Mi Milk Collective
Why Does Mi Milk Collective Exist?
MMC identifies that there is a race equity problem. We are committed to centering systems change as a catalyst to driving strategic approaches in changing the context in ways that Black Birth and Black breastfeeding families can thrive. In doing so, we will have a deeper bench to serve more families, and we’ll have a stronger advocacy voice by amplifying sisterhood, and community-based leadership.
It is our vision that as this organization grows and formalizes our internal structure, we continue shifting the paradigm of leadership, while centering Black birth and Black breastfeeding families. Our community lives and dies on how we do this work in relationship with one another, honoring, and serving our communities in collaboration, not competition, with one another.
We stand in full solidarity with Indigenous families and colleagues as we protect and promote cultural humility in our ancestral practices and reclamation as Black and Indigenous communities as we work toward decolonization.
About Mi Milk Collective:
Mi Milk Collective (MMC) centers Black birth and Black breastfeeding to combat infant and maternal mortality and addresses a slate of structural inequities and indicators that lead to breastfeeding disparities. We are a statewide collaborative that includes, but is not limited to, Black-led community organizations, coalitions, hospital systems, birth workers, and lactation professionals. Each organization and or person that forms part of the Mi Milk Collective is dedicated to supporting the people, organizations, and birth workers who are advancing equity and justice for Black families.
How We Serve our Communities:
Mi Milk Collective is a standing workgroup that is dedicated to operationalizing system change through sisterhood, mentorship, policy advocacy, and celebration of Black birthing and Black breastfeeding. We do this, in the words of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, by listening, trusting, and investing in Black-led organizations and leaders who are trusted and reflect in communities by which they live and serve.
Mi Milk Collective sisterhood (not cis-terhood*) is a feeling and an approach to the work that ensures inclusion of all persons committed to Black birth and breastfeeding justice, and who center Black women in the fight for equity. Mi Milk Collective also facilitates monthly meetings to connect, share, and support Black-led initiatives throughout Michigan.
The forthcoming mentorship opportunities facilitated by Mi Milk Collective will include an annual program with three Black persons serving as mentors to support one Black mentee and one Black intern. The mentee would be a role for non-traditional learners whereas an intern will be where we captivate those interested in entering the field of lactation and continue to spark the minds that will continue the work well after we are gone.
The policy advocacy priority areas of Mi Milk Collective are designed in alignment with the foundational work described by the founders of Black Breastfeeding Week (BBW), titled “Top 5 Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week” Our current policy priorities, are:
- Equitable compensation for lactation professionals should be based on the levels of clinical skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions involved in doing the work
- Support and promote breastfeeding as a chronic disease management and prevention strategy
- Keep parents and newborns together in critical hours after birth, including crises and emergencies
- Establish health and sex education standards that include breast anatomy, physiology and function, including the composition and nutritious value of human milk
- All policies should prioritize the relationship between mother and child, since healthy attachment and social emotional development start during the first 1,000 days and are the foundation for a lifetime of optimal mental and behavioral health
The celebratory efforts of Mi Milk Collective are focused on the importance of the Black lived experience related to Black birthing and Black breastfeeding, including Black Breastfeeding Week, Black Maternal Health Week, and National Prematurity Awareness Month in addition to other events held each year. Our efforts include: organizing and amplifying events, establishing governmental support of BBW, and sharing about the resiliency and triumphs of Black breastfeeding families.
MMC plans to host events dedicated to celebrating black birth, black breastfeeding and amplifying leaders, change makers, and connectors of black lactation supporters and birth workers to resources and one another. MMC also hopes to create spaces to foster and advance entrepreneurship among black lactation professionals and black birth workers.
Awareness campaigns are for advocacy – not awareness for awareness; our work is strategic.
Success(es) to date:
- Policy Platform (link here)
- Hashtag Social Media Kit (link here)
- 2020 Black Breastfeeding Week Proclamation (link here)
- Virtual baby showers (promotional materials linked here)
- Screening of Chocolate Milk, the Documentary (promotional materials linked here)
- Panel Discussion about Black Breastfeeding (promotional materials linked here)
- Mi Milk Collective was featured on the BUILD Initiatives BLOG which can be found here
- Rapid Growth news article featuring members of Mi Milk Collective from September 2020 found here
- Doulas save lives! In honor of World Doula Week 2021, click here to view testimonials from Mi Milk Collective members and families on the dire necessity of Black doulas in birth and breastfeeding.
Leadership, Partnerships, and Members:
Mi Milk Collective was established under the leadership of Shatoria Townsend, MPH, CLC – State of Michigan Breastfeeding Coordinator. Participants of initial planning meetings were invited because of their previous efforts to organize and amplify Black Breastfeeding Week. As the group grew and norms were established, participants became able to share ideas and engage in dialogue truthfully and respectfully. After the group’s first Black Breastfeeding Week in 2020, Mi Milk Collective members articulated unanimously that, as the group moves forward, Shatoria would be the right person to maintain leadership. With the intentionality of Black-women led leadership at the center of the MMC, the leadership team will be developed as part of the next phase of our growth.
Beginning in October 2020, Mi Milk Collective is housed within the Michigan Breastfeeding Network (MIBFN) and Shatoria serves as Chair of the group. MIBFN is responsible for securing funding, setting the budget priorities in partnership with Shatoria, and serves as a convening partner. Shatoria serves in a project manager-like capacity, ensuring the group is convening, deliverables are set, timelines are met, and the work advances.
Current Members of Mi Milk Collective include:
- Bonita Agee
- Gi’Anna Cheairs
- Jennifer Day
- Stephanie Freeman
- Olivia Harvey
- Lonias Gilmore
- Tameka Jackson Dyer
- Sekeita Lewis-Johnson
- Shannon McKenney Shubert
- Shonte’ Terhune Smith
- Shatoria Townsend
- Rickeshia Williams
- Tameka White
- Vicki Wood
- Kaitlyn Bowen
Our Vision for the Future:
We envision that every Black family in Michigan is surrounded by and has access to interconnected, trusted, Black-led community birth and breastfeeding support that is free from financial burden.
We envision government entities throughout Michigan writing, passing, and enforcing Policies that center, honor, and uplift Black birthing and breastfeeding families.
We envision amplifying events held throughout that year related to Black birthing and Black breastfeeding, including Black Breastfeeding Week celebrations every August, Black Maternal Health Week, and National Prematurity Awareness Month in addition to other events affecting Black communities. Our intent is to honor the triumphs and resilience of Black families who are reclaiming Black breastfeeding AND propelling forward a Black-led policy agenda for systemic birth and breastfeeding justice.
*We extend deep gratitude to Desiree Adaway of The Adaway Group for introducing us to the justice centered framing of “sister, not cis-ter” and thank her for her permission to use it in this context.