I woke up one day with it on my mind. I was like, [thought bubble], how powerful it would be to have a collective list of Black women businesses in New Orleans. The original idea was to spotlight 10 of our “Black Women WCWM Members Businesses.” But when I googled “Black women businesses in New Orleans”, I didn’t see much. Immediately, I recognized a more significant idea to have our WCWM Member list connected to a larger group of Black women businesses in New Orleans.
So, we have 10 featured WCWM Members women businesses with a list of 100 businesses to follow. I know the article is titled 101 Black women businesses…and there are only 100 listed but don’t forget to count WCWM: Who’s Coming With Me in as a Black woman owned business in New Orleans too. We, #TheUnityMovement, are honored to present this list to you.
And it wasn’t easy getting it down to just 100 Black women businesses because there are so many amazing women doing excellent business in New Orleans. It surely isn’t possible to fit them all on one flyer, but we have a few on the Ujamaa Directory, our New Orleans Black business directory, and we are working hard to list more each day. We hope that this supports leveling an unbalanced playing field and brings forth equity to the arena of Black women businesses in New Orleans.
Black women businesses are said to be the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America. Ironically, we deal with more discrimination inside and outside of our businesses than most groups. Many times we have to work more than three times harder than men, just to get half the jobs at a percentage of the pay. Don’t get me wrong, we bring quality work, worth, and skills to the table but many times there are slim to no seat(s) at the table for us, let alone being pulled out for us to rest our bones. That’s why we have started building our own tables and chairs and offering other sisters seats at the tables; getting our Solange on so to speak.
Cause lets face it, patriarchy is a real ugly beast. As a root of white supremacy and all of the systems America operations under, patriarchy tiers down from white men and women to even dwelling in the mind of some black men and women. Yes even Black men and women participate in the practice of patriarchy at times.
Think about it, how many times do you see Black men supporting each other? Very often, right?! Even more often than we see Black women supporting each other. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Black men supporting each other either. Its actually a good thing. However, sometimes it is exclusive and that’s when the good thing of supporting your brother turns into discrimination towards your sister.
Now think about it, how many times do you see Black women supporting Black men? Most often, right?! And this isn’t a bad thing but it isn’t as common to see Black men supporting Black women. This doesn’t mean that women love men more or vice versa. Nor does this mean all men don’t support women and all women do support men. This isn’t even a competition between man and woman, but it is intended to raise a point that when you put any group up to Black women, even Black women up to Black women, usually the Black women get the least support. Malcolm X said it before in the 60s and not too much as changed in reference to this subject; the most disrespect, unprotected, and neglected person in America is the Black woman.
Moreover, it takes a special kind of muscle to be a Black woman business. Sometimes you have to flex those muscles while bearing child(ren), breastfeeding, providing meals for sets of hungry little bellies, or even nurturing other peoples children. Trust me, there is so much more to being a woman beyond reproducing and nurturing; like forgetting what society tells you to be in order to get to know who you truly are…Then, you have the challenge of managing self-care and self-time. Its the beautiful struggle of being the mothers of civilization. However, we don’t have to struggle so hard if we simply take time to reflect on the ways we all can contribute in making it more of a blessing to be a Black woman.
I encourage us all, starting with Black women and men, to intentionally support Black women businesses, even if its recognizing when there are slim to no seats for women at the table. We have got to work together to make it better for us all; including the future of Black women and men to come. When we as Black women, and supporters of Black women set the example and standards in our communities then we are sure to grow healthy, stable, and nurtured communities of children, and Black women and men of the future.
Check out our 10 WCWM Members features along with the list of 101 Black Women Businesses in New Orleans to Support. Please spread the word & love. Thanks for your support in advance.
Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool, founded in 2015 by Nicole Adams, is dedicated to nurturing the Black child; mind, body, and spirit. Amaru is a tuition based business that uses its community based resources and love to provide young people with the education and knowledge of self need to propel them in the necessary directions to acheive success. For more info: www.amarucomeunity.com
Happy Village’s goal is to create African inspired fashion for kids of all ages, at affordable prices. Founder and world traveler, Renee Johnson, says her inspiration for Happy Village Kids was inspired by the culture and traditions around the world with a special affection for those created in the motherland. Renee Johnson is also the founder of Afrimodiste, an African inspired formal attire line that formed its roots during Zulu Ball 2015. Happy Village Kids has a commitment to sharing global discoveries through fashion and designs, hoping to inspire kids of all ages in rediscovering the gifts of Africa and encouraging international exploration. For more info: www.happyvillagekids.com.
