Our thoughts on recent events - Chauvin Verdict, Ma'Khia Bryant, Daunte Wright

Trigger warning: This article contains descriptions of fatal violence. Pictured: Paula Bryant, Ma'Khia Bryant's mother, speaks to media alongside other members of the Bryant family and their attorney, Michelle Martin, during a news conference in front of City Hall in Columbus, Ohio, April 28, 2021. Source.

Dear PTBi community,

When the Derek Chauvin verdict was delivered this week, many of us felt a sense of relief. Finally, someone was going to be held accountable and maybe, just maybe, this was a sign of more change to come.

But this glimmer of hope was quickly darkened by the news of the fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant. The anger and despair returned as we recounted the growing list of Black lives that have and continue to be taken unnecessarily by police violence. Nearly a year after George Floyd’s death, and the peak of the BLM movement, has nothing changed? 

Since testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial began on March 29, more than three people a day have died at the hands of law enforcement, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the victims.

Last week, during Black Maternal Health Week, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed just 10 miles from where the Chauvin trial was taking place when a police officer mistook her gun for her taser. This week, police in Daly City shot and killed Roger Allen after four police officers approached Roger and his friends due to a flat tire. 

It is within this context that, when you see Ma’Khia’s Tik Tok videos, it’s hard not to see her as a young girl, as a niece, a daughter, or for some, as your own young self, and wonder what led to that moment? Did she really have to die? Could there have been another way to deescalate the situation without killing Ma’Khia? How are heavily-armed white mass murderers taken without incident into police custody? 

Nine hundred and eighty-four people have been shot and killed by police in the past year. Black people are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white people in the U.S. Latina/o/x people are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

We know that these killings have repercussions that reach far beyond the families directly impacted. A study led by PTBi researcher Dana Goin found that even just knowing of a fatal police shooting in one’s neighborhood can increase a Black woman or birthing person’s risk of preterm birth.

So we fear for the health and safety of all Black women and birthing people during this time. We also fear for pregnant Indigenous and People of Color as they too experience higher rates of preterm birth due to toxic stress and structural factors rooted in the same systems of oppression that enable these police killings. 

We hate that this is our reality. Black people shouldn’t have to live every day in fear that they, their loved ones, and their children could be killed by police due to something as minor as a flat tire or a dangling air freshener, which we've seen time and time again can easily escalate into a fatal shooting. Thank you to our designer Loren Newman, for continually reminding us of how this feels for Black moms and birthing people. She shared her truths with all of us last week in our team’s internal weekly “Thankful Thursday” email, and we are so deeply appreciative. We encourage you to read Loren's note in full, but here’s a snippet: 

"They [the police killings] all leave me feeling more and more thankful for the lives of my father, uncles, two brothers, significant other, and now my 6-month-old son. Now after visiting each of them I am holding them tighter than ever because this hug could be the last hug.

I would like you all to keep in mind:
Your Black employees are exhausted
Your Black employees are scared.
Your Black employees are crying in between meetings.
Your Black employees have mentally checked out
Your Black employees are putting on a performance.

Source: Shenequa Golding

And after you have taken this all into account, think about how this affects birthing people and families."

Loren (middle) with her partner Reggie (left), son Cassian, and mom Mimi (right) at a recent Voices for Birth Justice photoshoot. Learn more about Loren and her experience as a new mama at this Insta live

We all still have so much work to do to achieve justice in the U.S. and equity within the walls of our own organizations. 

We pledge to continue fighting these battles through our work and our commitment to doing research differently, and we are so grateful to all of you for your partnership on this uphill journey. 

In humility and solidarity, 

Alexis Cobbins, Larry Rand and Solaire Spellen 
The PTBi Executive Leadership Team