Mt. Airy activist and mom tells her ‘Stillbirth’ story

by Len Lear
Posted 12/21/23

Cherese Akers works to raise awareness about losing a baby.

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Mt. Airy activist and mom tells her ‘Stillbirth’ story


When I met Cherese Akers, a lifelong Mt. Airy resident and well-known community activist, I felt as if I had swallowed a day full of sunshine. With a seemingly permanent smile, a T-shirt reading “Good Things Happen in Philadelphia,” a relentless upbeat attitude about her community and the myriad projects she is involved in, one would never guess that she has had her share of devastating setbacks.

One of them occurred on April 25, 2007. Akers suffered a stillbirth. The baby girl, who Akers named Taylor Amaiya Thurmond, was born after a full-term pregnancy. 

In the dedication in Akers' book, “Stillbirth But I Still Birthed,” the 38-year-old author writes, “Taylor, I miss you so much. Words will never express the depth of my love for you. I'll love you forever. I will always speak your name and keep your memory alive.”

Akers has done that by working to raise awareness about the experience of losing a baby as a result of a stillbirth, a tragedy shared by thousands of women each year.

In her grief, Akers met other women who had suffered a similar fate and decided the best way she could help would be to write a book. So, she began writing. The process proved to be a form of therapy and wound up taking 10 years.

“So many women who went through this have contacted me over the years, so I wanted to help, and that's the reason for the book,” Akers said. “I want the women to know that life can still be purposeful after tragedy. Almost every day, someone contacts me and asks me to speak to a friend, a sister, or just someone who had a stillbirth. It has happened by word-of-mouth.”

Hospitals now regularly invite Akers to come and speak, she said. And she donates five books for each one that she sells. 

“I do it so the women don't feel so alone,” she said, adding that the experience can be isolating as well as painful.  

“People don't know what to say to you; they don't want to hurt your feelings or say something that will trigger bad memories,” she explained. “In my case, family members who didn’t know what to say would tiptoe around the subject. I want people to know I am here for them.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stillbirth affects about one in every 175 births, and about 21,000 babies are stillborn annually in the U.S. That is about the same as the number of babies who die during the first year of life. 

In the U.S., a miscarriage is usually defined as the death of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, and stillbirth is the death of a baby at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

Because of advances in medical technology over the last 30 years, prenatal care has improved, which has dramatically reduced the number of late and full-term stillbirths. However, in a recent study, the CDC found that Black mothers were more than twice as likely to experience stillbirths compared to Hispanic and white mothers, and the rate of miscarriages has remained about the same over time.

In October of 2017, Akers started a nonprofit organization, Still I Birthed, which provides resources to bereaved families who have experienced the death of a pregnancy or an infant. She also has created an online grief support group for women and men worldwide and hosts an annual walk to raise awareness about stillbirths and the trauma associated with them. “A Walk of Remembrance and Awareness” is in October and usually starts at Pleasant Playground and Recreation Center and in Mt. Airy.

In February of 2017, Akers founded another nonprofit, “We Heard You,” which is a mentoring program similar to Big Brothers for boys aged 9 to 19 in Northwest Philadelphia. 

“So many do not have a man in their family to mentor them,” she said. At bi-weekly meetings, “facilitators” come to teach cooking, robotics, electrical and design skills.

The youngsters, usually up to 15 per meeting, learn about the program from social media and word-of-mouth. 

“I had a good upbringing,” Akers said, “but now there are so many kids in abusive families and foster care. Even something as simple as a hug means so much. Nurturing means so much. The kids all come back, and when they get too old, they come back to help the younger kids.”

The group has a yearly Thanksgiving dinner, which was held even during the pandemic, at the playground and recreation center, which provides the food. This year, organizers fed 300 people on Nov. 20. Akers' sister has a 15-year-old catering firm, Sheree Home Cooking, which prepared all of the food.

Ericka L. Stewart, founder and owner of the Social Impact Cafe in Mt. Airy, told us, “Cherese Akers has become a pillar in the community, a model and example of womanhood and motherhood … Her dedication to at-risk youth, specifically young men, resounds within my heart daily.”

Akers, a graduate of Roxborough High School and Drexel University, worked with patients at Drexel Medical School for four years and has been communications manager for the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown since 2019. 

If that and her two nonprofits don’t keep her busy enough, she has just been nominated for president of the Pleasant Playground Advisory Council.  She has two daughters, ages 5 and 15; the latter plays varsity basketball for an area high school.

Akers' book is available on For more information, visit Len Lear can be reached at