Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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The Bey-B Shower

By Jennifer Leigh

When Beyoncé announced she was pregnant with twins earlier this year, the internet collectively freaked out.

The Pensacola-based Black Women Empower Collective saw the news as an opportunity to take that excitement and celebrate pregnant women—whether or not they had a cabinet full of Grammys.

Haley Morrissette, co-founder of the Black Women Empower Collective and Activities and Program Coordinator, said she wanted to celebrate Beyoncé’s announcement by giving back and “incorporating sisterhood.” So the group set out to start planning a “Bey-B Shower”—a community baby shower for expectant women with black or brown babies.

As Morrissette pointed out, “Beyoncé has enough stuff,” but some pregnant women lack basic needs and access to care, which is why the Bey-B Shower is not only doling out gifts but will provide information and resources regarding everything from birthing to cloth diapers to postpartum depression.

“Black children don’t always get the start that they need,” Morrissette said. “We want to help bridge that gap.”

Black babies at risk
Healthy Start Program Manager, Janet Thompson, said Escambia County’s infant mortality rates for black babies “speaks volumes” about the risks they face.

The infant mortality rate is an indicator showing the mortality rate in deaths per 1,000 live births for infants within their first year of life.

“According to the most current data, Escambia County, Florida’s total infant mortality rate was 7.7 in 2015,” Thompson said in an email. “That rate among white live births was much lower, at 3.3 infant deaths per 1000 live births. However, the black rate was 15 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, more than 4.5 times greater than the white rate.”

In a story published in March in Northwest Florida Daily News, Okaloosa County’s Department of Health Director Dr. Karen Chapman explains that a hormone called “cortisol” is being studied as a possible culprit.

Cortisol is often referred to as a “stress hormone.” It can curb functions, altering the immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.

Chapman said that pregnant women who are victims of negativity could be releasing cortisol and reducing blood flow.

“A black woman walks into a room and she’s judged differently, there’s a different perception,” she told the Daily News. “It’s a constant stressor, to have people afraid of you, to be judged because of the color of your skin, and there’s growing evidence the chronic stress of being treated differently as a black woman has an impact on prematurity and low birth rate.”

After birth, black women and children face more issues.

According to the PEW Research Center, the number of American children living in poverty has declined since 2010, but the poverty rate has changed little for black children.

While poverty rates declined for Hispanic, white and Asian children, it has stayed steady for black children at 38 percent.

Not having access to basic needs can certainly have a negative impact on pregnant women and their children, Thompson said.

“It can be very stressful for clients who are unable to meet their basic needs,” she added.

‘They deserve the world’
Bey-B showers have been popping up all over the country. The Black Women Empower Collective has already hosted one event in Tallahassee in March and will host another shower in Tampa next month.

While the mothers being celebrated at the showers may face a lot of issues, Morrissette said she wants the shower to be a fun event for the attendees. And hints of the shower’s muse will be sprinkled throughout.

“I am extremely Beyhive,” Morrissette said with a laugh. “We’ll have a lemonade bar and flower wall to take portraits. It’s going to be a blast.”

Morrissette said she credits Beyoncé’s most recent album “Lemonade” for “bringing feminism to the table” and more specifically womanism, a term coined by author Alice Walker who wrote “womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender.”

“It turned on a black girl magic switch for me,” she said of the album.

Morrissette said she doesn’t want to stop supporting these women after the shower.

While groups such as LEAPS exist, they are usually a space for white women, Morrissette said, which is why she’s working on a group called LEAPS II for black and brown women in postpartum to discuss issues that are specific to them.

“Mothers of black and brown children have a different set of issues,” she said. “We’d like to have a more diverse group.”

While the event is primarily for black or brown babies, Morrissette said the event and future events are also for white women expecting babies of color, pointing out that they should be a part of the conversation.

As a mother of two, Morrissette said she understands first-hand how important it is to feel supported. This event is a perfect example of the Black Women Empower Collective’s mission to nurture social and cultural enrichment for the betterment of black women.

“This event was my baby,” she said. “We pour so much into our children… I think these women deserve the world. It can be really scary. I want them to know they are loved and they have support.”

BLACK WOMEN EMPOWER COLLECTIVE PRESENTS: BEY-B SHOWER
WHEN: 2-5 p.m. Saturday, June 17
WHERE: WorkBase Entrepreneurial Center, 7203 Pine Forest Rd.
DETAILS: facebook.com/blackwomenempowercollective

For more information about Healthy Start and the services they provide, visit healthystart.info