Women’s philanthropy group Impact Austin awarded a $40,000 grant to Black Mamas ATX in collaboration with the University of Texas Foundation, Austin Regional Clinic, People’s Community Clinic and Manor Independent School District.
The grant will help Black Mamas ATX and its partners expand pregnancy and post-pregnancy care to women in Manor, where there is no practicing obstetrician/gynecologist.
"Women are driving 30 to 45 minutes for routine OB care and to deliver," said Nakeenya Wilson, executive director of Black Mamas ATX.
Black Mamas ATX also is focusing on Manor because of its demographics, Wilson said. Austin’s population is 7.8% Black, but Manor’s population is 25.7% Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. It’s part of the move of the Black community out of Austin and into surrounding communities such as Kyle, Del Valle and Manor because of affordability, Wilson said.
The grant will allow Black Mamas ATX to run a community clinic twice a month with a Black midwife as well as help it connect pregnant women to Black doulas (women who are trained to assist moms during birth and after birth) and social workers.
Wilson said that research points to a different level of trust between the patient and provider when they are of the same race, and data point to lower maternal and infant mortality rates, which is why the Black Mamas ATX providers will be Black.
Black Mamas ATX also will start at least one of its Sister Circle support groups in Manor, and possibly a second one through the Manor school district’s on-site clinic run by People’s Community Clinic.
Black Mamas ATX will depend on partners such as the school district, Austin Regional Clinic and People’s Community Clinic to market its services to women in Manor.
In Manor, "we’re going to create wraparound care that will ultimately mitigate the risk factor for mortality," Wilson says.
In a 2018 study by the Texas Department of State Health Services, Black women in Texas had a pregnancy-related mortality rate that was 2.3 times higher than white women, and 80% of all pregnancy-related deaths in Texas could have been prevented.
This is the second year Impact Austin has given the Social Innovation Grant, which is designed to fund an initiative that promotes equity for women or girls of color.
"We did a lot of research to see where there were gaps in funding in our area," Impact Austin Executive Director Christina Gorczynski said.
Impact Austin has 440 members. Its members research funding requests and then vote on grant awards. Its grants are funded by the $1,250 annual donation made by each member.
This grant was chosen, Gorczynski said, because its members were motivated by the statistics and data around the inequity of maternal mortality in Central Texas.
"The work of Black Mamas ATX inspired our members," she said. "The work they are doing is imperative and urgent."
Black Mamas ATX started in 2017 as a research project into the rates of maternal mortality of Black women by Michele Rountree at the University of Texas Steve Hicks School of Social Work. It now works on lowering the rate of maternal mortality of Black women by providing Sister Circles and doulas as well as a breastfeeding initiative.
It has been funded mainly by the St. David’s Foundation, as well as some smaller grants.
Beginning the partnership with People’s Community Clinic and Austin Regional Clinic can help Black Mamas ATX and its Manor initiative grow.
"I’m hoping this is the first step in really amplifying the need," Wilson said. She said she hopes that one of them will see this need and bring an OB/GYN to Manor.
"If you show you do good work, the hope is you can grow it into something more," Wilson said.
Getting known by the members of Impact Austin also will help. Each of its community partners who receive a grant get a seat at the table for future grant-making decisions, Gorczynski said.
The members, she said, "are really passionate and generous to our community partners. Our goal is to amplify the work and help them get more visibility and more funding. That really is where the magic is. It’s the secret sauce."