We had the good fortune of connecting with Toni “Tea” Thompson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toni “Tea”, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
Absolutely! My favorite quote is attributed to my favorite author, Dr. Maya Angelou.
“Courage may be the most important of all virtues because, without it, one cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.”
Sure one can be kind or generous or loving, for a while. However, to do any of those things intently and consistently, one must practice courage. I’ve learned in life – both personally and professionally – that courage is not the absence of fear. Having courage is showing up for yourself and others in the face of fear and uncertainty each day. It means facing our fears, seizing the day, and seeing it through, sometimes bloody, but always unbowed! I use this quote daily as a reminder to move boldly and courageously in the direction of my dreams!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Early on, I knew my life’s purpose was to be an advocate for those who look like me. As that purpose has unfolded, it has led me down the path of ensuring optimal health outcomes for black and brown mothers and babies. The black maternal health crisis has garnered much-deserved attention in the past several years. Due to racism and bias in healthcare, black women face higher maternal mortality rates than their counterparts. Black women also have the lowest breastfeeding initiation and duration rates of all racial groups. Simply put, we face deeply engrained structural and institutional barriers to breastfeeding and childbirth before we can even decide the right choice.
Brown Sugar Birth Services was born out of my desire to create a premier, holistic, and culturally tailored reproductive and sexual health experience for people who were assigned female at birth to end lactation and childbirth disparities among African-American women and families. I wanted to create a safe space – a space to not only acknowledge and grieve the current state of black maternal health but also offer hope, resilience, and practical solutions for the future. We provide fertility and preconception education, childbirth education and advocacy, labor and postpartum doula services, placenta encapsulation, and in-home and virtual breastfeeding and chest-feeding support to expecting and lactating families in the Atlanta area.
I am most proud of breaking into the niche and creating something for us, by us. My signature breastfeeding education program, Latch Noire, is a monthly virtual small group exclusively tailored for Black and Brown birthing people for breastfeeding support to nurture the mind and feed the soul. The Latch NOIRE TM series seeks to improve breastfeeding outcomes through empowering mothers and families to control their journey, assisting mothers and babies in navigating issues around their breastfeeding journey, and providing our clients with the resources and support they need to thrive. I’m excited to provide this service to the community. I’m hopeful that we will see an increase in breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among black and brown families.
To arrive at this moment in my business, I leaned heavily on my training as a Public Health Practitioner, Certified Lactation Counselor, Childbirth Educator, and Full-Spectrum Doula. My understanding of how the core functions and the essential public health services work together to advance health equity has dramatically impacted how I provide these direct services to the community. I do not think I would be as successful in this business without that solid public health background. Additionally, my training as a Birth Worker has equipped me with specialized knowledge to serve the population I serve. Despite challenges associated with business start-up costs, building a clientele, and staying abreast of the changes in Maternal Health, I have kept pressing toward the mark.
This journey has not been easy. I’ve been hit with several roadblocks, including having my original business name stolen and trademarked right under my nose. This was the biggest, most expensive lesson of all.: TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT YOUR INTELLECTUAL AND CREATIVE PROPERTY!!! I was hit with a cease and desist, and because of that misstep in my business, I had to start all over. However, as challenging as that was, I am grateful for the grace to do what I am called to do and the journey that has brought me here!
The Brown Sugar Birth brand is one of resilience, courage, and unapologetic blackness! No matter what, we will continue to be all of those things!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m primarily a homebody who enjoys cooking and hosting at home! But a week hosting my Best Friend would be a Culture Tour! All (well, mostly) Black-Owned Everything!
Spread out over the week, I’d take Best Friend to brunch at Fin and Feather, followed by fun at Culture Experience, where we’d relive our best lives in scenes from the 99 and the 2000s. Ponce City Market is a must for dinner at the 9 Mile Station rooftop, and late-night wings and things at Magic City or KOD are a go. Shopping at Lenox and lunch at Ms. Icey’s Kitchen or Pachal’s is definitely on the itinerary. Comedy night at Spice House with an Ace Punch setup is a vibe. At some point, we’d also hit Little 5 and EAV, Breakfast at Barney’s, the ATL breakfast club, and Velvet Taco. We’d also hit the Bando for some crack wings and the New Black Wallstreet in Stonecrest because life is about balance. I can’t forget the Trap Museum, the Krog Street Tunnel, and the National Center for Civil & Human Rights. After all of that, we’d head over for some rest and rejuvenation at iwi Fresh Garden Day Spa!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, I must thank God, my Creator, for the passion, vision, creativity, grace, and favor that has been gifted to me. It is truly humbling seeing God’s divine plan for my life unfold. I am forever grateful!
I owe my resilience and tenacity to my family, especially my parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, who have ALWAYS believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. “TeaTea’s babies” gave me the strength to keep pushing to be a trailblazer so that I can be an example that they may follow.
I would be remiss not to mention my SiZter Circle – Allison, Lakisha, Tuandria – who pour into me and affirm my purpose and passion. These ladies have inspired and uplifted me in so many ways, both personally and professionally. Lakisha was very influential in my choice to pursue a career in Public Health. Allison was instrumental in helping me create, define, and redefine the niche I chose to pursue in Maternal Health. Tuandria has served as a technical sounding board and voice of reason for all of my great and not-so-great ideas. They are truly the irons that sharpen my iron.
My former professor Dr. Gerri Cannon-Smith exposed me to the true meaning of Maternal and Child Health Promotion in Public Health and ignited a passion within me to champion this cause. I am truly grateful for her encouragement and support over these last 11 years of my public health career.
Dr. Omatola Gordon-Rose is a phenomenal force in public health and has been an instrumental mentor in helping me cultivate essential public health leadership skills and abilities as well as reaffirming my commitment to this purpose.
Lastly, I owe this work to all of the Mommy Warriors who lost their battles bringing their precious babies earthside. May you continue to rest in peace and power.
Facebook: Brown Sugar Birth Services
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