Author Candice Brathwaite has responded to messages of support from fans after she was reportedly removed from her role as host in a documentary about the high death rates of black women during childbirth in the UK.
Brathwaite, a Sunday Times bestselling author, journalist and TV presenter, was apparently dropped after Rochelle Humes was brought on to present a TV show with the same theme.
In an Instagram post, Brathwaite said that she was contacted in March 2020 to discuss the idea of hosting the documentary, and believed it would take place “until six weeks ago”.
“I’m not sure what happened,” she wrote. “But it’s not meant to be. Although it will always be something I’m passionate about, I have to set my ego aside because it’s not only I who tried to highlight the disturbing data when it came to black women dying in childbirth.”
She added: “It’s a group effort. It always has been. So as gutted as I was the message remains the same and it’s such a serious issue that we should hold space no matter who is narrating the story. Why is this happening and what can we do to fix it? Hopefully documentaries, books and most importantly LISTENING TO BLACK WOMEN, will help fix things.”
Brathwaite was apparently responding to Humes’s Instagram post made on Saturday 6 February, in which she announced her own project.
“Hey gang… I’m currently making an investigative documentary, looking behind the shocking statistics that in the UK, black women die during pregnancy, childbirth, and shortly after – at a rate of more than four times that of white women,” Humes wrote.
“I want to find out why this is, and have met some incredibly brave women as part of my investigation into what’s going on. This is a very difficult and sensitive issue, but I think in order to make a change it’s really important to give a voice to families that have lost loved ones in this nature.”
She concluded: “I’m hoping in making this film, it leads to tangible changes and solid commitments to bringing these rates down… that’s my goal.”
After Brathwaite shared her account, both she and Humes trended on Twitter as fans and critics accused the documentary makers of colourism.
“I’m sorry but the excuse of ‘Rochelle has more followers’ can’t run,” wrote influencer and author Stephanie Yeboah.
“Throughout TV history there have been virtual unknowns who have hosted impactful, popular documentaries. Candice is a known TV & radio personality and Sunday Times Bestselling author. Put some respect on it.”
Writer Jason Okundaye tweeted: “So we’ve got light skinLeigh-Anne from Little Mix leading a documentary about colourism, now we’ve mixed race Rochelle Humes leading a documentary about black maternal deaths…media industry is a pigmentocracy.”
Also notice how all of the subjects in the documentary seemto be darker-skinned black women offloading their trauma of childbirth on theNHS (for free) to mixed-race light-skinned Rochelle who gave birth in a private hospital. The mathematics is not mathematicsing,” said journalist Chanté Joseph.
Author Bolu Babalola pointed out that the way people gain larger followings was by being given platforms, suggesting there was a reverse logic in choosing Humes.
“I see people talking about ‘fanbases’ and ‘platforms’ in regards to why lighter-skinned hosts are chosen over dark-skinned experts inBritain… as if fanbases and platforms are generated out of a neutral vacuum,”she said. “As if those things aren’t built from constantly being chosen.”
It is currently unclear if Brathwaite was replaced by Humes for the same documentary, or if her project was scrapped after it emerged that Humes was working on her own show.
The Independent has contacted representatives of both Brathwaite and Humes for comment.