Black Lives Matter at School Week Early Childhood Symposium
From Theory to Practice in Early Education:
Black Children Learning and Thriving
On February 6, 2019, Bank Street College hosted an in-depth dialogue on supporting equity and the early education of Black children as part of Black Lives Matter at School Week. This event, which includes a two-part panel discussion, represents Bank Street’s commitment to building a better society by acknowledging the work that needs to be done around equity for Black children and families.
About the 2019 Symposium
Schedule of From Theory to Practice in Early Education: Black Children Learning and Thriving
Black Children Learning Panel Discussion
4:00 PM – Welcome and Introductions
4:15 PM – Presentations by Panelists
4:45 PM – Moderated Dialogue
5:15 PM – Audience Q&A
5:45 PM – Closing Remarks and Call to Action
6:00 PM – Refreshments and Vegan Hors D’oeuvres
Black Children Thriving Panel Discussion
6:45 PM –Presentations by Panelists
7:15 PM –Moderated Dialogue
7:45 PM –Audience Q&A
8:15 PM – Closing Remarks and Call to Action
Opening Remarks & Educator of Ceremonies
Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, Opening Remarks
President, Bank Street College
Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, is a graduate of Bank Street’s Principals Institute and the first alumnus to serve as president of the College. Under his leadership, Bank Street is building new models for teacher education, expanding its work with public schools and child care centers, and focusing on translating innovative education practices into policies that work at scale.
Prior to this role, Shael was the second-in-command at the New York City Department of Education, serving as Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor. In the nation’s largest school system, Shael oversaw teaching and learning across more than 1,600 district schools. In this role, he was a strong advocate for teacher and principal autonomy, balanced accountability, and reforms designed to improve learning experiences for the most vulnerable students.
Earlier in his career, Shael worked as a teacher and as the founding principal of Bronx International High School. He holds a BA from Brown University, where Ted Sizer was his mentor, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Bank Street.
Gloria Rosario-Wallace, GSE ’06, Educator of Ceremonies
Senior Director, Office of Equity and Access
Gloria Rosario Wallace, GSE ’06, is a Senior Director on the Race and Equity team in the Office of Equity and Access in the Division for School Climate and Wellness. The purpose of this team is to provide tiered support to districts in order to create a more equitable and just school experience for all students, especially students from marginalized communities. This work is grounded in the research and framework of Dr. Glenn E. Singleton and Dr. Edward Fergus and empowers principals and superintendents to use data in meaningful and honest ways as a means to interrupt and dismantle systems of oppression.
Speaker Bios: Black Children Learning Panel
Dr. Robin Hancock, Moderator
Director, Bank Street’s Guttman Center for Early Care & Education
Dr. Robin Hancock joined Bank Street as Director of the Guttman Center for Early Care & Education in Fall 2016. She is an early education specialist committed to community organizing and strengthening the work of other educators. Robin began her career as a teacher and, after completing an MA in Social Anthropology at Brandeis University, she began to engage in social justice work with a focus on literacy programs and studentteacher professional development. In 2015, she completed a doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching with a concentration in Early Childhood Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
David A. Jones
Filmmaker/Author/Program Specialist, Office of Head Start
David A. Jones, LMSW, is an author and filmmaker whose recent film, Fathering Me: The Long Walk Home, explores the path many men take in the absence of biological fathers or positive male role models. David is the former director of family support services for the Children and Family Services Division at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Home Care, where he helped implement its Early Head Start program and launched the Bronx Fatherhood Program. In 2011, he joined the National Office of Children and Family Services and the Office of Head Start as Director of their Fatherhood Program. David is married and the father of four sons. He received his BFA from Five Towns College
Isoke Titilayo Nia
Isoke Titilayo Nia has been an educator for the past 38 years. She began her teaching life in independent schools for children of African descent, such as Uhuru Sasa and Zidi Kuwa. Later, she joined the New York City public school system as a Literacy Staff Developer in Brooklyn’s District 17, which prepared her for her position as Director of Research and Development for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In September of 2001, Isoke founded All Write Literacy Consultants, Inc. and, as its director, she travels throughout the United States and as far as Senegal to teach, learn, and share that learning with other child caretakers and literacy instructors. Isoke serves in several traditional African organizations and finds time to write poetry, prayer, and short stories. She is currently writing a book tentatively called Digging Deep: The Study of Genre in the Process Classroom as well as a memoir entitled, Where’s Mother?
Content Developer and Facilitator, Bank Street’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity
Maimuna Mohammed is an early childhood content developer and facilitator at Bank Street’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity. Before immigrating to the United States, she taught in Africa for several years. Maimuna is an active alumna of the City College of New York Center for Worker Education and a founding member of its mentoring initiative. Maimuna has been working as an early childhood educator in community-based programs in New York City for more than 22 years. She is working toward her master’s degree in early childhood leadership at Bank Street’s Principals Institute.