The mission of True Love Movement is to empower Black people to achieve optimal health and wellness through counseling, education, community activism and the production of creative arts and media all of which promotes self-awareness and self-love. Founded by New Orleans native, Ayanna Molina, True Love Movement has been growing and building in the community in various ways including free community wellness events, workshops, etc. They can even be found on WBOK1230AM on Saturdays 5-6PM for the True Love Movement Hour. For more info: www.truelovemovement.com
Sista Midwife Productions is founded by Nicole Deggins. They provides education and training through teleconferences, webinars, keynotes and live workshops. They work with pregnant women, doulas, families, birth workers, communities, advocates, and allies. Sista Midwife Productions hosts a Breast feeding support group every Monday 6:30-8:30pm at Black Star Books & Caffe. Their website hosts a directory of midwives and doulas across the country. For more info:www.sistamidwife.com
Keys of Beauty, LLC is founded by Keysha Dennis aka the Beard Oil Lady and located at 2518 Bayou Rd. Keysha is also the owner of BeardTifull Beard Oil, an all natural product used to support health beard growth while reducing razor bumps and keeping beards smelling and looking fresh. Not only is Keys of Beauty a Black woman business but they are also a Black woman business employer. Visit Keys of Beauty Hair Studio for all your hair needs. For more info: www.keysofbeauty.com
Montana Productions LLC is a full service production management company specializing in art fairs and music festivals. Founded by New Orleans native Gina Montana, Montana Productions LLC, a locally owned and nationally recognized company, has over 20 years experience in special events and festival productions. For more info: www.montanaproductionsllc.com
Situated in the heart of New Orleans’ historic 7th Ward district, Artist Journey Allen Gallery Studio strives to build community and empower its members through its consistent provision of creative opportunities. Simply stated, Artist Journey Allen is more than JUST a gallery or painting studio. In addition to exhibiting artwork by local artists and hosting public paint and sip sessions throughout the week, AJA Gallery Studio is further developing its intention to provide a platform for under-served youth (as well as others) who are interested in exploring the gift of creativity through art classes and exploratory workshops. For more info: www.artistjourneyallen.com
Located in Body Bistro Spa at 8710 Oak Street, Nails By Nalo provides natural nail care services in a one-on-one spa environment. Nails by Nalo is founded by Nalo Johnson. Check out their services and book your appoint with Nails by Nalo. For more info: Nails by Nalo
Black Swan is a pop-up restaurant and catering company that merges casual fine dining with street food culture. Their food is Creole, Thai, Caribbean-inspired, contemporary Soul food that honors tradition and creativity. Black Swan was founded in 2014 by Native New Orleanian Chef Nikki Wright. Chef Nikki brings more than 7 years catering experience and takes great pride in highlighting the African and Native American influences on New Orleans cuisine. For more info: www.blackswanfoodexperience.com
Cfreedom Photography LLC is a photography & cinematography production company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Cfreedom Photography is located in Central City New Orleans on Oretha Castle Haley (also known as historic Dryades St.) and provides services and products locally, nationally, and internationally, specializing in all things positive, festive, musical, colorful, historical and monumental. Founded in 2008 by New Orleans artist and activist, Cfreedom (Christine Brown), Cfreedom Photography is currently co-producing a short film along with WCWM titled The Essence of N.O.W. : A Short Film to spotlight and unify New Orleans. For more info: www.cfreedomphotography.com and www.theessenceofnow.com
Below is a list of 101 Black Women Businesses in New Orleans that we thought you should know and support. While many are listed on the Ujamaa Directory, we want you to do your research and check them out for yourselves. When you do, feel free to visit our Ujamaa Directory and rate and comment on the businesses. Also feel free to screenshot and share this list with your friends, print it up on your wall, on the wall at your job, put it in the glove compartment of your car… Make a conscious decision to support Black women businesses as often as possible.
