This past Sunday (July 28, 2019) I was assaulted while holding in my arms an image of my dead child. My sun Kali died in 2016 a result of the recklessness and substandard care of out-of-hospital providers, including midwife Eileen Stewart.
A bit of background: Last Wednesday (July 24, 2019) I learned that the NYS Education Department’s Office of Professional Discipline (NYSED) had FINALLY ordered disciplinary action against negligent midwife Eileen Stewart for her involvement in the catastrophic injury and death of MULTIPLE, full term infants, including my sun Kali Ra (see image).
Stewart continues to sidestep transparency about her suspended license, telling the public that she simply “retired” from midwifery. She now markets herself as a “childbirth educator,” targeting already underserved BIPOC communities through her “Full Term Program.”
Like a true opportunist, Stewart preys upon Women of Color, selling dreams of equity and offering her very own brand of white saviorship as the remedy to racial disparities in maternal healthcare.
The notion that white midwifery is the solution to maternal health disparities plaguing Women of Color and their children, is among the most flagrant of falsehoods currently being peddled by white midwives. The fact that Eileen Stewart, a reckless provider with a history of maiming and killing Black babies, is still out here peddling poisonous propaganda, is beyond outrageous.
As Michelle Drew, DNP, MPH, CNM, FNP, RN succinctly stated in her recent Facebook post: “Midwifery is not the solution to Black perinatal health disparities… In Great Britain where midwifery care is the standard for pregnant persons and the majority of babies are welcomed earth-side by nurse midwives, Black maternal mortality is worse than American Black women, and Black babies outcomes are just as bad.”
Nurse midwife Michelle Drew further posits, “Dismantling the institutional racism in education that determines and limits who becomes an OBGYN, midwife, perinatal nurse and doula will improve outcomes.”
On Friday (July 26, 2019) I began alerting the public online about Stewart’s sordid history and current predatory behavior. Stewart’s “Full term Program” co-facilitator (and former midwifery client) Hanifah Habeeb trolled my pages much of Saturday, criticizing my efforts to raise awareness about her associate’s license suspension.
Habeeb desperately tried to deflect from the findings of NYSED’s two-year investigation by telling me to “stay in my lane,” repeatedly reminding me of my “ivory white” skin color and claiming that my advocacy work is “just for clout.”
Habeeb refused to address (or even acknowledge) Stewart’s involvement in the deaths of multiple people. She refused to answer when I asked why she was deflecting and defending Stewart’s gross negligence, and why my sun Kali’s life (and other Black and Brown babies’ lives snuffed out by Stewart) didn’t seem to matter…
Habeeb continued to deflect, admonishing me for “appointing myself the spokesperson for all Black women.” I assured her I spoke only for myself and that Kali too speaks through me in my advocacy work.
Habeeb eventually slinked off into the ethers of the internet, but not before telling me to “come slide” and posting a promo flyer for an upcoming event she would be co-hosting with Eileen Stewart.
The flyer described a series of Infringement Festival events to be held around the city of Buffalo, where Stewart would be promoting her “Full Term Program.” The traveling road show is titled, “One Planet One Race,” and kicked off Sunday inside the historic Karpeles Manuscript Museum.
My husband and I had actually learned of Stewart’s promotional events a week prior, and had already decided we would “come slide” and run some outreach outside.
As event attendees arrived, my husband and I stood on the public sidewalk in front of the event, alongside my 72-year-old mother, and 21-month-old “rainbow baby” Phoenix . We held 24”x36” images of our beloved dead and offered passersby an informational flyer detailing the uncontested NYSED findings that has resulted in Stewart’s license suspension.
Within minutes of setting up on the sidewalk, the police had been called on us by one or more “One Planet One Race” participants. Several armed police officers piled out of multiple patrol cars and converged on the scene.
When we reminded the officers that we were within our constitutional rights to assembly and free speech, they agreed and assured us that there was “no problem at all.”
The Lieutenant thanked us for our “cooperation” and cautioned us against any direct confrontation. Officers stood around for about 10 minutes before hopping back into their vehicles and leaving.
Apparently, the Lieutenant’s message to avoid “confrontation” wasn’t shared with Hanifah Habeeb. After peacefully demonstrating and effecting public outreach for around 40 minutes without issue, Habeeb emerged from inside the event and approached me on the sidewalk. It was obvious to me that Habeeb had come outside with the intention to carry on her “One Planet One Race” show. She feigned civility and put on a performance for an audience who sheepishly peered out of windows with their cellphones out.
It must have been entertaining for all the white folk to watch Habeeb come outside and handle their dirty work for them. Habeeb did her very best impression of someone who gave the slightest fuck about the devastated family who stood before her…
Inauthenticity dripped from her holy robes as a fake, forced smile stretched ear-to-ear. She said she was “surprised to see us” and “didn’t think I would show up.” How forgetful of her—it was only the day prior that she had called me out online, encouraging me to “come slide.”
Habeeb reluctantly invited my family into the event to “hear what Eileen had to say.” I declined, reminding Habeeb that I was all too familiar with Stewart’s sales pitch and pseudo-sisterhood.
I then posed to her some of the same questions she had skirted online the day before: Why does Kali Ra’s life (and the lives of other Black babies killed by Eileen) not seem to matter? Why would anyone defend gross negligence and sing the praises of someone involved in maiming and killing multiple Black and Brown babies? Stewart has a rainbow colored cornucopia of maimed and dead of babies under her belt. Why don’t any of their lives matter?
I had hit a nerve. Habeeb catapulted into a tirade about how I couldn’t possibly “care about the Black struggle.” I informed Habeeb that I didn’t need to be a Black to care about Black women and children being predated upon by her associate. I told her that it was beyond me how anyone would work so hard to deflect from Stewart’s misconduct and actually defend gross negligence that has repeatedly maimed and killed.
I directed Habeeb’s attention to the numerous *uncontested* NYSED charges printed on the yellow flyer in my hand.
Habeeb could no longer deflect from the cold, hard facts staring her in the face. She snatched the flyers out of my hand and promptly ripped them in half. I had been recording our interaction on my cell phone, so she grabbed the phone out of my hand, slammed it to the ground, smashing it to pieces.
I was still able to speak and say my dead sun’s name, so Habeeb went after my throat.
She choked me as she dragged me from the sidewalk to the front doors of the museum. My husband, holding our 21-month-old sun, intervened and separated us, to prevent the assault from escalating. Habeeb repeatedly shouted, “Protect your BLACK baby!”
Spectators, including Kali’s killer Katharine V. Morrison, M.D. of the Birthing Center of Buffalo, were now crowded behind the closed doors, overseeing the spectacle before them. Habeeb’s white “allies” appeared to be engrossed by the scene, like a new episode of “Cops” (which, no doubt, at least a few of them DVR).
We packed up our signs and gathered the scattered pieces of my broken cell phone. Habeeb crossed the street, making her way to her car, shouting back to me, “You know you want to be this! You can never be Black, Queen! You just steal our men!”
The public had come to see a performance called “One Planet One Race,” and ended up watching a display that might more appropriately be entitled, “Shit Show On Porter Ave.”
As Habeeb started her car and began to drive away, not one, not two, but four police cruisers sped down the street after her, with flashers going and sirens roaring. No doubt about it, the white “allies” had struck again— once more speed-dialing 9-1-1.
Habeeb’s car was surrounded. Another Black woman accosted by police. My assault had been recorded and the damage to both my phone and neck were obvious. Officers detained Habeeb at the end of the street, while another group of officers approached my family and asked me “what I wanted to do.”
As much as Habeeb was all the way wrong for violating me in front of my sun the way she did, when push comes to shove, I will fight to keep her free. I’m no fan of being physically attacked, but unlike Habeeb’s spineless white “allies,” I would never summon the police state to handle my business for me. I explained this much to the officers questioning me, letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell she’d be handcuffed and arrested on my account.
I’m well aware of the cesspool of suffering inside Buffalo’s Holding Center. It wasn’t long ago that sister India Cummings was killed there while in custody.
I use my privilege the way it ought to be used-- to expose and dismantle white supremacy. I refuse to invoke the oppressor to mete out “punishment” against those who trespass against me. Surely, Habeeb’s good fortune in being able to return home to her family, and perhaps reflect on her behavior, would be more beneficial than seeing another Black person locked inside a cage.
I wonder if Habeeb realizes that I might be one of the only “ivory whites” who she could assault and still make it home to see her children. How many of Habeeb’s spineless white “allies” would have reacted the way I did, if they had been in my shoes Sunday afternoon?
An “Infringement Festival” event permeated by police presence almost ended with a Black woman hauled off in handcuffs because of timid neo-liberals with 9-1-1 on speed-dial.
The irony runs deep and was certainly not lost on me.
My family will be conducting community outreach again this afternoon to raise awareness about Stewart’s license suspension and history of catastrophically injuring and killing full term babies.
Perhaps Habeeb will keep her hands in her pockets this time around.
To learn more about Kali’s legacy project of fierce love and truth telling, please visit: www.facebook.com/BirthedInBetrayal
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