Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


While Improving, Hospitals Still Don’t Give Moms Enough Support For Breastfeeding; Racial Disparities Persist

While there has certainly been some improvement over the last several years, many hospitals continue to provide inadequate breastfeeding supports for new moms.  In some cases, this inadequate support also includes actions that undermine the breastfeeding intentions of the new moms.  Progress is good, but there's way more work to be done on this front.

From yesterday's NPR report (including links)...

Most hospitals around the country aren't doing a good job of helping new moms who want to breast-feed, researchers report Tuesday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Several common practices at the institutions may actually prevent moms from sticking with breast-feeding for six months — the duration thought to be most healthful for babies.

Epidemiologists at the CDC surveyed more than 80 percent of the birthing centers across the country about the support they give new moms trying to breast-feed. About half of those surveyed said they implement five of the 10 practices recommended by the World Health Organization. By comparison, only a third of hospitals were hitting that mark in 2007.

"We've seen significant progress in recent years," Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters at a press conference. "But there's still more to be done ... Hospitals really need to support women before, during and after their hospital stay."

Read the full piece at NPR. (October 6, 2015)

This relative progress notwithstanding, there remain significant differences in rates of breastfeeding by race.

According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

More Women Are Breastfeeding and for Longer Periods

  • From 2000–2008, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding went up from 47.4% to 58.9% for blacks, and 71.8% to 75.2% for whites. Initiation rates for Hispanics went from 77.6% to 80.0%, although this was not a significant increase.
  • Infants that were breastfed at 6 and 12 months increased greatly among all three racial/ethnic groups.
  • While 74.6% of infants born in 2008 began breastfeeding, only 23.4% met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months. This indicates women may need more support to continue breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Among Black Women

  • The gap between black and white breastfeeding initiation rates narrowed from 24 percentage points in 2000 to 16 percentage points in 2008. The 6-month duration gap also narrowed from 21 percentage points to 17 percentage points during that same time.
  • Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years. Black mothers may need more, targeted support to start and continue breastfeeding.

Ta-Nehisi Coates On Police Brutality, The Confederate Flag And Forgiveness

Growing up in West Baltimore, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was no stranger to violence. "Everyone had lost a child, somehow, to the streets, to jail, to drugs, to guns," he tellsFresh Air's Terry Gross.

Coates' new book, Between the World and Me, is an effort to protect his son from the same threats he experienced as a youth. Written in the form of a letter, Coates draws on history as well as personal experience to discuss the different forms of violence young African-Americans face on the street, in school and from the police.

According to Coates, despite the media's recent attention to police violence against black men, he does not believe such incidents are on the rise; rather, he says, injustices have been occurring for years — and many of them can be traced to America's flawed judicial system.

"We've spent the last roughly half a century or so growing increasingly Draconian, stripping back people's rights in terms of how they deal with the criminal justice system, increasing the punitive nature of the criminal justice system once people are in the system's clutches — all of that is brought to bear when we think about each of these deaths."

From NPR -- Monday, July 13, 2015.


Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Structural Ghettos, Baltimore Included (via NPR)

We really have to stop blaming individuals for the aftermath of the extensive and violent structural policies of this nation... past and present. And we must be mindful enough to not confuse this with the increasingly popular discussion of implicit bias. Implicit bias is indeed real (not to mention a very old concept in the psychological literature) yet it does not negate (and can even distract us from understanding) the persistent and intentional racism that continues to shape public policy in this country. Moreover, our failure to understand the structural roots of violent and persistent inequities further confuses people and reinforces the implicit biases people form.

From NPR, May 14, 2015:

Fifty years after the repeal of Jim Crow, many African-Americans still live in segregated ghettos in the country's metropolitan areas. Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, has spent years studying the history of residential segregation in America.

"We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls 'de-facto' — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight," Rothstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

"It was not the unintended effect of benign policies," he says. "It was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that's the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies."


Her Life Matters: Michigan Man Guilty In Shooting Death Of Renisha McBride

The white Detroit-area homeowner who said he felt threatened when he shot and killed an unarmed black female teenager on his front porch was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Monica Bride, speaking about her daughter, Renisha McBride:

She was not violent. She was a regular teenager, and she was well-raised and brought up with loving family. And her life mattered.


DOJ Probe Reveals Use Of Violence and Excessive Force At New York Prison Rikers Island


You're encouraged to download and read the full report here (PDF, 79 pages).

