15 June 2020

Dear Leaders,

We have published a statement on our website and social media platforms entitled Black Lives Matter: “A Lived Experience”.

We would like to explain why we wrote it.

Black Lives Matter is a global anti-racist human rights movement. It is not aligned with any political party. It exists to affirm the fundamental humanity of black people.

Systemic racism is a global problem, as evidenced by the reports and articles at the end of this explanation and by recent protests on every continent. Systemic racism is a violation of human rights that intersects with the right to breastfeed because it has a dramatically negative impact on LLL Leaders’ ability to carry out the LLL mission. It dramatically limits the number of babies whose lives can be positively impacted by mother-to-mother/parent-to-parent breastfeeding support.

We are a mission based, mission-centered organisation and we allow for co-operative action and advocacy when it serves our mission.

After reading the LLLI Black Lives Matter: “A Lived Experience” statement, some Leaders may think “This sounds political. When are we mixing causes and when aren’t we mixing causes?” It is important to remember that human rights in and of themselves are not political. (The methods used in implementing respect for human rights do require political decisions and that’s where opinions vary.) Because our mission includes individual and public maternal health, and the health of babies, it is quite possible that there will be times when our mission intersects with breaches of, or support for, human rights. When this happens there is *an opportunity* to speak out if it furthers our mission, and especially if an infringement of human rights is severely impeding our mission. However, it is only ever *an opportunity* to speak and share our concerns and values. We must balance the risk of no longer reaching some families if we do speak, with the risk of losing other families from seeking our support if we don’t. There is no mathematical formula for determining when to speak or act. We might not choose to speak about every instance of a breach of human rights that interferes with breastfeeding (there are so many). We might decide that where the breaches of human rights are global, profound, worsening and severely impeding our mission decade after decade, then making a statement about that is the necessary and proportionate response in order to continue supporting more breastfeeding mothers and families in the future.

LLL itself has been accused of systemic racism over the decades, from within as well as from the outside. As individual Leaders and as an organization we need to ask ourselves questions such as “Where does discrimination exist within LLL?” and “How are we perpetuating systems that work against black families?” We need to find the answers to those questions and act on what we learn.

After taking into account all of the above, the Board decided that to remain silent about these recent events and the underlying issues would send the message that LLLI does not care about racism or its impacts on breastfeeding, and this would give a distorted view of who we are.

We are very aware of other oppressions and systemic violence in operation around the world that mean communities are denied access to breastfeeding information and support. The LLLI Board intends to open discussions with DCE administrators and Leaders to work out how all of us, together, can address them.We welcome your feedback and questions.

LLLI Board of Directors

Some links to further information:

From the UK, Mars Lord and Nova Reid talk about black maternal mortality, toxic kindness and uncovering medical racism

Also from the UK, We Need To Talk About Race by student midwife Alicia Burnett

From Australia Cherisse Buzzacott for IndigenousX writes about her own birth experience as an Aboriginal midwife

From Guatemala, this article reports that maternal mortality is 2.2 times higher in the indigenous population than in the non-indigenous population

From the USA, this article explains how racism affects breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among black women

USA based author and creator of Black Breastfeeding Week Kimberly Seals Allers gave a presentation to the 2019 UNICEF BFI Annual Conference in the UK – “The lived experience of BAME women in birth & breastfeeding”. It’s available to watch here Watch Kimberly Seals Allers’ 2019 Annual Conference presentation: “The lived experience of BAME women in birth & breastfeeding” – Baby Friendly Initiative

La Leche League international supports the international effort to affirm the humanity of all black people. La Leche League International is not an agent or partner, nor legally affiliated to the Black Lives Matter Foundation.