This organization is dispelling the myth that black mothers don’t breastfeed Black Breastfeeding Week highlights health benefits and personal empowerment of breastfeeding in the black community

Last week Melanie Jones, a mother of two, learned it was Black Breastfeeding Week through Facebook. When the new mother (age 36) and science teacher found out she was pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter Maycen, the decision she and her husband Ted made to opt for breastfeeding was a no-brainer, as long as her body would allow. They later welcomed a second daughter, Madycen, who is also breastfed.

“It saves money,” Jones said.

According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, families who incorporate breastfeeding practices can save about $1,500 that would go toward formula in the first year.

Melanie Jones nurses her daughter Madycen. She is thrilled that Black Breastfeeding Week is an awareness campaign and hopes that numbers of black mothers who breastfeed will increase.

Photo by Jennifer Clements Wells

And the economical outcome is just one benefit.

Despite discouraging numbers, many mothers like Jones see the total benefits of breastfeeding and many organizations are taking time out to bring awareness to the nationwide topic.

Black Breastfeeding Week was established five years ago by Kiddada Green, Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka and Kimberly Seals Allers. The weeklong campaign continues to embrace breastfeeding in black families. The national awareness campaign ran this year from Aug. 25 through Aug. 31 and its goal is to highlight health benefits and personal empowerment of breastfeeding in the black community.

“For years, our communities have been viewed as places of deficiencies and lacks, but we reject that narrative and have full faith and confidence that we can create the solutions and support to improve infant and maternal health outcomes and save our babies,” said Black Breastfeeding Week co-founder and author of The Big Letdown – How Medicine Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding Kimberly Seals Allers said in a press release.

Using this year’s theme, #BetOnBlack, the weeklong celebration was created in response to the unacceptable racial disparities in breastfeeding rates that have existed for more than 40 years.

“When we Bet on Black we will always win,” said Green, Black Breastfeeding Week co-founder and founding executive director of the Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association in Detroit.

Sangodele-Ayoka said, “We say ‘Bet on Black’ this year as confirmation of the passionate, tireless and innovative work being done by communities and families to protect the first food and this deeply nourishing tradition.” Sangodele-Ayoka, also a Black Breastfeeding Week co-founder, is a nurse-midwife in North Carolina and breastfeeding advocate.

The week included community events and a large social media presence. According the Black Breastfeeding Week, more than 60 local communities participated across the country. This year’s theme speaks to the growing need to create community-partnered solutions designed by the black community. Instead of looking to outsiders, researchers or other traditional “experts” to increase breastfeeding in the black community, the founders of Black Breastfeeding Week are calling on all to #BetOnBlack for solutions.

The trio knows it takes a deeper conversation and will continue to spread the word yearlong.

Meanwhile, other researchers are also in on the conversation. Regina Smith James, director of Clinical and Health Services Research at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, recently wrote an article that stresses the economical and health benefits of breastfeeding.

“When it comes to providing our babies with the best nutrition ever, breastfeeding is not only economical, but it has positive health effects for both baby and mom … Breast milk is uniquely suited to your baby’s nutritional needs, with immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties,” she stressed. “Breast milk not only offers a nutritionally balanced meal, but some studies suggest that breastfeeding may even reduce the risk for certain allergic diseases, asthma, and obesity in your baby, as well as type 2 diabetes in moms.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of women who initiated breastfeeding was 64.3 percent for African-Americans, 81.5 percent for whites, and 81.9 percent for Hispanics.

James added that research shows the racial disparities in the African-American community occur for several different reasons.

“Healthcare settings that separate mothers from babies during their hospital stay; lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding; perceived inconvenience of lifestyle changes; the cultural belief that the use of cereal in a bottle will prolong the infant’s sleep; and embarrassment — fear of being stigmatized when they breastfeed in public,” James wrote.

Shalandus Garrett, new mother of 4-month-old daughter Logan agrees that breastfeeding is the best economical choice for her household and she appreciates the time spent with mother and baby.

“I like the bond it creates and the closeness,” said the 34-year-old cancer researcher at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She is employed in a “super mom-friendly environment” that provides a nursing room and supplies for mothers who work and are away from their children but need to periodically pump milk throughout the work day.

