Meet the Fayetteville doula fighting to improve Black maternal health, infant mortality rates

Angela Tatum Malloy, Momma's Village founder, Black maternal health professional.
Angela Tatum Malloy, Momma's Village founder, Black maternal health professional.

Angela Tatum Malloy is one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year, a recognition of women who have made a significant impact in their communities and across the country. The program launched in 2022 as a continuation of Women of the Century, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Meet this year’s honorees at

Angela Tatum Malloy is working to improve maternal and infant health outcomes for Black families in the Sandhills region of Eastern North Carolina through breastfeeding education and doula care.

Black women are between three and four times as likely to die in pregnancy or postpartum as white women in the U.S., according to a study from the American Journal of Public Health.

“In a failing system, Black women have it three times worse,” she said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

Tatum Malloy, 55, founded Momma's Village, a nonprofit clinic that offers African-centered birth and breastfeeding support, postpartum care, parenting education and mental health resources for Black families in the Fayetteville, North Carolina, area.

Her clinic is one of two in North Carolina leading a $10-million, five-year statewide study that measures the impact of doula support and a system that alerts medical staff to warning signs like missed appointments and high blood pressure on health outcomes for Black mothers.

Infant birthweight, emergency department visits, hospitalizations and self-reported incidents of racism will be measured to determine the effectiveness of the interventions. Tatum Malloy oversees 40 clinics in the study.

An internationally certified lactation consultant and trained African-centered community doula, Tatum Malloy provides training for other Black women who enter the field of birth support.

“Black doulas play an effective role in saving the lives of Black women from preventable conditions,” she said. "We're able to be that bridge between the mother and the provider so that there's better communication."

Tatum Malloy has also strengthened support and social acceptance of breastfeeding in the Black community by helping Fayetteville and Cumberland County meet World Health Organization guidelines for the Breastfeeding Family Friendly Community Designation. The designation sends the message that the community respects a family’s desires and appreciates the benefits of breastfeeding to the health of the child, the mother, the family and the community, according to the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute website.

Breastfeeding can lessen the likelihood of life-threatening conditions like cancer and diabetes, which are among the leading causes of maternal deaths in Black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bringing visibility to Black breastfeeding mothers helps undo racist stigma toward the practice, which stems from wet-nursing, when enslaved Black women were forced to breastfeed slaveowners' children, and later, marketing campaigns for brands like Pet Milk that cast Black breastmilk as inferior to infant formula, Tatum Malloy said.

While her research and advocacy are centered on Black maternal and infant health, she said that undoing racism will improve outcomes for all women.  For her work, Tatum Malloy has been named USA TODAY's Women of the Year honoree from North Carolina.

“When we address systemic racism, everybody improves,” Tatum Malloy said.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Who paved the way for you?

There are so many strong Black women that have come before me, women like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, my grandma, my mom, my mother-in-law. My mom was one of the first three Black women to be in the Miss Fayetteville Terry Sanford beauty pageant.

Who have you paved the way for?

I’m still paving the way; I’m not done. I’m paving the way for my five kids, eight grandchildren and many young people in the community who are looking for a life that allows them to dream and be successful and not have systemic racism be a barrier.

Is there a mantra that you live by?

Persistence and determination. That two-word mantra allows me to accomplish anything that I seek out to do, like get police oversight or address issues with our unhoused, or even get all of my children to come home at the same time for our feast days. I like that I have persistence and determination tattooed on my forearms. It’s a reminder to myself and a reminder to others that I'm not leaving until I do what I set out to do.

Angela Tatum Malloy, Momma's Village founder, Black maternal health professional.
Angela Tatum Malloy, Momma's Village founder, Black maternal health professional.

What is your definition of courage?

It's being comfortable with being uncomfortable, whether you’re making change in systems or just within a relationship, friendship or marriage. It’s allowing oneself to sit in that discomfort and having the fortitude to push through, despite that urge to flee.

As we know with children, they go through growth spurts. Growth spurts are painful, but we know that they can’t get to the next level of maturity if they don’t go through that. We must have that level of courage to experience discomfort so that we can grow and change in our own personal lives and as a country.

How do you overcome adversity?

I believe we have what we speak. If you speak strength, power and solutions, that’s what you'll have. Every situation I am faced with, that’s how I approach it.

Who do you look up to?

Three women have been most instrumental in allowing me to be who I am. My mother-in-law, my mother and my grandmother.

I have never known a woman who has wholeheartedly sacrificed her life to her children and her grandchildren like my mother-in-law from the age of 19 to now. She might be exhausted, but if she sees that we have a need, she fills it.

My mother went through the loss of two daughters and her mother and went on to have a 30-year career of teaching other people's children. The strength and passion that she poured into children encourages me. I can never get down on myself because I look at the strength she displayed.

My grandmother lost her mother at 8 years old and went on to become a matriarch in our family. It was amazing what she was able to do with an eighth-grade education.

Their love has allowed me to be the woman that I have. It's the reason that I have the strength to do the things I set out to accomplish.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Sit down at your grandmother's feet, ask all the questions and listen. Write those recipes down! If I could go back in time, I would get her banana nut bread recipe, watch her bake everything from scratch, can all the vegetables she grew, learn to treat different ailments with things she would find in the yard.

And, don’t quit playing the violin because you will regret it!

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: How Fayetteville doula fights to improve Black maternal, infant health