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Miscarriage: An Unspoken Burden of Loss

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Narissa L. Harris

The holidays bring up a myriad of feelings including joy, anxiety, excitement, and, sadly, loss over a recently departed relative, parent or spouse. But one unspeakable source of sadness that is seldom openly discussed is miscarriage.

While the birth of a new child is often thought of as a returning of a relative or ancestral spirit, miscarriage is steeped in taboo.

Traditionally, our lifestyles supported and honored our ability to talk to the “knowing and knowable” spirits of the yet-to-be-born, the living and those who dwell in the afterlife. This cultural practice helped, in unexplained ways, to experience uninterrupted pregnancies holistically.  But it has not addressed the issue of struggling with miscarriage.

I, however, can guarantee you that a Black woman will be struggling with loss due to miscarriage this holiday season. I can say that because of my personal experience.

Before God gave my husband and myself our blessing of joy, I suffered three miscarriages. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I also know that miscarriage mentally hits Black women much harder than other women.

African-American women are two times more likely to have a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death  as compared to white women. Socioeconomic status does not influence these results. There is no clear reason why Black women experience miscarriages more often than white women, but research hints to the racial trauma we experience.

Sadly, these higher levels of pregnancy loss add to the already higher rates of depression and anxiety Black women face and there are few programs offering support specifically geared to women who have experienced miscarriages.

This lack of support creates feelings of loneliness and isolation, which, for a Black woman, can increase her potential for depression. It doesn’t help that disconnection from traditional cultural moorings  can contribute to further alienation in our daily experiences of being Black.

The best way to support Black women experiencing miscarriages is to first invite them to talk with trusted family and friends and to seek counseling from African-centered trained therapists.  During this painful time, I believe we need to recognize and do the following:

#1 – Black women need to be held after experiencing a miscarriage.

We may say we don’t; we may even push you away. But we need to be held physically and emotionally during this time of loss and not just in the initial days after losing a baby. We also need to be held for weeks, months, and even years after our losses.

#2 – Experiencing a miscarriage is not a “keep it together” situation.

The loss of a pregnancy, a child, is traumatic, regardless of the stage of pregnancy a woman was in. Black women are prone to experience this trauma more intensely because of all the hats we wear and how we are forced to move through society.

Losing babies hits our wombs inter-generationally and trauma is etched into our psyche from the Middle Passage to slavery to the present. Be careful not to encourage a Black woman who has lost a child to hold it together. Avoid common sobriquets like: “It will be OK,” “Just keep praying,” or “In due time.”

These phrases mean well, and may even be true, but they also carry the message that Black women should move on because prayer and faith are supposed to be enough comfort. The phrases endorse the need to always be strong and hold it together. But, when we allow ourselves to fall apart, true and authentic healing can happen. It is important to allow a Black woman to process the grief felt with pregnancy loss. This brings me to my final point.

#3 – Expressive healing is what Black woman need after a miscarriage.

We need different forms of expression. We don’t always need to talk. Sometimes we just need to be in the presence of people creating peace and positive energy.

This can be through music, dancing, church, poetry, or many other healing forms of expression. Often it is these deeper forms of expression, not related to our verbal abilities that allow a Black woman to not forget the hurt of losing a baby, but rather cope with it in healthy ways.

I pray that this article and my story will help others think of the many untold stories of pregnancy loss.

And if you are reading this, and still waiting on your blessing, I say to you I see you Sista: your pain is valid, your emotions are justified, and you are not alone.

The Association of Black Psychologists, Bay Area Chapter (ABPsi-Bay Area) is committed to providing the Post Newspaper readership with regular discussions about critical issues in Black Mental Health. The ABPsi-Bay Area is a healing resource.

We can be contacted at (bayareaabpsi@gmail.com) and readers are welcome to join with us at our monthly chapter meeting, every third Saturday at the West Oakland Youth Center from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.               

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

New Assemblymember Mia Bonta to Caucus With 3 Legislative Groups

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

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Assemblymember Mia Bonta, (third from left), with (left to right) Senator Steve Bradford, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurman, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, assemblymembers Isaac Bryan Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Kevin McCarty.

