Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Group marks 20 years of mentoring new mothers

Black Women for Wellness, a nonprofit that is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, was started by several women and Janette Robinson Flint was one of them.

“[Black Women for Wellness] was founded by six women while we were mentoring expecting mothers,” Flint, the organization’s executive director, said. “We decided that we needed to develop an organization to help us secure the sources we needed for the women we were mentoring. … We just wanted to make sure these women had healthy pregnancies.”

And since 1997, the nonprofit has helped many women and girls not only find and maintain physical health, but spiritual, emotional, financial and mental well-being as well, which it has done through education, empowerment and advocacy.

“When we first started, there were 23 pregnant women we were serving,” Flint said. “The more we did it, the more we realized we needed something else to go upstream to address the impacts that black women deal with.”

So it developed numerous programs and projects that focus not only on the health of pregnant women, but other issues that affect African American populations, particularly young girls and women.

Like its Get Smart B4 U Get Sexy education program, which has two subset programs within it. The first is the Step Forward Campaign which, according to the organization’s website, provides “education, leadership development and advocacy training” for young black girls.

With the training, girls gain the tools and resources to fight sexual harassment and unjust punishments in school systems and develop safe spaces where they can feel empowered and express themselves all while pushing for systematic changes.

The other is Spring Into Love: Healthy Teen Fest, which is an annual conference that educates teenagers about sexually transmitted infections, sexual health and other reproductive health issues.

Another of its projects is Environmental Justice, which focuses on engaging members of the community to change policies surrounding chemical use in cosmetics and products for personal care.

And the list of programs and projects goes on.

Executive Director Janette Robinson Flint

This year, Black Women for Wellness decided to concentrate more on policies, one of which was Assembly Bill 1575. That bill would require that manufacturers of beauty products list the ingredients in their products.

As Flint said, “many products marketed to black women are toxic and have negative impacts on the skin, which could impact pregnancies.”

Another piece of legislation, AB 557, will strengthen support for victims and survivors of domestic violence by expediting paperwork so that women who are experiencing intimate-partner violence can can find safe housing quicker than before.

But with all the work that Black Women for Wellness is already doing, Flint feels that they could always do more.

“We have more work to do around eliminating infant mortality,” Flint said.

She added that black women have the highest infant and maternal mortality, which shouldn’t be the case in 2017.

“We still have a lot of work to do around policy, around sharing information,” Flint said. “We want to do civic engagement because black women deserve better; black women deserve someone in politics who can meet and serve our needs.”

And to achieve this, they are doing more phone banking, doing community forums and encouraging black women to call elected officials to hold them accountable.

In the meantime, Black Women for Wellness will continue to educate and empower African American women and girls in Los Angeles.

INFORMATION BOX

Organization: Black Women for Wellness

Executive Director: Janette Robinson Flint

Annual budget: $900,000

Number of employees: 14

Years in operation: 20

Location: 4340 11th Ave., Los Angeles, 90008