After participating in community-based committees organized to address racial disparities in maternal and infant health, Da’na M. Langford and Tenisha Gaines decided to act. These committees did not reflect Black women and children who were devastated by structural racial disparities. Black-led organizations who brought concrete action steps to these committees were constantly being challenged, while large White led-organizations were granted substantial dollars—and outcomes for Black mothers and babies worsened. On July 16, 2019, Ms. Langford and Ms. Gaines joined the efforts of these Black-led organizations and co-founded the Village of Healing, a 501c3 non-profit organization. The Village of Healing started with two community-based programs: Mother to Mother, developed in partnership with POEM (Perinatal Outreach Encouraging Moms) and the Black Professional Women’s Group.
In 2020, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, released a report naming Cleveland the fifth worst city for Black women in the United States. Cleveland in fact, ranked last among metros with 100,000 or more women in overall outcomes and educational outcomes, and ranked second to last among metros for economic and health outcomes.
Socio-economic and educational status are not protective factors for Black women. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, in the three years between 2016-2019, Black women suffered significantly greater rates, double that of severe maternal morbidity compared to White women.. When age and race are compared among racial groups, Black women fare the worst; 263.3 cases per 100,000 compared to 133.3 among Hispanic women. Considering its sensitivity to general structural factors like socio-economic development and basic living conditions, infant mortality continues to be a disparaging indicator of the health status of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Black babies in Cleveland die before their first birthday at five times the rate of white babies. In Cuyahoga County, Black babies die at three times the rate of white babies. What we know on a very personal level comes from the lived experiences of Black women in Cuyahoga County. Many say they do not feel heard and often feel their concerns are ignored by healthcare providers.
Reading all the data and working in institutions as Black women, Da’na and Tenisha were unheard in their advocacy as employees, and as family members of patients in the system, and as Black women themselves seeking care in these systems. They continued to recognize a large problem that deserved a solution, not more talking about the problem. The deciding factor for co-founder Da’na M. Langford was a trip she took to Africa. While standing in the slave dungeons in Ghana, she recalls walking and feeling in her soul, the blood that was shed, the murders that had taken place, and the rapes that occurred of her ancestors. She recalls hearing them whisper, it was her responsibility to speak up and act, NOW.
Out of their passion and need to decrease racial disparities for Black women, co-founders Da’na M. Langford and Tenisha Gaines opened The Village of Healing Center doors on February 14, 2022 to provide Black women access to culturally-sensitive care from the time a woman steps into the clinic and throughout the duration of her visit. The center is the first and only clinic for Black women in Cuyahoga County and will serve as a venue for women in need of access to gynecological, antepartum, and post-partum care.