Leading Toward Equity All Year Long
Editors’ Note: This blog post was adapted from an op-ed the author contributed to the NAEYC Affiliate Relations Newsletter. The NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council acts as an advisory body to support the continuing transformation of the NAEYC Affiliate structure into a high-performing, inclusive organization. For ideas on how to lead with equity in your own community see NAEYC’s Advancing Equity Initiatives
Author’s Note: I initially wrote this op-ed in honor of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Although it is also relevant for Black History Month, I dream that one day Black history will be recognized as US history.
Friday, April 5, 1968.
Westwood Elementary School, Ms. Berens’s seventh-grade classroom.
As I walked into class, I noticed that the television had been brought into the room. It was going to be a fun day! Growing up, we considered having the television brought into the classroom to be a special treat. As we excitedly waited for our teacher, Ms. Berens, to turn on the TV, I noticed that she had been crying. Ms. Berens told us that something terrible had happened. I did not know why, but I could feel myself starting to cry. Ms. Berens announced, “Reverend Martin Luther King is dead.” While watching the newsreel, I knew in my heart that this was one of those moments I would never forget. But I wondered, “Who is Reverend King?” I was raised in a close-knit, Black middle-class community, where my parents sheltered my sister and me from the ugliness occurring in the world. The death of Dr. King catapulted me out of our own little bubble into the harshness of reality.
Each year, the third Monday in January begins a time of remembrance and reflection. The people of the United States and the world are reminded that there was once a man who did not want his assignment, but was obedient and committed to his journey—eventually understanding that his obedience would lead to his death. I celebrate Dr. King and his lessons, not only because we share the same birthdate, but also because his message was clear: dreams are powerful, but they are only meaningful if we act. Dr. King, a man of faith, understood he was a tool elevated as another symbol of humanity combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance[EW1] [GU2] . King asserted that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” (1963). Sometimes I wonder at the inner strength and faith it must have taken for Dr. King to persevere to realize his dream, despite recognizing that any day could have been his last. And now Dr. King has passed on, along with many others who walked beside him during the civil rights movement[EW3] [GU4] . February is upon us as the month to celebrate love. Do Dr. King’s leadership and the messages of the civil rights movement still resonate?
Recently, I participated in a breakout session in a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging learning series led by The Executive Learning Lab (www.TheExecutiveLearningLab.com). As my group read excerpts on advancing equity and the interconnectedness of humanity, a colleague commented that she did not see leaders like those we used to have. That no one steps up to lead. My response to her was that Dr. King and other leaders of the civil rights movement were our models. Dr. King dreamed, told us his dream, and proceeded to act to realize his dream. Each of us has the power and obligation to lead in our respective communities. In my career as an early childhood educator, I have prepared and led hundreds of young children and early childhood educators in my community to pursue their dreams. As a NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council member, participation in Council work gives me the opportunity to live my dream to restructure systems that give each one of us a voice.
Now it’s your turn. What is your dream and what are you doing about it?
Victoria Long-Coleman, Ph.D., a second-generation family childcare provider, is an early care and education specialist with a northeast child care resource and referral agency. Dr. Victoria trains and coaches family childcare providers and center administrators and staff on early childhood best practice. Recognized on local, state, and national levels, Dr. Victoria is a published researcher with an interest in early childhood teacher preparation and professional development.