Actress Tatyana Ali has been a long-time advocate for Black women, especially when it comes to fighting for reproductive justice amid the Black maternal mortality crisis, as she shared with SheKnows earlier this year. Now, the mom of two boys, Edward “Aszi” 4, and Alejandro, 1, is sharing a “protest picture” on the first day of Black Breastfeeding Week.
“I don’t want to see any negativity in my comment section,” Ali, who played Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, captioned an Instagram photo of herself nursing her youngest child, with her eldest son gazing at the camera. “If you can move your fingers to be negative about this picture then you don’t know what this is a picture of. This is a protest picture. Black women post these pictures to show solidarity in a resistance movement that is ancient. I post pictures of me feeding my babies because with this, I am bringing much needed hope and joy to my sisters who can and choose to breastfeed their babies but are bullied by ‘confused’ uneducated people in their lives and even more disturbingly, bullied by healthcare providers who know very well that breastfeeding should be encouraged. This is a movement to normalize black breastfeeding and make known its processes and nuances.”
Ali dedicated her post to Syesha Mercado, the American Idol alum whose newborn daughter and toddler son were taken from her and her partner by child protection authorities in Sarasota, Florida. Earlier this month, authorities took the girl, whose name is Ast, from Mercado’s arms during an unexpected welfare check despite Mercado’s protests that she is still breastfeeding. Although Mercado was recently reunited with her daughter, her 15-month-old son, Amen Ra is still not with his family. In March, the boy was placed into Manatee Child Protective Services after hospital workers suspected that he was “severely malnourished”, as reported by NBC News, claims that Mercado denied.
“Amen Ra’s mommy, @syesha, went to the hospital with questions about lactation and hydration,” wrote Ali. “It is when she asked medical professionals for help in this area of her motherhood journey that CPS unjustly took her 15 month old son away from her. And it is on those grounds alone, that they then ripped her 6 day old newborn baby girl from her loving arms. Black midwives tell us that lactation is a primary source of conflict in hospitals between black patients and providers.”
She added, “So when I post these pictures understand that it is a matter of life or death, a matter concerning our civil liberties, our sanity, and our only protection from those who believe they have the right to harm us and our children. If seeing an image like this arouses a violence in you that would demean this loving moment in my family’s life, then get the hell off my page. And, I mean that. I love us.”
Thank you, Tatyana, for using your voice and platform to take a stand for Black women, and continuing to share these powerful stories.
And before you go, check out these awesome books that center Black women’s mental and physical health: