Birth in the USA: Maternal Mortality and Communities of Color

Wednesday, September 23
12 p.m. – 1 p.m. Pacific

Why is the United States the deadliest place in the developed world for Black mothers to give birth?

Together we’ll examine our country’s maternal mortality rate among BIPOC women and address solutions to these devastating—and largely preventable—outcomes.

Learn how we can empower and support women through pregnancy, delivery and postpartum with experts dedicated to solving the maternal health crisis.


Kimberly Durdin

Birthing People Foundation

Kimberly Durdin is a Los Angeles based Lactation consultant (IBCLC), Student Midwife, Childbirth Educator and Doula. As a mother of six, Grandmother of three, Kimberly credits her children as her greatest teachers.

Over the last 26 years, Kimberly has interwoven her life with the lives of thousands of families throughout New York City, Washington DC Metro Area & Los Angeles. Be it through her work of providing lactation care, postpartum support, groups, counseling, childbirth education, labor support or through her work mentoring current and future birthworkers, her dedication has allowed her to fully enjoy the fruits of her labor in the faces of the communities served.

Kimberly was named one of the Top Lactation Consultants in the area by Washington Families Magazine in 2003. In 2015 she was awarded Best Lactation Professional of 2015 by Doulas of Southern California and in 2016 given the Student Future Leader Dr Paul Fleiss Award from The Association for Wholistic Maternal Newborn Health  & Human Rights in Childbirth.

In March 2018, Kimberly and business partner Allegra Hill, LM, CPM, IBCLC opened Kindred Space LA, a birth, lactation and education space.  Kindred Space LA is also home to the Birthing People Foundation, a non-profit they co-founded to train more birth workers of color.

Kennetha Gaines

Kennetha Gaines is the Director of Nursing at Venice Family Clinic. She has strong background in providing clinical leadership and expertise, focusing on mother and newborn infant care. Specifically, with an emphasis on perinatal outcomes such as cesarean sections, inductions, and breastfeeding rates for low-income women of color. Kennetha’s experience includes nursing leadership throughout the care spectrum for various metropolitan hospitals and community clinics.

She has expertise in managing comprehensive services from reproductive health, family planning, behavioral health, disease management and prevention. Kennetha believes that nursing has offered her the unique opportunity to integrate community-based experience with a more fundamental science and evidence-based delivery of nursing interventions.

Experienced in clinical nursing leadership, Kennetha actively serves in communities with vulnerable populations. A recent graduate of the Yale School of Nursing DNP program, she also holds three Masters degrees from the University of California Los Angeles in African American Studies, Urban Planning and Nursing and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Santa Cruz in Politics and Community Studies. Kennetha has demonstrated commitment to serving in communities that are largely underrepresented. She also enjoys spending time with her two young children and supportive husband.

lisa nicholas

Dr. Lisa A. Nicholas has been a practicing physician devoted to obstetrics and gynecology for the past 30 years.   She has dedicated her career to providing quality healthcare to women of all ages regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status. Originally from Buffalo, New York, she earned her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine.  Dr. Nicholas then moved to California for internship and residency training at Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital in South Central Los Angeles.  Her varied experience in clinical practice includes administering direct patient care in private practice, multispecialty medical groups and community based clinic settings.  In addition, she has proficiency is and experience in supervision and training of medical personnel, students and other health care professionals.  Dr. Nicholas has been recognized as demonstrating exceptional analytic, reporting and diagnostic skills with a focus on patient satisfaction.

Dr. Nicholas’ practice experience includes her eight year association with The Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Center, previously located in the inner city of Buffalo, New York.  This health center was a major contributor of health services to the greater Buffalo community due to its mission of providing quality medical services specifically targeting the indigent and medically underserved population.  The center provided over 100,000 clinic visits per year to residents of the most impoverished and economically depressed areas of the city of Buffalo.  During her tenure at the center, Dr. Nicholas held the positions of Medical Director and Chief Executive Officer as well as maintaining her clinical practice.  In addition, Dr. Nicholas worked for two years with the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and The Community Health Center of Buffalo at Erie County Medical Center with a focus on the care of women veterans who served in Desert Storm.