Soon after Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) was sworn in last week to represent California’s 18th Assembly District — which covers parts of East Bay — she signed on as a member of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (CLWC), the California Latino Legislative Caucus (CLLC), and the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC).

Bonta is the 11th member of the Black Caucus and the only lawmaker representing a district in the Bay Area. In the Latino Caucus, she is the 30th member, and out of 120 lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature, she is the 39th woman.

“Special congratulations to our newest member @MiaBonta, who was sworn into the Assembly this morning! #AD18 has chosen a fantastically fearless representative, and I look forward to working with you Assemblymember Bonta! #CALeg,” wrote Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego).

Mialisa “Mia” Tania Bonta, who is Puerto Rican of African descent, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1993 and a Master of Education (Ed.M.) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1996. Bonta also received a J.D. from Yale University Law School in 1999.

Her work experience includes over 20 years working with nonprofits, including serving as CEO of Oakland Promise, a college and career prep program for Alameda County high school students.  She was also president of the Alameda Unified School District Board from 2018 to 2021.

“Congratulations to @MiaBonta on her election to the Assembly, which not only made her the first Afro Latina in the Legislature, but also raised the number of women in the Legislature to an all-time high,” California Lt. Gov., Eleni Kounalakis stated on Twitter.

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

“I am deeply honored to represent the 18th Assembly District. Our district has a long history of bold, progressive, leadership and I plan to continue this work in our diverse district,” Bonta tweeted September 7. “I’m ready to fight for bold solutions to issues like homelessness, housing affordability, climate change, and criminal justice reform for AD-18 and all Californians. I am ready to get to work.”

Bonta steps in to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who vacated the AD 18th seat in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him California Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra, who is now United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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Bay Area

Castlemont High Coach Launches “Books Before Balls” Project

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

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Tamikia McCoy/Photo Courtesy of Tanya Dennis

 

Michael Franklin

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

For two years, she played with the Running Rebels, an Oakland all-star basketball team.  After earning many degrees, McCoy returned to her beloved Castlemont as Coach in 2019, and quickly realized a responsibility to her students beyond winning games and created Books Before Balls.

Another Castlemont alumni of that same year was not as fortunate as McCoy.  Like McCoy, Michael Franklin was a basketball beast.  He was awarded first team All-City for the Oakland Athletic League 1993-1994 and was Northern California’s All American that same year. 

Franklin continues to hold the record for scoring 43 points in one quarter in a game against McClymonds. Tragically, he was killed Dec. 14, 2016, at a gas station at 98th and Edes in Oakland.

Coach McCoy’s concerns about violence inspired her to create the Books Before Balls Project to address academic and social gaps that are working against student success. 

“For violence and bullying to cease, the underlying reasons have to be addressed,” said McCoy, “Food scarcity may seem unrelated to violence, but it’s a signal that economic opportunities are lacking, which leads to trauma and desperation.”  

McCoy is also concerned that Castlemont’s library was closed and is spearheading a campaign to reopen and revitalize the library.  

She has joined with Oakland Frontline Healers and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkids movement to address issues of food scarcity, lack of economic opportunity, lack of resources and lack of support for students entering college.  

Together, they are creating a model that is duplicatable and hopefully will be adopted at other OUSD schools. Oakland Frontline Healers are a collaborative of 30 nonprofits and doctors offering services, food, and resources to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.  

Players and families will be tested weekly by Umoja Health before games, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those that wish to take it.

With a grant from the Department of Violence Prevention, Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkidsmovement, are honoring Michael Franklin’s life by hosting a series of “Mike’s Knights” Basketball Tournaments at Castlemont High School beginning the last Friday in November.  

Participants will be paid stipends to participate in the league or cheer squad and will be tutored and mentored during the tournaments, which will include family forums to discuss ending violence in East Oakland.

Books Before Balls invites the community to donate to the organization to support the Lady Knights’ basketball team, the success program that funds first year college students, or join their initiative to reopen the library. 

 For more information contact:  Ladyknights2019@yahoo.com For youth interested in joining the eight-week tournament contact Adamika Village at adamikaadamika@gmail.com 

Together with school leaders and administrators, and with the support of Oakland Frontline Healers, Books Before Balls is staging a “Student’s Against Bullying” event Friday, Sept. 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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