MS. BLACK USA
Chanda Branch is a fierce, fly and fantastic woman who lives by the motto, “Just watch me.” Leadership and civic engagement were instilled in her as core values at a young age in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida and she remains committed to those concepts as she helps to build the community in Raleigh, North Carolina and bless those in communities throughout the nation.
An alumnus of Tennessee State University, with a B.S. in Speech Communications & Theatre including Teaching Certification, Chanda credits her HBCU education for grounding her in her identity as a woman of color and equipping her to face the shifting challenges of the 21st century.
Chanda ventured into the world of pageantry to win some book money as a college junior. Since that first pageant, she fell in love with the glitz, the glamour, and the grind and has captured local, state, and national titles which include: Miss Black & Gold-Beta Omicron, Miss Black & Gold-Asso. of Tennessee Alphamen, Mrs. Black North Carolina-2017, Ms. Black North Carolina-2020, and Ms. Black USA- 2020.
Mrs. Branch was first appointed to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission in 2014 and reappointed to two additional terms by the city council. She serves the city and the commission as its Chair and is the first Black woman to do so. She formerly served as the Chair of the Grants Committee, which oversee the distribution of municipal funding for arts partners as well as the Racial Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
As a professional classroom educator of English, Dance and Drama, Chanda is an award winning standout. She has produced plays and variety shows for students despite constraints on time, money, and resources. She is currently the Director of Theater at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School! Chanda also sits on the Board of Directors for North Carolina Theatre (Education Committee) and the Board of Directors for the Raleigh Boychoir.
Chanda’s family is the core of her being. She is the daughter of two career educators, and the granddaughter of one of St. Petersburg, Florida’s first black police officers. She adores her in-laws, her bubbly younger sister, her two handsome nephews, and her darling little niece. Chanda and her incredible husband, City of Raleigh Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Branch, welcomed a precious blessing in the form of their daughter, Carleigh. Being a mother to has changed the game! Chanda’s life and work have new perspectives and the stakes are heightened as the realization that what she does now will impact the world that her child will inherit.
Follow: @MsBlackUSA / @Iammrsbranch / @Iammamabranch on Instagram and Facebook!
Keynote: Bedsharing and Breastfeeding
Michal A. Young, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.B.M. is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University College of Medicine. She also serves as the Medical Director of the B.L.E.S.S. (Breastfeeding Lactation Education Support Services) Initiative as well as Director of the NICU and Newborn Services, at Howard University Hospital. She is a graduate of Howard University College of Medicine, Class of 1979. Dr. Young completed a rotating internship in Medicine and Pediatrics at Grady Memorial and Emory Hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia, followed by a Pediatric residency at Howard University Hospital, and a fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital. Much of her clinical and academic practice was at D. C General Hospital where she was the Director of the N.I.C.U. for the last five years prior to the closure of that Hospital in July 2001. After the closure of DC General Hospital, she did locum practice at several hospitals in DC and Maryland. She subsequently returned to academic practice at Howard University Hospital in 2006. Dr. Young has several publications and presentations over a range of topics governing infant care. Her research interests are in developmental outcomes of the ELBW, HIV perinatal transmission, the Diabetic Dyad and in breastfeeding education for professionals and parents.
Dr. Young had just completed her fellowship in Neonatology at the time of the birth of her first child. She recalls how poorly educated she was about breastfeeding and the benefits of human milk. This experience placed her on a life-long quest to improve breastfeeding education for medical professionals, and patient’s families. Dr. Young speaks locally and nationally about the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding for the human infant.
She is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (sections on Perinatal Medicine and Breastfeeding), a Fellow and member of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (Chairman of its Protocol Committee), member of the National Medical Association (a Past Chair of its Pediatric Section), Member of the Board of Directors for the D.C. Breastfeeding Coalition, Member of the Board of Directors for ROSE: Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc. and one of the Chapter Breastfeeding Coordinators for the D.C. Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Keynote: Advancing Power and Precedent for Black Motherhood and Breastfeeding: Building Social Eco-Systems as a Strategy
Dr. Angela Johnson is an applied social scientist recognized nationally as a research scholar, advocate, and published author in the area of maternal health and breastfeeding disparities.
Johnson serves as community outreach program specialist at Michigan Medicine Department of Community Health Services, Program for Multicultural Health; she leads the development of education, training, and research programs designed to reduce racial and other social inequities in collaboration with a host of national, state, and local, partners.