Welcome to New Orleans, a place where the most valuable natural resource is the Black woman. This is true for the human race since Black women are the birth-givers of humanity. Black women aka the Mothers of Civilization + New Orleans aka the Most African City in America = #BlackGirlMagic x Queen. It isn’t Voodoo that has you falling in love with the way we make you feel. It is the fact that we are your Mamas.
As New Orleans women, we have held fast to many African traditions more organically than most women have in other parts of the country. What you may call “Southern hospitality”, we call “African spirituality”. Ironically, many of our people traveled from the South to the North, similarly to the way we evacuating for Hurricane Katrina, in search of protection, freedom, and better living conditions for our families. We went looking for the promised land, unknowingly, in exchange for our land, culture, history, and identities. It’s easy to forget where you came from, the further you run away from it. That’s why New Orleans women take pride in reminding our people of who we are and where we come from. We understand it is our spiritual compass, strength, and healing.
New Orleans women are nurturers, child bearers, breast feeders, educators, and healers. In addition, we are your protest leaders, cheer leaders, business owners, and more. We carry on the traditions from our Motherland to our wombs, babies, breast milk, children and communities. Without Black women, all that we know would not exist, and without Black New Orleans women, all that we are would be forgotten. Naturally, this makes the value of Black New Orleans women immeasurable in the sense that, after all of these years of enslavement and oppression, we have been able to continuously and increasingly give birth to the memories and dreams of our ancestors.
Despite New Orleans being a principle slave trade port of America and located in the prison capital of the world, we continue the fight to keep our ancestors and African traditions alive. While in America, Black people are labeled minorities, in New Orleans, we have been the majority for over 200 years. Without Black New Orleans women giving birth, building communities with healing and education, this would not be possible.
It’s an everyday struggle to protect and preserve the African culture and traditions in New Orleans, especially as gentrification is a growing concern within our hi-jacked city. Our city is flooded with closing and failing schools turned private and charter. Our children are being stripped and broken similar to the ways they stood our people on auction blocks. The school to prison pipelines have a higher economic flow, from the privately owned schools to the privately owned prisons, then the income has to the cost of living. Still we stand strong as communities of Black people uniting and fighting for the rights to heal, build and carry on traditions.
New Orleans is the home of historic Congo Square, one of the oldest gathering places for African people in America. Since slavery and still today, Black people come together in Congo Square on Sundays for dance, drum, and spiritual healing. New Orleans women are a huge part of these congregations and their preservation.
Another African tradition that New Orleans women practice is sisterhood. Historically, African women have worked together in various ways building families and communities. I am honored to know some New Orleans women who still practice many of these wonderful African traditions.
Check out these 4 New Orleans women, their businesses and value to the Black community. These sisters are creating new lanes and solutions to many of the problems we face in New Orleans and as a Black race. Let’s show them the love and support they deserve and raise awareness of their value in the Black community.
WHAT WE DO.
1. Ayanna Molina of True Love Movement @truelovemovement
Ayanna Molina is more than just a mother, artist, teacher, and healer who is doing the M.A.T.H., as her song “M.A.T.H.” so creatively expresses. Her investments and contribution to the Black community are so thorough; she is officially doing the M.A.T.H.E.M.A.T.I.C.S. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. H.E.A.L.I.N.G. and more. There is no shortage of words to form acronyms about the many things this woman does.
As a mother, Ayanna aka Mama Fiyah has five amazingly intelligent and artistic children. An artist of many disciplines, she is an MC, singer, poet, and writer, who even paints, crochets and sews occasionally. Its no surprise that her children are as talented as they are. Her son Xavier Molina, for example, graduated Summa Cum Lade of his high school, and is a musical genius that plays with several local New Orleans bands. He can also get down in a variety of artistic genres, as he is a singer, trumpet player, pianist, drummer, recording artist and the list goes on.
Mama Fiyah’s natural passion for nurturing and aiding others on their paths to greatness played a particular role in her becoming an educator. As a teacher, the lessons didn’t stop with her own children. During her Pre-Hurricane Katrina days, she invested years into homeschooling in New Orleans. Post-Katrina, she worked in public and private schools in Montgomery, Alabama, where she settled for about 6 years after she evacuated from New Orleans. After six long years away from home, she finally returned to New Orleans, with a desire to support the emotional needs of a trauma-laden, post-Katrina New Orleans.
