Kay Matthews- Founder- Executive Director
“Shades of Blue Project: Illuminating Paths to Compassionate Maternal Care for Black Birthing Individuals”
In 2013, Kay Matthews experienced an unimaginable loss when her daughter, Troya Simone, was stillborn. Determined to ensure that no other Black birthing individuals faced similar challenges, Kay channeled her grief into advocacy and founded the Shades of Blue Project. This non-profit organization aims to address the alarming maternal morbidity rates among Black women while providing essential support for their mental health. With a background in the culinary industry and a heart dedicated to making a difference, Kay embarked on a mission to transform the landscape of maternal care for women of color. This article explores Kay’s inspiring journey, the initiatives she has spearheaded, and her unwavering commitment to improving birthing outcomes and experiences.
The Birth of BabyCakes and Brunch:
Following the launch of her non-profit organization, BabyCakes and Brunch, Kay Matthews realized that she was not alone in her struggle. Black women faced worsening maternal morbidity rates, and the existing support systems for their mental health were either nonexistent or poorly managed. Shockingly, some Black mothers even had their children taken away from them. Recognizing this pressing need, Kay laid the groundwork for the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Method Training—a groundbreaking program rooted in compassion. Designed specifically for women of color and minorities, this training equips doulas, midwives, clinicians, and support group facilitators with the tools to provide effective and culturally sensitive care.
Black Maternal Mental Health Week:
To raise awareness about the challenges faced by Black birthing individuals and advocate for viable solutions, Kay Matthews founded Black Maternal Mental Health Week (BMMHW). This annual week-long event, held from July 19 to July 25, encompasses a range of activities. Notably, a two-day summit brings together healthcare professionals, community leaders, families, and laypersons to share insights, explore innovative approaches, and foster compassion. Additionally, a community brunch serves as a platform for open discussions, while a 3K Family Walk promotes physical and mental well-being.
Legislative Efforts and Collaborations:
Kay Matthews has been instrumental in supporting key pieces of legislation aimed at improving birthing outcomes and experiences for Black women. Notable examples include her contributions to the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act in 2020 and 2021, the MOMS Matter Act, the Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act, and the TRIUMPH for New Moms Act. She has also been involved in the development of the Raising The Bar actionable framework, which seeks to embed equity and excellence in the healthcare sector. Kay’s tireless efforts have positioned her as a sought-after speaker and a recognized authority on Black maternal mental health.
Expertise and Research Contributions:
Kay’s expertise and dedication have garnered her opportunities to contribute to vital research articles. As a lead author of the research article “Pathways To Equitable And Antiracist Maternal Mental Health Care: Insights From Black Women Stakeholders” published in Health Affairs, she offers valuable insights on transforming maternal mental healthcare. Additionally, her contributions to the research article “Black Perinatal Mental Health: Prioritizing Maternal Mental Health to Optimize Infant Health and Wellness,” published in Frontiers, underscore the importance of prioritizing maternal mental health for overall infant well-being.
Literary Works and Media Recognition:
Kay Matthews has authored two impactful publications. In 2017, she released “365 Days To Recovery: Finding Your Way Out Of The Darkness,” a book that serves as a guide for those seeking to overcome mental health challenges. The following year, she published a daily journal called “Recovery State of Mind,” designed to provide individuals with a framework for self-reflection and healing. Kay’s advocacy and community work have been featured in prominent publications such as the Texas Tribune, Community Impact News, and the Houston Chronicle. Her passion for change has also earned her media appearances on ABC KTRK 13, CBS KHOU 11, and NBC KPRC 2.
Leadership and Community Engagement:
Kay Matthews’s dedication to the cause extends beyond her own organization. She has actively served on the boards of various influential organizations, including the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, 2020 MOM, MoMMa’s Voices, and PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy. Recognizing her expertise and commitment, Kay was recently appointed as the Leadership Community Chair for a PCORI-funded project called “Establishing a Research Agenda to Reduce Toxic Stress and Increase Maternal Mental Health Equity” through ACHP.
Kay Matthews’s journey from tragedy to advocacy is an inspiring testament to the power of resilience and compassion. Through the Shades of Blue Project, she has tirelessly worked to improve the birthing outcomes and mental health support for Black birthing individuals. Kay’s initiatives, such as the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Method Training and Black Maternal Mental Health Week, have revolutionized the landscape of maternal care, creating a platform for dialogue, compassion, and lasting change. With her legislative efforts, research contributions, and literary works, Kay has become a prominent voice in the field. Her unwavering commitment to equitable and antiracist maternal mental healthcare has the potential to transform lives and build a brighter future for generations to come.