Virtual Conference Expands DEIB Engagement

At the first-ever virtual edition of the annual Educare Learning Network Meeting for staff, partners, parents and funders, we collectively deepened our Network commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) and examined practice and program strategies to support this important work.

Anchored by three keynote speakers, the meeting challenged attendees to consider the effect of individual biases on personal and professional interactions, the influence of historical, structural racism on systems and policies, the educational opportunity gap in communities of color, and strategies to combat these persistent challenges faced by early childhood educators and advocates.

Dr. Rosemarie Allen, president and CEO at the Center for Equity and Excellence, led a powerful and honest discussion about implicit biases, emphasizing a need to eliminate white spaces in early childhood classrooms. Educators must encourage Black and Brown students and families to develop positive racial identities by welcoming authentic self-expression in order to achieve equity.

Frank Waln, an award-winning hip-hop musician and member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, shared his story about growing up on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. A graduate of the national Head Start program and a self-identified “product of the [educational opportunity] gap,” Frank spoke of his struggle with the feeling of home, learning about Native American genocide under the facade of U.S. history (“colonial propaganda”) and how he turns to music as a creative outlet in his personal and professional life to tell his people’s truth.

Dr. Howard Stevenson, professor of urban education and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke reverently about his experience “shapeshifting” through higher education as the only Black student in UPenn’s Fuller Graduate School of Psychology. He shared lessons learned about the difference between “belonging” and “fitting in,” discovering and embracing one’s personal narrative, combating racial stress from a psychological perspective and encouraging all to engage in tough conversations about race.

Breakout sessions featuring Network school staff and partners shared techniques to embed mindfulness in early childhood education (ECE) programming, better serve dual language students, increase father engagement and respond to food insecurity and health concerns among Educare families.

The Network is grateful for this valuable opportunity to reflect on a uniquely challenging year and propel our DEIB work forward, focused on a shared understanding of ECE and continued dedication to our youngest learners and their families.

Discover more about our keynote speakers and their DEIB efforts:

Dr. Rosemarie Allen

Frank Waln

Dr. Howard Stevenson