Ayanna has invested in her own education quite a bit as she received her Bachelors degree in Psychology and English at University of New Orleans, pre-Katrina. She chose English because as a poet and author, writing was a huge inspiration to her and Psychology because she was intrigued by the brain and took a particular interest in learning about its functions. It wasn’t until her own life started unraveling and she had her first real experience with receiving counseling, that she found healing as well as her purpose in counseling.
It was fate that Hurricane Katrina planted her in Montgomery, Alabama where she coincidentally found herself living within walking distance of Auburn University, a school specializing in counseling. Despite the obstacles of having two small babies, one still nursing, Ayanna decided to go back to school and received her Masters degree in Community Counseling at Auburn University. After much hard work and dedication, Ayanna is now a Nationally Certified Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor. This huge achievement only adds to the list of many accomplishments that she has made throughout her years.
Ayanna is the founder and co-director of True Love Movement, LLC. After being conceptualized by Ayanna 12 years prior, on April 7, 2011, the four-year anniversary of her father’s transition, True Love Movement became an official business. True Love Movement’s mission is to empower Black people to achieve optimal health and wellness through education, community activism and the production of creative arts and media all of which promote self-awareness and self-LOVE. Part of Ayanna’s mission as a healer and counselor is to teach our people to value mental health and wellness, as well as value counseling.
“People think that community activism has to be free. I do offer so much for free. I see sistahs who need the support and need it right now and I provide support for them even when they don’t have the money. I often see children for free and all of my consultations are free. I am trained and trained well, and in order to take care of my family I have to work. It just happens that my life’s work is community driven. From years of working with adults and youth, I have designed complete healing curriculum specifically for our community. Part of the community activism of True Love Movement is teaching that we have to prioritize our mental health. Just like you would pay someone to do your hair to look good, we should value the professionally trained healers who help us work on the stuff inside to help us feel good.” says Ayanna.
True Love Movement started out servicing only woman and girls, but due to the high-demand for social/emotional/behavioral support of boys in the school system, it extended itself to that need. This made it clear to Ayanna that in working to develop her business and meeting the needs of the community, she would need to expand by partnering with a male counterpart to work directly with the men and boys. Soon after moving back home from Montgomery, she found this partnership with Brotha Shack, who is the Director of Men and Boys Programs for True Love Movement.
True Love Movement provides services through several different programs including summer and after school.“Self-Esteem Saturday School”, a proven success for several participating young girls, is a program designed for Black girls between the ages of 10-21 who are considered “high-risk”. Ayanna expressed, “As a young woman, I experienced very low self-esteem that presented itself as high-risk behavior. I know what it takes to overcome pressures of society and I know what it takes to turn your life around. It takes self-awareness and a healthy self-esteem.”
Another program is “Black Men & Boys, Relevant and Useful”, an annual event, orchestrated by Brotha Shack, paying homage to men and boys in the community by providing a spotlight on their value to our community. “Womanifest” is a community event of performances and vendors that celebrates sistahs and younger sistahs with vision and purpose through their artistic and entrepreneurial works. The seventh Womanifest is scheduled for Black August this year. Details will be coming soon for Womanifest 7: Warrior Season.
As an artist, Ayanna is the author of Run Away Girl, an autobiography written in prose and poetry. She is a recording artist of two musical projects; an album titled “Uplift Yo’ Self“ and “InteGritty: The Mixtape“. Committed to making art for much more than art sake, she uses her art forms very intentionally as tools of activism and inspiration to Black people, and specifically for Black women and girls. From the book, album and t-shirt sales to the many programs and services provided, they all contribute to sustaining the many great works of True Love Movement and its contribution to the New Orleans community.
True Love Movement also has a radio show called “The True Love Movement Hour”. You can join the True Love Movement Hour on Tuesdays for True Love Movement Tuesdays on 24.7 The Word: Reality Radio (www.247theword.com), live every Saturday at 5pm on WBOK 1230 AM (www.wbok1230am.com ) and every Sunday a new show is added to SoundCloud for #SoundCloudSundays (www.soundcloud.com/the-true-love-movement-hr). The True Love Movement Hour is a radio show Black people can be proud of.