From the official statement, posted by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced today the completion of the Justice Department’s multi-year civil investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (“CRIPA”) into the conditions of confinement of adolescent male inmates on Rikers Island.   The investigation, which focused on use of force by staff, inmate-on-inmate violence, and use of punitive segregation during the period 2011-2013, concluded that there is a pattern and practice of conduct at Rikers Island that violates the rights of adolescents protected by the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.   The investigation found that adolescent inmates are not adequately protected from physical harm due to the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by New York City Department of Correction (“DOC”) staff and violence inflicted by other inmates.   In addition, the investigation found that DOC relies too heavily on punitive segregation as a disciplinary measure, placing adolescent inmates in what amounts to solitary confinement at an alarming rate and for excessive periods of time.   Many of the adolescent inmates are particularly vulnerable because they suffer from mental illness.

Attorney General Eric Holder said: “The extremely high rates of violence and excessive use of solitary confinement for adolescent males uncovered by this investigation are inappropriate and unacceptable.   The Department of Justice is dedicated to ensuring the effectiveness, safety and integrity of our criminal justice systems.   Going forward, we will work with the City of New York to make good on our commitment to reform practices that are unfair and unjust, and to ensure that – in all circumstances, and particularly when it comes to our young people – incarceration is used to deter, punish, and ultimately rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and forget.”

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As our investigation has shown, for adolescents, Rikers Island is a broken institution.   It is a place where brute force is the first impulse rather than the last resort; where verbal insults are repaid with physical injuries; where beatings are routine while accountability is rare; and where a culture of violence endures even while a code of silence prevails.   The adolescents in Rikers are walled off from the public, but they are not walled off from the Constitution.   Indeed most of these young men are pre-trial detainees who are innocent until proven guilty, but whether they are pre-trial or convicted, they are entitled to be detained safely and in accordance with their constitutional rights – not consigned to a corrections crucible that seems more inspired by Lord of the Flies than any legitimate philosophy of humane detention.   These young men, automatically charged as adults despite their age under New York law, may be on an island and out of sight, but they can no longer remain out of mind.   Attention must be paid immediately to their rights, their safety and their mental well-being, and in the wake of this report we will make sure that happens one way or another.”

In its report to the City of New York, made public today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notes that “a deep-seated culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent facilities at Rikers, and DOC staff routinely utilize force not as a last resort, but instead as a means to control the adolescent population and punish disorderly or disrespectful behavior.”

Below is a very brief discussion about these latest findings from NPR earlier this week (approx. 4 mins.):

The Justice Department found constitutional rights violations of adolescent inmates at Rikers Island. Corrections officers are said to use solitary confinement as a first-resort disciplinary action.


‘You Don’t Really Know Us,’ Chicago Kids Tell News Media

Bradwell School of Excellence - Chicago

Bradwell School of Excellence - Chicago, Illinois

Posted on NPR on August 2, 2014.

Tired of seeing their neighborhood portrayed in news reports as a desolate and violent place, fifth-graders in Chicago's South Shore area wrote what their teacher calls a "counternarrative." Their op-ed for The Chicago Tribune includes this line: "This isn't Chi-raq. This is home. This is us."

The students attend the Bradwell School of Excellence in South Shore. They wrote their essay collaboratively, taking the best parts of what they wanted to say. In one section they spoke directly to reporters who drop in to report on a shooting, telling them, "but you don't really know us."

Two of the students — Rondayle Sanders and Damiontaye Rodgers – discuss the essay on today's Weekend Edition, along with their teacher, Linsey Rose.

Approximately 5 minutes.


A Former Drug Dealer Gives A Great Defense Of The Liberal Arts

The Bard Prison Initiative gives inmates at six prisons around New York state the opportunity to study in person with professors from top colleges and universities in the region.

As I've reiterated previously, we need far more of these programs. Moreover, we need similar kinds of funding and support for the prison education programs that are being led by community-based organizations, and that help prisoners understand their incarceration experiences, indeed the incarceration state in this nation more generally, through an African / African American historical and cultural lens.

Brief excerpts, with links to additional data sources and additional information resources...

It's one of only a few dozen programs around the country that actually awards college degrees to prisoners — a few thousand per year out of the 2.3 million people in prison.

"I did 20 years in prison and I went to prison when I was 17 years old," he told me simply. At the age when many young people are preparing for college, Hughes instead became one of the 1 in 15 black men who are incarcerated (the figure for whites is 1 in 106). He was sentenced for two crimes, first-degree manslaughter and sale of narcotics. And mandatory sentencing laws meant he would spend his entire youth atoning for his crimes, while others are busy getting an education, working, starting families and contributing to their communities.

