By Kay Matthews
Black History Future Month, What It’s Meant to Me
February is Black History Month. Now, many are calling February Black Future Month; a time to raise awareness about how to move forward as a nation and continue to heal from the past.
The month of February was officially recognized as Black History Month in 1976 by President Gerald Ford as a time to honor the rich history, culture, contributions, and importance of African Americans. It is also a time, to consider the adversity and inequities that African Americans still face in our country. We invited Kay Matthews, Executive Director of the Shades of Blue Project in Houston, Texas, to share what Black History Month means to her.
There is a pain that lingers deep inside of me that sometimes surfaces to make for very dark days. Tuesday is the day of this particular week that I feel quite out of place. It’s a day I ask myself if I made the right decision to expose my feelings to the world to pick apart at their leisure. If I made the right decision to fight for change amongst a world that too often rejects it at every turn. It is days like Tuesday that can sometimes surface on a Monday or maybe even a Sunday. Unfortunately, these emotions don’t give warnings, they just appear. It could be something as simple as a child’s laughter or a woman I pass, and I can feel she’s having a hard time. Whatever the trigger may be on that day, it sends a barrel of emotions all over the place and it’s up to me to pick up the pieces. My life has become a puzzle in which only I know the pieces that fit together, and only while working with other women I know that I am not alone in my feelings.
I didn’t choose to deliver my daughter stillborn, but it is the outcome that I will forever live with. Then, I realized that there are others just like me but their voices, just as mine do, sometimes feel lost in the process. My extraordinary story sometimes simply feels like isolation. It’s the questions I ask myself, like where do I fit? Who else is just like me? Miscounted and fighting to feel like they still matter. I didn’t choose to deliver my daughter stillborn, but it is the outcome that I will forever live with. Then, I realized that there are others just like me but their voices, just as mine do, sometimes feel lost in the process. My daughter became my story and she has forced me in her death to realize what is happening to many women around the world. Just as I didn’t talk about how I was feeling because I didn’t know myself, there are other women experiencing the same holdback. On the other hand, now that I’m talking it feels like my message falls on deaf ears leading me to feel as if I’m not being heard. I’m questioning myself what must I say, what must I do to get your attention. There is an entire culture of women and children dying to live.
When I think about the way babies are currently born within hospital systems, I can’t help but think about how little has changed when it comes to black women and their childbirth experiences. In the past years, midwives were a big part of black babies coming into the world safely. But now, not everyone has access to a midwife or even a doula. African American women in Texas alone are dying at 3 times the rate of other races and African American children are dying at 2.5 times the rate of any other race. These numbers are even higher in other states such as New York and Georgia. If you add that to the maternal mental health issues that are not being addressed, we have a catastrophic problem on our hands. At this point, we are simply fighting to be seen so that we can be heard. I am a black woman who is fighting to make change happen amongst a dying culture. Our country needs to know that this is an epidemic outbreak and it has to stop.
I ask that you embrace my words; embrace my true emotions in the plight for change to reach more women who are looking for the voice that says what they need to hear, so that they too can come out of the darkness and start the road to recovery. If we do not start to initiate this type of change, history will continue to repeat itself in which black women’s voices have no meaning. Whether you are a woman who has lost a baby or a woman who has multiple children, we are all mothers just the same. It’s time that the miscounted feel like they still matter.