THE BIG PAUSE: The Collective Rest for Collective Power

Calling all Black/African American Breast/Chest Feeding Families:

Click to access the Survey Form

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Black Equity Collective Is Transforming the Relationship Between Philanthropy and the Black Community

"The only way that these issues will stay in the public domain, the only way we'll advance equality and justice and liberation, is if philanthropy keeps the window open." - Kaci Patterson  (AAIMM Steering Committee Member)


Our issue is the sustainability and organizational resiliency of Black-led and Black-empowering organizations. We bring the worlds of philanthropy and community together to be in strategic relationship around the issue of Black equity for the long haul,” said Kaci Patterson, founder and chief architect of the Black Equity Collective (BEC), a grantee in our Leading for Power and Change portfolio.

Even though BEC officially launched in January 2021, the network has been operating for nearly four years under the name Black Equity Initiative. Since 2017, BEC has been supporting Black-led and Black-empowering organizations with grants, leadership development, capacity building and community building through convenings.

We spoke to Kaci Patterson on December 10, 2020, and were deeply inspired by BEC’s vision for Black equity and resiliency of Black-led community organizations. Among many things, we spoke about how philanthropy can support Black visionaries and leaders, what Black organizations really need to thrive and why stamina should be a requirement for philanthropy and deep rest a necessity for community leaders. Our conversation with Kaci Patterson has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Kaci Patterson: The Collective was born out of the Black Equity Initiative, which was launched in 2017 with fifteen Black-led and Black-empowering organizations between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. We focused on three issue areas: education, workforce, and criminal justice. We did it as a cohort model, so in addition to the grants that the organizations received from our funder, the JIB Fund at JMC Philanthropy, I facilitated regular convenings over a four-year period.

The JIB Fund was focused on Black equity and was explicit and unapologetic about investing in Black people over time. But the organizations implored us to elevate this conversation in philanthropy overall. “It was wonderful that JIB gets it,” they told us, “but JIB can't be the only funder. How do we have a larger conversation about how Black people and Black issues get erased in larger community of color discussions? How do we ensure that we have specific, strategic and intentional investment in Black work?”


Read the full article here!




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YOUTH WITH A PURPOSE - Mentoring Program

The statistics are alarming: 45% of children in California live in low-income households. Of that group of children, 57% are Black and 61% are Latino. Youth from low-income neighborhoods are 20% more likely to end up in prison and 61% of the incarcerated population are Black or Latino. Youth With a Purpose (YWAP) has made it its mission to weaken the school to prison pipeline and improve outcomes for low-income youth. And their plan starts at the very beginning: before birth.    

“Our mission is to plant seeds of hope, and water purpose by providing supportive services to minority youth and young adults,” stated YWAP. “African-Americans have higher infant mortality rates, lower levels of support, and higher levels of stress during and after birth. Our mission is to decrease infant mortality rates by increasing support, providing opportunities to foster a positive sense of self in pregnant moms, decrease stress, find outcomes on post-partum support, and engage the community.”

YWAP directly addresses Black infant and maternal mortality through its Mommy Mentor Academy (MMA) which provides respite care, child care assistance, transportation, spiritual support, and postpartum recovery. In addition, MMA looks at maternal health in a holistic way by addressing all factors contributing to maternal stress and wellbeing. It fosters a sense of self via an 11-week mentorship program (“Hello Beautiful”) which includes free makeovers to build esteem and increases protective factors through building community and care, culminating in graduation and completion certificates. 

Mentees have praised the program, saying, "I love being a part of such a strong community of black women," and, "I feel supported and heard!" The program is also helpful for those who are not in close proximity to their community—offering another level of support. One mentee said, "Now that I have a mentor, I feel better about being away from my family that lives in a different state.”


Youth With a Purpose and The Village Fund

Youth With a Purpose used its funding in partnership with Harper Haven to expand its current services by creating a mommy mentor cohort for its Hello Beautiful program co-led by Levy Harper, a special education para-educator and creator of the Hello Beautiful curriculum, and Shameka Beaugard, who has a Masters degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Children, Youth, and Family Services. Part of this expansion includes increasing communications efforts to educate the community on the impact of Black infant and maternal stress via newsletters, text campaigns, social media, tabling, and a billboard with Black infant mortality statistics and ways to help.

Additionally, stipends for Hello Beautiful mommy mentors, academy speakers, and teachers will be provided through grant funding. 

Over the past two years, 20 women and youth have already successfully graduated from the academy. “The Hello Beautiful program allowed me to believe in myself again,” one graduate said in a testimonial. “My credit score has increased; I am enrolled in school to be a nurse, and now I have my own apartment with my children.”  

Immediate plans for the program expansion include enrolling 10 seasoned moms to mentor 10 younger moms under the age of 29. The mentors will meet with mentees as needed, assist with planning and implementing ”mommy dates” (movie nights, spa days, picnics, and book clubs), operate an exclusive group chat to answer mentee’s pregnancy-related questions, assist with facilitating the academy, and provide specialized postpartum recovery care packages. 

“In Fortune 500 companies, 71% have (implemented) mentoring programs and 97% of those with a mentor say they are valuable,” stated YWAP. “Our goal is to take the concept of mentorship and add it to pregnancy.” Hello Beautiful has proven results to help women transition from mentally depleted with low self-esteem to full steam ahead!

So far, the program has been a success. The Village Fund has helped YWAP tremendously!” Beaugard stated in a follow-up email. The program has been running since the beginning of 2021 and resumes from potential Mommy Mentors are still coming in.The Antelope Valley loves the Mommy Mentor Network and received about 15 resumes to be mommy mentors,” said Beaugard. 

“Expanding our capacity allows us to grow and hopefully create this program as a yearly program for black moms,” stated YWAP. “Although this is a 1-year pilot program, our program can be replicated and sustained long term. We hope to continue to break the stigma that black women can come together and lift one another up.”

For more information on the Village Fund, please visit


Email: [email protected]
Phone: (213) 537-7794

Instagram: @ywap_CA, @harper_hav3n

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AAIMM Launches Free Pregnancy Trimester Guide With Tips and Resources to Activate “The Village”

(Los Angeles County, CA) “It takes a village to raise a child,” the African proverb states, and activation of that village begins before birth. In an effort to support healthy and joyous births for Black moms, families, and babies, the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (AAIMM) has created a Tips to Activate Your Village Guide full of useful information and resources for each of the trimesters comprising the prenatal period and the first three months after the baby is born (the “fourth trimester”). The guide is now available for free to download from its website,

One of the cornerstone beliefs behind the AAIMM initiative is that healthy and joyous births do not happen alone. They require an entire community of support — that means not just family and friends, but also neighbors, healthcare workers, educators, and colleagues. Everyone who influences the environment in which children are born and raised can contribute to and support the next generation being healthy, safe and happy. 

The Tips to Activate Your Village Guide was created to support expectant parents in their efforts to engage their own Village, and as a helpful resource for folks who may be a part of an existing Village. "We are excited to share this resource to support Black families — especially pregnant women and birthing people — and activating a village of support at every stage of pregnancy and childbirth,” said Dr. Melissa Franklin, LA County AAIMM Initiative. “The toolkit was informed by the collective wisdom of our AAIMM Prevention Initiative partners.” 

While there are myriad apps and brochures dedicated to tracking the physical development of babies both before and after birth, not many specifically relate to the concept of activating one’s village and system of supportive persons and resources. Some of the tips in the guide include: create a birth plan, find a doula, join the Black Infant Health program, advocate for respectful care, and check in with your partner. The guide goes further than just offering tips, however. It also offers links to resources and programs — many, if not all of which, are absolutely free. 

The AAIMM initiative just wrapped up a successful campaign for Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) for which it created over 25 well-attended virtual events, launched a video series that received over 10,000 views on social media, and created a downloadable toolkit of creative pieces on its website’s hub for BMHW. In addition to making the Tips to Activate Your Village guide available on its website, the AAIMM Steering Committee encourages people to share the link to the guide on social media platforms using #WeAreTheVillage. 

As the initiative continues its work, there are plans to roll out more collateral pieces as part of its continued effort to educate people about Black infant and maternal mortality as well as bring about more equitable birth outcomes. “We are currently building more resources and programs, all centered on supporting access to healthy and joyous births for Black families, in particular those resources and tips that are often not talked about," said Dr. Melissa Franklin, LA County AAIMM Initiative

The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Initiative is a coalition of the LA County Health Agency (Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, and Department of Health Services), First 5 LA, community organizations, mental and health care providers, funders, and community members. The purpose of the initiative is to address the unacceptably high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths in Los Angeles County and ensure healthy and joyous births for Black families in LA County. Through a series of comprehensive coordinated strategies, AAIMM works to reduce the gap in Black/White infant mortality rates by 30% by 2023. For more information, and to find out how you can support the initiative, please visit

Click HERE to download the Trimester Guide. 
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San Fernando & Santa Clarita Valleys COVID-19 Panel: A Vaccine Conversation For African American Families
Held Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 from 10am-12pm

During this event we discussed concerns and explored options related to the COVID-19 vaccine with a panel of local medical and legal experts. It was an opportunity for our community to ask questions in a safe space. Panelists included:

•         Valley Presbyterian Hospital

•         General Counsel, Tamala Choma Esq.

