Bank Street Infancy Institute Explores Racial Consciousness and Social Justice

This March, Bank Street Graduate School of Education hosted the Infancy Institute, an annual conference for educators, caregivers, child care professionals, and others to explore new developments in early childhood research and strengthen their practice with tools for supporting young children and their families.

This year, the virtual conference focused on “Racial Consciousness and Social Justice” and welcomed Ijumaa Jordan, Anti-Bias Early Childhood Consultant, as the keynote speaker. In her talk titled “Baby Loves Themself Sooo Much! Supporting Infants’ and Toddlers’ Positive Racial Identity Development,” Jordan discussed ways educators and other adults can support and guide positive racial identity development in our youngest children.

“The books and materials are not going to change systemic racism. It’s the relationships you form and how you integrate the ideas into your everyday work,” said Jordan. “Stand up for infants and toddlers in this important work. We need to be part of the conversations about race and racism, the policies, and practices.”

After her inspiring presentation, Jordan led a question-and-answer session to offer attendees an opportunity to further explore how our interactions and the environments we provide can foster positive racial identity development in infants and toddlers.

In the featured presentation titled “Reflections for a Better Tomorrow: Engaging in Equity and Social Justice,” José Velilla, Executive Director, Bloomingdale Family Program, reflected on his own experiences—and those of the children and families in the program—during this challenging year amid the pandemic, politics, and discrimination. Velilla explored possibilities for moving toward equity and social justice and encouraged people to drive change by engaging in actions that support these goals.

“Equality through the lens of equity is important to learn at such a young age. We cannot teach fairness, but we can give [children] opportunities to experience fairness,” said Velilla. “In 2021, we will need to focus on four words: connection, alignment, breakthrough, and change.”

Several workshops were held throughout the two-day conference, which featured presentations led by early childhood development experts, including Bank Street faculty and staff. Attendees were able to join two workshops of their choice on each day, such as “Conversaciones y interacciones con estudiantes de doble idioma durante el día,” “Equitable Compensation for the Early Childhood Workforce: Within Reach and Worth the Investment,” and “Was Rosa Just Tired? Reframing Stories of Black Resistance in Early Childhood Settings,” among others.

On both days, the conference began with morning calm sessions to provide time for attendees to set an intention for the day, be in community, and prepare for a full day of learning.

“It is imperative that we engage in the daily work around racial awareness and social justice as our country continues to experience violence that is driven by White supremacy, racism, xenophobia, and hate,” said Margie Brickley, GSE ’89, Supervised Fieldwork Advisor & Course Instructor, Bank Street Graduate School of Education. “We are grateful for our speakers and workshop leaders for creating space for these conversations to happen in the early childhood community.”

“For over 30 years, Bank Street’s Infancy Institute has helped to educate thousands of infant/toddler specialists working across a variety of settings,” said Allison Tom-Yunger, GSE ’12, Supervised Fieldwork Advisor & Course Instructor, Bank Street Graduate School of Education. “We are proud to facilitate this annual conference and convene the educators of our youngest learners around important topics in early care and education.”

To learn more about the Infancy Institute, visit graduate.bankstreet.edu/infancy-institute. For a full list of workshops and presenters, click here.