Mom, Program Manager, SOLARS Study
In 2017 I joined the Benioff Community Innovators (BCI) and everything changed. BCI is a community engagement program created by the Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi) in conjunction with San Francisco State Masters of Public Health students. [The BCIs] were doing a study around housing insecurity and preterm birth and how those things are related. [They studied] the disparities we see between the races, the different populations that are housing insecure, and how those that are most disadvantaged are less likely to receive housing services even though they are the ones that need them the most.
Your womb is your baby’s first home, and if you’re not able to have somewhere stable to sleep, or even live, how do we expect that child to understand stability, to innately know that they’re going to be taking care [of]? Kids feel all of that in the womb. They know everything that is going on. Being part of the [BCI] definitely made me reevaluate what I wanted for my life. It put a lot of things into perspective for me that I would not have thought of had I not had the opportunity.
Through [BCI], we met once a week for a year, and we got trained on what research means: what it means to do it equitably, what it means to represent the communities that you are from. [The BCI program] really value the lived experience that we have. It just never occurred to me that I could ever be a researcher. It continues to blow my mind. Being exposed to community-based participatory research, though, broadened my horizons tremendously.
Anybody is capable of anything. We can all make a difference even at the lowest level. I am not extensively educated. My background is not in research. I think what I contribute is an example of what change can look like when you feel like you have nothing to give. I think what I represent is opportunity on so many levels. On an institutional level, Black and minority women and folks can come in, and we can change things, and we can excel in ways that maybe society has told us that we can’t.
Recently, we were informed that due to our research, [a] policy was enacted in San Francisco to prioritize pregnant women and housing in their first trimester. To know that my work directly contributed to that is amazing.
I can actually affect change in my city and, moving forward, my state. It means so much for me and so much for my next generation. Not only am I improving things for them, but I am also laying down a clear plan as to how to achieve these things without having the background that you are supposed to have, without doing the things that you’re supposed to do in order to get to where you’re supposed to be.