•         Director of Women’s Services, Marcia Lynch, RN, MSN

•         Los Angeles County Department of Public Health – Tina Franco, MPH, Health Educator

•         September Williams, MD, Physician-Writer & Bioethicist

•         Kaiser Permanente – Sharon K. Okonkwo-Holmes, MD. Family Physician and Physician Lead for the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Council

Panel discussion was moderated by Aqueelah Russell from Northeast Valley WIC

View the event recap below: 


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KJLH Women's Health Expo - Sponsored by the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative

The LA County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative will be sponsoring the KJLH Women's Health Expo, to be held on Saturday May 8th. This years Expo will be held virtually, and it is the 3rd year in a row the AAIMM has sponsored the event.

AAIMM will be presenting a panel, "Activating the Village: Everything You Need to Know". Featuring our own Michelle Sanders of the LA County AAIMM Doula Program, and hosted by Tammi Mac.

The discussion will explore the benefits of using a doula, the difference between doulas and midwives, the different types of birth experiences women/birthing people can have, and how pregnant women/birthing people can access free services. 

Find out about: getting the support of a doula, home visitation, mental health support, and having a joyous birth.

Click HERE to listen to the Black Infant Health Program panel presentation and enjoy the rest of the events focused on Black women’s health!
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AAIMM Journal Series - "Dear Baby, When I Love Me, I Love You"

Each woman’s journey toward motherhood is unique and precious. In our work to end Black maternal and infant deaths in Los Angeles County, we sought to connect on an emotional level with the families that we are fighting to protect. We asked Black women to share their pregnancy and birthing journeys with us, as well as their hopes and dreams for their babies. We wanted to show the connection between maternal and infant health, which is a universal experience for all birthing persons and their babies. 

Those responses were turned into journal entries which became a video series of intimate messages and images from mother to baby called, “Dear Baby, When I Love Me, I Love You. Join us in the fight to end Black maternal and Infant deaths in Los Angeles County. Take the “We Are The Village” pledge and follow us on social media so that you can share these videos with your followers.

Watch the first Journal entry below!

Watch the second Journal entry: 

Watch the second Journal entry: 

Be the Village. Activate the Village. 

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The LA County Department of Public Health and First 5 LA, in partnership with the LA County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Initiative is holding a virtual briefing to kick off Los Angeles County’s Black Maternal Health Week – which was officially recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in March -- and elevate awareness about Black infant and maternal mortality and emerging local solutions. The goal of the week is to raise awareness about the issue, and the efforts of public health and community leaders across the County to oppose racism and discrimination at its root and support healthy and joyous births for Black families.


At the virtual event, attendees will hear from a panel of experts about the racism Black mothers face that leads to health disparities and work across the county being done to make a difference. Panelists include:

  • Deborah Allen, Deputy Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
  • Melissa Franklin, CEO of Growth Mindset Communications
  • Raena Granberry, Perinatal Equity Initiative Coordinator, Dept. of Public Health
  • Adjoa Jones, Founding Leader of African-American Infant and Maternal Mortality Community Action Team at L.A. County Department of Health Services Whole Person Care
  • Michelle Sanders, AAIMM Doula Program Coordinator, Dept. of Public Health
  • Brandi Sims, Health Systems Program Officer, First 5 LA
  • Yolonda Roger Jones, Coordinator of Black Infant Health Program; Dept. of Public Health
  • Dana Sherrod, Birth Equity & Racial Justice Manager for Cherished Futures for Black Moms and Babies, Public Health Alliance


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I's Just Sayin': 2 Black Women with Opinions

Join Jan-Robinson Flint and Adjoa Jones for this weeks episode of I's Just Saying:

Click here to listen to the podcast:



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We are still accepting donations for youth 0-5 years of age and gift cards fo children over 5. 

Donations may be dropped off Tuesday or Thursday until April 15th.

For questions and donations please contact Dr. Erica Melbourne at (213) 905-8861.

Thank you to our sponsors: Casa Bella Foundation in collaboration with Sun Bum and Yumi 

*socially distant walk-up distribution also available* 



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