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_____ while Black.


Shelley Denise-Winn

I had the pleasure of conversing with Shelley Denise-Winn, 53, the executive director of the San Diego International Birthing Project. Born and raised in San Diego, Shelley felt compelled to lead the organization that helped her when she didn’t know where to turn. Shelley birthed her last child at 30, and while she had already raised two children successfully, she admitted that her last pregnancy was a bit difficult. 

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Shelley says doctors have been performing more C-sections on mothers, causing them to hemorrhage and experience difficulties during their pregnancies. 

"It's a surgery, to you and the baby," she said. Shelley adds that subtle prejudices and the stressors of being a Black woman influence how healthy mothers are. 

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Racial biases cloud the judgment of some practitioners, Shelley says, and it leads to a misunderstanding of the pain threshold of Black patients. In return, she makes it a priority to emphasize self-advocacy among mothers. 


(L to R: Michael Singletary; James Scott )

(Pictured above is San Diego native, Michelle Collins. Collins poses in her first trimester)


San diego

  • Black infants in San Diego are three times more likely to die than White infants

  • Black infants in San Diego are 60% more likely to be born premature and two times more likely to be born with a low birth weight compared to White infants

  • Black mothers in California are three times more likely to die because of  complications related to pregnancy or birthing than White women

  • According to Black Legacy Now: San Diego Perinatal Equity Initiative, which provided these statistics,“These disparities persist irrespective of factors such as the mothers’s income or education.”

Physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing are the foundations of the San Diego International Birthing Project. No form of social support is too big or too small in her eyes. From her experience, all help is appreciated, even in the late-night hours.

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If you are a mother struggling with social support please contact the San Diego International Birthing Project


shot on Kodak100 film in 35mm

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