Anthony Tucker, GSE ’18
Assistant Principal and AuthorAnthony Tucker, GSE ’18, is an author and public school pre-K assistant principal who teaches and writes in the South Bronx. His first book, A Rocky Start, won the 2017 Purple Dragonfly Book Award and was a finalist for the 2018 International Book Award. His second book, Tied In, was just released. Through his work as an educator as well as a former high school basketball and volleyball coach, Anthony encourages students from under-resourced neighborhoods to pursue their education with passion, commitment, and a higher sense of self-confidence.
Speaker Bios: Black Children Thriving Panel
Fela Barclift, GSE ’02
Founder and Director, Little Sun People, Inc.
Fela Barclift, GSE ’02, founded Little Sun People, Inc. (LSP), a community-based preschool that provides premier preschool and after school services in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. For almost 40 years, her mission at LSP has been to educate children in their most formative years about the history and culture of all people of color with a particular emphasis on people of African ancestry in order to create a sense of pride, identity, purpose, and achievement. Fela also served as one the first teachers at Uhuru Sasa Shule (Freedom Now School). She holds an undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street.
Takiema Bunche-Smith, GSE ’97, Moderator
Deputy Director, Bank Street’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity
Takiema Bunche-Smith, GSE ’97, is the deputy director of Bank Street’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity. Takiema worked as a preschool and elementary teacher and has served in various early childhood education management positions in support of young children and families in New York City. Her work has been guided by a deep commitment to racial equity, social justice, and a belief that collaboration and reflection have the power to change people and systems for the better. Takiema holds master’s degrees from Bank Street and from NYU Wagner School for Public Service.
Alvin Irby, GSE ’09
Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer
Alvin Irby, GSE ’09, is a former kindergarten teacher turned award-winning social entrepreneur, comedian, and author. As Founder and Chief Reading Inspirer at Barbershop Books and winner of the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize, Alvin creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers. Alvin also provides nationally recognized cultural competency training and keynotes to school districts, library systems, and nonprofits. His TED Talk, “Inspiring every child to be a life-long reader,” has been viewed over one million times. Alvin’s debut children’s book, Gross Greg, combines his passion for early literacy and humor. Alvin holds an MS in General Childhood Education from Bank Street, an MPA from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, and a BA in Sociology from Grinnell College.
Social Entrepreneur Founder, Equitable Schools, Inc.
Akiea Gross is a former instructional coach, early childhood educator, and creative entrepreneur who believes in designing a more inclusive, equitable, and empathy-driven world through education, music, and the arts. Akiea’s experiences as a Black teacher led her to create #BlackTeachersMatter and found Equitable Schools, Inc., a nonprofit on a mission to empower the community to improve equity in schools. She is currently the creator and producer of the womxn of color and QTPOC focused intimate concert series Sisters Unsigned and recently launched her own education consulting arm, Woke Kindergarten. She holds an MA in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College-Columbia University and an MS in Childhood Education Special Education from the Progressive Education Institute. She received her undergraduate degrees in Child Development and Family Studies and Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Consultant and Nurse-Midwife
Anayah Sangodele-Ayoka, CNM, MSN, MSEd, is a nurse-midwife and innovative culture worker leveraging digital media to impact health and parenting. In addition to clinical work at an independent birth center, she also writes, speaks, and consults on the use of social media to build community and leverage it for social change. Anayah is a co-founder of Black Breastfeeding Week, co-editor of Free to Breastfeed: Voices of Black Mothers, and a program associate with momsrising.org. She graduated from Yale University and Vassar College and is a wife and mother to two boys.
About Black Lives Matter at Schools Week
The right to an equitable education for Black children in the United States continues to be stifled by a number of factors including implicit bias, lack of equitable funding, and disproportionate suspension of Black students, even as young as four years old. Very young Black children and their families are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of educational inequities as they are at the foundational stages of their educational lives.
In October 2016 in Seattle, 300 educators entered their school buildings wearing shirts stating “Black Lives Matter, We Stand Together.” On that day, the bravery, care, and love these educators demonstrated for the Black children they were charged to educate set the stage for the first Black Lives Matter at School Week in February of 2018.
The demands for this week of action were, and continue to be:
- End zero tolerance discipline and implement restorative justice;
- Hire more Black teachers;
- Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum; and
- Fund counselors, not cops.
During the week of February 4–8, 2019, schools across the country recognized Black Lives Matter at School Week through dialogue, curricula, and community events dedicated to exploring structural racism, intersectional Black identities and Black history, and the theories, practices, and policies that promote equity and support Black children thriving.
Join the Conversation on Social
We encourage you to join us on social media to start a larger conversation about equity and access for Black children in education. Follow Bank Street College at @bankstreetedu and our Center on Culture, Race & Equity at @ccre_bsc and use the following hashtags:
Video Footage of Panelist Speeches
Support Bank Street's Center on Culture, Race & Equity
Make a gift today to the Center on Culture, Race & Equity (CCRE) and join Bank Street’s efforts to support inclusive learning communities and a just and democratic society for all. CCRE collaborates with practitioners and communities across the country to help build a culturally responsive, strengths-based approach to teaching and learning to address implicit bias and help transform school culture.