Member of The Month: Dartricia
Updated: Sep 27, 2018
You saw the headlines Serena Williams made when the prolific Grand Slam winning tennis star announced she almost died giving birth to her baby daughter, Alexis Olympia. Those of us in the black community certainly took notice as an underlying problem came to light: black women’s maternal mortality or maternal death rate is infuriatingly high. Unfortunately, our voices and concerns have often been ignored, even when it comes to our own bodies.
Thankfully, the narrative is changing. Meet change agent, writer and TILA member Dartricia Rollins who is advocating for a louder say and better way.
Reproductive justice is one of the pursuits Rollins’ is passionate about, in addition to copious amounts of books and art. The novice art collector says she tries to buy black always and would like to own more art by black women. Not to mention, she writes poetry mostly for herself, but one day we will certainly be looking forward to hearing from her in that regard!
She sits on the board of Charis Circle, the non-profit programming arm of Charis Books And More, the nation’s oldest feminist bookstore. Since being introduced to TILA, an organically delicious love affair has emerged. I talked to Dartricia on TILA’s impact in the arts, centering black women’s nuanced stories and also changing the narrative of women’s healthcare and abortion rights.
Tell me about the Black Feminist Book Club that meets at Charis. What energy has TILA’s involvement brought to it?
The Black Feminist Book Club is lead by Suzanna, who referred me to go to TILA, but I am usually at all of the book club meetings. We’ve been meeting for book club for almost three years now.
We’ve been getting a lot of new people coming to book club because they’ve seen it shared by TILA or one of the friends of TILA went to book club. It’s really great because the more people that you have in a book club, the more dynamic the conversation is. Especially, it’s really nice to get people who have probably never been to Charis before. And it’s a new experience for them to be in this feminist space. And we’re reading books intentionally written by and about black women.
What role do you think black women hold in being catalysts of change?
The historical implication is black women have been leading everything, like feminism, reproductive justice, and the voting rights. I say everything. Black women do it all and don’t always get the credit. And that’s even now. Like, if you think about the Black Lives Matter movement, it was started by three black queer women. But there’s this one black guy who’s become the face of the movement. It does not hold the intersection that these women are fighting for.
Women don’t get as much radio play when it comes to police brutality. It’s always usually black men. And I do see that in art. I went to Art Basel and it was very white. Really and truly to be honest, up until I came to TILA, I never really followed any black women artists on Instagram or really knew much about too many of them. I knew Carrie Mae Weems, I knew my friends creating art. But there’s no, like, real representation and that’s why I really appreciate TILA.
How do you see your role as a disruptor of women’s healthcare in the work that you do?
I am disruptive as hell.
I kind of do it all. In the reproductive justice and healthcare, I’m an individual member of the National Network of Abortion Fund.
And that’s really just pushing the fact that abortion access is women’s healthcare. It’s not just going to see the OB-GYN to check if you have any STI’s or anything like that. It is having access to abortion if you need it. Or having access to parent your child the way that you want to parent them. And that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. People see it as this one dimension thing - like abortion- but it’s not that. Historically, black women have not been able to give birth in the way that they want to. They haven’t been able to get pregnant in the way that they want to. There’s plenty of discrimination.
Georgia has the highest mortality rate for black women during and after childbirth. Most of the statistics follow, like, up unto childbirth. Like, if a black woman dies during childbirth or directly after. But they don’t really track a year from there. And Georgia is leading that unfortunately. But there is a lot of great groups in Georgia also, especially in the Atlanta area. Atlanta is home to the Mother House and the home to Loretta Ross, who is one of the black women who coined the term “reproductive justice.” They took the center off of white women and abortion access and made the priority WOC to be able to carry their pregnancy to term in the way that they want to and the way that is safe, give birth to their child in a way that’s healthy and safe, and be able to parent their child into adulthood in a way that’s healthy and safe. Those are things we don’t get as black women in this country.
Rollins hopes for a future where women have a better healthcare system. She mentions a number of sub issues that go into that including, better sex education, affordable healthcare, economic justice and racial bias training. She frequently posts on her Instagram social meetings in advocacy of this far-reaching issue. Next time you see her, ask her about how you can further support and give her flowers for moving the needle on this critical matter.