I am an educator, a birth keeper, and an unapologetic African.
I was born in Benin, West Africa and moved to Gainesville, FL with my family when I was 9 years old. In 2015, I took my daughter to Benin for a 3-month vacation, and it felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders. I felt safer in Benin—healthier and more empowered to dream and create. Away from the rat race of chasing the American dream, I decided to focus ALL my energy on nurturing my mental health and my calling to be a birth keeper.
A birth keeper is a person who cultivates and provides reproductive healthcare for the women, men, and children in their community.
My journey as a birth keeper started when I was born in my grandparent’s home in Benin, as my mom’s second child but first homebirth. This journey became more official in 2007 when I moved to Miami, FL to attend midwifery school.
While studying midwifery in Miami, I was inspired by many Black/African-American women who were passionate about keeping their community safe from the high maternal mortality rates of American hospitals.
Black mothers birthing in hospitals in the United States are THREE times more likely to die during childbirth than other mothers, and studies show that the mortality rates for African immigrants such as myself increased with every generation born in the United States.
Though my fellow Black midwifery students and I knew the urgency for more out-of-hospital births, midwifery school proved to be a big hurdle because of the oppressive predominantly white classrooms, high tuitions, and the Eurocentric curriculum that ignored us, our culture and indigenous people.
I paused my midwifery studies in 2009 to birth to my daughter, at home. After becoming a mother, however, I found it hard to continue to be in (and pay for) oppressive White spaces. I did it one last time though, to finish my Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education.
Finishing college strengthened my resolve not to go back to an American education system. To reset my mind and spirit after graduating in 2015, I gifted my daughter and I with the 3-month vacation to Benin.
Coming back to the U.S. was depressing. Shoutout to Beyonce’s “Formation” video and Lemonade album! It was right on time, helping to lift my spirits and solidify my resolve in centering freedom, joy, and African intelligence.
My daughter and I decided to start a self-directed way of living and learning, a way of living that I witnessed in Benin. Where we spend our time, led by our own curiosities and interests; finding our unique ways to contribute to and receive from our community and environment. A way of life that’s similar to what is described as unschooling.
The decision to break away from the rat-race led me to deeply explore what it means to decolonize my spirituality, my health, and my community. For the first time since moving to the U.S. as a 9-year-old, I took the time to feel through how the violent, oppressive American lifestyle has impacted me and my relationship with Africans, African-Americans, and European Americans.
I realized that I was investing a lot of time, attention and wealth into systems that continue to oppress Africans and African culture. I also realized that I had a choice to either 1) continue spending my most valuable resources in the system of oppression or 2) begin nurturing my mental health and my calling. I chose the latter.