Addressing the Black Maternal Health Crisis
Wednesday, June 1st
Join SisterReach and the Tennessee Justice Center for a conversation on Black maternal health in Tennessee. Cherisse Scott, the Founder and CEO of SisterReach, will discuss the vital work her organization does in Reproductive Justice and explore the intersection of Black maternal health and interfaith organizing. The Tennessee Justice Center will close out with an update on recent policy changes to TennCare and overview of policy recommendations to address the crisis.
Cherisse Scott has worked as an educator, advocate, and activist in the Reproductive Justice field for 18 years. Cherisse is also a mother, an ordained minister, professional singer, poet, songwriter, and actress. Ms. Scott was introduced to this work as a woman in need of reproductive healthcare services who was intentionally misguided by Christian extremists interfering with her ability to be self-determining regarding her healthcare decisions. In 2011, Scott founded SisterReach, a Reproductive Justice organization in Tennessee, that advocates for marginalized women, teens, and families, through education, policy & advocacy, culture change, and harm reduction. Some of SisterReach’s notable work under Ms. Scott’s leadership include their research reports on the need for comprehensive sexuality education for southern youth of color and the impact of the TN Fetal Assault law on drug-using pregnant women. In 2015, SisterReach launched their Pro-Woman Billboard campaign in opposition to anti-abortion billboards erected in Memphis targeting Black men. SisterReach is the reproductive justice movement’s pioneer leader in faith and religious based organizing, advocacy, and training for interfaith leadership, laity, and religious scholars nationwide. Ms. Scott was featured in the NBCNews #31DaysofFeminism campaign and was a Rockwood Institute Fellow in 2016. Ms. Scott and the work of SisterReach is featured in the January 2018 edition of O Magazine, she was recognized by Essence Magazine as one of their 2018 Woke 100, she is featured in the 2019 premier documentary, PERSONHOOD: Policing Pregnant Women in America, and is a featured contributor in Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change The World, which is a book of essays released in 2020 from some of the leading voices in social change. Cherisse is a sought out national speaker on reproductive justice and other human rights violations experienced by vulnerable southerners, patients, and marginalized families.
Heavyn was born in a small town in the Mississippi Delta and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri where she first began her work in child advocacy through volunteering at a halfway house. Her experience there led her to pursue a BA in psychology at Princeton University. During her time at Princeton, she took classes around child development and current issues impeding upon child health in the United States.
Heavyn believes healthcare is a necessity and health insurance should not be a barrier to receiving care. Parents should not have to worry about whether they can pay before taking their child to the hospital. She hopes to pursue a BSN and become a neonatal nurse in the future to continue providing necessary support and aid to those in need.