Black women facing the maternal health and infant mortality crisis in Cleveland will have the opportunity to tell their own stories in a free writing program beginning next month. The American Association of Clergy and Employers (AACE) is launching Beauty for Ashes: Stories of Maternal Hope, a restorative journalism project that will empower women in Cleveland to tell their first-person narratives of struggle and perseverance. Though this project, more Clevelanders will learn about the problems of maternal health and infant mortality, seek solutions, and become activists for change.
Black women in Cuyahoga County die from complications due to childbirth, deliver premature babies, and suffer infant mortality at higher rates than women in third world countries. According to data from First Year Cleveland (FYC) and the Center for Community Solutions, black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts. In 2018, 1 out of every 116 babies born in Cuyahoga County didn’t celebrate a first birthday, and two thirds of these babies were African American.
To help shed light on this issue, Literary Cleveland is partnering with AACE to offer a free eight-week writing workshop which will provide black women the space to tell their stories on their own terms. Participants’ stories will then be shared through several media outlets, including FreshWater Cleveland, Radio-One 107.9 FM, and WERE AM 1490. By sharing stories of firsthand experience, participants can make a difference and help save the lives of children and mothers in our community.
Literary Cleveland Executive Director Christine Howey says, “At Literary Cleveland, we are honored to be a partner with Beauty for Ashes: Stories of Maternal Hope. The African-American women who have suffered childbirth trauma have powerful and poignant stores to tell. And we are proud to help them tell those stories so that change can happen—right here in Cleveland and right now.”
Instructor Charlotte Morgan says, “This workshop is important because it allows women who have suffered to tell their own stories in a way that may bring healing, but most certainly will bring information to those lingering in unbearable grief. In my workshops, the goal is always to bring clarity and when needed, dignity as personal narratives have the power to erase differences and illuminate similarities of human condition.”
This project is made possible through the generous support of The Cleveland Foundation, Akron Community Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Center for Community Solutions and the Knight Foundation.
Interested participants can visit https://www.litcleveland.org/events-programs/beauty-for-ashes or call 440-494-6290 for more information.