While Dr. Nicholas resided in Western New York, she was involved in numerous civic and social organizations including Women for Human Rights and Dignity, Delta Sigma Theta Incorporated, The Buffalo Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, The Girl Friends, and The Children and Youth Family Collaborative.  In addition, Dr. Nicholas was an active member of the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist church where she served as a choir member, choir director, pianist, and Sunday school teacher.

Currently, Dr. Nicholas maintains her professional clinical practice in southern California. She has decided to shift her career emphasis to medical education.  This was driven by a desire to influence young physicians to practice compassionate patient care.  She was appointed to the clinical faculty at The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA as Associate Professor.  She has served as the Clerkship and Curriculum chairperson for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the medical school for the past 6 years.  Dr. Nicholas is responsible for assuring that all the third year medical students complete their basic requirements mandated by the course curriculum in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. In addition, she serves as mentor for the medical students and resident physicians in training.  Dr. Nicholas continues to maintain a busy clinical practice inclusive of delivering babies, gynecologic surgery and ambulatory care.  In recognition of her dedication to patient care, Dr. Nicholas has been recently honored with a Teaching Humanism Award from the medical school.

As a result of the perils of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OB/GYN department has structured a reorganization in leadership and initiative.  Dr. Nicholas has been recently appointed as Vice Chair of the Department to spearhead Equity, Diversion and Inclusion.  She is very enthusiastically embracing her new role for the department and the medical school.

Dr. Nicholas has extended her clinical efforts and education skills across the globe to the continent of Africa.  She recently was a participant in a medical mission trip to Mbarrara, Uganda.  She was amongst a team of eight health care professionals that traveled to Uganda with the specific objective of providing operative care for women suffering from obstetric fistula.  In addition, she taught at Mbarrara University with classes targeted for medical and nursing students.  She also performed operations and provided post-operative care during her mission in Uganda.  Over 50 operative surgeries were successfully completed by the team over the 3 week time frame while in Uganda.

Dr. Nicholas is an active member of Holman United Methodist Church located in Los Angeles She sings in the choir and participates in monthly women’s Bible study entitled ,” Only a Sista Away”.  She is a member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Links, Incorporated where she serves as the Chair for Health and Human Services facet.   Dr. Nicholas has served on a number of corporate and community boards and has been a medical consultant for television and radio programming as well as newspaper publications.  She has made several public appearances as a community lecturer, motivational speaker, workshop facilitator and panel discussant.

Dr. Nicholas is the very proud mother of her children that includes her daughter, Lindsey, her daughter’s husband, Jason, as well as her son, Jared.  Lindsey and Jason are the new parents of Dr. Nicholas’ beautiful granddaughter, Gabrielle.

The entire family appreciates and embraces the importance of higher education, social awareness with activism, and community involvement to promote justice and opportunity for all.


Gabrielle Horton

Podcast showrunner, host, and producer Gabrielle Horton left Democratic politics to pursue a different type of activism — one that centers Black lives, Black communities, and Black stories at its very core. In 2019, Gabrielle launched The Woodshaw, a boutique production house for us, by us. She serves as the lead podcast producer for two award-winning shows: Hear to Slay and The Black List.

In thought-partnership with Black Mamas Matter Alliance, The Woodshaw’s first original series, NATAL, explores what it means to have a baby while Black by passing the mic to Black parents to hear their pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum stories, in their own words. In addition to her work in audio storytelling, the Inglewood, CA native is a birth equity advocate, doula trainee, and a 2020 Reporting Fellow with USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism. Gabrielle is a graduate of Harvard-Westlake School, Spelman College, and the University of Michigan.

You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @gabhorton.

Support our work

This event is free to attend. Any donations made to this page will be split equally between Venice Family Clinic and Birthing People Foundation to help fund the vital work we do. Thank you!