Black Babies Awareness Month campaign shines a spotlight on the health and wellbeing of Black children

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, founder, Equity Research Action Coalition

Campaign highlights national policy agenda and research exploring long-standing inequities and the effects of COVID-19; national Twitter discussion set for this week

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Nov. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Black Babies Awareness Month, a campaign to promote and center the needs of Black infants and toddlers, is well underway and driving much-needed public awareness as the holiday season fast approaches. The initiative is timed to coincide with the earlier release of the first-ever Black Child National Agenda.

Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, founder, Equity Research Action Coalition (PRNewsfoto/Equity Research Action Coalition)

Led by the Equity Research Action Coalition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the new campaign calls for protecting, promoting and preserving the wellbeing of Black families and babies. There are 11.5 million Black babies in the United States. Over 60 percent of Black babies live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is more than double the rate for White babies (29 percent).

The Equity Research Action Coalition unveiled the Black Child National Agenda, an ambitious plan that calls for concerted actions to dismantle structural racism and systemic inequities that have negative effects on Black children’s school and life success. The agenda was co-developed with research and child development experts from the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and POINTS of ACCESS, LLC.

The agenda asserts that Black families are better supported when there is a strategic focus on designing systems, and implementing programs and interventions which build upon the cultural assets and strengths of Black families. It calls for promoting Black children and their families’ economic security, health and access to quality early learning opportunities, while also preserving their cultural identity and heritage.

Black families and babies experience multiple adversities prior to, and after birth, but the cultural wealth of Black families has proven to be transformative in navigating against structural racism and other negative experiences. The Black Babies Awareness Month campaign will include an open virtual roundtable with key experts who’ll share recent research, the national policy agenda for Black children, a social media toolkit and calls-to-action for the public to get involved.

This Wednesday, November 17th beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET, the public is invited to join the Equity Research Action Coalition for the Twitter chat, “Black Babies Awareness Month: Centering a Black Child National Agenda,” where they’ll hear from Equity Research Action Coalition Founder Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka, National Black Child Development Institute CEO and President Dr. Leah Austin and Cheri Reaves, Principal Consultant and Executive Director, POINTS of ACCESS® LLC, a social innovation agency. The group of subject matter experts will engage in a strengths-based conversation that lifts up Black babies, their brilliance and cultural assets.

Additional speakers on the program include: Dr. Bisa Batten Lewis, President, Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) -Atlanta; Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, Sc.D., Associate Professor, Boston University School of Medicine/ Boston Medical Center; Cassandra Johnson, Affiliate President, Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) -Denver; Chrishana Lloyd, Senior Research Scientist, Child Trends and Joy Spencer, Executive Director, Equity Before Birth. Follow @iheomairuka to tune in and join the conversation live on Twitter Spaces.

“For every parent, our precious Black babies are our pride and joy and they are more than deserving of the warm, safe and nurturing caregiving that will contribute to their health and long-term brain development,” states Equity Research Action Coalition Founder Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka. “We hope that Black Babies Awareness Month and the National Black Child Agenda together will build national public awareness around the issues that impact them the most, and lead to a concerted push for inclusive policies that will improve their life outcomes.”

“When you think about it, our children exist in a duality of ‘the land of opportunity,’ and ‘the home of racism and debilitating inequities,'” said NBCDI CEO and President Dr. Leah Austin. “This ground-breaking agenda reflects a post-2020 America, and serves as a launchpad for empowering advocates and communities everywhere to better serve the needs of the 21st century Black child,” she continued.

The resource identifies ten pressing policies of focus such as child tax credits, universal access to early childhood education and culturally responsive training.

Ten Policies of the National Black Child Agenda:

Maintain child tax credits and income supports

Address racial disparities in wages and career advancement opportunities

Invest in Black-owned and Black-led businesses, organizations and institutions

Expand the Family and Medical Leave Act

Expand health insurance

Expand universal access to early care and education

Address harsh discipline practices

Ensure equity in early intervention and special education

Ensure culturally responsive curriculum and practices through workforce development and training

Pass reparations

Research on Black Babies and Families:

The Equity Research Action Coalition also recently released the report “Black Parents and Their Babies: Attending to the First 1,000 Days.” The research explores quality of life, racial trauma and socio-economic issues in greater detail. It includes first-hand accounts and action items from Black families. The report surveyed Black parents on a weekly basis from May through December of 2020, and incorporates data from the RAPID-EC project at the University of Oregon. The report provides three essential recommendations:

Protecting Black babies and their families from racism, discrimination and material hardship is necessary to ensure babies thrive throughout their life course 

Promoting economic security, health and access to early learning opportunities is essential to mitigate against the biological and social vulnerability Black babies and their families face due to racism, discrimination and bias 

Preserving Black babies’ cultural identities in the early years is as essential as the “three Rs” of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic

To read the full report and learn more about Black Babies Awareness Month, visit the Equity Research Action Coalition’s website.

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