Thank you from Mama Sana


best painting pic

THANK YOU to all of those who signed on to the Nov 6th call to action from Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman and Mamas of Color Rising to demand that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards implement current minimum standards of care, establish written policies and procedures, and begin to document all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes.

Our action was successful in bringing these issues to the top of the agenda! Our members testified and shared the story of Shela Williams, who after receiving inadequate care in Travis County Jail had a miscarriage this past summer. We offered a strong rebuttal to the Commission’s claim that it can not provide pregnant women with adequate medical care in all county jails due to lack of doctors in some rural counties, by proposing that midwives serve as alternative providers. We also presented a set of recommendations for care to serve as a starting point for written policies and procedures. Your support strengthened the voices of the formerly incarcerated women and other Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman members who testified at the hearing! 177 individuals and 23 organizations* officially signed on to the letter we presented to the Commission. The Commission members stated that they are seriously considering our recommendations. We will be continuing the pressure at the next Public Hearing of the Texas Jail Commission on February 5, 2015.

IN THE MEANTIME, AS MOTHERS WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH ALL OF THE MOTHERS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES ORGANIZING TO CHALLENGE POLICE BRUTALITY AROUND THE COUNTRY. This is not a new issue, but the powerful response from social movements is bringing mainstream awareness to the racist violence of law enforcement. We see the abuses of law enforcement and ICE as interconnected with the negligence, mistreatment and cruelty faced by incarcerated pregnant women. The systemic failure of US criminal justice is becoming apparent. THESE ARE ALL EXAMPLES OF A SYSTEM OF STATE VIOLENCE THAT DOES NOT VALUE BLACK AND BROWN LIVES. Please support the families by taking action in your local cities. If you are in Austin, join us this Saturday, December 13th, at the rally for the National Day of Action Against Police Violence at the Texas State Capitol, South Entrance at 12 noon.

Here are links to news coverage of our appearance at the hearing:

Thank you for your support and participation.
We hope to see you at the next hearing as we escalate our demands for humane care for pregnant women in Texas jails.
In the meantime, please consider making a donation
to support this volunteer effort.

* list of organizations that signed on:


Amnesty International USA

Association of Texas Midwives

Community Midwives

Elephant Circle

La Reunion Cooperative Austin Texas

Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity

Mama Baila

Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman


NARAL/Pro-Choice Texas

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

National Association of Certified Professional Midwives

Occupy Austin

Open Arms Perinatal Services

Resistencia Bookstore

Rise Up Texas

Son en Movimiento

Texas Jail Project

Texas Equal Access Fund

Texas Women’s Council

The Afiya Center

Wisconsin Guild of Midwives


Recommendations for the care of pregnant women in all County Jails from Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman


Recommendations for the care of pregnant women in all County Jails
from Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman

To Texas Commission on Jail Standards
Presented to Commission meeting on Nov 6, 2014

Dear Commissioners,

We appreciate your willingness to receive recommendations regarding the standards for pregnant women in Texas County Jails.

Our overall recommendation:

That the current standards of care be implemented, that written policies and procedures be established, and that all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes be documented in jails across Texas.

Preliminary Recommendations:

1. Implement the current standard requiring jails to have a good medical plan that ensures timely and appropriate prenatal care, specialized obstetrical services when indicated, and postpartum care.

2. When a pregnant woman says that she is experiencing labor symptoms, the jail shall provide an immediate evaluation by an obstetric specialist. If there is no obstetric specialist on site, an ambulance shall be called immediately and the woman shall be transferred to an appropriate medical care facility. In the event that a woman gives birth in the correctional facility, the jail shall immediately call an ambulance to transfer both the mother and baby to a hospital.

3. Prohibit the placement of pregnant women in any form of solitary confinement, including a medical segregation cell.

4. All women should receive immediate medical attention and pregnancy testing at their request or at any sign or symptom of potential pregnancy.

5. Due to the stressful nature of incarceration and the research-based information regarding the impact of stress on pregnancy, all pregnant inmates should receive some aspects of high-risk care, including prenatal visits at twice the regular rate (so, twice a month instead of once a month, etc.), complete blood work at every trimester, regular blood pressure assessment, and close attention to fetal growth to identify IUGR (Intra Uterine Growth Restriction) early on.