In most recent great True Love Movement news, after some time of renting out private spaces to meet with clients, True Love Movement has finally moved into their own office, located at 2517 S. Derbigny St. New Orleans, Louisiana 70125. It was particularly important to Ayanna to have her offices where the people who most need the services could easily access them. “Our vision is a world where Black people can be a positive, powerful, self-sustained, healthy, unified people in this world. For the future of Black people everywhere, we have to be.”
To support True Love Movement, please visit www.truelovemovement.com and share info on social media by following @truelovemovement. Also stay tuned into the True Love Movement Hour and join them Saturday, April 23, 2016 2-4PM at 2517 S. Derbigny St. for their Grand Opening celebration called “Healing Space”.
2. Nana Anoa Nantambu of Wholely Living Simply Living
Nana Anoa Nantambu is a New Orleans woman, self-proclaimed Earth Mother and citizen of the planet/universe. Though she has spent most of her time in her hometown, New Orleans, she is an international traveler who has visited different parts of the world, including Nigeria in the Motherland. She resided there for nearly four years.
After being away for a few years post-Katrina, Nana Anoa returned home to contribute her spiritual and healing works to her city, which was in much need of healing after the Hurricane Katrina devastation. In addition, spending quality time with her family and growing number of grandchildren were calling her as well.
A mother of two lyrical and creative sons and grandmother of six grandchildren, Nana Anoa is a dedicated healer, spiritual guide and educator. Though she isn’t currently a formal educator, she is a community educator full of wisdom and experience that she openly shares with others. In 1992, she created and ran a community-based mathematics center called Neighborhood Math Place, where she taught children and adults for four and a half years. Some of her students are presently very successful and influential New Orleans women artists.
I am blessed to have had my own spiritually life-changing connection with Nana Anoa, as I documented and participated in an all day sistah retreat, “Calling All My Sistahs”, she held in March of 2012. Many doors opened within my career path after the experience. I am thankful for the spiritual work provided for myself and the many other women at the retreat.
Some time after the retreat, I remember hearing, one of my New Orleans woman inspirations, Sunni Patterson speaking very highly of Nana Anoa and the inspiration she has been in her life. Sunni was one of Nana Anoa’s students at the math center. If you don’t know Sunni Patterson already than I suggest you take some time to look her up. In addition, get to know and introduce yourself to Nana Anoa as well; she is a Black woman that surely other Black New Orleans women should know.
Coincidentally, I attended two different schools with one of her sons, who was a close friend of my brothers before the hurricane. It wasn’t until post-Katrina that I had the opportunity to meet Nana Anoa. Ever since, it has been like magic the way she appears on my paths providing me with that extra push to my next step. If you have shared space with this New Orleans woman, then you should know what I mean.
Nana Anoa is the business owner of Wholely Living Simply Living, a non-profit she started in 2008. The mission of Wholely Living Simply Living is to foster the well being of African American women in the U.S. and African women in general. Wholely Living Simply Living calls upon us as Black people to strengthen ourselves, our families and communities to strengthen the world.
Nana Anoa’s mantra has been “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” She encourages Black women in particular to recognize that we are the Mothers of all humanity and must take our rightful places as that. “We must take charge of our own lives and self-care. Some of the most essential parts are the way we eat, our mental, physical, financial, and educational well-being. Meditation is essential to it all,” says Nana Anoa. “I have learned that meditation has to be incorporated in all that we do. With the many the things that the city does to us and all the killing that happens in our city, I could easily get angered (and just stay angry), but that is when I remind myself to just breathe. I go to the water and meditate (for answers).”
The experience of being a Black woman and Black Mama has been Nana Anoa’s biggest inspirations in the healing works. Observing situations of those close to her also gave her an understanding of the many ways we don’t live in our power like we should. She saw the power of her parents who came up in even rougher situations than she did; and still they were emotionally healthy people. This inspired her to be strong and healthy.
In addition, growing up under racism and white supremacy was a huge motivation for self-healing and to help in the healing of Black people.“It was the stories of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King that inspired me. And people who we don’t hear about too often, like Martin R. Delany and Henry Highland Garnett. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson was a huge inspiration too. We share the same birthdate, December 19th,” Nana proudly stated.
Nana Anoa currently facilitates a women’s wellness group through Common Ground Health Clinic on the Westbank every Tuesday, and a mindfulness meditation group on Wednesday night at the New Orleans Healing Center. In addition, she will begin working with the Star Institute at the Youth Study Center in the near future. There, she will work with the youth to develop skills for self-care and making life-affirming choices. Topics that allow for ‘deep talk’ will include mindfulness, trust, personal power and forgiveness, to name a few.
