Tuesday, April 09, 2024

“The Fight For Black Lives” Documentary Film Highlights The Need For Black Maternal Health Week, April 11-17

The Fight For Black Lives documentary, directed and produced by University of Chicago Professor Micere Keels, explores how racial stress and systemic racism in healthcare disadvantages the health of Black Americans, by focusing on disproportionate maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. It will screen during Black Maternal Health Week, on April 14th, at the Blue Whiskey International Film Festival, in Elk Grove Village, IL.


The Fight For Black Lives combines personal stories of Black women who were pregnant during the first year of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter uprisings, with archival footage and expert insights to place a spotlight on the systemic injustices baked into America’s healthcare system. It also challenges viewers to confront the historical reluctance of the government to provide adequate healthcare for formerly enslaved people, perpetuating present-day racial health disparities.

“Through this film, I invite audiences to confront the systemic issues that persistently disadvantage Black Americans' health, urging us all to be catalysts for change," adds Dr. Keels.

The film is a timely reminder of the need for Black Maternal Health Week (MBHW), which is held annually on April 11-17. BMHW is a week-long campaign founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance​ to build awareness, activism, and community-building​ to amplify ​the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black Mamas and birthing people.

The Fight for Black Lives documentary places Black maternal mortality in historical and international context. Even before the pandemic the Black maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was (55 per 100,000 births), which is higher than in developing nations like Tunisia (37 per 100,000) and Jordan (41 per 100,000). As stated by Dr. Monica McLemore, an expert highlighted in the film: “Pregnancy is not a disease, so if you're having high maternal mortality, there’s either something wrong with your country, your healthcare system, or both.”

The documentary shows that there is nothing new about the disproportionate rate of Black mortality that was associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic only worsened the maternal mortality crisis and in 2021, the Black maternal mortality rate climbed to 70 deaths per 100,000 births.

"I embarked on the journey of creating 'The Fight For Black Lives' with a commitment to uncovering the deep-rooted injustices within our healthcare system and their impact on Black lives. This documentary serves as a powerful narrative of the urgent need for health justice in America,” explains Dr. Keels.

Change agents and health experts featured in the film include Professors Monica McLemore of the University of Washington, Laurie Nsiah Jefferson of the University of Massachusetts Boston, Cynthia Boyd of Rush University, Dr. Chelsea Dorsey of the University of Chicago, and others.

Both produced and directed by Dr. Keels, The Fight For Black Lives marks her first foray into using popular narrative forms to influence public understanding of persistent inequities. Other film credits include Sharonda Harris Marshall who served as the editor, associate editors Danielle Thompson and Jazz Echevarría, co-producer Cindy Martin, Ian Crowder and Curtis Boone who served as the first and second director of photography, respectively, and animator Liam Weir.

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