6. Pregnant women should have access to a specialized maternal care provider – OB/GYN, Nurse Practitioner, CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife), or CPM (Certified Professional Midwife).

7. All pregnant incarcerated women should have the right to choose a birth companion to accompany them during their birth. Women should not be forced to birth in isolation. Birthing Companions can include a family member, friend, or a certified Doula or Labor Assistant.

8. All correctional departments should develop clear written policies and procedures on custody of pregnant inmates that are sensitive to the inmates’ unique health issues.

9. If the above mentioned recommendations are not implemented within the next 180 days, we recommend that an independent oversight mechanism be established to ensure proper and impartial response to custodial negligence or misconduct.

Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman and Mamas of Color Rising welcome the opportunity to further discuss these recommendations with the commission.

Join us to Demand Care and Justice for Pregnant Women in Texas County Jails


Did you know that on any given month there are approximately 500 pregnant women living in Texas County Jails and that African American and Latina women make up a disproportionate number of incarcerated women in Texas?  Access to and dignity in perinatal health care is already sorely lacking for African American and Latina women in our state outside of  the criminal justice system.  It should come as no surprise then that no standard or guidelines exist that direct county jails to provide adequate care and support to pregnant women in their custody.  The absence of any directive has deadly consequences for the women and unborn children who are locked up in these facilities.  Join Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic and Mamas of Color Rising as we confront the Texas Jail Commission to demand that standards of care be formalized and that all pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes begin to be documented in jails across Texas.

The invisible life of pregnant women in Texas County Jails

Two years ago, Nicole Guerrero was pregnant and in solitary confinement in a Wichita County Jail cell when she suddenly started having contractions. She was completely ignored despite the fact that she screamed for help and pressed the emergency assistance button for hours. Early the next morning when a guard finally came by her cell, it was too late. Her baby was born a deep shade of purple on the jail cell floor. As some newborns do, her baby needed immediate medical attention and did not receive it. By the time her baby daughter was transported to the hospital, she had died.

Nicole has decided to go public with her case and filed a lawsuit against Wichita County, the County Sheriff’s Department, the private company that provides health care at the jail, and one of the company’s nurses.  But many other pregnant women are facing similar situations in county jails throughout Texas, including Travis County.

If you are outraged by the horrible conditions that incarcerated pregnant women are facing in Texas, please join us in taking action!

  • Sign our call to Action HERE

  • Formerly incarcerated women and other members of Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman will be testifying on Thursday November 6th at 9am at Texas Commission on Jail Standards demanding ACCOUNTABILITY AND HUMANE STANDARDS OF CARE for pregnant women in jails.

  • The Texas Jail Commission Campaign is part of  the larger Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman’s KNOW YOUR RIGHTS CAMPAIGN.  Please visit our blog to learn more!

  • Spread the word to your networks through email, Facebook, and Twitter.  Here’s a sample post:

“Because of lack of standards, women in Texas County Jails face deadly consequences.  Take Action!

#nobirthinjail #pregnantjailjustice #lockedupinlabor

Maternal Health Know Your Rights

Mama Sana/ Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic works towards a vision of:

“A Just and Loving World where all mothers receive attentive quality loving care and

all communities have equitable resources to care for their children.”

One way that we are advancing this vision is through our Know Your Rights Campaign. We are actively sharing the message of the rights we have throughout our reproductive life with our 10 points in English and Spanish. We spread the word with “Know Your Rights” t-shirts, palm cards, community events and other outreach efforts.

Dear Mama,

  1. You have the right to be healthy of body and mind.
  2. You have the right to decide how your body is treated by others. (family, partners, friends, healthcare providers)
  3. You have the right to decide when and with whom you have sex.
  4. You have the right to decide to have or not have a child.
  5. You have the right to receive healthcare regardless of health insurance or income.
  6. You have the right to receive attentive, quality, loving care regardless of race or income.
  7. In pregnancy and birth, you have the right to be told about and to decide about any health related procedures. (drug testing, epidural, episiotomy, cesarian, etc)
  8. You have the right to be empowered to choose the kind of birth that you want. (in hospital, birth center, home birth, water birth, with midwife, doula, doctor)
  9. You have the right to have your cultural practices respected and included.
  10. You have the right to equitable resources to raise and care for your children.

