PACA asked Marqui and Toni Rose from Birth Brown Co-op (BBC) to share their story, what the co-op is up to these days, and how things have shifted in the pandemic.
PACA: Who is Birth Brown Co-op?
BBC: Birth Brown Co-op (BBC) birth workers are trained Black and Brown professionals committed to improving community access to non-clinical and culturally relevant continuous emotional, physical, educational, and informational support in fertility, the full spectrum of pregnancy, and family care services.
BBC serves Philadelphia and the surrounding tri-state area through positive, confident, and culturally relevant navigation within and outside the traditional health care system. Through supporting families in all types of birth (including cesarean and v-bac) and in all birth settings (home, hospital, and birth center), we aim to assist families in creating and fulfilling the plans in their own birth stories.
We offer the following public and educational services: full spectrum doula services, fertility and preconception support, health literacy and education, birthworker training and mentorship, provider referrals, breastfeeding/chestfeeding support, and birth justice advocacy.
PACA: Can you say more about your structure, and what it means to you?
BBC: Birth Brown Cooperative (formerly known as the Philly Birth Project) was developed in 2015 as a Black and Brown resource for families and birth workers in the Philadelphia Area. In 2017, we decided to move away from the traditional small business structure and became a worker cooperative—a birth workers organization that is run by birth workers and centers Black and Brown families.
We are a community example of what owning your own labor can look like in birth work. Our cooperative currently has 15 members, who identify and work as various types of birth and perinatal support workers, with collective experience and education of 40 years. We are intergenerational, span across the mid-Atlantic region, and are all committed to solving the problem of inequity in birth work by providing the solutions that come from our own experiences and in collaboration with our broader communities, allies, and partners.
PACA: That’s beautiful, and really speaks to the function of a cooperative to realize members’ “common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations”—emphasis on “cultural” in this case. So where is Birth Brown in the cooperative development process?
BBC: Birth Brown is still in its start up phase but we are progressing! BBC wants to establish a strong foundation. Our founding members have received training and mentorship from PACA, of which we are a member and fiscal sponsee, on functioning as a worker cooperative and staying focused and on track. With facilitation support from PACA, we have drafted our bylaws. We have also consulted with a lawyer, and are waiting on the next steps from them to move a few technical pieces forward. We are working with a web designer to complete our website redesign. And, of course, we are taking clients depending upon our co-op members’ availability.
PACA: How has the pandemic impacted this process?
BBC: Birth Brown has had to become even more flexible, realistic and resilient to weather the pandemic. We adapted all meetings for the co-op to a virtual platform. The pandemic drastically changed our lactation scholarship programming as well; the majority of the programming was canceled or changed to a virtual platform. Still, we are continuing to support these scholarship recipients to reach their individual goals. Ultimately, we have opportunities to bring resources, services, and support to families in the ways they need. We are eagerly anticipating the next year to really go full steam ahead with our plans and ideas. We are excited to be forming the FIRST Black and Brown birth workers’ worker cooperative, and are hoping that even despite the pandemic we continue to innovate and expand our brand.