Her research is community-focused and intended to translate to interventions and programs that effectively support African American women and their families. Dr. Johnson leads translational studies designed to highlight psychosocial risk factors and to inform interventions that address disparate breastfeeding behavior among African American women. Results from her work are published in several national and international peer-reviewed journals. As well her research findings have informed outcomes in maternal child health programs and policy. Johnson Co-chairs the BBC research committee.
Dr. Johnson trained as a (NIH-funded) post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute for Clinical Health Research (MICHR) at University of Michigan (Go Blue!). She earned her PhD as well as her Masters’ degree in Sociology and Urban Affairs from Michigan State University (Go Spartans!), and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Finally, and most important of all, Dr. Johnson is the proud mother of three: Khai, Olivia, and Kaleb and happy wife to one: Oliver Edward Johnson.
Using Direct Service, Training & Advocacy to Optimize the First Food Experience
Kiddada Green is the founding executive director of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA). In this role, she is responsible for the organization’s vision, administration, operations and program development. Before fully transitioning into her role with BMBFA, Kiddada spent much of her early career with Detroit Public Schools. She often attributes the development of her leadership to her years with DPS, where she served as both a literacy coach and instructional specialist.
As a community organizer, Kiddada advocates for racial justice in maternal child health. She has spearheaded the formation of the Black Breastfeeding Caucus and is the co-creator of both Mommy-Friendly Detroit and Black Breastfeeding Week. Kiddada serves on several committees and special projects including the US Breastfeeding Committee COVID-19 Infant Young Child Feeding Constellation and MI Department of Health & Human Services Maternal Infant Strategy Group.
A thought leader and field builder – Kiddada put forth recommendations for The U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding and the State of Michigan Breastfeeding Plan. Her work has been published internationally in Breastfeeding Medicine and she has been featured in several noteworthy publications, including Ebony Magazine, Womens eNews and The Root.
An avid learner, Kiddada is a proud esteemed member of the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network Fellowship Program. She is a social entrepreneur, successfully completing a business accelerator fellowship with Ascension Health. In 2020, Kiddada launched Ask Kiddada, a leadership consulting firm.
A Spartan and a Grizzly, Kiddada holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Oakland University. She is a proud and devoted wife, mother and advocate.
The Path to Birth & Breastfeeding Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?
State Senator, Erika Geiss has a proven track record of fighting for Michigan families. Geiss previously served two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, during which she served on the House Standing Committees of Commerce and Trade, Health Policy, Michigan Competitiveness (Democratic Vice Chair), Workforce and Talent Development and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Before joining the legislature, she was an adjunct faculty member in the humanities at Wayne County Community College District, as well as an instructor at the Art Institute of Michigan-Troy and the University of New Hampshire, Durham. Geiss was also director of education at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the curatorial liaison for the core, permanent exhibition, “And Still We Rise: Our Journey through African American History,” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Geiss is also a small business owner and has an extensive publication history as an author and editor of non-fiction books and articles. She also has been an active local community member, serving on the Master Plan Steering Committee for the city of Taylor and on the Taylor Cultural Arts Commission, of which she was chairwoman for two years. She is currently a member of the Wayne County Council for the Arts, History and Humanities, and vice president of the PTO at her youngest child’s elementary school. Senator Geiss also serves on the Taylor Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force, the Beaumont Teen Health Center — Taylor Advisory Board, the Taylor Career Technical Education Center Advisory Board, and is an Advisor to the Board at Vista Maria. Geiss earned her bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Brandeis University and her master’s degree in art and architectural history from Tufts University. The granddaughter of Panamanian immigrants, Senator Geiss has spent most of her adult life in Michigan after moving to the state from the East Coast 17 years ago. She and her husband, Doug, live in Taylor and have two children.
Battling Bias: Community-Centered, Digital Innovations for Equitable Care
Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, author and an internationally-recognized speaker, strategist and advocate for maternal and infant health. A former senior editor at ESSENCE and writer at FORTUNE magazine, Kimberly is a leading voice on the socio-cultural and racial complexities of birth, breastfeeding and motherhood. She is the director of the Maternal and Child Health Communication Collective, a national initiative to shift the narrative of maternal and infant health issues, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Kimberly was recently named one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” for 2018 by Women’s eNews. A frequent contributor to The New York Times and Washington Post, Slate and others, her online commentaries received over 10 million page views last year. Kimberly’s fifth book, The Big Let Down—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding was published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017.
