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A Black Woman Died During Childbirth. Her Family and Friends Are Fighting For Accountability.

A pregnant woman with dark skin tone smiles and places her left hand on her stomach. She wears a flowing light brown dress.
April Valentine died during childbirth on Jan. 10th at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. Her family and supporters want answers.
(Courtesy Nigha Robertson)
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Early in January, a tweet caught my eye. A woman wrote that her best friend had died giving birth at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood. The tweet said that during labor her friend and her partner complained for hours to the nurses that she was having problems with her legs. By the end of the night the friend was gone.

After A Black Mom Dies In Childbirth, Her Family Seeks Answers.

The pregnant woman’s name was April Valentine. Her baby survived, but on Jan. 10, Valentine became another statistic.

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Throughout the past few weeks, I joined my colleague Mariana Dale in interviewing several of Valentine’s closest family and friends who’ve been rallying for answers on her behalf. Mariana has done thorough, comprehensive reporting on how to navigate pregnancy and childbirth and, along with our colleague Stefanie Ritoper, has written several pregnancy guides. Our goal was to understand what exactly happened that day at the hospital.

As a Black woman who is the same age as Valentine at the time of her death, this hit home. There was something I kept hearing from her loved ones that deeply concerned me.

Valentine did the research. She knew the odds she faced as a pregnant Black woman. She knew the benefits of having a doula, someone who could provide emotional and physical care through the pregnancy and postpartum, so she found one. In order to ensure she had a culturally responsive and compassionate experience, she chose a Black woman physician to deliver her child.

Valentine knew how to speak up for herself. She posted positive affirmations for a healthy pregnancy in her house. She had a birth plan. It seemed like Valentine did everything right.

And yet, her pregnancy still ended in tragedy.

A few weeks ago, Mariana and I met Nigha Robertson, Valentine’s partner, at their house for an interview. He’s kept old videos of April, including one of their gender reveal (they thought they were having a boy at first), he’s kept old pictures and a detailed image of their ultrasound. There are large pictures of April during her maternity shoot around the house. We met Valentine’s beautiful baby girl who kept her eyes on her father the entire time he held her.

 A diptych where the left photo is of a Black man wearing a white baseball hat, long sleeve white t-shirt stands in an apartment while holding a small baby wearing a pink onesie and a headband with a pink flower. Behind them there is a large photo hanging on the wall of a Black woman with long weavy hair wearing a white dress and sitting on a pink chair while holding her pregnant belly and looking down at it. The right photo is of a large ziplock bag with a light pink positive pregnancy test, and two ultrasounds of a baby sit atop a black surface. There are light pink plastic flowers framing the top of the vertical photo.
Nigha Robertson holds his baby Aniya in the home he shared with April Valentine, who died during childbirth.
(Samanta Helou Hernandez

He said something I’ll never forget:

"Every time I look at my daughter…it is never gonna get old,” Robertson said. “How do I explain to my daughter that the same day you gotta celebrate a birthday, you gotta celebrate the day your mama left?”

There are still so many questions about what happened to Valentine. We still do not have all the answers but are continuing to seek them out. But to know who April Valentine was, read Mariana’s thoughtful account about her life, her experience as a Black woman at Centinela and what her family and friends are doing to ensure accountability. Mariana also has resources if you or someone you love has had a bad pregnancy experience and need to take action.

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Have you received care at Centinela Hospital Medical Center? Tell us about your experience here.

Need help with figuring out how to advocate for yourself to a doctor during pregnancy? Check out this guide.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

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(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • The Los Angeles  Department of Water and Power has been restoring power for tens of thousands of L.A. residents who lost it during the brunt of the storm this past weekend. Here’s the low down of what we witnessed this weekend and what’s in the forecast this week. Guess what? More rain
  • A new report from Better Neighbors Los Angeles found that after three years of new rules for vacation rentals, illegal listings increased by 25%. At the same time, city enforcement decreased. Housing advocates said it impacts the availability of  affordable housing. 
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  • Last week, my colleague Jackie Orchard spent a day with some of the folks who keep us safe during dangerous winter storms: the L.A. County Public Works crew. Read her story to learn about how these workers plow the snow on the roads, control water levels of dams and reservoirs, and capture storm water for future use. 
  • Sorry, friends. Even though the worst  of the storm has passed, it still might be best for you to avoid the beaches. More rain is coming and all that runoff increases the levels of bacteria in the ocean.  It is highly recommended for people to avoid water contact for at least 72 hours after significant rainfall.
  • Black farmers were promised debt forgiveness as a way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to amend decades of discrimination. But nothing much happened. Now, they are faced with the potential of a new race-neutral federal program that could further disenfranchise them and other farmers of color. 
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  • Bring your own baby (An updated version of BYOB) to the Orange County Museum of Art this Wednesday. Honor the multi-hyphenate music icon Quincy Jones for his birthday at the Biltmore Bowl. Laugh out loud at British comedian Russell Brand’s jokes at the Vermont in Hollywood. Check out all the events we have for this week’s roundup here.
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Wait... One More Thing

The Top Three Tea-Sipping Trends

A close up of snow on the ground outside in the mountains. The blankets are mostly smooth and untouched against a blue sky. Trees are in the background.
Snow blankets the Angeles National Forest in L.A. County on Thursday.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)

THREE — The Big Winners Of  NAACP Awards

I’m a huge fan of the show Abbott Elementary so I was delighted the cast won the award for Outstanding Comedy Series at the NAACP Image Awards. Actress Angela Bassett won entertainer of the year as well as an award for the television series 9-1-1. Bassett went viral for repeating Ariana DeBose’s rap line dedicated to her at the BAFTA Awards earlier this month. Actress Viola Davis also won an award for outstanding actress for Woman King. Check out all the winners here.

TWO — News organizations including the Los Angeles Times end circulation of the syndicated Dilbert cartoon strip. 

Several newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and all the Advance Local newsrooms have cut ties with Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. On Youtube Adams made racist comments, labeling Black people a “hate group” and telling white people “to get the hell away” from them.

ONE — Footage of Rare Snow and Hail in Southern California

Last week, my colleague Caitlin Hernández explored how rare snowfall is in lower elevations in Southern California, but snow it did …in some areas. Now we have the winter wonderland footage to show for it. There are videos of kids in Pasadena reveling in a hailstorm last week, a video from Josh Gad somewhere “near Pasadena” this weekend, Sugar Ray vocalist Mark McGrath driving through snow flurries on the freeway from La Quinta and our TROPICAL palm trees covered in snow in Rialto.

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