ELN Mobile Studio: National Black Child Development Institute’s 2023 Conference - Early Learning Nation

ELN Mobile Studio: National Black Child Development Institute's 2023 Conference

On Oct 13 and 14, 2023, we brought our Early Learn Nation Studio to Charlotte, NC, for the annual conference of the National Black Child Development Institute. With a theme of "Unleashing the Promise and Genius of Black Children and Families," the conference brought together a diverse community of educators, advocates, policymakers, parents and even children. They gathered to raise the visibility of the needs and strengths of Black children and families, to share culturally relevant research and practices, to celebrate successes and to strategize across our network.

NBCDI President Dr. Leah Austin discusses how the 52-year-old national organization that focuses on the healthy child development of Black children takes its mission and message to all U.S. communities, working with key local leaders, educators and parents to improve education, as well as offering key lessons from the NBCDI’s Early Years Climate Action Task Force.
BCDI-Atlanta recently released its State of the Black Child Report Card for Georgia, which identified several paths for immediate improvement, from supporting positive discipline to end suspensions and expulsions, to supporting the social-emotional development and mental health of Black children. As President, Dr. Bisa Batten Lewis explains, it’s all with the goal to address the group’s three key focus areas: Early care and education, literacy and family engagement.
BCDI-Seattle has been advocating for local children and their families around public policy, education and change for 50 years. The many tactics that President Kimberly Early and her colleagues have put into place include a parent hotline where families can get immediate help and guidance when navigating school issues, including the challenge of suspensions and expulsions of Black students.
Dr. Anita Fleming-Rife was born and educated in Iowa, “a product of Des Moines Public Schools back when Iowa was number one in the country in terms of education.” Now, as BCDI-Iowa Village President, she has returned home to work with educators, parents and more to build childhood learning in alignment with Iowa’s traditional place of educational excellence.
With experience from around the world, the President of BCDI-Carolinas compellingly synthesizes what she sees as the root challenge to early childhood learning: Mindset. Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt outlines the five ways she and her colleagues have set out to tackle that obstacle, with special focus on excessive disciplinary actions in preschools.
Hotep is an artist and educator, but most importantly, he’s a father to two young “cubs.” Hotep has created a family friendly anime series, centered around a father and his two children, representing characters that look like them and instilling some of the important qualities for positive human development: Confidence, self-esteem and belief in oneself.
Kumani Bey may still be in high school, but her art—using words, filmmaking and more— is giving voice to multiple causes and making impact across all ages. Kumani joined the NBCDI Conference as a Youth Speaker to highlight America’s technology gap and its impact on Black children.
Dr. Lee Johnson III doesn’t just run NBCDI’s Policy Fellowship program, he graduated from it. Now, with a new cohort who joined the18-month program, Dr. Johnson and his colleagues are advancing “Breakthrough Action Leadership” that focuses on growing responsive, self-reflective leaders. As well, the group is addressing the climate and environmental concerns that also affect early childhood development in many communities.
As the NBCDI advances its “Eight Essential Outcomes” for childhood learning—health, education, nutrition, digital safety, representation, climate, narratives and safe community—the organization seeks to align with the local partners who can bring those opportunities to life. As NBCDI’s Vice President of National Partnerships and Community Mobilization, Allyson Jones leads that effort.
As Senior National Education Administrator for T-Mobile for Education, Dr. Kiesha King helps oversee T-Mobile’s Project 10Million, a $10.7 billion effort to bridge the digital divide by providing access to devices to “ensure internet access is not a barrier to a child's education.”
How do you ensure that Eight Essential Outcomes for Black Child Development get to communities, schools, educators, leaders, researchers, policymakers and parents anywhere—or everywhere—in the U.S.? Build a National Village Network, explains NBCDI’s Director of Community Engagement.
As a high school senior, Rotimi Kukoyi was accepted to all 15 colleges to which he applied. Now, as a UNC student, NBCDI Public Voices Fellow and Morehead-Cain Scholar, Kukoyi explains his mission to ensure that our “education system is properly equipped to provide students from all backgrounds with equitable opportunities in education.” Education, he notes, “should not be limited by a student's income, geographic area or their parents' education status.”
Dr. Joan Lombardi has spent her career exploring early childhood learning from multiple perspectives: policy, public sector, private sector, university and more. Among her current efforts is leveraging unique survey data and insights to identify “material hardships” that parents face, and identifying new ways to empower communities to advance the developmental continuum and—in Dr. Lombardi’s words—“raise the barn” together.
Dr. Raquel Martin, a licensed clinical psychologist, professor and scientist, describes how black mental wealth encompasses mental health and well-being “because mental health and physical health and the way individuals are treated in society are all linked.” And shares how we all can start to address the challenge by first seeing “children as children.”
Sonya Soni, Advocacy Program Director, Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, connects global insights from India to Los Angeles to explore how a sense of belonging—as well as something she calls “poetry in policymaking”—can impact structural obstacles to child and family welfare.

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