Two ways you can support Wholely Living Simply Living are by engaging the services of Nana Anoa as a facilitator with your organization or group to help bring out its best and by making financial donations. Expressing some of the difficulties of getting people to contribute financial support, Nana says, “We tend to not support programs or businesses that provide healing work. Much of it is because people need to see something or have something tangible for their money. But if you believe in self-determination for Black people, then part of that is to make financial investments in businesses that do this work.”
Nicole Adams is a woman of a variety of names. Many people know her as Nola Darling, Coley Conscious or Goddess Love, but her lastest name, Mwalimu, has been given to her by her home school students. Mwalimu means teacher in Swahili.
Nicole aka Mwalimu is the founder and director of Amaru Come-Unity Home School, a home school created out of the critical need for educational justice and combating the school to prison pipeline. While only in its first year, it has already proven to be a solution to many of the problems New Orleans children face within the public and charter school systems.
My son, for instance, is a 6th grader at Amaru and his grades and self-esteem have increased unimaginably. We went from having a 5th grade Math teacher tell us that he was not ready for the 6th grade because of his failing grades to her passing him to the 6th grade the next month. Now at Amaru he has worked hard to maintain an A or B in Math all year long. I accredit this progress to Nicole’s hard-work and dedication in rebuilding my son’s self-esteem and accountability to becoming more hard-working and dedicated. He now looks forward to maintaining his good grades and furthering his education.
Amaru is one of many home schools within the New Orleans Educative Collective, a group of home schools, home schooling families and home schoolers. Often times, they unite on field trips, hiring a Black owned school bus company, as they visit and support Black businesses and their events. Home schooling has its own unique history and important value within the Black New Orleans community. It’s a blessing to see so many people in the city waking up to this call to action in the crucial times of closing and failing schools.
It didn’t take much for Nicole to step up to being an advocate for children. She has always had a love for teaching and working with them. She was introduced to entrepreneurship as a child and started her first business at the age of 12 years old. The name of her business was “In Coley’s Care”. It provided child care services for her neighborhood.
She continued this love of working with children at nurseries and at church throughout her high school days. During her college days, she became a certified applied behavioral analyst and began working with autistic children from the ages of 4-12 on a one on one basis.
After graduating from Southern University of New Orleans with a degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice, Nicole continued working with autistic and special education children but this time inside of the charter school system. This is where Nicole realized that charter schools lacked the nurturing that working with individual students on a one-on-one basis provided. She realized this lack caused a huge disconnect between the students, the teachers, and the education.
Amaru Come-Unity Home School currently has only four students and one full time teacher. However, Nicole occasionally works with various partners and parents in the community. She strongly believes the student to teacher ratio in Charter schools are unreasonable and in many cases failing us all. As Amaru continues to grow, she plans to stick to more of a student to teacher ratio of 5 to 1. Nicole expressed, “I think that in order to cater to the child’s individual personality and learning style you would need to have low student to teacher ratio. A learning environment must be nurturing in order for children to be self-determined.”
There is a growing number of parents interested in taking their children out of the failing schools and home schooling them on their own or signing them up for a home school. Nicole receives several calls from concerned parents throughout the school year. Many times she provides them with some information, and consultation but most times Nicole redirects them to one of the other schools that they are able to enroll in.
Next year, Nicole hopes to have at least five teachers providing education and nurturing to about 25 students. Currently, Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool is learning through an online educational program in addition to resources and materials from Kamali Academy, an African-centered online curriculum provider and former New Orleans home school. She is also working on a K-12 curriculum in collaboration with a team of educators.
Unlike charter and public schools, home schools are tuition based. For this reason, many people choose to send their children to the oppressor because financially they are uninformed about the tremendous value in investing in their childrens future. It would seem great to receive something for “free” verses “paying”. However, just as buying cheaper or faster food to fulfill the hunger, you will pay with poor health in the future. Such is true in many cases with sending children to these privately owned schools.
“During the years I worked in charter schools, the environment was very toxic for the children and even the teachers. The focus was more on getting the grades up for the teachers and schools, instead of really teaching children and celebrating what they were truly accomplishing and learning.”
