By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

Black mothers and their babies matter. 

A group of local women is looking to make an impact from the capital city to the nation’s capital, hosting a Black Baby Doll Drive in support of Black Maternal Health Week, which is observed April 11-17. 

The Sacramento Valley Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is also supporting a bill, US Congressional 2021 Momnibus Act – Black Maternal Health – HR 959. Introduced by U.S. Representative Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois), HR 959 directs multi-agency efforts to improve maternal health, particularly among racial and ethnic minority groups, veterans, and other vulnerable populations. It also addresses maternal health issues related to COVID-19.

“A large component of the mission of NCNW is educating women regarding good health along with promoting civic engagement and advocating for sound public policy and social justice,” said Vicki Boyd, who serves as the local group’s 3rd Vice President of Advocacy & Community Engagement. 

“NCNW Sacramento and San Francisco sections wanted to support Black maternal health due to the disproportionate rate of Black mother and infant mortality in our community in spite of the income or educational level of Black pregnant women,” Boyd said.

Locally, the long overdue focus on Black maternal health spawned the Black Child Legacy Campaign (BCLC). According to the BCLC, African American children in Sacramento die at twice the rate of any other ethnicity. Perinatal conditions is one of the four leading causes of death.

Black Maternal Health Week, in its fifth year, is led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. The observance aims to provide a national platform for Black-led entities and efforts on maternal health, birth and reproductive justice and further community organizing on Black maternal health.

The local NCNW group is drawing attention to the bill during Black Maternal Health Week to enhance its momentum and hopefully see it pass before upcoming midterm elections. 

The Black Baby Doll drive is part of the group’s awareness efforts. Donations of new, unwrapped Black baby dolls can be dropped off on Tuesday, April 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Better Life Children’s Services, located at 1750 Howe Avenue, Suite 280. The collected dolls will be given to area foster youth.

“The Black Baby Doll Drive campaign provides a visual image to the legislation and also draws attention to the large number of Black children in foster care in Sacramento County,” Boyd said. “NCNW-SVS wanted the kids to receive Black baby dolls they could identify with which looked like them and chose Better Life Children’s Services as our designated foster care agency.” 

Also participating in the doll drive are the Sacramento alumnae sorority chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta and Sigma Gamma Rho. The effort is already seeing support. 

The California Legislative Black Caucus donated 100 dolls. Sacramento State University’s Division of Social Work and Black Staff & Faculty Association and several other local organizations and individuals have also contributed. 

For more information, call 916-491-6850.