's 2014 Women of World Poetry Slam representative. Find more about her awesomeness here.

Anastacia Tolbert's work is a syrupy rune—wings, words & why not. She is a Cave Canem Fellow, Hedgebrook Alumna, Jack Straw Writer, EDGE Professional Writer, VONA alum, creative writing workshop facilitator, documentarian and playwright. She is writer, co-director, and co-producer of GOTBREAST? Documentary (2007): a documentary about the views of women regarding breast and body image. Lately she’s been obsessed with the body & the stories it holds. Holla atcha girl at www.anastaciatolbert.com.

Bonus Joy: Check out local writer slash photographer, Star Murray's world here.

Breastfeeding in Advertising by Natasha Marin

Click the image above to read the entire article.

Click the image above to read the entire article.

These pictures were created to capture the everyday situations mothers face while out in public with their infants. The pictures all have a different slogan,” Bon Appetit”, “Table for Two”, and “Private Dining”, simply to show people that the cost of their comfort is another’s discomfort.
— http://www.blackcelebkids.com/2014/05/20/breastfeeding-ad-stirs-online-debate/

CityArts Profile: Artist Moms by Natasha Marin

Excerpts from the text below appear in CityArts Magazine

Did you develop a creative practice before or after motherhood?

Mothering itself is certainly a creative act and a timeless human art form that requires one to pay close attention to every gesture, tone, and emotional transaction. In 35 years, I have done my fair share of creating-- having already manifested books, performances, and community art experiences all over the world, including original video, sound, and even ceramic work-- butby far the most impressive intentions I have given shape to in the physical world are my own children-- Roman (daughter, 10 yrs old) and Sagan (son, 3 yrs old). 

Yes, a man can make a masterpiece, but a woman already is one. That's what I discovered about being creative while becoming a mother. And I agree with your suggestion that there are two great eras in any mother's life-- the Before Time and the Forever After Time.

For me, there was no beginning or end to the creative practice-aspect of my life, but certainly after becoming a mother in 2004 and again in 2011, my practice was honed and re-focused out of necessity.

If motherhood came after art, what did that decision look like for you? Factors of time and economics involved in raising a child are daunting.

In my case, the Before Time and Forever After Time are contiguous eras. If there was a decision I made, it was the decision to move against the tidal pull of Society's Expectations. Nope, my creative impulses didn't shrivel up and die when I became a mother-- I'm still becoming a mother (it doesn't happen instantly you know!) and I feel more like I'm really blossoming now. There is something about bringing a person into the world -- the enormity of that potential and significance -- that really connects you with your own personal power. Ironically, children immediately do their best to chip away at that feeling.

What are the myths vs reality of being an artist who also raises a family?

I just spoke with my only surviving grandmother for Mother's Day, and listened carefully as my older sister tried to delicately explain why I was not in fact with my children that day, but "escaping" to play with my sister in Vancouver. My grandmother jumped to the conclusion that maybe something was awry-- was I leaving my husband? Where were the kids? Who was looking after them? We reassured her that all was well, but the idea of scheduling in some "me time" hadn't even occurred to my grandmother, who gave birth to ten children of whom my mother was her first. The circumstances of my Granny's life as a mother kept "me time" from being a real possibility. This harsh reality motivates me to refine my expectations of myself as a mother and inspires me to make more time for what I need to be happy and productive.

I heard my sister explain to my Granny (who has Alzheimer's) that I worked a full-time job at a tech company, managed an international art project called Miko Kuro's Midnight Tea, invested significant amounts of love, time, and energy in community engagement projects like the Red Lineage Project, and SPoCS (Seattle People of Color Salon) in addition to my role as mother of two. This month, my full-length poetry debut, MILK (Minor Arcana Press), was released and yes, people DO ask mehow in the hell I do all this and where in my house are the minions who do my bidding ... but the truth is, I come from a long line of women who don't make excuses because they can't even imagine life any other way.

Mothers are people too. And like many other people, they can be abbreviated by labels like "artist" and "mother" alike. I think it's very important for little girls (early on) to know that they should not be expected to have children (as though it is a foregone conclusion). Society has a bad habit of playing ownership and oppression games with women's bodies. There are many ways to be in this world. Albeit a largely all-consuming, powerful, and transcendent experience, motherhood is one lasting way we can create beauty with a lasting impact.