She is the founder of Irth, as in Birth but without the B for bias, a “Yelp”-like review and rating app for black women and birthing people from marginalized groups to find well-reviewed physicians and hospitals and directly address bias and racism in care, launching nationwide in Fall 2020. In the past year, Kimberly has raised over $500,000 for Irth, and she currently leads pregnancy, birth and pediatric review collection work in four U.S. cities.
As a consultant, Kimberly provides strategic communication services to hospitals, non-profits and other public health-related organizations, with an expertise in engaging communities of color. For over seven years, she has led innovative community-based projects in New Orleans, Birmingham, Detroit and Philadelphia that explore the impact of “first food deserts”—communities that severely lack accessible resources to support mothers who choose to breastfeed—and designed community-partnered strategies to transform these areas into more breastfeeding supportive environments.
Kimberly previously served as editorial director of The Black Maternal Health Project of Women’s eNews and was an IATP Food and Community Fellow focused on reframing breastfeeding disparities as a food systems issue.
Kimberly has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Anderson Cooper, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Fox News and has been featured in various international and national media outlets, including The Guardian (U.K.), U.S. News & World Report, Essence, Black Enterprise, Pregnancy and in various online media properties.
Kimberly is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A divorced mother of two, she lives in Queens, NY with her children. Learn more at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamKSealsAllers.
The Power of Coalitions
Nikia Sankofa is the Executive Director of the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), an independent nonprofit coalition of more than 100 influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations that share a joint mission to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.
Nikia received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. She later matriculated through the Master of Public Affairs program at Indiana University, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where she concentrated on Environmental Policy. Nikia also has a Master of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she focused on Women’s Reproductive Health and earned certificates in Health Disparities and Health Communication.
Before USBC, Nikia worked at the National Association of County and City Health Officials where she directed the Breastfeeding Project, which aimed to increase implementation of evidence-based breastfeeding programs, practices, and services at the community level, specifically focusing on peer and professional lactation support to breastfeeding mothers in predominantly African American or underserved communities. Nikia also directed a community-based participatory research study that blended social, behavioral, and biomedical approaches to examine how stressors or resiliency factors influence and interact with biological factors to affect maternal and child health. As the director of an infant mortality reduction initiative in Baltimore City, Nikia oversaw the provision of intensive case management services consisting of recruitment, home-visiting, and parenting education to improve the health and wellness of women and families.
Peer-to-Peer Milk Sharing in a Pandemic: A Community-based Response to Food Insecurity
Tameka Jackson-Dyer IBCLC, CHW, CLE, CLS is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant who has a decade of experience working in WIC clinics, Baby Friendly hospitals, OB clinics and in the community. She began her career in lactation as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor with several Metro Detroit WIC agencies and earned certifications as a Lactation Educator, Community Health Worker and Lactation Specialist during her time there. She assisted Coffective with their Cultural Competence Project for the reboot of their mobile app and is currently working on several other projects with them around WIC agencies and hospital task forces. She serves as the Breastfeeding Subject Matter Expert for Eastern Michigan University under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (CDC-REACH) Healthy Asian-American Project (HAAP). Tameka also acts as the Lactation Consultant for the HAAP partnership with Wayne County Healthy Communities (WCHC) under the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Building REACH Community Breastfeeding Continuity of Care Project. In addition to her work with EMU, WCHC & Coffective, the wife & mother of three is an IBLCE Continuing Education Content Reviewer for Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI), Chair of the Metro Detroit/ Wayne County Breastfeeding Coalition, volunteer mentor with Sisterfriends Detroit, admin for God’s Liquid Gold breastfeeding support/ education Facebook page, founding member of Southeast Michigan IBCLC’s of Color and owner of CrazyMilkLady Lactation Support Services, LLC., providing prenatal education and postpartum breastfeeding assistance through home visits in the metro Detroit area.
Transforming the Spirit of Care: Detroit’s First Freestanding Birth Center
Leseliey Rose Welch, MPH, MBA, Co-Founder, Birth Detroit, has over a decade of progressive public health leadership experience in city, state and national nonprofit health organizations. She served as interim executive director of Birthing Project USA, a grassroots maternal-child health movement, and Deputy Director of Public Health for the City of Detroit, where she started SisterFriends Detroit. She also provided concept development and community engagement consulting in the start-up of Corktown Health Center, Michigan’s first comprehensive LGBT health center. Leseliey currently leads the development team for Birth Detroit, working to open Detroit’s first freestanding community birth center. Locally adapting Jennie Joseph’s JJWay®, Birth Detroit aims to midwife safe, quality, loving care through pregnancy, birth, and beyond for all birthing people – regardless of ability to pay. Leseliey is on faculty in Public Health at Wayne State University and lectures in Women’s Studies at University of Michigan. Leseliey earned her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies, Masters in Public Health with a certificate in Women’s and Reproductive Health, and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan.
