and Saeed Shabazz
Staff Writers

Graphic MGN Online

WASHINGTON ( – From the cradle to the grave Black life is at risk for genocide, the planned and systemic killing of an entire national, racial, and ethnic or political group. A blueprint for how the genocide is carried out is invisible and many claim it’s non-existent, that the depressing realities of Black life are self-imposed.

The unexplained facts of life in the Black community demonstrate something different. In every health category, Blacks are at the bottom with some of the worst rates in history.

These weighted outcomes don’t just happen over time; they start as soon as a baby is born Black.


A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in the year 2000, infant mortality rates ranged from 3.5 per 1,000 live births for Chinese mothers to 13.5 for Black mothers.

Infant mortality rates were higher for infants whose mothers had no prenatal care, were teenagers, had less education, were unmarried or smoked during pregnancy.

The report also documented other significant variations in infant mortality rates. Rates were higher for male infants, multiple births and infants born preterm or at low birth weight.

Overall, the 2000 infant mortality rate was 6.9 per 1,000 live births, similar to the rate in 1999 (7.0), but down 22 percent from the rate of 8.9 at the beginning of the decade.

Infant mortality rates also vary greatly by state. Rates are generally higher for states in the South and lowest for those in the West and Northeast. Infant mortality rates among states ranged from10.3 for Mississippi to 5.0 for Massachusetts.

The Census figures for the states with the highest rates of Black infant mortality were Iowa with 20.6, Arizona with 19.1 and Washington, D.C. with 19.0.

Almost 28,000 infants died in the first year of life in 2000. The three leading causes of infant death were congenital malformations (21 percent of all infant deaths), disorders relating to short gestation and low birth weight (16 percent), and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (9 percent).

In New York, like in many major cities, infant mortality is seen in terms of Black and White. New York City Health Department officials say that, while citywide the numbers of babies who die before their first birthday is at an all time low, the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, which is predominately Black, is seeing an increase.

The city infant mortality rate is 6 deaths per 1,000 live births in Fort Greene–13.9 per 1,000 died in 2002–double what it was in 2001.

Dr. Kenneth Broomberg, a spokesman for Brooklyn Hospital, which services Fort Greene, said the numbers reflect issues of need.

“I think they do represent underlying problems of access to care. People are not able to navigate through the healthcare system. Along with issues of poverty and other variables, things are getting worse after it seemed that we were turning the corner,” Dr. Broomberg said.

Rudolph Muhammad is a New York City Emergency Medical Service (EMS) dispatcher and co-founder of the Abundant Life Clinics in Harlem and Brooklyn. He said community organizations must form advocate groups that care enough to get involved with the healthcare issues in their neighborhoods, such as rat infestation, garbage, air pollution and the denial of access to proper services.

“Asthma is up in Brooklyn, in particular the Fort Greene area, which borders a major highway linking Brooklyn with Manhattan. That coupled with the overall ignorance of many of the young mothers to seek prenatal care É we have a health crisis in Brooklyn,” Mr. Muhammad said.

Dr. Marco Mason of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Women’s Health Association told The Final Call that community groups in Brooklyn have joined together to deal with the infant mortality issue.

“Every year we are seeing thousands of babies die before they are a year old. Black babies at that age die at a rate four times their White counterparts. So, we need a policy change when it comes to the city of New York providing services to our communities,” Dr. Mason said.

He said the organizations would become a lobbying force that would advocate for better healthcare for young mothers before their babies are born, and stronger community involvement in nurturing the mothers after their babies are born.

Research has determined the factors that contribute to overall infant mortality, regardless of a woman’s race or ethnicity. The factors include education, age of mother, substance abuse, lack of or irregular prenatal care, poverty, low birth weight/very low birth weight, and premature birth.

Research shows that each of the above factors increase the risk of infant mortality, however, none of them contribute to the alarming disparity between Black infant mortality and White infant mortality.

According to Benjamin Muhummad, program facilitator of the Fathers & Friends Program in Winston-Salem, NC, father absence can also play a part in infant mortality.

“Approximately four out of 10 children live without their father, and this is a tragedy,” Mr. Muhammad told reporters. A lot of programs on infant mortality focus on the female perspective, but you can’t address one-half of the equation by not having something concrete for the men.”

Mr. Muhammad said babies are dying at a disturbing rate and fathers need to step up to the plate. He explained that he has spoken to several women who have lost their babies, and there is a recurring theme.

“I ask them what was the one thing they could have had that could have helped them during their pregnancy,” Mr. Muhammad said. “The women answer and say they wish their man had been more involved.”

Men are significant factors during a woman’s pregnancy. They can make sure the woman sees the doctor regularly explained Mr. Muhammad. He believes that the lack of father involvement in the lives of children can be traced to almost all of the serious problems in society.

“If a father leaves his family, it’s like putting the family in front of a freight train for problems to happen,” he concluded.