BY Brandon King
The shocking death of Olympic track gold medalist Tori Bowie, who died as a result of childbirth complications in May at the age of 32, struck a personal chord with Howard men’s basketball coach Kenny Blakeney.
The MEAC Coach of the Year issued a statement on Friday in which he implored others to support Black maternal health.
“Pregnancy and bringing life into this world should be a moment of happiness, but for many Black women, it is an experience rife with fear and uncertainty,” he wrote on Twitter.
The issue of Black maternal health is one near and dear to not only Blakeney but the men’s basketball team as well.
It was the social justice matter the team chose to take on before the start of the season, and they used their platform to address the issue.
In January, the team, in conjunction with Mamatoto Village, a Black women-run organization, conducted an event that focused on anti-Black racism and the health disparities that Black mothers face. The event also included members of the team packaging 7,950 diapers, 50 diaper bags, and 190 kits for postpartum care, household supplies, and lactation support.
Speaking to CNN in January, Blakeney said, “Women’s health issues aren’t just women’s health issues. Everyone is affected by this, not only the women but also men.”
The team has continued these efforts with partnerships with not only Mamatoto Village but also NoVa and the Black Maternal Health Caucus. In February, Howard basketball held a private screening of “Birthing Justice,” a documentary that examined the institutions and systems that influence the mortality of Black women and their babies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications and also must deal with anti-Black racism from healthcare providers at higher rates.