Event DetailsThursday May 6, 2021 7:30 pm
A panel discussion on the issues surrounding Black maternal health.
Black women in the United States are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than women in any other race group, and their heightened risk of pregnancy-related death spans income and education levels. Think Serena Williams or Beyonce. We’ll look at the causes of these maternal health discrepancies, share joyful Black birthing stories, and explore how both the positive and negative can be depicted on TV.
Hollywood, Health & Society will present a frank discussion on the issues surrounding Black maternal health. Black women in the United States are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than women in any other race group, and their heightened risk of pregnancy-related death spans income and education levels. Think Serena Williams or Beyonce. We’ll look at the causes of these maternal health discrepancies, share joyful Black birthing stories, and explore how both the positive and negative can be depicted on TV.
About the Panelists
ERIKA GREEN SWAFFORD—Green Swafford is a consulting producer and writer with the NBC series New Amsterdam. She began her career at Oxygen, where she was on an executive career track until she switched to writing. Training in the Warner Bros. writers’ workshop led to Green Swafford’s first job on CBS’ The Mentalist, where she spent six seasons, rising to producer. She then joined ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder. Her work on the show earned her an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. She also won a 2020 Sentinel Award presented by Hollywood, Health & Society for the New Amsterdam episode, “Righteous Right Hand.” She’s currently developing new projects with Universal TV. Green Swafford is a graduate of Cornell University and the Anderson School of Management at UCLA.
HELEN KRIEGER—Krieger grew up in an ultra-conservative family on county Highway O in Wisconsin. For fun they would stock the bomb shelter and prepare for the world to end. When it didn’t, Helen happily left home to try something new. She was a journalist in Boston, a stripper in Dallas, and a real estate agent in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. She sold her house to make a feature film about that experience, then got her MFA in screenwriting from USC. Since then she’s written for grown-ish, #blackAF and mixed-ish, and she and her co-writer, Esa Lewis, currently have a pilot in development with Netflix and a feature in development with Warner Brothers.
ESA LEWIS—Lewis is currently a producer on black-ish, which is heading into its eighth season on ABC Disney Television. She and her co-writer, Helen Krieger, have a pilot in development with Netflix and a feature in development with Warner Brothers. In her recent past, she completed Season 1 on Kenya Barris’ inaugural show for Netflix, #blackAF, as well as Entergalactic, an animated series featuring unreleased music by Kid Cudi that will debut in 2022. A native of Los Angeles, Esa attended Howard University and began her career working in music at Def Jam Records. Maintaining a strong friendship with Marlon Wayans, which started at Howard, Esa was invited to join The Wayans Bros. show for four seasons (1995-1999). It was during her time as an assistant to the executive producers that Esa discovered a passion and ability for TV writing. During the final season, the show aired an episode written by Esa, “Hip Hop Pops.” In 2018, she joined the award-winning staff of black-ish for Season 5.
DR. JOIA CREAR-PERRY, MD, FACOG—Dr. Crear-Perry is an obstetrician and gynecologist in New Orleans, and the founder and president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. She is a global maternal health advocate, recently addressing the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Previously, she served as the executive director of the Birthing Project; director of women’s and children’s services at Jefferson Community Healthcare Center; and as the director of clinical services for the City of New Orleans Health Department, where she worked to improve access to and availability of affordable health care to New Orleans residents following the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.
PRISKA NEELY (moderator)—Neely is the managing editor for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR and member stations in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Previously she worked at Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and KPCC in Los Angeles, where she reported extensively on maternal and infant mortality in the Black community. Before that, she worked at NPR in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
KAY MATTHEWS—Matthews lives in Houston and is the founder of the Shades of Blue Project, which is “dedicated to helping women before, during and after childbirth with community resources, mental health advocacy, treatment and support.” She’s the author of a self-help journal 365 Days to Recovery: Finding Your Way Out of the Darkness. Matthews graduated with a two-year degree in early childhood development from North Harris College in Houston, and furthered her education in the mental health field by becoming a licensed community health worker. Kay teaches and speaks to women to help them to better understand how important it is to advocate for themselves before, during and after childbirth.