While Garrett has an overproduction of milk, she noted that other problems exist for many women who attempt to breastfeed. These issues include low production of milk and infants not latching on.

Shalandus Garrett stores milk she pumps into her freezer. She overproduces breast milk and is exploring ways to donate her extra milk.

Garrett recently connected with her two cousins who are also new mothers at a family reunion. Joi Miller and Jessica Fitzgerald-Torry both opted to breastfeed but had to stop.

“After not breastfeeding my first child [who is 13], I was adamant to breastfeed any children after,” Miller, 33, said. “It was the most bonding experience I’d ever felt, skin-to-skin is a beautiful feeling, but [also] looking down at my nursing baby girl. I never felt so needed or accomplished. Well, until three months passed and I didn’t produce enough, leaving feelings of inadequacy. But now four months later, all she needed was a couple of months and she still latches on to me from the mere smell of me entering a room. For my first child, I just didn’t value the advantages to breastfeeding. But note my son is still very attached and quite brilliant, I must say.”

Jessica, 26, attempted to but had problems with Legend latching.

According to an article posted on National Institute of Health’s website, “African Americans continue to have the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation, 60 percent, and continuation at 6 months, 28 percent, and, 12 months, 13 percent, compared with all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.”

Although improvements in breastfeeding rates for African-American women are evident from the 2000–2007 National Immunization Survey, African-American mothers are still 2.5 times less likely to breastfeed than white women. Organizations such as Black Breastfeeding Week are working tirelessly to change the narrative and turn a weeklong awareness event into a lifestyle.

‘Dear White People’ creator Justin Simien takes his story to Netflix The writer-director-producer talks about the transition from film to TV and working with a new cast

When Justin Simien created the 2014 film Dear White People, he had no big expectations.

“I think I had fears more than anything,” he said. “I was afraid that people would hate it or wouldn’t get it, so when that didn’t happen, the rest of it was sort of like gravy on the top.”

On Friday, Dear White People the series was released on Netflix, and it picks up where the film left off. It follows a group of students of color at the fictional Winchester University as they navigate a landscape of social injustice, cultural bias, political correctness (or lack thereof) and activism, all the while leading with laughter.

The series’ initial focus is on Samantha White (Logan Browning). She heads the Black Student Union at Winchester University and hosts a campus radio show called Dear White People, on which she confronts the campus’ lack of diversity.

Produced by Lionsgate, the series has a new cast. The stars include Browning, Brandon P. Bell (Troy), Antoinette Robertson (Coco), DeRon Horton (Lionel), John Patrick Amedori (Gabe), Ashley Blaine Featherson (Joelle) and Marque Richardson (Reggie). Yvette Lee Bowser (A Different World, Living Single) serves as showrunner and executive producer, while Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Beyond the Lights) and Julia Lebedev (Dear White People) executive-produce.

Jeremy Tardy, Nia Jervier, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Jemar Michael, Marque Richardson

Adam Rose/Netflix

The 33-year-old Simien, who was writer, director and executive producer on the film, attended Chapman University in Orange, California, where he saw many incidents that would become an inspiration for the film. He spoke to The Undefeated about his journey:


Was it a lot of work to create the series?

Yes, to say the least. It’s a marathon because I’m not sure if I’m completely recovered from making the movie. It’s just nonstop. I’m not complaining, because I got to live my dream for like a year and a half. But I mean, from the minute I could see the bible until the minute I wrapped the editing on the last episode, it requires full complete commitment.

There’s a lot of people that you’re working with. Not everyone has the time and the resources they need. You’ve got to be at peak level and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Yvette Lee Bowser, who was my showrunner and created No Big Deal, created Living Single, and is doing A Different World. She’s been through this so many times. But still this was a very hectic, arduous process, laborious process and that took me for a loop for sure, but like in the best possible way.

What was the most difficult part of transitioning from the film to the series?

I think [for] the film, the hardest part was we just didn’t have a lot of resources at our avail. We were working with a very limited budget and a very limited timeline. … I wanted to honor my vision toward it closely as I could with the resources that I had and try to squeeze everything as close to a diamond as you can make it — that was the hardest part.

