Immediately following a medical procedure, I began to bleed out. Scared and confused, I phoned my physician’s office who dismissed my concern as another whining patient. In the 15-20. minutes I argued and attempted to explain my concern I passed out. When I regained consciousness, my phone was on the other side of the bathroom and my head less than half an inch away from the tub. My doctor never phoned back nor called 911 on behalf. They could’ve cared less whether I lived or died. My story is not uncommon and just another example of the systemic racism in the medical community that plagues Black and Brown women.
An alarmingly disproportionate number of Black women are failed every year by the U.S. maternal health system. Shamony Makeba Gibson, Amber Rose Isaac, Kira Johnson, Maria Corona, Sha-Asia Semple, Cordielle Street were all immensely vibrant, expectant mothers whose deaths due to childbirth complications were preventable. Now their bereaved partners fight for justice, build communities of support bonding especially with other surviving Black fathers.
With Aftershock, directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follows their tragic, individual experiences of Gibson, Isaac and their partners while punctuating it with condemning historical context, showing that gynecology has a long standing history of exploiting and neglecting Black women in America. In the arresting words of mother-to-be Felicia Ellis, “A Black woman having a baby is like a Black man at a traffic stop with the police.”
Luckily, this doc is right on time as Vice President Kamala Harris opened discussions during the first ever White House Day on maternal health. ““In the United States of America, in the 21st century, being pregnant and giving birth should not carry such great risk,” Harris told the audience. “Before, during, and after childbirth, women in our nation are dying at a higher rate than any other developed nation in our world.” As a matter of fact, Black women along with Native Americans and Alaskan natives are three times more likely to die before, during or after having aa baby. More than half of these deaths are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When you have someone like tennis champion Serena Williams complaining that during her childbirth she literally had to force doctors to listen to her about blood clots, you realize this issue is greater than one could ever imagine,
Myths rooting back to slavery that Black women don’t fell pain or that our worth is reduced to our womb is demoralizing and simply untrue. We are supposed to be one of the most advanced countries in the world, but the racial disparities become more and more apparent with each passing day.
As advocates for this issue, Lewis-Lee and Eiselt not only place a glaring spotlight on the tragedy and unfair treatment, but allow equal weight toward the progress being made and how a community of Black men are thriving while being thrust into being single Dads through no fault of their own.
Co-produced by one of my favorite Director/Producers Dawn Porter, it’s no surprise that this powerhouse group ow women filmmakers will not only make us think, but inspire us to jump into action. Aftershock is like a cinematic tsunami chock full of information that is a wake up call for the American medical industry and I, for one, think it’s about time to make them all accountable for their actions by being more mindful by listening, learning and believing.