Actress, singer and producer Tatyana Ali, founder of “Baby Yams.” (Trokon Courtesy of  Tatyana Ali)

 Proceeds from the actress’ line of quilts will fund midwives and doulas training

For four decades, actress, singer, and producer Tatyana Ali has been a fixture in TV and film. A multigenerational talent, her acting credits include “Sesame Street”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Love That Girl” as well as “Bel-Air” and “Abbott Elementary.”

Now Ali is using her voice to advocate for maternal health with the launch of her new company, “Baby Yams,” a limited-edition series of handmade, heirloom-quality baby quilts.

After enduring a harrowing ordeal during the birth of her first son, Ali tells the L.A. Sentinel that she opted to work with a midwife for her second child, “because I wanted a completely different experience.”

She adds, “I started working with reproductive justice advocates and with mom groups trying to find another way. I was terrified of going to the hospital and doing it the way that I had done before because that put both me and my baby’s life in jeopardy.”

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Ali went on to say, “I’ve done a lot of work with Black maternal health, advocating every way that I can, and I saw a need for more black and indigenous midwives. Because that’s the kind of care that’s unbiased, they listen closely and it’s just a completely different way of thinking about pregnancy and childbirth.”

She continued, “And it’s well recorded that when a midwife is our first point of care, we’re safer in those environments. So, I thought about what more I could do to change things besides speaking out and telling my story?”

(Courtesy photo)

Ali, who has sewn since she was a child, was initially drawn to the idea of creating a line of blankets after receiving a plethora of compliments for an Ankara print quilt that she made for her youngest son.

“I thought, what if I make more baby blankets, sell them and give the money to midwives across the country? There are incredible midwifery schools that are run by Black women all across the country, and they’re trying to build up a workforce of black and indigenous midwives,” she said.

“They do such incredible work but they need funding to help build their businesses; to pay for their licensing, the testing, their initial kits, etc. I want there to be more midwives, there are more, but they need help, and funding so that’s how ‘Baby Yams’ was born.”

With such a purposeful message behind the brand, it’s no surprise that Ali sold out within 72 hours of her initial launch, and she’ll be announcing the first recipient of the proceeds soon.

“It’s a really happy place. I get to pour in love and joy. This is very much a part of my healing,” Ali said.  While some may think Ali’s foray into maternal health advocacy is a new chapter in her life, she shares that it’s still an extension of the work she does on screen.

“At a very young age, I was blessed to work with incredible people in theater [including] August Wilson and Lloyd Richards. Then people at ‘Sesame Street’ and later on ‘The Fresh Prince,’ people like James Avery. I also worked with Hattie Winston,” recalled Ali.

“I was an apprentice to artists who believed that being an artist has a lot to do with caring about people, and specifically caring about us and [asking] ‘what stories are we telling?’ ‘How are we crafting it?’ and ‘Are we feeding our people with the stories that we’re telling?’

“All of those things have always been very important to me as a performer, as an actor, and as a singer because that’s how I was trained, and because that’s who I was trained by. While it may seem like a departure on the outside, it’s not such a departure from the way I think about the arts or the way I think about my creativity. I was raised [on the mantra] ‘to whom much is given, much as expected.’ And you can make something, whether it’s a play or a song, you can make something that feeds people and does good,” she noted.

(Courtesy photo)

Ali added, “Art is an offering, it’s an act of giving and I find that through these blankets, there are stories that I can express through them and it’s really exciting.”

Concluding, Ali shares additional ways in which anyone, not just mothers, can use their platform to advocate for women’s rights.

“Maternal care is absolutely connected to reproductive care. When reproductive care is taken away, maternal care will also be taken away, so they’re both at risk,” she explained.

“Legislatively, in terms of ways to advocate, I would say, get into what’s happening locally. Because what’s happening nationally takes up most of the conversation [especially] in the news, but the attack on reproductive care is happening at a local level.

“So really look at who the candidates are locally, and make sure that they are held accountable. Make sure that if they want your vote, they know exactly what you want. This is the time to be active, even through the disappointment and the sorrow that a lot of us feel with what’s going on politically, this is the time that we have to be active,” said Ali.

“Be knowledgeable of what’s going on in your community, who the judges are, and who’s running for the state legislature because that’s actually the biggest battleground right now.”

To learn more about the work Tatyana Ali is doing for maternal health and to purchase a quilt, visit