Every single day, fighting the insecurities, fighting the fact that you haven’t slept for days, problem-solving, and not only making it work, but like trying to make it shine, trying to make it dope. That was the hardest part about the movie.

I think with the show the hardest part was really just endurance. You’ve got to do that every day on a TV show. And it’s not like the writers and the directors, they’re just going to make it, you know what I mean? Especially when it came out of my head so specifically. It’s not like this existed already as a comic book and I came on board to figure it out as a TV show. These are characters that come from me. So it’s a very hand-on process and it’s a very long process. So just getting used to that, just getting used to the rhythm of it, getting used to the pace of it, that was probably the most challenging thing.

How did being at Chapman University inspire you?

It’s my alma mater so I ain’t mad, all right. It was a good education, but the biggest thing was the culture shock. Going from Houston, Texas, and living in the city really … I was surrounded by all kinds of people all the time and it’s a bustling city and you see black people everywhere.

At Chapman, it really was a very white, Republican majority of people. The film school was pretty international and you could chop it up with people from different cities and different races and stuff like that within the film program. But, by and large, that part of the country is very white, Republican and they’re just people who honestly had never met a black person before. They were well-intentioned, but poorly informed and just that awkwardness of just trying to find myself in that kind of environment — that’s really what spawned the movie.

There certainly wasn’t a “blackface party” that I was aware of on my campus, thank goodness, and some of the events in the film were certainly borrowed and condensed and movie-ized versions of things that happened. But the thing that was true for me at Chapman was just getting used to such a lack of diversity amongst a general population of that city, of that town.

It was the culture shock of it all as opposed to like someone being openly racist or antagonistic against me. That I did not experience. No. It’s a lot of lovely people there, but it’s a still very specific part of the country.

But then I have a career in Hollywood, so I had to get used to that culture shock. There’s a lot of black folks working in the industry, but Hollywood’s a predominantly white place. I’m certainly almost always the single black person voicing my particular opinion in a given group of people, so I had to kind of get used to it and in a lot of ways that’s what the movie was about too.

It was like if you’re a person of color and you’re trying to navigate your way in this country, at some point in time you’re going to have to deal with people that have very specific ideas of what and who you are before you even open your mouth. It’s just going to be a part of your experience and that’s what the kids are going through in the movie too and in the show, of course.

How did you come up with that satirical technique in telling the story?

I think it starts with me as an audience. Remember, that’s the stuff I’ve always loved. I love movies and I love television shows that challenge me or force me to confront something. 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite movie of all time, but I was so pissed at that movie. I was so angry because I tried to watch it all of these times and I just didn’t get it. I could not get through the monkey sequence and I was so mad, so it was like, ‘What is everyone talking about? This movie is so f—ing slow. I hate it.’

It’s my favorite movie of all time and so I’m attracted to doing work that provokes an emotional response, but provokes a response for a purpose, to illuminate something. I think being attracted to that stuff, I just naturally try to emulate it, make stuff that was like it.

It wasn’t like this master plan. It’s like I sit down, an idea occurs to me, and what comes out is what it is. I’m either pleased with that or I’m not. It is kind of a process of like eliminating the things I don’t like until I think it’s OK. That’s just kind of how I work. I don’t know that I set out like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make Jurassic Park.’

What’s the difference in having a new cast?

Well, when we set out to do the show, I wanted everybody back. That just wasn’t possible for a bunch of logistical reasons. Like a lot of those m—– were like, ‘We’re in Marvel movies now, Justin, so we’re not available.’ That was just amazing.

Everybody’s busy and of course, if you throw one new cast member into the mix, like it changes the dynamic of everything. It’s sort of everyone has to be re-evaluated now. But what I loved about Logan and Antoinette and John Patrick and DeRon is that they absolutely paid respect to what the actors before them did, but they weren’t afraid to sort of put it in their own language, or own body language.

Like Samantha White in the movie and Samantha White in the show are the same character, but Tessa [Thompson] as Samantha White and Logan as Samantha White are very different people. I could see them having a conversation and not vibing or getting along, but there being some tension, but they’re both playing the same character on the page.

