When Kyrah Brown, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, first plotted to commemorate Black Maternal Health Week, she and her colleagues envisioned a two-hour event. Maybe a film screening.

Spurred by zeal, the idea snowballed. That two-hour event became a weeklong series of gatherings led by half a dozen partners across Tarrant and Dallas counties. The observance, which Brown suspects is the first of its scale in Tarrant County, begins at 6 p.m. April 11 with a dance party.

“When we talk about Black maternal health, and we know the disparities, we know the inequities … (the narrative) can get kind of doom and gloom,” Brown said. “The dance party is really a way to celebrate Black birthing joy.”

The week also offers attendees a film screening; lectures, sermons and work sessions by scholars, health professionals and ministers; free mammograms; and the daily opportunity to connect with others who care about safeguarding pregnancy and childbirth in a country whose Black maternal mortality rate continues to rise.

Brown hopes attendees leave with an awareness of solutions and feel empowered to pursue them together. “If they can walk away with those things,” she said, “I feel like that’s huge.”

The Biden administration formally recognized Black Maternal Health Week, the brainchild of the nonprofit Black Mamas Matter Alliance, in 2021. That year, the Black maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. For white women, the number was about 27.

In the past, organizations across Tarrant County have hosted Black Maternal Health Week events, Brown said. “I think it’s the first time (this week has) been coordinated in this way.” 

Some of the week’s events, like the film screening on April 12, require registration in advance. Most are free and all are open to the public. 

One community partner, the Moncrief Cancer Institute, will offer mammograms for people regardless of insurance status on April 13. Women who don’t have insurance and are at least 40 years old are the priority, said Kyev Tatum, pastor of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Everyone should register in advance. 

The cancer institute and the church have worked together for over a year now to provide cancer screenings in ZIP codes like 76104, Tatum said. He noted that much of Jesus’ work involved healing people with physical ailments.

“Faith is health and health is faith,” he said. “It’s Biblically intertwined.” 

New Mount Rose will align its weekly services with the subject. Mostly, Tatum said, the speakers will explore Esther, a book in the Old Testament about a young Jewish woman who uses her voice to prevent genocide. 

“You can get mammograms, a message and a meal, all in the same day,” he said. “Isn’t that cool?”

Mark Cunningham, a minister and researcher at The University of North Texas Health Science Center, is preaching a sermon called ‘God cares about Black mamas’ on April 16.

His two fields, faith and science, help people understand their world, he said. The church can help bridge any gaps between them. “Many people will not hear this message unless they hear it through their faith,” he said.

Cunningham hopes the week’s events leave people feeling empowered. 

“I also want the world to be aware about what’s happening to our Black women,” he said. “How can we help them in their care? Because they matter. Women matter. They are the glue that holds our families together.”

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....