AA Churches and Health Providers Team Up for
Safe Sleep Sabbath
Keeping Babies Safe
Clockwise from upper left: Event co-chair Carola Gaines; Some babies and their
mothers in attendance; County Executive Joe Parisi and State Representative
Elect Shelia Stubbs give each other a hug; Members of the coalition - Shelia
Stubbs, Representative Elect-District 77, Dane County Board of Supervisor,
District #23, Joseph Parisi, Dane County Executive, Carola Gaines-Co-Chair,
Safe Sleep Sabbath Sunday Awareness Campaign, Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen- Mt.
Zion Church, Bishop Godfrey Stubbs-End Time Ministries International,
Ambassador Minister Brenda Hewing-End Time Ministries Int’l, Rev. Larry
Jackson-True Worshippers- Ambassador- First Lady Katherine Jackson, Pastor
Colier McNair and First Lady Myra - Zion Cities, Pastor Donna Hammer-Logos
Deliverance International-Ambassador- Rochelle Crowell, Rev. Joseph Baring-
St. Paul AME Church, Ambassador-First Lady Lucretia Wade- Second Baptist
Church, Ambassador- Sister Daisy Hall-Church of Acts Ministries International-
Sun, Prairie, WI, Prophet Will Jackson and First Lady Jocelyn Jackson-EC 3
Ministry, Apostle Brenda Lofton-House of Refuge International Ministries-
Ambassador- Eunice Conley, Bishop Tavis L. Grant II and Elder Robin
Flourney-Grant-Greater First Baptist Church in East Chicago, IN and Sister
Terri Strong-SS Morris Church, Madison, WI; Rev. Larry Jackson; State
Representative-Elect Shelia Stubbs;  County Executive Joe Parisi; Rev. Dr.
Marcus Allen; Carola Gaines giving a safe baby demonstration
By Jonathan Gramling

According to Shelia Stubbs, state representative-elect, African American babies have a greater risk of
dying near birth.

“In Dane County, from 2012-2017, there were 24 SIDS deaths in Dane County,” Stubbs said atg the Safe
Sleep Sabbath kick-off held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on November 13th. “In addition to that, 96 percent
of our 24 SIDS deaths had unsafe sleep factors. We want to make sure that it is critical today that you
walk away with the ABCs, alone, on your back and in a crib. We need our babies to continue to live. In
2017, Black babies in Dane County were twice as likely as white babies to be born with low birth
weight. This is an unacceptable trend that has persisted for years. Low birth weight means that the baby
is born at a weight of five pounds and eight ounces or less. Pre-term babies earlier than 37 weeks are
the most common cause of low-birth weight. In addition, we know that Black mothers are more likely
than white women to have social, economic challenges that contribute to poor birth outcomes. Some of
these challenges include discrimination and racism, low-income, food insecurities and inadequate
housing. These experiences lead to a high level of chronic stress for some Black mothers, which can
lead to some problems like high blood pressure, which may increase the risk of pre-term births.”
And it can hit the baby of any family, no
matter what their life circumstances
are, is safe precautions are not taken.

“Just this year, I had a great nephew a
few months ago who died,” said Rev.
Larry Jackson, pastor of True
Worshippers Church. “My nephew and
his wife went camping. And the mother
rolled over on the baby because they
were not in a safe place. There is a lot
of pain and suffering that goes on
when something like this happens.
You don’t know that it is going to
happen. And when the person doesn’t
have the proper information about how to take care of these infants, anything can happen.”

The African American church reaches the largest number of African Americans on a weekly basis. And
so the Safe Sleep Sabbath Coalition felt it was crucial to have the churches involved if the number of
deaths are going to be reduced.

