Listen to Me: A Story About Black Women Told By Black Women

Poster image for Listen to Me event

A Discussion with the Filmmakers

Please join us Friday, March 26 at 2:30 pm on Zoom for a discussion with Kanika Harris and Stephanie Etienne about their upcoming documentary, Listen to Me. 

Listen to Me is the story of four women and the cost of motherhood. These women stand at the front lines of the Black maternal health struggle as birth workers and public health experts while walking the delicate tightrope of birthing in the United States. This is a story of the deep complexities and troubling challenges that Black mothers experience. Beyond dismal statistics, Listen to Me centers the voices and spirit of Black women. 

Link to the event:

Kanika Harris, Co-Director  
Kanika Harris, PhD, MPH is a Health Behavioral Scientist based in the Washington, DC area. Kanika Harris is a mother, doula and serves as a public health expert for the DC Mayor’s Lactation Commission. Kanika’s work broadly focuses on social determinants of health, women’s health, and HIV prevention.

Stephanie Etienne, Co-Director  
Stephanie Etienne, CNM, MPH is a New York native of Haitian descent. She is a midwife and believes reproductive justice is a human right. Stephanie also believes that the conditions under which children enter the world should be empowered and honored. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her family.

Four women in the struggle for reproductive justice turn the camera on themselves 

Four stories about the cost of motherhood triumphs, joy, healing, and finding answers

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Sponsored by:
- UMass Amherst Department of Anthropology Virtual Colloquium Series
- Five College Culture, Health, and Science Program
- Amherst College Department of Anthropology
- Mount Holyoke College Department of Anthropology
- Five College Reproductive Health Rights and Justice Certificate
- Five College Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar 

Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar

The Five College Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to share knowledge about the work being done locally and internationally in the field of reproductive politics, as well as to discuss challenges and opportunities for collaboration. Numerous faculty who have presented their work-in-progress at a seminar have gone on to publish articles and books. Members of the Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar conceived of the undergraduate Five College certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice, wrote the proposal, and shepherded the Certificate into existence in 2015. Finally, the Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminar serves as an intellectual and scholarly support and community for faculty teaching courses for the Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Certificate Program. We aim to hold at least two seminars per academic year and are appreciative of the administrative and financial support provided by the Five College Consortium.  

Upcoming Faculty Seminars

Please join us for these upcoming Five College Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminars, which are coordinated by the Steering Committee of the Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice Certificate.

In accordance with the Certificate’s Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the Reproductive Politics Faculty Seminars offered during this academic year aim to lift up the work and voices of Black academics and activists who are addressing issues of reproductive justice, systemic racism, and white supremacy.

We hope to see you at one or more of these events.

Book Discussion

Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood

by Michele Goodwin

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 @ 5pm

Please register here.  A zoom link will be provided after you register.

Policing the Womb brings to life the chilling ways in which women have become the targets of state surveillance of their pregnancies. Michele Goodwin, Chancellor's Professor of Law University of California-Irvine School of Law and the Founding Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, expands the reproductive health and rights debate beyond abortion to include how legislators increasingly turn to criminalizing women for miscarriages, stillbirths, and threatening the health of their pregnancies. The horrific results include women giving birth while shackled in leg irons, in solitary confinement, and even delivering in prison toilets. In some states, pregnancy has become a bargaining chip with prosecutors offering reduced sentences in exchange for women agreeing to be sterilized. The author shows how prosecutors may abuse laws and infringe women's rights in the process, sometimes with the complicity of medical providers who disclose private patient information to law enforcement. Often the women most affected are poor and of color. This timely book brings to light how the unrestrained efforts to punish and police women's bodies have led to the United States being the deadliest country in the developed world to be pregnant.

Black Women Were ‘Canaries in the Coal Mine’: A Conversation With Michele Goodwin (Rewire, 1/20/2020)

Fall 2020 Seminar Events

"He Was a Twin": The Emotional & Political Life of Black Motherhood in Times of Reproductive Injustice

Wednesday, Oct. 14th @ 5pm

Please register here.  A zoom link will be provided after you register.


Jallicia Jolly

Jallicia Jolly, is a writer, post-doctoral fellow and incoming Assistant Professor in American Studies and Black Studies at Amherst College. Dr. Jolly researchers and teaches at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and Black women's health and activism, HIV/AIDS and intersectionality, transnational feminist organizing, and  reproductive coercion and (in)justice in the African Diaspora. She is working on her first book manuscript, Ill Erotics: Black Caribbean Women and Self-Making in the Time of HIV/AIDS, an ethnographic and oral history study of the erotic lives and grassroots mobilization of young Black Jamaican women living and loving with HIV/AIDS.  A Fulbright Scholar, Mellon Mays Fellow, NWSA Grad Student Scholarship Winner, and Sarah Pettit Doctoral Fellow at Yale University, Dr. Jolly's work and commentary has been featured on the Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, Michigan Radio, Rewire News, & University of Michigan's National Center of Institutional Diversity and LSA Today Magazine.


Loretta Ross, co-founder of the reproductive justice framework and Visiting Associate Professor of the Study of Women & Gender, Smith College

Jennifer Hamilton, Visiting Professor of Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, Amherst College

This presentation explores how young HIV-positive cisgender Black women in Jamaica redefine motherhood through sacred bonds with their children (living and dead) and their peers in the face of quotidian violence, grief, loss, and illness. Using ethnographic and life history interviews, I argue that the affective, psychic, and material costs of maternal labor that working-class Black mothers are called to do highlights the broader cultural, institutional, and political constraints that shape Black women's embodied experiences of sexuality, maternity, and reproduction.  Essential to HIV-positive women's radical grassroots politics of care are Mentor-Mentee mom networks, related kinds of “other mothering,” and an embrace of “illicit mothering” through its ongoing negotiation of disclosure, breastfeeding and reproductive choices, and mothering in the face of inequality and violence.  Yet, while motherhood makes Black women legible as political subjects amplifying legitimate demands, this vector of visibility can also heighten the exclusion of black maternal labor as it silences their everyday pain and prolonged grief. This presentation is part of a lengthy black feminist tradition that has contested the state scrutiny and bipolitical surveillance of Black mothers and is part of a burgeoning tradition examining the compounded impacts of racialized gendered violence and reproductive coercion on Black women's health and well-being.


Tuesday, October 27th @ 5:30pm

Please register here.  A zoom link will be provided after you register.

The Reproductive Justice History-in-Action Project at Smith College is building a digital toolkit that puts 500 years of movement stories in the hands of organizers. Stories of resilience and resistance feature women of color and Indigenous, queer, and low-income activists as they struggle for bodily autonomy within and against racial, sexual, and economic structures that shape the US as a nation-state and imperial power. RJ organizers are collaborating in the digital design and in development of a popular education curriculum to incorporate this historical material and archival evidence into practical strategies for expanding the community base, orienting staff and board members, and educating allies and funders.

Project coordinators Joyce Follet, Smith Collge, and Deborah Keisch, Umass Amherst, will share the prototype of the web site and welcome discussion of this work-in-progress.

For more information: