“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 advocates for access to midwife-led continuity of care models among unjustly served communities, to increase the racial diversity of Certified Professional Midwives in Illinois, and to 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’ 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:

The HBC Team

Sister Star

President

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) and, having passed the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam to achieve credentialing as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM),  Star became the first Black CPM in the State of Illinois in 2022.

President

Callan (Kay-Lin)

Chief Strategy Officer

Callan Jaress is a data activist, cultural historian, and survivor of the Southside maternal health system. She studied sociology and public policy at the University of Chicago and then spent the remainder of her youth supporting a variety of public health and social science research projects at NORC at the University of Chicago.

In 2020, Callan’s friend and fellow mom, Star August, invited her to partner on a new project—together they founded Holistic Birth Collective NFP. Since 2021, Callan has served as HBC’s Chief Strategy Officer where she drives their public policy initiatives and health services research.

Mai

Director of Program Design

Mai Heath is an artist, wife, mother to three daughters, medical advocate, proud recipient of the 2013 Go Natural Inspiration Award, and the 2010 CytoMatrix Academic Scholarship. Her undergraduate studies earned her a BA (Hons) from Columbia College Chicago in 2005. In 2013, Mai received her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, first-professional degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario. Mai enjoyed teaching Biochemistry at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Mississauga, Ontario in 2015. 

Having the nurturing care of a doula as part of her birth team was the motivation for obtaining her first doula training certification in 2012. Mai has special interest in harm reduction, violence prevention, and social justice. After years of attending births privately, Mai served as a community based doula, group facilitator, case manager, home visitor, and then a program director. In 2019, Mai was among the first group of birthworkers to attend birthing people through the Cook County Jail Pilot Program. 

Currently, Mai focuses much of her energy on community partnership, professional development, and family. Her understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection shapes how she communicates in this world. Mai bridges art and science to eagerly share in others’ journeys as they access power and inspire their communities.

The HBC Team

Sister Star

President

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) and, having passed the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) exam to achieve credentialing as a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM),  Star became the first Black CPM in the State of Illinois in 2022.

Callan (Kay-Lin)

Chief Strategy Officer

Callan Jaress is a data activist, cultural historian, and survivor of the Southside maternal health system. She studied sociology and public policy at the University of Chicago and then spent the remainder of her youth supporting a variety of public health and social science research projects at NORC at the University of Chicago.

In 2020, Callan’s friend and fellow mom, Star August, invited her to partner on a new project—together they founded Holistic Birth Collective NFP. Since 2021, Callan has served as HBC’s Chief Strategy Officer where she drives their public policy initiatives and health services research.

Mai

Director of Program Design

Mai Heath is an artist, wife, mother to three daughters, medical advocate, proud recipient of the 2013 Go Natural Inspiration Award, and the 2010 CytoMatrix Academic Scholarship. Her undergraduate studies earned her a BA (Hons) from Columbia College Chicago in 2005. In 2013, Mai received her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, first-professional degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario. Mai enjoyed teaching Biochemistry at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Mississauga, Ontario in 2015. 

Having the nurturing care of a doula as part of her birth team was the motivation for obtaining her first doula training certification in 2012. Mai has special interest in harm reduction, violence prevention, and social justice. After years of attending births privately, Mai served as a community based doula, group facilitator, case manager, home visitor, and then a program director. In 2019, Mai was among the first group of birthworkers to attend birthing people through the Cook County Jail Pilot Program. 

Currently, Mai focuses much of her energy on community partnership, professional development, and family. Her understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection shapes how she communicates in this world. Mai bridges art and science to eagerly share in others’ journeys as they access power and inspire their communities.