Our Moment to Lead: GAEYC’s Response to Recent Events From Your Board of Directors
Here in Georgia, as the events of the last week continue to unfold, it has once again brought to the forefront the painful realization of inequity in our country and state. For many, these events have brought into question how our communities continue to exist with racism and discrimination. GAEYC calls out the actions of people who act based on racism and judge people of color without exception to their personhood.
Moving forward, we, the advocates and educators for our youngest generation, cannot remain silent or complacent. We must acknowledge the pain and trauma of Black people in America.
Our workforce, our boots on the ground, in the early childhood field is predominantly women of color. These are mothers, caregivers, and parents of young Black boys, Black children, who are fearful when their child leaves their home each day; who may also be fearful to leave their home each day. The trauma of witnessing blatant murder of Black people across our country affects the mental health of our workforce and our children.
In preparing for the days and weeks ahead, we must be intentional. We in the early childhood community – educators, leaders, business owners, trainers, directors, administrators, therapists, parents – are all leaders of change. To quote Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The early childhood community rises to that challenge every day through the work we do. Each of us chose this profession from a deeply rooted place of love and devotion to bettering the lives of children and families. We, as educators, embody acceptance and model and teach peace in our daily interactions with children and families. This is our greatest strength. We hold hearts and minds in our hands in our daily work. We teach through a lens of understanding and love. We must now use that strength to amplify our power to make change.
It is because of our remarkable strength for love that we have a unique opportunity and obligation to advance equity through education, leadership, and our daily conversations. It is our duty to prepare children to contribute to a society that is expressly anti-racist, to have the will and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions.*
In our classrooms, workplaces, and communities, every interaction is an opportunity for learning and growth. All of us must learn to listen, be willing to hear what we have failed to hear in the past, whether consciously or unconsciously. We must engage our friends, families, and co-workers and have difficult conversations that push us out of our comfort zones; we must call out and work to dismantle systems of bias that accord privilege to some and are unjust to others.
GAEYC is at a turning point. As advocates, GAEYC commits to relentlessly work together to create communities where each and every child, family, and educator can thrive. We do this by continually educating ourselves, reflecting on our own actions, seeking and sharing knowledge through thoughtful leadership. Let us challenge ourselves as a field to lead wherever we are and whatever we do through small and big actions. As we move forward, never doubt for a moment that our commitment to the work we do, our time and energy, is a meaningful investment in our future – one where bias and discrimination no longer exist.
This statement was written by GAEYC President Jennifer Cluley, Past-President Katy Gregg, Vice President for Public Policy and Information Awareness Michelle Jackson, Public Policy Chair Jessica Woltjen, and Affiliate Director Jaime Dice Moore, June 2, 2020.