Angela Doyinsola Aina is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), a national nonprofit organization advocating for Black maternal health, rights and justice. BMMA’s goals are to change policy, shift the culture, cultivate research and advance care for Black mamas.
Angela has more than 15 years of public health experience, including working on the CDC’s emergency response for Zika pregnancies. Coming from a long line of midwives and birth attendants, she has always been fascinated by pregnancy and maternal care.
“I actually grew up in a very close-knit Nigerian American community here in the US,” Angela says. “As I got older my mom did inform me that my grandmothers and great-grandmothers were actually birth attendants and midwives in their villages.”
While Angela initially thought she would become a pediatrician, she decided to study psychology, women’s studies, and African American studies in school.
“That is what molded my perspective and piqued my interest in women’s health, more so, and then eventually Black women’s health,” she shares.
During her academic career, Angela worked with Black women-led community-based organizations (CBOs). This experience helped her realize that she wanted to be in public health leadership.
“A lot of Black women-led organizations come about, honestly, through wanting to meet an immediate need in their local community. But unfortunately, those same CBOs that do such great work don’t always get funding and resources,” she explains.
With her experience and motivation to support Black maternal health, Angela co-founded BMMA in 2017.
“We’ve had to be bold in talking about maternal mortality at a time when people wanted to just kind of blame individual behavior or focus on individual behavior change and we’ve had to come out and say no this is due to racism and other systemic oppression and issues that are rooted, unfortunately, in how we deliver health care in this country,” she says.
Despite facing opposition from the medical lobby, Angela advanced the mission of BMMA and built an organization that amplifies the voices of Black women in the maternal health arena.
Know Your History
Angela and her BMMA team organize the Black Maternal Health Week and Black Maternal Health Conference and Training Institute each year. And a few years ago, BMMA had the opportunity to thank Black elders at the conference.
“We invited several elder Black midwives across the country to be recognized and honored for their decades – and I do mean decades – of work and being unsung heroes in our community,” Angela says. “For them to see the fruits of their labor, to see that there’s a whole new generation of doulas, midwives, OBGYNs, and nurses who are trying to do this work from the ways in which they approach midwifery and holistic care, I mean, that was a full-circle moment for me.”
Angela encourages all future changemakers to spend time reading and learning their history. She also emphasizes the importance of speaking with people who have done the work before you.
“Seek mentorship and guidance and then develop your own pathway forward. And just ensure that it’s informed by work that has been done before you so that you are guided in future work and can be innovative and come at things from a more forward-pushing perspective,” Angela shares.
Ultimately, Angela’s work is informed by both history and innovative thinking. And while it’s been challenging to shift the culture towards a focus on Black maternal health, she stays motivated by thinking about the women who came before her.
“I’m so grateful for the commitment to honoring our elders and honoring the work that we do, especially Black women in this arena,” she says.