Querida Mamá,

  1. Tienes el derecho de estar saludable de cuerpo y mente
  2. Tienes el derecho de decidir como otras personas pueden tratar tu cuerpo. (familia, compañero/a sentimental, amigos, proveedores de salud)
  3. Tienes el derecho de decidir cuando y con quien tienes sexo
  4. Tienes el derecho de decidir el tener o no tener a un hijo.
  5. Tienes el derecho de recibir servicios medicos sin importar cuales sean tus ingresos o si tienes seguro medico
  6. Tienes el derecho de recibir cuidado de alta calidad, atento y cariñoso sin importar tu raza o ingreso
  7. Con cada procedimientos relacionado a tu salud durante tu embarazo y el parto, tienes el derecho de ser informada y de decidir sobre el procedimiento. (tales como: examen de drogas, anestesia epidural, incisión de Episiotomia, cesaria, etc.)
  8. Tienes el derecho de que se te apoye a hacer una decision para escoger el tipo de parto/nacimiento que tu quieres (en hospital, en un centro de nacimiento, en casa, parto en el agua, con una partera, con una acompañante de parto, o con un doctor)
  9. Tienes el derecho de que tus practicas religiosas y culturales sean respetadas e incluidas en el parto si asi lo deseas
  10. Tienes el derecho a tener recursos equitativos para criar y cuidar a tus hijos

Embody Transformation


What We Do

Consulting services and trainings to help your organization develop and deepen its understanding of racial, gender, and economic inequality, so that you can be more effective in the work you do with your constituencies, your organization and your communities.

Your organization will expand its tools and strategies to contest structural inequalities, more effectively engage communities and strengthen collaborative relationships with individuals and organizations.

Services available include individual consultation, trainings, and technical assistance in the areas of community engagement and organizing, popular education, and leadership development.


Who We Are

Kellee Coleman was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She has been active in community social justice work since she was 12 years old. From 1992-1997 she was a host and producer of the Austin call-in cable access show, “What’s On Your Mind?” that focused on social justice issues from a youth perspective. Later she worked with ATU local union 1091 for 3 years. She co-created a radio show called “Mamis of Color” which aired weekly on KOOP FM radio from 2003-2007. Kellee is coordinator of Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana prenatal clinic, a project of Mamas of Color Rising, the organization she co-founded in 2008. The clinic works to provide holistic and culturally specific prenatal care, birth companions, midwifery services, prenatal fitness and nutrition services to lower income Black and Latina women in the Austin area.  Kellee is the mother of three children. In addition to her work with Mama Sana Clinic, she is an undergraduate student and consults on social justice issues. She is a member of the national leadership collective of Incite! Women and Transpeople of Color against Violence.


Paula X. Rojas has over 20 years of experience working in community organizing. Born in Chile, then passing through Houston, Texas she spent over a decade working as an organizer in Brooklyn, NY. Following in the footsteps of her family members in Chile, Paula has worked on grassroots social justice issues affecting her own local community since she was a teen. Her jobs have ranged from Economic Justice Coordinator at a community youth center, to developing an investigation program to prove racial/ethnic discrimination at a Fair Housing organization. In New York she co-founded various community non-profit organizations focused on issues affecting young and adult Black and Latina women including Sista II Sista. The bulk of her grassroots work has been focused on the issues of gender violence, childcare access, healthcare access, police violence and worker’s rights. Paula has played a role in supporting and amplifying local organizing work as co-founder of the New York Organizing Support Center, and member of the national leadership team of INCITE! where she worked training and supporting the local chapters and affiliates around the country. Since moving to Austin, Texas in 2008, Paula co-founded Mamas of Color Rising and worked to launch Refugio (Center for Community Organizing). Paula is also a contributor to the collection, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. She continues to search for organizing models towards a more just and loving world, from outside of the non-profit paradigm. Recently Paula became a licensed midwife (CPM) in order to put a more equitable maternal health model into practice. Paula continues to work as a consultant/trainer for social justice organizations both locally and nationally. She is the mother of two amazing kids, Xue-li and Camino and loves to dance!

