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Screening of Documentary “GIVE LIGHT: Stories from Indigenous Midwives” set for Nov. 2 on USM Hattiesburg Campus

Thu, 10/26/2023 - 11:41am


A new award-winning documentary that brings the voices of Indigenous midwives into the critical dialogue on the worldwide maternity care crisis will be screened at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and followed by input from the filmmaker as well as a noted healthcare expert.

“GIVE LIGHT: Stories from Indigenous Midwives” will be presented at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Thursday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. in room 203 of the Liberal Arts Building on the Hattiesburg campus. Admission is free. The documentary screening is presented through a partnership between USM’s Women and Gender Studies program, Committee on Services and Resources for Women (CSRW), Center for the Study of the Gulf South, the Honors College, and University Forum. A light reception at 5:30 p.m. will precede the event.

The panel discussion following the documentary screening will feature Steph Smith, a New Orleans filmmaker and creator of GIVE LIGHT, and Dr. Nakeitra Burse, DrPH, MS, CHES, owner and CEO of Six Dimensions, a certified woman owned, minority owned public health research, development, and practice company.

In GIVE LIGHT, Smith circles the globe posing the question ‘Why are the benefits of the traditional midwifery practice absent in modern maternity care options?”  With more than 90 percent of women birthing in hospitals, the U.S. has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates among comparable developed countries and extreme racial disparity in mortality rates (source: Center for American Progress, 2019).

Midwives have been proven to decrease risk of unnecessary interventions and increase satisfaction with quality of care, yet less than 10 percent of births are attended by midwives in the United States, a figure even lower in other countries. Through unique access to interviews with Indigenous midwives from five continents, GIVE LIGHT examines the benefits and challenges to the profession of midwifery.

Dr. Rebecca Tuuri, interim associate dean of the USM Honors College and an associate professor of history is co-coordinator of the event along with USM Associate Vice Provost for Student Success Dr. Julie Reid, with additional input from Dr. Tanya Funchess in USM’s Public Health program.

“Give Light helps open the conversation about the process of birthing today in showing the important history and current state of midwifery around the world,” Dr. Tuuri said. ‘It’s an important topic considering the current crisis in maternal health around the world and in Mississippi. We look forward to sharing this important documentary and getting perspectives from Ms. Smith and Dr. Burse on the possibilities and limitations of both modern medicine and midwifery.”

Smith is an independent director, cinematographer, and editor; GIVE LIGHT is her first feature-length documentary. Her work has been invited for screening in the U.S. and in Europe, including in Spain, France, and Greece. From 2015-2022, her productions have also been exhibited at Female Filmmakers Festival, Birth Justice Film Fest, Women’s Center for Healing’s Women in the World’s Cultures event, and at the NOLA Feminist Short Film Festival and Loyola University, among other events and host sites.

Smith was also commissioned by the Art Council of New Orleans commission to produce a short film for their community arts award on the oldest second-line organization, the Young Men Olympian.

A servant in the field of public health for more than 15 years. Dr. Burse is dedicated to understanding the impact of systems on the health of communities. Her work is centered around health equity and social justice issues and improving maternal health outcomes for Black women. She has been a vocal advocate for policies in Mississippi to improve health outcomes including Medicaid Expansion and Postpartum Extension and has experience in a variety of sectors including nonprofit, private, academia and government.

Dr. Burse currently uses her entrepreneurial spirit and skills to create innovative strategies that will ultimately improve maternal health outcomes. As the CEO of Six Dimensions, she works with diverse clients across the country who are committed to the maternal health crisis. She is the executive producer of the short documentary, Laboring with Hope, a film highlighting the issues of maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women.

GIVE LIGHT will be broadcast nationally on PBS. To learn more about public television underwriting to support independent filmmaking while helping to educate young women and families about the benefits of midwifery and doula services, contact Smith. For more information about this screening event for GIVE LIGHT at USM, contact Dr.%20Tuuri; learn more about the documentary “GIVE LIGHT”.