Founder and Director, Little Sun People, Inc.
Fela Barclift founded Little Sun People, Inc. (LSP), a community child care center 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. Barclift also served as one the first teachers at Uhuru Sasa Shule (Freedom Now School).
Takiema Bunche-Smith, GSE ’97, Moderator
Deputy Director, Bank Street Center on Culture, Race & Equity
Takiema Bunche-Smith is the deputy director of Bank Street’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity. Bunche-Smith 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 has the power to change people and systems for the better. Bunche-Smith holds master’s degrees from Bank Street College of Education and NYU Wagner School for Public Service.
Social Entrepreneur and Founder, Barbershop Books
Alvin Irby is a former kindergarten teacher and award-winning social entrepreneur, national speaker, comedian, and author. As the founder of Barbershop Books, a literacy program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers, he won the National Book Foundation’s 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize. Irby also works with school districts, library systems, and non-profits to provide cultural competency training. Irby has an MS in General Childhood Education from Bank Street Graduate School of Education, an MPA from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, and a BA in Sociology from Grinnell College.
Social Entrepreneur Founder, Equitable Schools, Inc.
Akiea Gross is an educator, writer, and social entrepreneur who believes that every child is entitled to a racially and culturally equitable education. She founded Equitable Schools, Inc., an education-based non-profit working to close the opportunity gap through strategies that address racial and cultural inequities in schools. Akiea also launched #blackteachersmatter and Woke Kindergarten, a curated brand of teacher tips, resources, and content for the early childhood classroom. Akiea holds an MA in Childhood Education/Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an MS in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina at 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. Sangodele-Ayoka 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.