JayVon Muhammad is a South Carolina-based midwife on a mission: stopping what she calls, the “Baby Mama Epidemic.”
Muhammad, who runs Urban Midwifery, works within underserved communities offering prenatal care to expecting mothers and helping them to bring healthy babies into the world. And while there is little debate over the need for women to be educated about their reproductive health, Muhammad’s campaign aimed at the African-American community has gotten some raised eyebrows.
Through Urban Midwifery, Muhammad has launched a campaign against the “normalization of the baby mama.” The site proclaims:
Being a “Baby Mama” is NOT normal. Yet, today having a baby without having (first) a husband is glorified. Every time one turns on the television or the radio being a “Baby Mama” seems to be okay. Urban Midwifery is on a campaign to dispel this lie.
Being a “Baby Mama” is not fair to the woman or the child. It should not be one’s goal. We women are CHEATING ourselves, and our babies, when we take on the parenting role without a partner. It is unfair and it is not optimum.
Over 70% of Black Babies are born outside of Wedlock. This means that over 70% of pregnancies in the Black Community involve women who are single, in unhealthy relationships, or they may be in committed relationships, but the ultimate relationship commitment – marriage, hasn‘t happened.
A woman of color herself, Muhammad’s assessment of the cultural acceptance of the single mother falls in line with many pro-marriage advocates. On her site, she references Black Marriage Day as a positive way to “stress the importance of healthy and strong marriage in our community.”
While Muhammad contends that being a single mother should not be one’s goal, it is her solution that some find troubling. Today, Irin Carmon wrote a piece for Jezebel critiquing the campaign, calling it “incomplete at best.” She writes:
The financial and personal benefits of a dual income home aside, the idea that simply telling young women that being married will cure homelessness or infant mortality or pull mothers out of poverty neatly overlooks the cycle of poverty, limited employment opportunities, and structural inequality that underpins it. Not to mention suggesting the stigmatization of women while implicitly giving the men who inseminated them a pass.
While it easy to note the flaws of the campaign, it is important to point out that Muhammad has taken a pro-marriage stance while remaining pro-black women. Given the recent swell in billboards and legislation from conservative right-wing groups targeting the black woman’s womb as the “most dangerous place for a child,” it is good to see a woman of color addressing fellow sisters and speaking to them from a place of love.
That said, Muhammad’s explanation for why marriage is the answer is one of the campaign’s weaker suits. Under a section titled “Why Marriage Is What’s Up,” she writes:
Having a spouse to love, care, and provide for you allows you to take your rightful place in the home. The feminine role! The role of wife, mother, first teacher, first nurse.
Lost in this rhetoric is the assumption that all black women need or are ultimately seeking out to play the “feminine role.” While it is no doubt the tradition route, to assume that marriage is for every sister does not take into account that we don’t all share the same needs and desires. While it seems to come from a positive place, I personally feel uneasy with Muhammad’s suggestion that when it comes to marriage and motherhood, sister’s views come in one size fits all.
What’s your take on the campaign against the “normalization of the Baby Mama?” Is marriage to solution to the so-called “Baby Mama Epidemic?” Share your thoughts, Cluchettes- tell us what you think!