What Congresswoman Barbara Lee Can Teach Children About Positive Black Self Image: Part 1

One way to achieve educational equity (the elimination of the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status or languages spoken at home) is to utilize a child’s culture as a vehicle for learning. Using children’s culture can lead to positive self-image. By seeing themselves reflected in stories told, books read, and in pictures around the room, they begin to connect with positivity, which influences the way they begin to think about themselves as individuals in their family, and culture.

Father holding young son

Research has shown that young Black children need to see positive images of Blackness reflected to them. From birth to age 5, young children’s brains are growing and developing the capacity for all future learning. Almost 60 years after the famous Kenneth Clark experiment, recent studies show that many Black children still choose white dolls or white images over Black dolls and images when asked which image is “good” or “positive.”

For those responsible for their care, creating environments that are “culturally responsive” is vital. This means that caregivers and educators should see cultural differences as assets rather than deficits. Focusing on differences in children’s cultures can become vehicles for learning for all children, not just Black children.

Making Black History relevant to early childhood educators and caregivers has often involved the use of storytelling-reading books that shine a light on Black historical figures has become the primary tool to teach.

But for a generation of children who are captivated by bright lights and Tik Tok, reading books might seem outmoded.

Young Black children also need to access living history. They should be exposed to living examples of Black people who are helping to create a better, more just, and equitable world. In Part II of this Black History Month series, I share the story of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the highest-ranking African American woman in Congress and a living example of Black history (or Herstory). Stay tuned.

~ Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory

Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory is an SBVP Board Member, former educator, and founder of 7 Cities Speaker series. She writes about culturally responsive strategies for early childhood providers. She is mom to three amazing humans and one furry baby. Email her at sarita@7cities.org. Follow her on Twitter @Sarita_gregory.