That’s a really hard thing to do as an actor, particularly in TV. In theater it happens all the time. I mean, actors play roles … I mean, you don’t expect to see the same person in Macbeth that you did the last time or the last time it was performed. That’s not even an expectation in the theater. But in film and TV … it can be a little awkward, especially if the actor that’s doing it is like doing an impression or doing an impersonation of the person that came before them. It just feels flat.

What do you see yourself doing next?

I’m a storyteller. It’s what I was born to do. It’s what I want to do till the day I die … I want to keep going with the series, but I also have some projects that are in the works and some projects that I’m writing right now before the strike may or may not happen, so there’s stuff I’m finishing up.

I want to work in all medium. I want to be able to carry a show and have a movie come out. One day I want to do Broadway. One day I want to write a novel. I want to keep experimenting with the way in which I can tell stories. I want to make big movies. I want to make small movies. I want to do it all.

How do you feel about creating roles for African-American talent?

It’s really exciting because I think that we push each other. I don’t feel a sense of competition with Barry Jenkins or Ryan Coogler or Ava [DuVernay], but when I see their work, I’m so inspired by it that it pushes me to be a better filmmaker. There’s just something really unique about this moment that’s not lost on me. I don’t know if this is how directors felt in the early ’90s when black was en vogue at that time, but I just feel like we’re about to do some really special things in the culture as we come of age and keep working.

To me, it’s really exciting and I love that there is an appetite for all the different versions of black people. Like the fact that me and Issa [Rae] and Donald Glover have shows about young black people on the air and couldn’t be more different is really, really cool. Because for the first time it’s not like, ‘That’s the young black show. That’s the adult black show. That’s the black sitcom and that’s the black drama. Good night.’

President Obama leads talk at University of Chicago in first public appearance Obama has returned to the spotlight to keep spreading words of hope

Excellence. Class. Hope. Commitment. Service. The Obama family embodies the new American dream — a dream that includes all people. President Barack, a biracial boy with a funny name. First lady Michelle, a hardworking girl from around the way. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, millennials who grew up in the public eye while navigating normal teen life.

For eight years, the nation witnessed the power of a black family, woven together by love for each other and love for their country. And, although those eight years have come to a close, the Obamas’ legacy is just beginning to unfold. The Undefeated will be following along every step of the way. Whether they’re on vacation, going to a show or speaking at an event, we’ll be there to give you the latest and greatest of our favorite family. Because after all: Yes we can, yes we did, and yes we will continue.


“My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you. I won’t stop. In fact, I will be right there with you as a citizen for all my remaining days.” – President Barack Obama

During his farewell address, President Barack Obama made a final promise to serve the country as a private citizen. After a well-deserved vacation where he spent time with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters; sailed the high seas with the likes of other influencers, including Oprah; and quite literally glowed, President Obama is making good on his final promise to his constituents: to serve.

Former US President Barack Obama participates in a ‘conversation on community organizing and civic engagement’ at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 24 April 2017. The event is the first public function for Obama since leaving office in January.

EPA/TANNEN MAURY

Monday marks his first official post-presidential appearance, leading a talk on civic engagement and community organizing at the University of Chicago, where he formerly was a law professor.

Former President Barack Obama greets youth leaders at the University of Chicago as he arrives for a forum to promote community organizing on April 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The visit marks Obama’s first formal public appearance since leaving office.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Held at the Logan Center for the Arts, Obama is joined by six activists: some from local Kenwood Academy High School, some high school students and some older, Obama spokesperson Kevin Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times. The talk serves as the first installment of the 44th U.S. president rolling up his sleeves alongside the American people. After today’s conversation in Chicago, there will be several other high-profile events around the country and in Berlin and Milan.

Former President Barack Obama (C) visits with youth leaders at the University of Chicago to help promote community organizing on April 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The visit marks Obama’s first formal public appearance since leaving office.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago has always held special meaning for Obama, as it is the city where he became a highly regarded community organizer. It is no coincidence that his first post-presidential engagement is spent alongside young people discussing the very thing that sparked his legacy — service. Obama has long credited his three-year stretch as a grass-roots organizer as “the best education I ever had, better than anything I ever got at Harvard Law School.”

Obama got a little much-needed rest and relaxation, and now he’s back in action.