“We are here to help the community, strengthen the community and bring this awareness about the
ABCs,” proclaimed Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, Mt. Zion’s pastor, to open the press conference. “Sleep
alone, make sure the babies sleeps on their backs and make sure they sleep in their own cribs. This is
our fourth year of having our Safe Sleep Sabbath on Sunday mornings. We preach about it, pray about it
and most of all, talk about it. We talk to our congregants about this awareness on ways to keep our
children safe. In Exodus, 2, the Pharaoh, the king, orders that all of the first born Hebrew children be
thrown into the Nile River. However, one mother decides that she is just not going to throw her baby into
the river. She puts the baby inside of a basket and allowed the baby to float down the Nile River. She
saved that baby’s life. And that’s what I see these women doing. They are saving the lives of these
children. Moses’ life was saved. And because Moses’ life was saved, he grows up and he became a
liberator. He became the one who freed the Israelite people from bondage and slavery. He became the
leader to bring them out of the things that were hurting them. And I thank God for these women who
have committed themselves to saving these children. You never know. We may have the next
president. We may have the next doctor or lawyer or vocalist or whomever. We continue to get this
awareness out. We continue to create young men and young women who will change the world by the
lessons that we are teaching through the Safe Sleep Sabbath.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi led the effort to have November 18th proclaimed as Safe Sleep
Sabbath Awareness Day in Dane County.

“It is unjust that Black infants are dying at a rate three times higher than white infants,” Parisi said as he
read the Dane County proclamation. “Infant mortality is a complex issue and we know that a combination
of factors including health, clinical care, social, economic and physical environment impact health
outcomes. And sudden unexplained infant death is the second leading cause of death among Black
infants in Dane County. Teaching young families that it is safest for infants to sleep alone, on their back
and in a crib in the same room as their caregiver with a firm mattress and no pillows, blankets or toys
will help reverse this trend. While breast feeding is encouraged and associated with lower incidents of
sleep-related infant deaths and parents, grandparents,  relatives, childcare providers and anyone caring
for infants are encouraged to learn more about how to keep infants safe every time they sleep.”

Carola Gaines, a perennial volunteer and health worker dedicated to decreasing health disparities in
Dane County is the co-chair of Safe Sleep Sabbath. She thanked all who are a part of this effort, which is
part of a larger effort to help decrease health disparities in Dane County.

“November 18th is our day that we will all celebrate in our churches,” Gaines said. The ministers will preach about it. They will pray about it. We will have demonstrations in their
churches regarding keeping our African American babies safe and making sure they are in a safe environment for sleep. We have several of our Safe Sleep Ambassadors here with us
today. We are in training. As a matter of fact, on Thursday, we will be training. Rochelle, from UW Health, will be training us. She trains us every year. It started with a coalition of
members. Betty Banks and Jeanne Erickson were there.  Many individuals were
there and we were talking about what we could do in the African American
community because our rate of deaths was so high. And so, every year, we have
a training on safe sleep. As pastor said, they should be alone, on their backs and
in their cribs by themselves. We want to thank you for this opportunity to kick off
again our day on Sunday and we are excited about hopefully being able to make a
continued impact because there are many things going on. There are many
organizations involved in health disparities and infant mortality and maternal
mortality. But we are just excited about this little, unique part that we are able to
reach in our congregations.”

And Gaines and the coalition will not stop until all crib deaths are prevented.

“To piggy-back on that, also regarding awareness and prevention, which are key,
we don’t want to hear about those statistics that County Executive Parisi
continues to talk about,” Gaines said. “We want those statistics to go down. And
they have since we started. They have begun to edge down. Next year when we
come, we want to be able to say that in 2018, we had no African American crib
deaths on our county. That’s our goal. We don’t want Safe Sleep Sabbath to have
to continue for a lifetime. We wish it could end on Sunday. But we want to continue
to get that awareness out because this is something that we can stop.”

Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it also takes one to keep the babies
healthy. While Safe Sleep Sabbath isn’t the total answer to eliminating health
disparities in Dane County, it is part of the beginning of the continuum of care from
birth through the teen years. If even only one death is prevented, the effort is
worthwhile. Safe Sleep Sabbath will succeed many times over.