Driven by passion and advocacy, the Howard University men’s basketball team came together to use their resources and advocate for Black maternal health. The team, which has a history of providing service to the community, decided to take the time to highlight this issue.
Controversy arose last summer, as the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark legislation that aided reproductive rights in the United States. This left many women, especially Black women, questioning the future of their reproductive health.
Thomas Weaver, a junior guard on the team, spoke on the significance of advocating for Black maternal health. “It’s important for this issue to be addressed because we need to protect our Black women in our communities. You know with everything going on with Roe v. Wade, we had to take the initiative and protect our Black mothers even more than we have in the past,” Weaver stated.
Weaver, along with the rest of the team, saw the need to go above and beyond past service projects. This was an ongoing issue that needed to be addressed. Chief Program Strategist Daniel Marks also spoke to the Hilltop on the importance of the project. He emphasized the demographic makeup of Howard’s student population being 70% female. “Although this may not affect all students now, it may in three or five years. That means this is impacting our Black mothers, aunts, sisters, and friends. The U.S. leads in the world in post-birth deaths among Black women. This is four times more likely in D.C., so we must address this.”
The team decided to partner with Mothers of the Mecca, an organization aimed at reshaping the stigmas attached to parenthood and fostering a sense of community and pride among parents at Howard University. They also partnered with Mamatoto Village, which offers assistance to Black women by establishing career paths in maternal health and offering reachable prenatal support services.
On January 15, the team devoted their Martin Luther King (MLK) Day of Service to volunteering at Mamatoto Village. Together they packaged 7,950 diapers, 50 diaper bags and 190 kits for postpartum, household supplies and lactation support. Marks commented, “The experience was amazing. The whole team and coaching staff, as well as the village staff, were joined by 14 congressional officers and members of the vice president’s office. It was motivating and inspiring seeing everyone come together, something founded by black women.”
Weaver was pleased to see real impact from the opportunity. “One thing I took away from this experience is that you know our project impacted many lives, and it made an immediate impact the day after we did our day of service to black mothers in the DC area.”
The men’s team, coming off of a winning 2021-22 season and the recent Jordan brand deal, has been in the public eye, even more so recently. The team understands the platform they hold and hope to use it for good. “Those such as Thurgood Marshall, Amira Baraka and more, have gone on from Howard to change the world. Our players are working similarly…some of our men recently visited the White House for a round table discussion on visibility for the Black community. They walked away saying wow, we made a large impact, what more can we do?” Marks stated.
On Jan. 16, during the MLK game against Morehouse College, the team presented two $7,500 scholarships to two women, on behalf of the Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors, with hopes of alleviating some stressors that come with balancing motherhood and being a student.
The team understands that the work to be done does not stop at a single day of service. They plan on hosting more round table discussions and panel events with organizations that will impact our communities.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett