Soul Sistah Midwives

During the 1960-1980, the Soul Sistah Midwives era was created.  Many of the midwives came from organizations such as Childbirth Providers of African Descent (CPAD), the Traditional Childbearing Group (TCBG) and MAAT.

The Soul Sistah Midwives, created an organized effort to go back and fetch it (Sankofa), meaning the stories and traditions of the Grand midwives were to be carried forth to the next generation..

This era is referred to as the “Soul Sistah era” or the Soul Sistah generation. The “Soul Sistahs” was a self-determination act created by Arisika and Shafia parrell with the term “modern midwife “as they refer to themselves after labeling themselves direct-entry midwives. The “soul Sistah” is the next phase after the grand midwives of the subsequent generation, following the traditions of the Grand Midwives of the old South (Haynes 2003, Monroe 2009).  They are the midwives who practiced and were raised during the Civil Rights Movement, a period beginning in1954 and extending to around the 80’s according to Shafia Monroe (2010). The actual date may be earlier as some scholars define commencement of the Civil Rights Era at 1948 when Truman signs Executive order 9981. Civil Rights Era begins with the demise of segregation laws (Dierenfeld 2008, Barnes 1983). The Soul Sistah’s social constructs were highly influenced by the civil rights movement, an age of political activism where Black citizens in mass demanded equal access and equal treatment within states and institutions of power.

During the Soul Sistah Era, the Black midwife is a health advocate, traditional healer, community organizer and interpreter of cultural knowledge. Wilkie (2003) regards the Midwife as filling a key social role generally with little monetary benefit but a wealth of prestige. Shafia Monroe (2010), a Soul Sister midwife, refers to the Grand midwives as pillars of the community. Monroe found that Midwives are traditionally revered in African communities as spiritual and medical healers, as well as community leaders and organizers. The African midwife answered a calling and assumed the social role in response to community need. They are preservers of life and oral historical record responsible for delivering generations of children (Monroe 2010 and Wilkie (2003).

The Soul Sister midwife’s role as advocate and interpreter of cultural knowledge has also become more politicized. The Soul Sistah midwives came together annual training with CPAD during 1980-1987. And later the ICTC began to gather Black midwives and other health professionals and researchers together at the International Black Midwives and Healers Conference, originating in 2002 and remains current. The BMHC galvanizes individual efforts toward affecting legislative policy regarding healthcare, and promote the increase of more Black midwives, along with challenging systemic racism within main stream White midwifery and challenges them to diversify their boards and training accreditations requirements to be inclusive of midwifery from the Africa Diaspora (www.ictcmidwives.org).

Blackmidwives.org was created in 2002, and was the first web-site in history that was dedicated exclusively to document the history of Black midwives, and recruit Black women to midwifery as a calling.  The launching of the Blackmidwives.org, a web-site of the ICTC, increased the number of Black women and women of color to become midwives, and galvanized practicing Black midwives; and it also brought attention to the high infant and maternal mortality rate in the Black race.