THE JAMAA LEGACY
Jamaa Birth Village means family in the African language of Swahili. Come and go with me, on the humble beginnings and birthing of a village.
Welcome to 2022! We have so much to be thankful for, and this year, we are celebrating, “The Legacy of Black Birth in St. Louis!”
On Tuesday October 26th, 2022, the Saint Louis County Council awarded Midwife Okunsola, naming every October 26th as Midwife Tru (Okunsola) day and every month of October-Community Midwife Month, due to the honorary and extraordinary work of Jamaa Birth Village in the community.
In January 2021, Jamaa Birth Village applied and was awarded a 3-year, 1-million dollar grant for the “STL 360 Doula Initiative” in harmony with our initiative the St. Louis Doulas of Color Collective!
On June 19th, 2020, Jamaa Birth Village, opened its doors to our new home, fully furnished, completely renovated and ready to serve and provide care to families across the St. Louis region.
After raising enough funds to purchase our new home, we closed the deal! Renovations began, more donations poured in to pay the contractors, community members came out to help clean, paint and renovate our new 4,000 sq ft facility.
On the 67th day of the campaign, Jamaa Birth Village had did it! We made the biggest accomplishment in Black Maternal Health history in the state of Missouri. We raised $71k in 67 days for Missouri’s first Black Midwifery Clinic and future birth center. We raised more than $60k in 60-days.
In April of 2019, I successfully completed my Midwifery education at the Midwives College of Utah, with a full ride scholarship for all 4-years! I later sat for and passed the NARM exam making me the 1st Black Certified Professional Midwife in Missouri!
Relaunching our organization was no easy task. We temporarily discontinued Midwifery care as we awaited the completion of my Midwifery education program, and we were finding our footing with grassroots grant writing and fundraising to fund our programs and visions. It was tough, but, one day, I had another vision. It began with a flash of the original…
As a part of our relaunch, we also launched the St. Louis Doulas of Color Collective in January 2018. This would be Missouri’s and St. Louis’s first BIPOC Doula collective, led by Black women for all women of color who were considering a path in becoming a Doula or who were trained Doulas.
On Monday January 22nd, 2018, we relaunched our organization and held an open house sharing our renewed mission, vision and name with our community. In Feb 2018 we held our first mom support groups!
Due to many barriers that show up for Black student Midwives, I received new visions that led me to move our organization away from a white supervisory model and into the hands of our own solutions.
April 2017, Jamaa Birth Village hosted its first Community Baby Shower providing nourishing meals combined with pregnancy and childbirth education.
In April 2017, Jamaa Birth Village received its first major grant of $20k from March of Dimes to implement a Centering Pregnancy Program through our Midwifery Clinic.
In October of 2016, we celebrated our 1st annual gala! Many of our supporters, friends, and clients came to celebrate with us. The Brian Owens Band played tunes, while we enjoyed appetizers, stories, and gathering together in honor of the work that had started to grow vastly beyond my imagination.
Our Thursday Midwife clinic days were becoming increasingly popular. Women would drive across Illinois state lines to be seen for home birth Midwifery care, and we needed to find our own space to call home.
In April 2016, Jamaa Birth Village hosted St. Louis’s first Doula training and I co-taught a class of 13-new Doula students in my dining room over the course of 8-days.
The Midwife supervisor of the day arrived, and next thing you know, the sun was fully up, I had a sign on my backdoor to welcome our new clients, and excitingly, I saw the first car pull into the back parking lot. My heart jumped for joy, and visions of Africa flooded my memory. I just knew that Black pregnant women in my community, one day, would be alright.
On October 26th, 2015, the state of Missouri formally recognized Jamaa Birth Village (formerly Community Birth & Wellness Center).
As I said my prayers and songs to the sea, preparing to leave Elmina, Ghana, the place of no return, where my ancestors were kidnapped, stolen and sold and carried to America, I regained one piece of what was lost in that horrible passage to this country, the vision and the gift to go back home, become a Midwife and build a birthing village, just like we had in my ancestral homeland. On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, in Africa, a Fulani-American Midwife was born.