Support better conditions for pregnant women in jails


Did you know that African American and Latina women make up a disproportionate number of incarcerated women in Texas? Or that each month there are approximately 500 pregnant women living in Texas County Jails?

If you are outraged by the horrible conditions that incarcerated pregnant women are facing in Texas, please join us in taking action!

Members of Mamas of Color Rising and Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman are testifying today at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards demanding better conditions for pregnant women in jails.

Please sign and circulate the petition launched by MomsRising:

Dear Mama: Honoring all Mothers & Mothers to Be



Mother’s Day is not enough; May is Mother’s Month! The Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman Clinic and the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex present an event on Saturday, May 31, from 2 to 5 p.m., for all Austin area moms and moms-to-be. Attend the Facebook event!

The free event aims to appreciate those who are always giving. Activities for those in attendance include free massages, facials, fresh fruit smoothies, face painting, children’s games and activities, and a raffle of gift certificates. The first 100 women to attend receive a free T-shirt!

Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman is a project of Mamas of Color Rising that supports all women having quality and choices in the full spectrum of healthcare.


unnamedCongrats, Mamas!

We envisioned what it would be like to become pregnant in a more just and loving world where we all have autonomy and are treated with dignity.

The Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana Project and its co-founder, Paula Rojas, have been chosen to receive the 2014 People’s Friend Award. This honor is given by the Texas Observer, the state’s leading progressive publication. The award is given to one “tyrant’s foe” each year “who speak truth to power and fight the good fight on behalf of their fellow Texans.” Paula, along with her fellow Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana Collective members, will receive the award at the annual Rabble Rouser Round-Up & Fat Cat Schmoozefest Friday, February 21, at the White Horse Saloon in Austin.

This is not simply an honor for Paula, but a reflection of the important work that Mamas of Color Rising and the Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana project have accomplished. The award underscores the importance of equitable maternal care for women of color. Additionally, thanks to all of those who voted for Paula on the Texas Observer website!

To learn more about the project:

If you would like to support the Mama Sana Clinic going to scale beyond a volunteer project, please make a contribution.

Launch Event Sunday, 10/13 – Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic/Mama Sana Clinica Prenatal

Launch Event Sunday, 10/13 – Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic/Mama Sana Clinica Prenatal

Mamas of Color Rising will celebrate the opening of Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana, a new community clinic dedicated to assisting pregnant African-American and Latina women who lack access to a diversity of healthcare options.

The celebration is scheduled on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Urban Market, on the corner of 12th and Chicon streets, and will feature a mural painting by graffiti artist Toofly. The celebration is family-oriented and will also feature fun activities for children, giveaways, food and music.

Graffiti artist Toofly will paint a public mural to serve as a permanent billboard for the clinic. Toofly is an NYC-based artist, designer and entrepreneur, recognized for her hard and fluid style, as well as her “around the way girl.” She gained popularity in the graffiti scene as a teen because she was one of the only females who stepped up to paint in a male-dominated scene. She empowered various women to follow suit, and, in 2007, co-founded an international female arts collective called “Younity.” Toofly also runs a successful independent design company called “Stay Tru,” where she consults, designs, and develops urban art youth workshops. Toofly is donating her time to support Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana clinic.

Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic/ Mama Sana Clinica Prenatal was developed to address some longstanding health disparities within the Latino and Black low income communities of Austin, according to Paula Rojas, program coordinator.

“The abundance of pregnancy and birth support services available in Austin are not accessible to all mothers and babies,” Rojas said.

According to Rojas, more than 25.9 percent of Latina women in Austin receive no prenatal care compared with 7.8 percent of white women. Travis County’s infant mortality rate was recorded as 5.8 per 1,000 live births for white women and 20.5 – or more than 150 percent higher – for black women.

