You know when you find out that someone has died, and your heart brakes even though you never really hung out? A lot of people had that with Koby Bryant who died a few weeks ago. I personally didn't have that with him because even though I'm a basketball fan, he didn't impact me. He didn't inspire me.
Today I feel heartbroken because for me, this person was Claudia Booker, who left me feeling like there was something that I needed to do, and that's enough to feel real grief. Because of how rad she was, and now that profoundly inspiring radness is just something to remember, frozen in the timelessness of death.
I'm at a loss to say how much of an impact Claudia had on me. We never really know how deep inspiration goes until we need to use it. Sometimes we draw from it out of necessity, sometimes inspiration just becomes a part of our life and a part of us in our day-to-day routines. Inspiration nurtures resiliency, resiliency fuels inspiration. They both rely on each other like that. They're cool like that and ultimately, another person's influence can go so deep that it can change and confirm how we look at the world all at once.
After I gave birth to my second son, I was left feeling a newfound pulse in me. I soon realized that I had to connect with others on this wavelength of feeling freedom as I reclaimed my power from saying no and yes to all of what felt right to me. I was freshly inspired and rose stronger after I gave birth to my baby. My son was 4 months old when we boarded a train in Seattle, just the two of us. I was still feeling tender and tired all the time, but was determined to venture to San Francisco to meet with others who felt this intuitive pulse. I got off the train and carried him in my carrier while breastfeeding and lugging a bag on wheels with my purse dangling from the handles- into a terrifyingly huge public Bart train station (I had just come from a remote island in Canada with a population of approx. 1,000 people). I was in a postpartum state, 2 ferry rides, one train ride and roughly 1, 700km between where I stood and my familiar bed. I was on a mission to connect and to feed this need to be with other birth workers who felt what I did, with a desire to learn from seasoned midwives and doulas.
I got lost several times before I found my way to my final destination, Squat Fest located at the Woman's Center, in the chaos of San Francisco's downtown. This surge of inspiration combined with conviction guided me. I heard Claudia speak upon those same sources that seemed to guide her. Claudia had inspiration and conviction, but also so so oh so much confidence to speak her truth, to storytell reality as a midwife, a doula of color in America who also traveled and worked and founded the DC Midwives of Color, a group dedicated to improving the birthing experiences of women all over the American capital.
When I heard Claudia speak to dozens of us from around the world, she brought a lot of details and info about where we are at in modern maternity health care. This was at Squat Fest in 2013. Since then, through social media I've heard her actively call people out and fight for fully informed consent. She brought to light from experience and impact the reality of the infant and infant and maternal mortality rate in America.
That weekend changed my life. I met so many amazing people and some are still my teachers and friends as I write this. What I recall about Claudia is that she fervently shared truth, adamant about how far we need to go to create an equal ground for us to meet upon. To give birth upon. I'll miss your sweet fierceness Claudia. I won't forget it.
To me, even though we weren't friends, the loss of this passion is reason enough to be sad. When I met her in 2013 at Squat Fest I was familiar with the echoes of her passion and her deeply rooted trust in the birthing process. This echo resonated consent, the need for trust and transformation in the birth room. The need for trust and a shift in relationships in modern times, in relationships among every single person who is in a birth room.
That summer, I came home from this trip and changed my business name to Birthing Freedom, which was a significant growth spurt from Birth Song Doula Services. With that resiliency and inspiration exchange dancing with my breath, I am so so grateful to those who speak their truth. To Claudia and for the babies and moms who teach us so much. I won't forget you. I am grateful for her for being an advocate, a bad ass midwife, doula and icon of consent.
If you'd like to donate to a fundraiser for her family, visit here: "Mama Claudia Says: This is Not My Last Rodeo!"
If you'd like to learn more about Claudia's work, check out these resources:
Vice- These Doulas are Making Pregnancy Safer for Women of Color
Black Women Birthing Justice: 5 Black Women You Should Know About
According to Claudia- Claudia in the media
The video below is a recording of performances and panel discussion from the premiere event for "Tatia's Story: From Life to Death in 10 Hours" held at the Oakland Museum of California on Jan. 14, 2017. The video captures performances by nonprofit multiracial choir Vukani Mawethu and a panel discussion with Jennie Joseph, CPM, LM; Claudia Booker, CPM, M.Ed, JD; Racha Lawler, CPM, LM; and Carmen Traylor Jones, director and producer of "Tatia's Story"
"Birth work is based on heart to heart; The client absolutely needs to find practitioners whose heart sings to her heart. But we have to let our clients know of all of their opportunities and then hope that they still come back to work with us. I believe it’s our job [as birth workers] to take this on so that we can work to enable every group, culture, and society to have the best birth they can while we fight for universal change." -Claudia Booker