The L.A. Sentinel Religion section debuts “Champions of Faith,” a feature highlighting ordinary people inspired by their faith to make a difference in the community. In recognition of Women’s History Month, L.A. women will be showcased during the month of March.
What is your name and what is your ministry or profession?
Wenonah Valentine, founding director of iDREAM for Racial Health Equity, a project of Community Partners®. Through coaching and skill-building, I seek to guide “head and heart” professionals toward empowered action and decision-making to eliminate health disparities and infant mortality.
How did you get started in it?
Recruited in 1996, I joined the Healthy Black Babies Alliance of Greater Pasadena, Inc. (HABIBAH) and served in the dual-role as the executive director of the start-up nonprofit and project director of the Pasadena Birthing Project, also known as the 34th Stop on the Underground Railroad for New Life.
I never imagined in a million years that God would choose me, a 19-year-old who brought her 6-week-old baby back to campus, moved to family housing, worked as a peer counselor, volunteered in student leadership, received a community service award at graduation and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Black Studies and Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara along with my nearly three-year-old son.
The ministry of holding the “hearts of our children from conception” began as a vocation, a calling where lived experience brought privileged insights to improving Black maternal health and birth outcomes.
What role has God or your faith played in your ministry?
During our early days in Pasadena, I launched a faith-rooted approach to advocacy. Our Sister Friend network transformed concern into mobilized action and formed community-wide relationships to combat the stubborn and disturbing statistics for Black babies born too early, too small or who die before their first birthday.
In 1998, I wrote “HABIBAH is a safe place. Expecting moms and dads learn to bond with their children from the early stages of pregnancy through the infant and toddler years. Our social support activities help women and men reach out beyond their circumstances, give voice to their strengths and frustrations, talk to each other, hear the truth about their choices, learn new parenting skills, and ultimately, take responsibility for providing a safe and stable family life for their children.
We wrap our arms around teens, young adults, and adults over thirty and their families. HABIBAH advocates that having a new baby is a family celebration, a responsibility, and a life-long commitment.
In effect, we hope that our role will help prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies, child abuse, domestic violence and foster care. We ask the entire Pasadena community to embrace our beloved who are mostly African American and a growing number of Latino and biracial babies.”
Also, I am celebrating 38 years in Christ. I joined Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church in 2008 and serve the vision of founder and senior pastor, Apostle Beverly A. Crawford, DD, through the New Members Team.
What is one of the most memorable moments during your ministry?
Every Mother’s Day, my son writes, “Thank you for choosing life!”
What are some of your ministry’s future goals?
In 2019, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of our storied mission for mothers and babies and will launch the HABIBAH2iDREAM digital legacy project. My hope is to showcase the intersections of culture, gender and faith-rooted advocacy for one organization’s response to eliminating health disparities and infant mortality.
What impact has your ministry had on the community?
My faith-rooted lens is a direct result of a K-12 parochial education culminating at St. Mary’s Academy High School and earning an MBA degree in Christian Business and Professional Leadership from Azusa Pacific University. My faith in Christ is a three- braided cord and my worship is expressed through alumnae collaborations, lived experience and service leadership.
How can others help or get involved in your ministry?
Contact us on the web at idreamnow.org or Facebook @IDreamnow.