THE BLOG

AMP: The Business Of Being Erykah Badu

By Kamren Curiel
When I heard that Erykah Badu helps deliver babies in her spare time, I wasn't surprised. She's a Pisces. It's in our nature to nurture and protect those in need. Plus, she has three of her own, so who better to understand the needs of a woman? (How dope would it be to have Erykah Badu deliver your baby, by the way?!) Then I remembered a workshop I attended with my girl Nati a while back at legendary Chicano writer Luis Rodriguez's Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural, called "DIY Gynecology." The title alone lured me in, and the fact that I didn't have health insurance at the time made me curious to see how I could...well... do some things myself down there.
Led by Pati Garcia, a self-described radical feminist doula, it was my injunction into the world of birthing empowerment. I mean, my mom always took pride in the fact that I was delivered naturally in a now demolished Catholic hospital in Boyle Heights by a midwife, not a doctor, but I wasn't aware of the politics of giving birth until peeping the passion of this badass doula-slash-sex educator. I left with a copy of Pati's go-to self-care handbook, Hot Pants: DIY Gynecology, which includes everything from natural remedies for PMS to aphrodisiac recipes. Heyyy!
Then I watched The Business of Being Bornand learned that hospitals are like fast food chains, priding themselves in getting women in and out after giving birth. That's where doulas and midwives come in, assisting women with breathing, massage, positioning, and positive visualization during labor. The goal, being, to keep women empowered and avoid an unnecessary induction (i.e. C-section).

While women continue to fight for reproductive rights--the rejection of Mississippi's anti-abortion measure, Initiative 26, being the latest victory--cultural icons like Erykah Badu and Business of Being Born Executive Producer, Ricki Lake, are on a mission to promote traditional birthing techniques.

Fitting for a bohemian soul singer like Badu, who's never apologized for having multiple baby daddies and is now a spokeswoman for the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, a nonprofit organization that trains African-American women to become midwives through oral traditions stemming from Africa, the Caribbean, and Deep South.

"I didn't plan on becoming a doula,"  Badu told People magazine. "I just wanted to care for my family and friends."

The last time I saw Badu perform was at Cypress Hill's SmokeOut Fest in San Bernardino. The Nag Champa-burning storyteller recalled sitting in a circle "Native American style" in elementary school and being asked by her teacher what she wanted to be when she grew up. "I just want to be funky," a young Badu answered. She definitely achieved that with five very eclectic albums under her belt--Baduizm (1997) being one of the greatest creations on earth. Her last two, New Amerykah Part One (2008) and Part Two: Return of the Ankh (2010), features powerful social commentary on poverty, urban violence and cultural identity and a dream production team that includes Mike 'Chav' Chavarria, J Dilla, Questlove, Madlib, 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

The "rasta style flower child" started studying midwifery after the birth of her first son, Seven (now 13) with Outkast's Andre 3000. She now has two daughters--Puma (7) and Mars (2)--from her relationships with rappers The D.O.C. and Jay Electronica, respectively. Badu provides all her doula services for free and uses stress reduction techniques like Reiki to help women chill as much as possible during the worst pain of their lives. Between working on a midwife certificate and opening natural birthing centers in inner cities, Badu's in the studio on another album with Flying Lotus. Let's just say 2012 is going to sound a whole lot funkier.

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Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.