Kama Tai Mitchell, of Kalamazoo, never set out to create a nonprofit, but says she’s proud that more than five years later her Rootead Enrichment Center devoted to doula training and the healing arts is still around. And, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Stryker Johnston Foundation, the center is starting to explore having its own standalone building after sharing spaces.
“I didn’t really know where we were going,” says Mitchell in an interview that aired today on WMUK 102.1 FM, as part of a monthlong series featuring local citizens making a difference.
“I just knew that there was a lot of people behind me who said we needed to do this and fill this niche—to bring access to Black and brown women. That’s why we started. Access for stress reduction, access for community support, social connection and access to resources, and then access to birth-keeping to create a sustainable household for bringing a new person in.”
Founded in 2015, Rootead offers yoga, drumming, dancing and meditation, plus doula services, including the hiring and training of them. Additionally, it is part of the Black & Brown Therapy Collective, a six-month pilot program that helps connect people of color with therapists, in order to reduce the stigma of reaching out for talk therapy.
Mitchell is especially passionate about the community impact using doulas can make. In Kalamazoo County, more than four times more Black babies die within the first year of life than white babies. Mitchell is convinced that the greater use of doulas could help reduce the Black infant mortality rate.
She says their value goes beyond just helping during the delivery.
“Having a doula as a sounding board and informational resource and advocate can reduce caesareans by 23 percent, the research shows, and reduce stress in the birthing person’s body by over 50 percent,” Mitchell says. She adds that doulas have also been found to be “a great support to the birthing person’s whole family.”
“Sometimes there’s gaps in the maternal-infant health world,” Mitchell explains. “When you leave the hospital, do you have support? Do you have support before you go into the hospital? And do you have support in the hospital?”