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Black Childbirth Takes Front and Center on Young Parents

United States

Brian Branch-Price

Published May 2024

Using his preferred black and white medium, photographer Brian Branch-Price takes the viewer through the final hours of pre- and post-birth of the first child for parents Ka’Cheena Lucas and Malcolm Sims from Newark, NJ.  Surrounded by family and friends and their trusted healthcare providers, the childbirth is intimate – filled with a host of emotions, from joy to pain. Brian had the unique opportunity to do what only great photographers can — to almost not exist in the moment yet to be at the center of it. "For them to welcome me into that space was a crazy, wonderful experience," Brian recalled, "It's unusual for that to happen unless the subject has a lot of trust and confidence.”

"Childbirth seemed very natural to me, but lately, there's been a focus on issues with Black women and birthing, and the infants not doing very well," Brian explained.

For Black mothers-to-be, childbirth can bring trepidation and dread, and the research validates such emotions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 83% of all maternal deaths are preventable. In New Jersey, the stark racial differences are borne out in alarming data: Black women in New Jersey experience a 3.5 times higher rate of infant death compared to white women, according to 2017 New Jersey State Health Assessment Data. Research confirms that the root of the problem is the racialization of the treatment of Black women. Holding other factors constant — such as income and education — the fact of being a Black woman was the single factor leading to worse outcomes.

While Lucas’s journey to motherhood was relatively smooth and without serious complications, this is not the case for many Black women.“We need to develop some level of outrage about this issue,” said Dr. Nastassia Harris, executive director of the Perinatal Health Equity Initiative.“We should all be upset by what is happening in our state and we should be talking about it.”

Brian Branch Price

Brian Branch-Price began his career as a freelancer for the Washington Post, then staffing with the News Journal in Wilmington, DE, and followed up with the Associated Press in Trenton, NJ. Beyond Brian’s editorial work for publishers and his current work with Zuma Press, Brian focuses on portraiture, reportage, and fine art photography, often exhibiting his work at public libraries and historical societies. Brian earned a B.S. in Environmental Geology and a minor in Fine Arts from Howard University and is now a member of the American Society of Media Photographers and the National Association of Black Journalists: Value Task Force and VTF Parliamentarian. Brian’s heroes are his parents; his children; Moneta Sleet, Jr; Roland Freeman; and hometown photographers Irvin Penn and Margaret Bourke White.

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