Our Birth Story

 

In the spring of 2007, Rita Henley Jensen attended a conference in the North Carolina Mountains and took an early morning walk with another attendee, Gail C. Christopher. Gail told Rita about the exciting research project she was directing into the high infant and maternal mortality rates among African Americans. In turn, Rita told Gail about the news service she founded and directed: Women's eNews. When Gail's research was published in the fall of that year, Women's eNews reporter Molly Ginty wrote a report on its surprising findings: that African American women died much more frequently than white women from complications of childbirth. 

Gail moved on to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and its work on racial inequity and Rita turned to her and said she wanted to do much, much more on what is politely referred to as "health disparities."  

Thus began a seven-year partnership between Women's eNews and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Ginty seized the opportunity to do such outstanding work that she won the Casey Medal For Meritorious Reporting. The outstanding pundit with a sharp wit and keyboard, Kimberly Seals-Allers wrote powerful columns on breastfeeding and African American parents and care providers. Staffer Dalila-Johari Paul brought invaluable insight into the race-gender-class conundrums that confront pregnant black women. 

An intern with "fire in her belly," Crystal Lewis became our maternal health reporter, covering both New York City and national stories. She too won an award, hers for community journalism, from the CUNY Journalism Graduate School of Journalism for her work on black teens and the criminal justice system. She shared a byline and the award with Anjali Tao-Herel, then a high school sophomore. Adding the nuts-and-bolts and elbow grease, as well as enthusiasm, that it takes to take a reporter's words to a finished news story, with photos, headlines, facts checked and grammar corrected were the wonderful editorial team of Corinna Barnard and Juhie Bhatia and a series of simply incredibly talented interns. The final step, managed by Ariel Jensen-Vargas, was to post the words and images, prepare it to go out in the daily email, connect it on our Facebook page and to Tweet about it--to build the readership. And of course many more were involved, pitched in, helped out and I am deeply thankful for the hours of their time, often unpaid, that permitted Women's eNews and now the Jane Crow Project to do this groundbreaking, life-saving and justice-seeking work.