While the work of home schooling is very important and necessary, it is a foundation to supporting the community. In addition, it needs support in return.To support Amaru Come-Unity Homeschool, feel free to make a donation or volunteer by contacting Nicole at [email protected].
4. Nicole Deggins of Sista Midwife Productions
Nicole Deggins, owner of Sista Midwife Productions, didn’t always want to be a midwife. She didn’t particularly want to be a nurse either, even though her own mother is a nurse practitioner. She did, however, know that she wanted a career in the medical field.
Originally she planned to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later, acquired interest in becoming an obstetrician. Fate had it that she ended up going to nursing school. The motivation behind her attending nursing school stemmed from a nursing program that guaranteed her admission into medical school. Nicole jumped on this opportunity to begin her medical career.
Working at University Hospital during the time crack cocaine infiltrated the Black communities, Nicole saw many of the direct effects drugs had on the people’s health. She also noticed the harsh treatment women and child bearers experienced within the medical institutions. Even though she enjoyed being a nurse, Nicole realized that she wanted to do more.
There was a woman who worked at St. Thomas and St. Bernard clinic who occasionally came to University Hospital with some of her patients. Nicole noticed how this woman provided extra care and support for her various clients throughout their pregnancy and postpartum. The woman was a midwife. This was the fulfillment Nicole was in search of and the moment she knew that a midwife was what she needed to be.
Nicole started her professional career with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Georgetown University in 1994. This is where she first heard about midwifery as a freshmen. Georgetown actually had a midwife school. Another time she heard about it was sophomore year, upon missing clinical one day. Making up for the absence, she attended clinical on another day and ended up shadowing a mid-wife. Though that experience wasn’t too appeasing due to the woman being mean or having a bad day, it still added incite to this growing interest in a new career field Nicole was destined to enter.
In undergrad, Nicole received a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which really helped to propel Nicole into her new career as a midwife. She advanced her career by completing a dual degree program at Emory University in 1999 where she fulfilled the requirements for the Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Midwifery and the Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management.
In December 2011, Nicole founded her business, Sista Midwife Productions, LLC. Sista Midwife Productions provides education and training through teleconferences, webinars, keynotes and live workshops. They work with pregnant women, doulas, families, birth workers, communities, advocates, and allies. They also provide education with a unique insider’s view that helps you navigate the medical obstetrical system.
“Women, the most important participant in the process of pregnancy and childbirth, are often misguided, mistreated, and ill-informed. I have heard countless stories from women who say to me… “If only I had known… my birthing experience could have/would have been different… better in some way.” While these stories always remind me that I have work to do, I am continuously inspired by the many women who have taken control of their birth experiences. I have been blessed to witness a couple of thousands of births, and each birth inspires me in a new and different way,” says Nicole.
Nicole expressed that one of the biggest obstacles within her career is to explain who she is, what she does and what services she provides as a midwife. Much of it is because she is not acting in some of the traditional midwife roles due to some of the obstacles and restrictions in Louisiana around midwifery. For instance, Nicole was trained as a hospital midwife. Those she does not perform home births because of some of the licensing obstacles in Louisiana, she does, however, have the skills and training in home birth consultations, which allows her to help families to understand their various birthing options.
She also mentioned people don’t really understand the different between the midwives and doulas. Some of the differences are the duties performed as well as the amount of training and education needed. For instance, some of the duties of a doula are providing information, emotional and physical support for the families. The training for a doula can be as little as 2-6 days.
Training to be a midwife can take 2-6 years. Some of the duties include medical surveillance, cutting the umbilical cord, home birthing, and more. Nicole used the difference between an elementary school teacher and a college professor as an example. “Sure a college professor can teach elementary school, however their training goes far beyond that, just as a midwifes does in comparison to a doulas.”
Nicole is a “doula trainer” who does not like the word doula. The origin of the word doula is Greek for “female slave”. Nicole still uses the word but only because of its commercial value. However she would like to see the word change all together. The work doulas contribute surely should be held to a higher regard then a female slave.
Interestingly enough, in early 1900s in New Orleans, some of the French words used for midwives are “la sage femme” which means wise woman, “la vielle femme” meaning old woman, “chasse femme” meaning to expel and “accoucheuse” meaning one who delivers. Still none of these words refer to midwives as anything as derogatory as a female slave. All of the meanings for midwife seem to translate to a well-respected woman. Maybe one day doula will be replaced with a word that honors the work.
