Keynote and Plenary Speakers

Welcome Premier Session
Saturday, May 22, 2:00 – 3:45 PM ET

Shafia Monroe

Shafia Monroe is a renowned midwife, a cultural competency trainer, a Master of Public Health, and a motivational speaker.

Though born in Boston, Massachusetts, she recognizes her Alabama roots and practices the southern form of healing, using the laying on of hands for pregnant and postpartum women, newborns, and families. Shafia is a historian and the keeper of African American birth traditions; she has spent over three decades studying the life of the 20th Century African American midwife and has traveled internationally, interviewing and shadowing midwives to learn their cultural rituals.

Shafia answered her call to midwifery in the early 70s, in response to the injustices that Black families were experiencing in Boston hospitals, and to empower her community with the option of homebirth. Her 1970s work is profiled in the book “Granny Midwives and Black Woman Authors,” and “Wings of Gauze: Women of Color and the Experience of Health and Illness,” for her ground-breaking work in training Black women as homebirth midwives in Boston, Massachusetts, her hometown. In 2016 Madame Noir noted her “Queen Mother of a Midwifery Movement,” for establishing the non-profit Boston Traditional Childbearing Group (TCBG) in 1978 to reduce infant mortality, and to provide homebirth options in her community, as act of self-determination. This was the beginning of her organized outreach efforts, to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and to encourage women to consider becoming midwives and to use midwifery services for better birth outcomes. Shafia spent 16 years serving as a home birth midwife in the greater Roxbury area, community organizing, and serving as the executive director of TCBG.

In 1991, she moved with her family to Portland, OR, and founded the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) in response to the shortage of Black midwives. Shafia was seven months pregnant when she arrived in Portland and she could not find a Black home birth midwife to assist her. This was a catalyst for creating the ICTC. She wanted a national organization that would honor the legacy of 20th century African American midwife, increase the number of African descent midwives, and empower families to improve their birth outcomes; and she wanted a cultural and safe space for Black midwives to gather, and so ICTC sponsor the International Black Midwives and Healers Conference from 2002 – 2015. 

For over four decades, she has worked for reproductive justics and birth equity.  Her advocacy work has included increasing the number of midwives and doulas of color, diversifying the midwifery and doula workforce, and improving infant and maternal health in the African American community. Through ICTC, she led the first legislative concept OR HB3311 in the nation, to investigate the use of doulas to improve birth outcomes, which led to Medicaid reimbursement for doulas who served families who are Medicaid insured.

After retiring as the CEO of ICTC in 2016, and she launched her consulting company. Shafia Monroe Consulting/Birthing CHANGE mission is to help health care providers and doulas achieve cultural competency, increase client satisfaction, and improve perinatal outcomes.

In 2017 she became president of SMC Full Circle Doula Birth Companion Training, LLC, to increase the number of midwives and doulas.

She is a member of the Oregon Health Authority-Office of Equity and Inclusion: Cultural Competency Continuing Education Advisory Committee, National Black Midwives Alliance, Oregon Islamic Chaplain Organization, Oregon Doula Association, Home Birth Summit Planning Committee, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and Black Mothers ACTT for Safe Care Initiative.

Shafia’s work has been recognized with numerous awards. In 2019, she received the Dr. Hildrus A. Poindexter Lifetime Achievement Award, of the Black Caucus of Health Workers (BCHW), the oldest caucus of the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA). And she is featured in the Portland, Oregon mural, “Women Making History in Portland.”

Shafia is a wife, a mother of seven, and nana of nine. She mentors hundreds of women to claim their power as healers, midwives, doulas, and activists. In her spare time, Shafia enjoys cooking for family and friends, walking, gardening, studying herbal medicine, reading, writing, fishing, and horseback riding.

Plenary Session
Sunday, May 23, 1:00 – 2:00 PM ET

Andrea Freeman

Andrea Freeman is the author of Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice. She is Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, where she teaches Constitutional Law, Race and Law, Food Law and Policy, and other courses. She is the recipient of the 2020-21 Fulbright King’s College London Research Scholar Award and serves on the Litigation Committee of the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. After graduating from the UC Berkeley School of Law, she clerked for Judge Jon O. Newman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and former chief Judge José A. Fusté of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. Before law school, she worked as a counselor in domestic violence shelters and as a production manager in the independent film industry.