“The United States ranks 50th in the world when it comes to safety in birth, and Travis County rates are worse than the national averages, particularly for African American and Latina women,” Rojas said.

“The goal of project is to connect with low-income Black and Latina mothers in Austin, to foster personal and collective empowerment while providing free prenatal care and education,” said Kellee Coleman, outreach coordinator for the clinic.

Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana women’s clinic will address economic, social and language barriers, and provide free group prenantal care appointments with individual physical exams by doctors from Blackstock Family Health Center and community midwives.

This innovative approach will include on-site Mama Baila prenatal dance classes, individualized nutrition support, and an emotional support group, one for African American mothers and one for Latina mothers run in Spanish.

More info about Mama Sana




Pregnancy and childbirth are important physical, emotional, and spiritual life experiences with the potential to be empowering and life-transforming. Mama Sana will provide low-income women of color support for healthy pregnancies, births and the early parenting phase.  Mama Sana is bringing together a collaboration of resources to foster empowered health and wellness for all of Austin’s mothers.

In September of 2012, Mama Sana will launch free weekly prenatal clinics. This program is a collaboration between Mamas of Color Rising, volunteer midwives, and Blackstock Family Health Center with the focus of increasing access to holistic culturally competent prenatal care and education in Austin, TX.

Austin is known for being a family and child friendly city, but in actuality that reputation only applies within certain communities.  According to the City of Austin demographer, the 2010 census trends include a sharper divide between the affluent and the poor, and a disproportionate and increasing number of “indigent” people in need of health care. Of the official 20% of Austin’s population living below the poverty line, more than 60% of the women were of reproductive age (18-34). Austin’s “child-friendly” status does not apply to the 28% of children living in poverty in our city.


The 2010 Census report also found that Austin has crossed the threshold to become a “Majority-Minority” city. Additionally, Travis County’s infant mortality rate was recorded as 5.8  per 1,000 live births for white women and 20.5 – or more than 150% higher – for Black women.

Access to prenatal care is a key factor in determining outcomes and over 25.9% of Latina women in Austin receive no prenatal care vs. 7.8% of white women. The Austin economic and healthcare “divide” impacts the lives of pregnant women and their future children. The abundance of pregnancy and birth support services available in Austin is not accessible to all mothers and babies. There are economic, cultural and language barriers for many women. Mama Sana women’s clinic attempts to address these barriers.

Mama Sana provides free group prenatal care appointments with individual physical exams by midwives, as well as culturally competent emotional group support. A woman at Mama Sana can also choose to have a free birth companion (doula) and regular prenatal exercise classes. Women have access to all of these services in a coordinated and timely session. Mama Sana is a pilot project seeking to support the individual and collective empowerment of low-income mothers of color while also improving pregnancy and birth outcomes for communities of color in Austin.


 * On-site free pregnancy testing,

* Immediate access and entry into care (regardless of Medicaid status),

* Culturally based group care (ie: Black Mothers Group-in English,  and Latina Mothers Group-in Spanish) addressing topics of interest to the participants,

* Mama self-health assessment circle (where each woman tracks her own weight, diet, stress, etc.),

* Private individual physical exam by midwife (in woman’s own language),

* Coordination  of care with Blackstock/Brackenridge physicians who will later attend the births,

* Full access to lab work and testing if needed,

* All care occurring at one central location- Blackstock Family Health Center.


* Regular prenatal exercise classes (Mama Baila Dance, prenatal yoga, etc.),

* Meeting with and securing a birth communion (doula),

* Support with childcare and transportation to the sessions.

The Pilot Project

Though there are many women needing improved prenatal care in Austin, during Year 1, Mama Sana will begin with two specific groups of women in order to attend to those most vulnerable in the city.

 * September 2012- launch groups at Blackstock Family Health Center (Black Mothers Group and Latina Mothers Group)

* Year 1- all collaborators and practitioners serving as unpaid volunteers.

* January 2013- internal evaluation of project

* May 2013- first cycle reflection and evaluation. Planning for Year 2 to begin in September 2013.