ABOUT

Uzazi Village is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating maternal and infant health inequity among Black and Brown communities. Through education, support, and advocacy, Uzazi Village works to improve perinatal health in the Kansas City community and around the country. We work every day to build a respectful and supportive healthcare system that fosters equitable and sustainable outcomes in maternal and infant health.

WE BELIEVE THAT…

Community engagement is essential to creating positive, long-term, and sustainable change in family health

Respecting the dignity of every individual is an essential part of building a healthy and supportive community

Healthcare is an essential human right that should be accessible and affordable for every community member

Empowerment comes with personal ownership of family health outcomes through education and community support

At Uzazi Village, our goals are strongly tied to values of integrity, cultural adaptability, compassion, and community involvement.

OUR GOALS INCLUDE:

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Decreased prematurity

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Decreased low birth weight

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Increased breastfeeding initiation and duration

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Increased interpregnancy intervals

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Improved management of pregnancy complications

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Improved efficacy of pregnancy self-care

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Improved quality and access to healthcare

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Restoration of the community midwife and doula

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Increased numbers of people of color entering the perinatal professions

WE WORK TO MEET OUR GOALS BY…

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 Understanding the healthcare gaps that affect our families and incubating innovative models in healthcare delivery to meet those needs

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 Nurturing, educating, supporting, and advocating for Black and Brown childbearing women and their families under all circumstances

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 Inviting our community members to be a part of their own problem solving process, encouraging them to be a part of the solution

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 Introducing community conversations that reframe the social, personal, and political determinants of health in Black and Brown communities

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 Ensuring that the next generation of birth workers of color reflects the values of the community and population being served

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Prioritizing and focusing on healthcare improvements through partnerships, community collaboratives, research, and think tank building

Join Uzazi Village to make a difference
for families in your community

4232 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64110  •  (816) 541-3718

Written by Co-founder, Hakima Tafuni Payne MSN RN

The story of Uzazi Village starts with the story of Hakima Tafunzi Payne. In 2006, I was sad and disillusioned about birth, birthwork and the state of birth in the US. Then, at the age of 46, I became pregnant with my ninth child.  For my husband and myself, it was an unexpected event, since our youngest was eight years old, but it sparked my renewed interest in birth work.  My pregnancy led to me leaving bedside nursing and my labor and delivery work.  I started my own business and later returned to school to complete a masters in nursing education.  In 2008 I was already teaching in the classroom for a nursing program, though I did not complete my education until 2011. In December of 2011, I was a part of a group that hosted a community convening at our local health department.  We asked one simple question; If the community could design its own maternity care system, what would it look like? The resulting document became our guide to the creation of Uzazi Village.  I enlisted the assistance of my co-founders: Mariah Chrans, Rebecca Winter, and LaTasha Reed and we began the monumental task of creating a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating racial disparities in perinatal health.  We met weekly at my business office to hammer out bylaws, strategic plans, and budgets to start a nonprofit that we would come to call, Uzazi Village. We worked for months, diligently designing what this organization would be.  In May of 2012, we received the letter we had been waiting for, our 501c3 approval from the federal government.  It was official.  We were a nonprofit. 

Our initial and only program was a community-based doula program.  Mariah and I were hard at work, creating a curriculum to teach community folks to become doulas.  In the meantime, we put an ad in the local Black newspaper and starting interviewing folks to be in the very first doula training. We had no financing.  I found a commercial space for the training and paid for it with my own money. In August of 2012 we opened our doors as Uzazi Village in a small storefront on Troost Ave., the racial dividing line of our city.  We had no funding, only a dream of what could be. While Tasha and Rebecca formed the first board, what we called our Council of Elders, Mariah and I became the first staff members. We would go on to work for Uzazi Village for five years as unpaid volunteers until we secured grant funding that paid us modest salaries.  We taught the first class of 14 doulas in August 2012. It would be nine more months before we succeeded in obtaining a contract with a Medicaid insurance company and could put our doulas to work and by then, their number had dwindled to just 5 doulas. Finally, we were off and running.

Today we have 12 doulas and a staff of 6. In addition, we have our Council of Elders, and two initiatives, our Community Garden program and our Community Expert Review Board (CERB) and a host of volunteers and supporters. We are involved in research and policy making, home visiting programming, a prenatal clinic and breastfeeding clinic, a clothing closet and a plethora of other services that move the needle forward on creating health equity for our Black and Brown communities. We have programs that support aspiring Black midwives, doulas, lactation consultants and academic internships. We also offer Community Health Worker trainings. We have a Spanish-speaking doula that serves our Latinx neighbors and a robust start to our fresh food distribution program. As we move toward our tenth year of operations, we are still training doulas, but we now have a network of trainers across the US and offer our 8-day training nationally.  We are a part of the international network of Chocolate Milk Cafés (Black safe spaces for breastfeeding families) that I created and started here at Uzazi Village, but has now become its own 501c3 with support groups in 10 US states and 2 Canadian provinces. We now occupy an entire building in Kansas City, MO and have a second office in our neighboring state of KS. Uzazi Village has become an integral part of a rapidly changing community amid gentrification and COVID 19. We are constantly shifting to meet the demands of the needs and the times, but we have not wavered in our mission and focus on health equity for our communities.