Letter From HMBANA President

Below is a recent letter to the HMBANA community by our milk bank director, Naomi Bar-Yam PhD. The original letter and subsequent newsletter is posted on HMBANA Matters, Volume 3, Issue No. 3, dated September 2016.

Letter From the President

By: Naomi Bar-Yam, PhD
Executive Director, Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast
President, Human Milk Banking Association of North America

Naomi Bar-Yam

In August, I attended the bi-annual National Breastfeeding Coalitions Conference (NBCC) of the US Breastfeeding Committee. The theme was A New Day: Community Engagement for Equity in the First Food Movement.

When I travel, I like to take in one or two local natural, historical or cultural attractions. In DC, I visited a number of the memorials near the National Mall, including my first visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Behind the imposing 30 foot high sculpture of King there is a wall etched with 16 quotes from King’s speeches and writings throughout his too short career. King spoke universal truths of justice and equity that apply to particulars in each of our lives.

Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in. (April, 1959)

Breastfeeding is a civil right. Access to all forms of breastfeeding support, including medical, community, workplace and donor milk cannot depend on income, race, ethnicity, or zip code. Our work toward justice in this small area ripples out far beyond mothers, babies and breastfeeding. We are part of an interconnected whole.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. (April, 1963)

But there is so much work to do that sometimes it feels daunting. I draw inspiration from my tradition as well:
Rabbi Tarfon (1st c CE) taught:

“It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], neither are you free to desist from it. (Pirkei Avot – Wisdom of the Ancestors 2:16)

We, who work to assure that mothers and babies have the milk and support they need, are a small, important part of social justice. Together with others who find other ways to perfect the world …

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (March, 1968)

King’s words deepened my experience of the thought provoking and energizing NBCC. They also inspire my term as president of HMBANA. It is an honor, a privilege and a responsibility. Thank you all for the work we will do together, inspired by King and by our own wisdom traditions, to bring justice and equity to our part of the world and beyond.

Pictured above:
left: HMBANA representatives at USBC (Sarah Long, Pauline Sakamoto, Kim Updegrove and Naomi Bar-Yam)
right: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington, DC