For too many people, incarceration is a formative experience, not a reformative one. Within five years of their release, more than 3 out of 4 ex-inmates are arrested again.

For students in the Bard program, the figure is much lower. Out of the 300 students who have graduated, only 4 percent have returned to prison.

This was a young man who hadn't seen much of the world beyond his own neighborhood. He said his studies offered him a new perspective on the wider world and on his own past, and enabled him to "visualize" his future.

"I'm in a position, because of Bard, to be able to really see the world in the way that I should have seen it years ago," he said. "It's a little bit easier for me to navigate through society because of how Bard prepared me. That's what a liberal arts education can really do for a person such as myself, or anybody who is trying to find their own way in life."

College-in-prison programs used to be paid for by the federal Pell Grant. In 1994, President Bill Clinton made prisoners ineligible for this money, and enrollment collapsed. In February this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly backed the idea of reinstating state aid for college in prison. He pointed specifically to the accomplishments of BPI graduates.

But he quickly dropped the plan after facing opposition in the state Legislature. Republican state Sen. Greg Ball launched a petition against Cuomo's plan, arguing that funding college for inmates was inappropriate at a time when families in the state were struggling to send their children to college.


‘Guns Kept People Alive’ During The Civil Rights Movement

nonviolent stuff will kill - charles cobb

From yesterday's Tell Me More broadcast on NPR.  You can also check out the full transcript here.

One of the cornerstones of the civil rights movement was non-violent resistance. During lunch counter sit-ins and protest marches Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders instructed participants not to take up arms. Instead, when violence erupted or force was used to disrupt their activities, people would non-violently resist attempts by law enforcement to end the protest.

But this passive resistance did not necessarily mean an unwillingness to use force to protect themselves from violence in other circumstances.

This hiding in plain sight story is recounted to NPR's Michel Martin by author, professor and former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee field secretary Charles E. Cobb Jr. in his new book, This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.


Ta-Nehisi Coates On Reparations (via NPR): ‘We’re Going To Be In For A Fight’

Below is an interesting discussion from today on NPR's Tell Me More.

So, if I say I want to talk about reparations for African-Americans - you say what? It's about time, that's ridiculous - who cares? - it's never going to happen - or maybe even, what's that? Outside of academic circles and the occasional gathering of Black Nationalists, it would seem that very few people talk about reparations for African-Americans these days.

But that is about to change. In a 15,000 word essay for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for the magazine, describes generations of government-directed or sanctioned efforts to deprive black people of the ability to generate wealth. And, as well, he describes black people's efforts to overcome that. He describes this as a moral debt to African-Americans, and says until it is paid, this country cannot be whole. He joins us today from our bureau in New York to talk about this piece, which is already getting a lot of attention. It's called, "The Case For Reparations." And Ta-Nehisi Coates is with us now. Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.


‘One Nation Underemployed’ Shows Blacks Still In Crisis

From NPR:  The National Urban League's new "State of Black America" report finds that African-Americans are still struggling to find jobs, but there's plenty they can do to recover from the recession.

MARTIN: Thank you so much for joining us, Professor Overton. So, Marc Morial, the report is titled "One Nation Underemployed." Why do you focus on underemployment? And I mean, one of the issues we've been reporting on quite extensively in recent years is that the unemployment rate for African-Americans and Latinos has been consistently high. So why are you focusing on underemployment?

MORIAL: Underemployment is sort of a component of the economic challenges we face. So underemployment means a person may be working but - for example, they may be in a full-time job, but want to work in a - or maybe in a part-time job - may want to work in a full-time job. Or they're working, as a woman I recently met, as a cashier at a grocery store, happy to be employed, but qualified to - and spent 24 years as a teacher. So this underemployment problem is not fully captured by simply looking at the joblessness rate or the unemployment rate. And we think it is something that is part of the picture of the recovery since the great recession.

One of the points raised is that African American families should increasingly encourage our children to move into some of the professional fields in which we are overly-invovled as consumers, and under-involved as producers. Such fields include the various STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields:

OVERTON: I think so. One piece here is STEM and the importance of STEM. You know, African-Americans are much more likely to use Twitter, to have a mobile phone than some others, but they are underrepresented in terms of producing in the technology area. And so there's a Joint Center report that found that if we were to increase the rate of STEM-related degrees among African-Americans and Latinos to the same rate as Asian-Americans, we'd add about 140,000 new STEM degree holders every year. That would benefit the economy. It would also go a long way in terms of inequality.