Elise Neal dreams of being Liam Neeson — and loves the Grizzlies Plus she’s into Lena Horne and has a passion for fitness

Just one year ago, actress and dancer Elise Neal reached a milestone. She turned 50 — and took the internet by storm by posting bikini photos to her Instagram page. She attributes her toned body to a relentless fitness routine, and this year she’s sharing her secrets via her Elite Body Boot Camp that kicked off in Houston over the Super Bowl weekend.

A Memphis, Tennessee, native, Neal has a catalog of work that includes 2005’s Hustle & Flow, as well as TV One’s reality show Hollywood Divas. She recently starred in No Regrets, which premiered on Urban Movie Channel in February. Now she’s playing the role of Kathryn Munson in the latest Marvel movie, Logan — featuring, of course, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Her favorite throwback show is A Different World and her go-to things to read are scripts — something she’s written or something she’s studying.

What are you reading?

I’m so not a reader. I do not read anything other than a whole lot of scripts. In terms of my career, I’m writing now, so I’m rewriting and writing and reading a lot of my own projects. I am 100 percent clear and focused that I will create and produce something that everyone will see by the end of this year.

What are the go-to inspirational songs on your playlist?

I like a lot of hip-hop. I need a lot of beats and energy. Turn the music up. I do that to get ready. I like that energy. I need it to be loud. If it’s a lot of music and beats, honey, it’s going to push me out the door. It’s going to really give me the energy I need for the day.

My mission is to make sure that women of all ages feel better and look better, and be their best selves.

Is there something in your acting career that you haven’t done that you’d like to do?

Everything I see Liam Neeson do, anything in those Taken movies, if I could do the female version of that for myself, I would love that. That would be fun.

If you could play a famous person in a movie, dead or alive, who would that person be?

That’s a great question. Lena Horne. Someone who was glamorous and really made a change and really had to struggle.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

I’m excited about Logan and getting everyone to see that project. That’s going to be fun. Almost every day someone is asking me about fitness. I think a lot of women don’t understand that [fitness] is not simple but it is something that you can add into your life. My mission is to make sure that women of all ages feel better and look better, and be their best selves.

Where does your courage come from?

I think it comes from my mom and I think it comes from my older sister. My mom was a nurse and then decided to go back to school so that she could teach nursing. So I [grew] up seeing all that. My older sister decided to move away from Memphis and went [into] finance and I was able to see all that growth. I feel like we’re all strong women in my family and it got passed on to me.

What will you always be a champion of?

I’m always a champion of being yourself. I’m a champion of definitely being who you want to be.

What is your favorite social media hangout spot?

My Instagram page. I like it because I can give all the things I want to share. If I want to do workout videos, if I want to do any type of silly posts, if I want to show people what’s going on, I feel like I can give them all of that on my Instagram.

What’s your favorite throwback TV show?

I used to love A Different World. And I used to watch the show, because I was in musical theater and dancing, [and] I remember Debbie Allen used to be on there a lot. I liked to check her out. But I also liked the fact that it was just a little different, and it was about a college experience. A Different World was very cool.

How does it feel to be a triple threat in the industry?

It keeps me sane. It keeps me from being stagnant. I don’t like being put in a box. So it allows all of my creative juices to flow. I’m dancing, I’m singing, I’m acting, I’m silly. I like all of those things.

Anybody from the Memphis Grizzlies team, I’m down with.

Who is your favorite athlete?

Anybody from the Memphis Grizzlies team, I’m down with. I love them. They’re doing really good this season.

Which do you enjoy more: reality TV or scripted television?

I like both. I was just talking to somebody about this. My favorite reality show is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s just inspirational, let’s just keep it real. Those women are balling out. They have amazing homes, they have amazing careers, and they’re really kind of untouchable.

What can you tell me about your role in Logan?

I enjoyed it so much. When you’re doing something of this scale, just to be a part of it, is — when I got the call that I got the job. I mean I literally did cry. I’m from Memphis, my journey started as a musical theater girl and being a dancer. And to be able to go to set and work with Hugh Jackman, who is huge in the musical theater community, I literally tap-danced over to him when I met him for the first time. He got a chuckle out of that.