TAKE THE BIRTH SURVEY!

“We really need to make sure that this is something that’s equitable and fair to everybody, and is not just going to continue to affect the status quo of those who can pay for it.”

STAR AUGUST, Co-founder and CEO of the Holistic Birth Collective

ABOUT HOLISTIC BIRTH COLLECTIVE

Deinstitutionalize childbirth.  Empower community midwives.  Dismantle obstetric racism.  Transform public health research.

Holistic Birth Collective promotes and advocate for access to midwife-led continuity of care models among unjustly served communities, increase the racial diversity of Certified Professional Midwives in Illinois, and raise awareness about obstetric racism. We believe midwives, when empowered to work in community-based settings, foster health and life in the Black community at large and are a solution to dismantling the structural and medical racism that has been killing Black mothers for more than a century. We know that Black women are not broken; the system is broken.

We will not tolerate a discourse that pathologizes Black women. Organizations pitching policy interventions that focus on giving Black mothers “education” on making “healthy choices” might be well-intentioned, but they’re missing the point. We need to get to the structural and cultural root of the problem that is killing Black women – obstetric racism. 

Black/African-American mothers express greater interest in having planned home births than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States (see: the Listening to Mothers Surveys from 2013 and the California-specific iteration from 2018). And yet, Black mothers are significantly less likely than white women to have access to planned homebirth. 

Much of this is attributable to the fact that the majority (over two-thirds) of planned homebirths were paid for out of pocket in the United States from the years 2004-2017. For comparison, only 3% of hospital births in the United States are self-paid. Because Black women are more often dependent on Medicaid or limited private insurance, they are deprived of access to planned homebirths even though the third-party expenditures are almost always lower than for hospital deliveries and controlled studies demonstrate superior maternal outcomes with no negative effect on neonatal outcomes.

Our Mission

Holistic Birth Collective’s work confronts health inequity related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year postpartum. HBC is a disruptive force in the “maternal-child health” space that educates, agitates, and organizes to shift the power to maintain health towards communities rather than state-run institutions. 

We work in solidarity with Illinois’s radical Black birth worker community and commit to amplify their power through administrative advocacy. HBC’s data activism challenges public health departments to move beyond intrusive surveillance of atomized “risk factors” and instead interrogate racist harm and gender-based violence embedded within our healthcare delivery system. 

We collaborate with partners in the clinical and public health sectors to build the infrastructures necessary to make safe, trauma-informed, dignifying maternity care the norm so that our healthcare system equitably maintains the safety, dignity, and joy of all pregnant and birthing families.

Our current priorities are to increase access and availability of midwife-led continuity of care models among unjustly served communities, to grow the number and racial diversity of Certified Professional Midwives in Illinois, and to raise awareness about obstetric racism.

Core strategies: Data Activism, Radical Innovation to Reimagine Perinatal Healthcare Delivery, Design Justice Praxis, and Administrative Advocacy

See/Print our Mission:

Our Co-Founders

Meet Sister Star

Often known as “Sister Star,” Star August Ali a mother of four, Certified Professional Midwife , doula, and childbirth educator is the co-founder of the Black-led non-profit organization Holistic Birth Collective, based on the South Side of Chicago. Her mission is simple: to increase the availability and accessibility of person-centered maternity care that is evidence-based and is responsive to the needs of Black families. 

Star, a descendant of a Grand Midwife who practiced in the early 1940’s, believes midwives, when empowered to work in community-based settings, are a viable solution to addressing the harrowing reality of disproportionate maternal and infant outcomes. When it became clear that current power structures in Illinois were not able to ensure equitable care for black families, she became a legislative advocate through Holistic Birth Collective with legislative bills in the IL House (HB3084, HB 5012, HB5013) and Senate (SB1826, SB1041).

Making history, Star became the first Black President of the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives (ICCPM), Having passed the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam to achieve credentialing as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM),  Star is set to be the first Black CPM in the State of Illinois qualified to apply for licensure in 2022. 

Callan (Kay-Lin) Jaress

Jaress co-founded HBC in 2019 alongside friend and fellow activist Star August after coming across the Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report statistic that Black women in Illinois were eight times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related medical condition than White women. Their pursuit of answers and the ‘interrogation of the narrative’ would soon gain momentum within the Illinois state legislature, the attention of local Chicago and state broadcast, and the trust of public institutions. As a result, Jaress and August formed the 501 (c)(3) now known as the Holistic Birth Collective in 2019. 

Prior to HBC, Jaress served as a research assistant on various initiatives at the University of Chicago where she also studied sociology and public policy. Her background in statistics, the sociology of knowledge, and the culture of Illinois public health research has shaped her current work as a data activist for HBC using research to highlight the historical context and power analysis of inequity in the healthcare system. Jaress also leads government affairs, policy, and business development for HBC. 

Jaress and her husband are the parents of two children and they reside in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL. 

When she is not working directly on HBC-related initiatives, she spends her time working closely with members of the Illinois state legislature to further their understanding and efforts around bodily autonomy, equality, and maternal health.

HBC's Co-Founders

Meet Sister Star

Often known as “Sister Star,” Star August Ali a mother of four, student midwife, doula, and childbirth educator is the co-founder of the Black-led non-profit organization Holistic Birth Collective, based on the South Side of Chicago. Her mission is simple: to increase the availability and accessibility of person-centered maternity care that is evidence-based and is responsive to the needs of Black families. 

Star, a descendant of a Granny Midwife who practiced in the early 1940’s, believes midwives, when empowered to work in community-based settings, are a viable solution to addressing the harrowing reality of disproportionate maternal and infant outcomes. When it became clear that current power structures in Illinois were not able to ensure equitable care for black families, she became a legislative advocate through Holistic Birth Collective with legislative bills in the IL House (HB3084, SB1041) and Senate (SB1826, SB1041).

Making history, Star became the first Black President of the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives (ICCPM), while also finishing up clinical training as a Student Midwife in a busy home birth practice to sit for the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam to achieve credentialing and licensure as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Once passing the NARM exam Star is set to be the first black CPM in the State of Illinois qualified to apply for licensure in 2022. Furthermore, she is one semester away from obtaining an Associates of Science in Midwifery from South West Technical College in Wisconsin. Working diligently in conjunction with a heart to eradicate obstetric racism and uplift her people, the lifelong dream of becoming a Community based Midwife is a moment away from becoming a reality.

Callan (Kay-Lin) Jaress

Jaress co-founded HBC in 2019 alongside friend and fellow activist Star August after coming across the Illinois Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Report statistic that Black women in Illinois were eight times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related medical condition than White women. Their pursuit of answers and the ‘interrogation of the narrative’ would soon gain momentum within the Illinois state legislature, the attention of local Chicago and state broadcast, and the trust of public institutions. As a result, Jaress and August formed the 501 (c)(3) now known as the Holistic Birth Collective in 2019.

Prior to HBC, Jaress served as a research assistant on various initiatives at the University of Chicago where she also studied sociology and public policy. Her background in statistics, the sociology of knowledge, and the culture of Illinois public health research has shaped her current work as a data activist for HBC using research to highlight the historical context and power analysis of inequity in the healthcare system. Jaress also leads government affairs, policy, and business development for HBC.

Jaress and her husband are the parents of two children and they reside in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, IL.

When she is not working directly on HBC-related initiatives, she spends her time working closely with members of the Illinois state legislature to further their understanding and efforts around bodily autonomy, equality, and maternal health.