What I learned at 2020 Kids

Child advocates connect & build power for racially equitable public policies

By: La-Mine Perkins | August 2020

Post Author

2020 has brought record numbers of people to the streets, from small towns to big cities, to protest and demand racial justice after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Meanwhile Black and brown communities are being ravaged by our nation’s ineffective response to COVID-19. NC Child, along with our partners, started planning 2020 Kids in 2019, as a policy summit and statewide conversation about how we can change the odds for children of color and their families. At the time we had little idea of what was in store for all of us in this momentous, tragic, painful, hopeful year. 

As child advocates, we are seeking transformative change for children and families. But we won’t see those changes until the people who are directly impacted by policies are leading conversations on the solutions. I was humbled that hundreds of child advocates from across the state joined 2020 Kids and brought their experiences to this exciting work. I want to share two of my biggest take-aways from the event.

Language Matters

First, our keynote speaker, Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, left a huge impact on me, and on many others. Dr. Jones-Taylor is Chief Policy Officer at ZERO TO THREE, and has a long career in early childhood. One of the things she challenged us to do is to change the language we use to talk about the children and families we serve. She pinpointed the overused catch-all terms “vulnerable” and “at-risk.” Check out this video clip from her powerful keynote speech.

At NC Child many of us quickly started using this powerful phrase, “families furthest from opportunity,” to better describe kids and families who are facing barriers like racial bias, chronic poverty, lack of child care, over-policing, and more. Families who are over-burdened and under-resourced: OUR families. OUR children. 

Get Out the Vote

Second, I was really struck by how important it is for us as non-profits and trusted voices in the community to find concrete, tangible ways to make good on our commitments to equity. One of the most important right now is helping the families we serve exercise their right to vote. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, yet it has been so often denied to people of color in our nation’s history. 

My coworker J’vaneté Skiba and a group of powerful voting rights advocates gave a fantastic session on what nonprofits can do right now to help people make good on the right to vote. She was joined by Marcus Bass of Advance Carolina, and Cheryl Ellis of Democracy NC. You can watch their full presentation here:

J’vaneté will be leading a training for members of our Child Advocacy Network on September 8th for organizations who want to do more voter engagement work this fall. You can be a part of this – sign up now

Many thanks to all the presenters and attendees who made 2020 Kids such a timely and powerful event. Thanks also to our sponsor, Essentials for Childhood, whose support made it free for everyone to attend. I hope that these conversations continue well beyond 2020, as we continue to come together to better advocate for racial justice, and for all OUR kids in North Carolina.