Early Childhood Education

Black Caucus (NAEYC)

 

The Black Caucus of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) was founded in 1969 during an NAEYC national conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upon arrival, blacks and other people of color were openly discouraged from attending not only the conference, but also the opening session held at the Mormon Tabernacle. Four Black Board members—Evangeline Ward, the NAEYC president, Ira Gibbons, Canary Girardeau, and Carrie Cheek— approached J. D. Andrews, an NAEYC staff member, to help organize a meeting to discuss the present situation and how blacks could become more active and prominent within the organization, giving them a chance to influence decisions and make policy through the conference and throughout NAEYC’s vast affiliate network.

As a result, the conference format was reorganized into committee meetings designed to discuss the treatment of citizens of color in this country who were working in the early childhood education field. NAEYC also decided that it would never again hold its conference in a city where people of color experienced such blatant discrimination, and the Black Caucus was officially formed. According to someone who attended the seminar, the Salt Lake City conference was a turning point for NAEYC to break away from its past of exclusion and begin its efforts to reach out to people of color.

Each year since its founding, the Black Caucus has met during the NAEYC annual conference and has sponsored either an event or meeting open to anyone concerned about the welfare of black children. Because of the commitment that NAEYC staff leaders Marilyn Smith and J. D. Andrews had to diversity within the organization and within the field, the Black Caucus, under their leadership, has had strong support for maintaining its identity. In addition to arranging meeting space during its annual conference, NAEYC has also been receptive to the recommendations the Caucus has made to the association.

Through the years, the Black Caucus has been concerned with issues affecting the status of African American children and African American leaders within the association and in field of early childhood education. Caucus members have weighed in on controversial topics such as Ebonics (the language of the black community), cultural dimensions of developmentally appropriate practices, center accreditation policies, parent involvement, teacher training and professional development, and bilingual education. The Caucus has recruited members to run for Board seats and to serve on major committees within the association. Always vigilant to represent perspectives from the black community, the Black Caucus has held many spirited meetings and each year participants look forward to the opportunity to network and meet new colleagues in the early childhood education field. The Black Caucus has also sponsored powerful and memorable conference sessions focused on the black child, drawing upon such national experts as Drs. Evangeline Ward, Barbara Bowman, Asa Hilliard and Hector Myers, Betty Shabazz, Janice Hale, Evelyn Moore, and Jack Daniel. The Black Caucus has also served as a study and support group for blacks in this field. It has provided not only a community of support to these individuals but has also been responsible for the development of leadership in black educators and members of the organization.

A chairman who is selected by the group and serves for a term averaging from three to five years leads the Black Caucus. Past chairmen have included Canary Girardeau, Carrie Cheek, Barbara Ferguson Kamara, Dwayne A. Crompton, Carol Brunson (Phillips) Day, Gayle Cunningham, Marci Young, and Shyrelle Eubanks.

In 2000, the Black Caucus became known as the NAEYC Black Caucus Interest Group. In addition to holding its annual gathering, the organization has also begun to participate with several other NAEYC interest groups in a celebration of diversity. Beginning in 2002, the Black Caucus Interest Group began presenting a Leadership for Children Award for excellence in serving children and families. Dwayne A. Crompton, Edward M. Greene, Barbara Bowman and Carol Brunson Day are past recipients of the award.

Carol Brunson Day