By Liam Arnade-Colwill, All Our Kin intern
“One hour, once a month, for one year, ask yourself: what can I do to help myself and my community?” -Alika Hope, founder of the Ray of Hope Project
Our 13th Annual Conference marked the largest gathering in All Our Kin’s history, bringing together over 250 family child care providers and forty staff members for a day of networking, learning, reflection, and celebration. The conference was held on Saturday, June 2nd at the University of Bridgeport, where family child care professionals from across Connecticut were joined, for the first time, by providers from our newest network in New York City!
The theme of this year’s conference, The Power of Community, encouraged providers, who are leaders in their programs and their communities, to create change through collective action. In line with this theme, the morning began with a keynote speech from T. Morgan Dixon, a social justice activist and co-founder of GirlTrek: a national health movement that “activates thousands of black women to be change makers in their lives and communities” through daily exercise. Reflecting on the importance of mental and physical wellbeing to sustained investment in the wellbeing of others, Dixon asked providers to support each other in their efforts to lead healthier lives. “I’m here to talk about radical self-care,” she said, “because I want you all to be here for a very long time. Because the kids need you.”
In addition to underscoring how Girltrek brings communities together to spotlight Black women’s health, Dixon built on the energy, approach, and legacy of the civil rights movement to demonstrate how community is a driving force in advancing social justice. Drawing on the example of nineteenth-century abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who led thousands of African-Americans to freedom on the Underground Railroad, Dixon reminded the audience that “when Black women walk, things change.” Furthermore, Dixon highlighted how Tubman not only had to “save herself first,” but also “rally her allies” in the fight for freedom from slavery. The message was clear: we must rely not just on our own strength, but also the collective strength of many if we hope to better our health, our country, and our global community.
Following the keynote, Constance Segovia, the owner and creative director of VEO VEO – a bilingual design and visual note-taking practice – and Alike Hope, the founder and primary vocalist of the Ray of Hope Project – a performance group that incorporates African-American spirituals and songs with live music into their participatory programs in schools, museums, and libraries across the US – facilitated roundtable discussions. The discussions opened space for providers to reflect on the meaning of community and to connect with each other in new and exciting ways. Providers were asked to communicate without words, creating visual demonstrations of the diversity and power of our family child care network while sharing moments of laughter, friendship, and understanding.
After lunch, family child care providers participated in a variety of interactive workshops, from Why Culture Matters: Strengthening Early Development Through Culturally Responsive Practice to A Community within a Community: Strategies for Successful and Supportive Parent-Provider Relationships. The workshops were led by instructors with expertise in both early childhood education and adult learning. Several of these instructors were All Our Kin staff members, while others were family child care providers in the All Our Kin network, bringing their firsthand experience creating high-quality learning opportunities for children in home-based settings.
At the end of the day, conference participants left with much more than professional development; they departed with a vision of caregiving centered in balance, wellness, community, and love. As All Our Kin continues to grow, the power of our family child care community will grow in turn. We look forward to seeing the continued impact of our family child care providers as they work, year after year, to create equitable opportunities for all children and families. As All Our Kin CEO, Jessica Sager, said in her morning address, “Thank you for changing the world of today and the world of tomorrow.”
Our sincerest gratitude to All Our Kin’s Dana Holahan and Kim Braun, without whom the conference would not have been possible. Thank you as well to the University of Bridgeport for hosting the conference, family child care providers Pauline Robinson-Brown (Laila’s Lighthouse Daycare), Maria Carrillo (Pili’s Day Care), Gamila Elbashir (WeEduCare Academy), and Hansi Ortiz (Shalom Family Day Care) for their workshop leadership, and to the volunteers, stakeholders, and friends who helped along the way.