Sista Midwife Productions has provided doula training for over 60 people, majority Black women. They are currently providing trainings with the goal of getting this information out to all who support and love women and children, not limiting it to just midwives and doulas. “We are looking to train women who train as birth sisters regardless of their profession so that women across the state can have this information. If we shift the way we conceive, we birth, and treat women in post partum, we can truly shift our entire community. There is so much cellular love and high vibration that we can spread throughout our community. We must understand that making love is making a baby.”
One monumental accomplishment of Sista Midwife Productions is their Black Midwife/Doula Directory, which hosts information on over 150 midwives/doulas across the country. This is a ground-breaking approach to raising awareness of midwives, doulas, where they are located and how to connect with them. This is also a great movement toward building unity with this growing community of Black birth workers. Despite some of the obstacles around midwifery in Louisiana, historically New Orleans has had a strong tradition of midwifery, having as many as many as 140 listed in a city directory and about 15 listing in the Yellow Pages.
Sista Midwife Productions has already exceeded these numbers and aspires to continue growing the knowledge and resources toward healthy births in the Black communities. This is one of the reasons Nicole knew a part of her work needs to be focused on getting more birthing information to the Black communities. “Black babies die at 2 times the rates of white babies in this country. Black mamas suffer more, have worst outcomes and die at 2-4X the rate of white women,” says Nicole. “My goal is a social entreprenuer model. So my workshops, trainings, events, products are for a fee so i can do community workshops, outreach, and support.”
In addition to providing doula trainings, Sista Midwife Productions produces birthing plays and events as a form of edutainment. They have trained 20 women through Healthy Start and provide an internship program for Public Health students. They also have their own t-shirt line, and are building a marketplace of products and resources that assist mothers and their babies, created by women and mothers.
Sista Midwife Productions hosts workshops at Community Commitment on Thursdays and providing parenting tools and tip such as breast feeding, transitioning babies from milk to solid foods, healthy start trainings, webinars, etc. After several requests they are in the process of creating a fatherhood program which will be co-facilitate with a male counterpart. They are also starting a new volunteer doula program and about to take the trainings on the road more. Some places they will training in are Oklahama City and Jacksonville, FL. You can also organize a training to happen in your city or even country.
Nicole Deggins, is a writer, an educator, a coach and an advocate. She is a daughter, a sister, a student, and a teacher. She is a traveler, a dancer, and a true free spirit. She is talker and a listener, a friend and a confidant, who has recently add another title to her life’s calling. She is a mother of her beautiful spirited and intelligent one year old daughter. She now knows the meaning of #BirthSomethingBeautiful in an entirely new way.
“One of the greatest rewards as a trainer is seeing women have the light bulb moment,” Nicole says. She has had quite a few light bulb moments when she receives information that makes the importance of the work even more pertinent.
“Working directly with mothers is another great reward to midwifery. There is nothing being so blessed to be a part of the ushering in of new life; and the witnessing of the ancestor return. Through this work we are Gods assistants. Words can’t express how blessed I feel to be chosen to do this work; the joy of seeing a mother having a baby, supporting her and providing love and care to her, holding her hand through her pregnancy and there after.”
Some of the ways you can support Sista Midwife Productions are by encouraging women in your communities who are interesting in natural birth and breast feeding. You can also direct them to the www.sistamidwifeproductions.com where they can find more information and support on birthing in addition to the Black Midwife/Doula Directory. Donations are always important to sustaining this work. The t-shirts, productions, workshops and trainings are other forms of business you can do with Sista Midwife Productions. Look out for the upcoming doula trainings happening this year in August and late October. More information can be found at www.sistamidwifeproductions.com. And don’t forget to use the hashtags #birthsomethingbeautiful and the newest one #birthistherevolution.
THANKS FOR SUPPORTING THE BLACK COMMUNITY
Shout out to you for taking time to learn about these 4 New Orleans women, their businesses and value to the Black New Orleans community. We hope you found them valuable too. We are also counting on you to be doing work on behalf of the community as well. If you are then, we salute you! And if you are ready to start, we are right here ready to assist you. Please leave us a comment rooted in Black love.