Panel: Destigmatizing Care for Marginalized Families
Shon Hart is a married father of three, a premier keynote motivational speaker, and a leading authority on fatherhood. Shon travels the country inspiring organizations, sports teams, and school districts; providing them with resources and tools which empower them to control the narrative and use their “why” as fuel to excel in everything they do. Shon operates in the belief that “It’s your responsibility to steward the gift you have, therefore you should DOMINATE YOUR LANE!” In 2015, Shon founded InvolvedDad, an organization that reunifies, supports, and restores relationships of fragile families. Shon has worked with hundreds of fathers and restored numerous tumultuous relationships throughout the years. Shon believes that if fathers are supported and made a priority rather than an option, the epidemic cycle of fatherlessness in America will be broken. Shon’s motto is, “Strong fathers create strong families, strong families, create strong communities.” Shon has committed his life to making a difference, and that difference is made by impacting one father at a time. Shon will never give up on the work of fatherhood, until fatherlessness is eradicated.
Panel: Destigmatizing Care for Marginalized Families
Elon Geffrard is a Detroit native who has been a birth doula since 2016, she entered doula work as a community home visitor with a national infant mortality prevention program. Since that time; she maintains a private and community-based doula practice that centers Black women and their experiences. Elon has served as project coordinator, statewide speaker and maternal health equity consultant with several public health projects and initiatives. She finds her greatest joys in serving women as they transition into motherhood and the inherent right for all families to experience holistic, quality and respectful care as they welcome new life. She currently works with the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative serving incarcerated pregnant persons and provides support directly during their labor and birth experience. Since 2018 she’s been a board member for the Michigan Breastfeeding Network.
Elon currently works as a maternal infant health equity consultant and teaches medical students and residents at local universities how to perform gynecological exams using a trauma informed, patient led model. She received her formal education from Michigan State University where she studied physiology and health studies with a cognate in psychology. She is a certified doula, a certified parent educator , certified childbirth educator and a certified lactation counselor. She currently is a co-founder of Birth Detroit, an easy access prenatal and postpartum clinic and soon, Detroit’s first freestanding birth center. She is the godmother to ten godchildren and curates a nightly facebook live story time for families called “Auntie Lon’s Story Time.”
Panel: Destigmatizing Care for Marginalized Families
Marketia White, MPA is Founder/Community Advocate of a nonprofit organization called Mommies in the D to address the lack of advocacy for teen mothers to access the resources needed to ensure self-efficiency in their motherhood and personal endeavors. With a background in teaching and nonprofit leadership, Marketia has worked with servanthood in mind. She cares deeply about the empowerment of girls and strives to bridge the gap when it comes to education and normalization of sexual and maternal health in the African American Community specifically with adolescents and teenagers. Originally, from Atlanta, GA, Marketia graduated with her Bachelors of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Business in 2014. She recently graduated with her Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University. Marketia is closely affiliated with the work Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, Inc (ROSE) and wants to continue her maternal health education by becoming a Certified Doula serving teen mothers and an IBCLC.
Panel: Destigmatizing Care for Marginalized Families
Panel: The Life of a Community-based Doula
Robena Hill is a graduate of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s 3rd class of community-based doulas. She is very excited to help support mothers with labor, birth, postpartum care and breastfeeding. Robena is best known for being extremely resourceful. Most endearing about Robena is her commitment to the Detroit community. She is actively involved in her children’s schools. Robena is the former President of the PASCA – Local School Community Organization at John R. King Elementary/Middle School. Interestingly, Robena has a previous work history in geriatrics, further exhibiting her selflessness. Robena is happy to serve as BMBFA’s community-based doula.
Panel: The Life of a Community-based Doula
Ashli Burney is a proud native of Detroit and mother of four boys. She dreamed of becoming a Doula since she was pregnant with her third son. In 2017, Ashli decided to pursue her dream and later graduated from Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association’s Community-Based Doula Program. Ashli is very compassionate and loves helping others. As a career caregiver, Ashli gets very excited when supporting mothers throughout their pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey.