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These powerful videos use poetry to address high death rates among black children

Sacramento Area Youth Speaks presents poetic service announcements

The Black Child Legacy Campaign worked with Sacramento Area Youth Speaks to present 'poetic service announcements' about the challenges of growing up while black at the Crocker Art Museum Wednesday night, May 30, 2018.
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The Black Child Legacy Campaign worked with Sacramento Area Youth Speaks to present 'poetic service announcements' about the challenges of growing up while black at the Crocker Art Museum Wednesday night, May 30, 2018.

About 30 members of Sacramento's black community gathered at the Crocker Art Museum on Wednesday night to listen to videos – dubbed "poetic service announcements" – about the challenges of growing up in Sacramento while black.

The event was hosted by the Black Child Legacy Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about health problems facing African American children in the city.

Chet Hewitt, the CEO of Sierra Health Foundation, which partners with the campaign, saw Wednesday's event as an opportunity to spread the word about improvements that need to be made in neighborhoods with high rates of mortality for black children.

"These are individuals who are known to these communities actually giving their perspectives on what needs to change," Hewitt said. "It's a more artsy, novel way of actually sharing what is, in fact, a public health message."

A 2016 investigation by The Sacramento Bee found that from 2010 to 2015, nearly 25 percent of the 873 children who died in Sacramento County were black, although they made up just 11 percent of that age group.

Hewitt said Sierra Health and the Black Child Legacy Campaign combine with community organizations like churches and nonprofits to educate neighborhoods on leading causes of death among black kids in the area, such as lack of care during pregnancy and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The campaign has tried to address "the issues that gave rise to these conditions," Hewitt said. For instance, the campaign discovered that one of the reasons for the high rate of SIDS among black babies was that many families could not afford to buy a crib.

"Now, every baby born in this region gets a safe sleep assessment," Hewitt said. "And if a parent doesn't have a safe place to sleep their baby, after they're informed how to do that properly, they actually go home with a free crib for the baby to sleep in."

Much of the Black Child Legacy Campaign's work involves building ties with local groups that have "authentic connections" to communities where many child deaths take place, because "you can't just show up in these neighborhoods and start telling people how to raise their kids."

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