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On Christmas Day, Alleah Erica Clarke was at DisneyWorld in Orlando with her 8-month old son for his first Christmas. What was supposed to be a magical experience turned into every breastfeeding mom’s nightmare when a Disney Parks cast member called security on her, repeatedly harassing Ms. Clarke and insisting that she could only breastfeed in the Baby Care Center, even though Walt Disney World Resorts has a “breastfeed anywhere” policy. 


The disturbing event, which Ms. Clarke captured on video, has been viewed over 400,000 times on Facebook. Not only does Disney Parks have an open breastfeeding policy, but Ms. Clarke was also within her federal and Florida state rights to breastfeed in public. However, this did not stop the white cast member from targeting and actively harassing Ms. Clarke, who is black. 


As the only national collective representing the interests of black breastfeeding families, the BBC demands that Walt Disney World formally apologize to Ms. Clarke and immediately demonstrate improvements in staff training on their breastfeeding policy as well as in cultural sensitivity. 


“This incident shows a severe and unacceptable training gap for Disney Parks, and the racial implications cannot be ignored. Given the recent spate of white people calling the authorities on black people acting fully within their legal rights, it’s deeply concerning, and unacceptable,  to see Disney Parks miss this teachable moment for its staff training and its culture. We implore them to do better and rectify this situation,” said Black Breastfeeding Caucus founding member, Kiddada Green. 


Ms. Clarke made a 36-hour car drive with family for the sole purpose of a “magical” first Christmas for her son only to have the trip ruined by this traumatic incident. Ms. Clarke, who travels with a cardiac alert service animal due to her heart condition also suffered extreme emotional stress and physical symptoms after the harassment. 


As the U.S. grapples with its widely-publicized black maternal mortality crises, it’s important to understand how the toxic stress of black women’s lives from incidents like these create trauma and biological responses that impact breastfeeding and maternal health, notes Green, who is the founding executive director of The Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association in Detroit.  


“We expect self-professed “family friendly” brands like Disney to walk the talk, ensuring that all staff are properly trained and culturally competent, “ adds Kimberly Seals Allers, director of the Maternal and Child Health Communication Collective and BBC Steering Committee member. “As the BBC works to eradicate decades-long racial disparities in breastfeeding rates by removing all systemic and cultural barriers, that includes demanding accountability from employers and places families frequent.”

Cross posted at the Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Association website.

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