February is Black History Month. Recognizing Black History Month is a practice that is meant to exercise dissent and combat dominant societal narratives that harm the Black community and society at large. The ways in which we engage with people, resources, and education this month reflect an ongoing commitment to build a better world. The acknowledgement of Black History Month provides both an opportunity for celebrating Black histories and for working towards collective liberation and anti-racism in society.
As early childhood educators and as a community, the AECEO continues to invite you to learn and unlearn alongside us, during Black History Month and beyond. Check out our social media throughout the month of February, where we will share resources we found helpful in our own learning processes and that we hope will support you in yours. Resources will include suggested readings, videos and local events for all ages in different regions of the province. We encourage you to check them out and share them with your community.
We must also recognize, amplify and celebrate Black educators and advocates who have used their skills and talents to promote the inclusion and growth of all children in the past through present day. Over the next month, we will highlight Black ECE History Makers by sharing their stories and information about their work.
Celebrating Black ECE History Makers
“This is intentionally a safe space to belong and build relationships. It’s important for people to feel like they have a voice. This is the one time maybe, where I can say things and the folks that are here will hear me.”
Tonja, on why she is a co-lead of the CoBECEs
Tonja Armstrong-McInnis, RECE, is one of the co-leads of the Community of Black ECEs, an AECEO Community of Practice connecting Black ECEs to address Anti-Black Racism in Early Childhood Education & support each other.
Check out the CoP page to learn more about AECEO Communities of Practice.
Dorothy Pitman Hughes
“The power of change lies within each of us. We just have to be brave enough to use it”
Dorothy Pitman Hughes
Dorothy Pitman Hughes (1938-2022) was a transformative community organizer in New York City in the 1970s who fought for causes such as child welfare, accessible child care, housing and more. After leaving rural Georgia in the 1950s, she moved to New York, determined to fight for civil rights and equality. Hughes became a powerhouse activist, responding to the needs of her community, by actively engaging its members and building a platform for their empowerment. Throughout every phase of her life, Dorothy Pitman Hughes understood the transformative power of activism for Black communities.
Hughes created a high-quality childcare centre that also offered job training, adult education, housing assistance, food resources and more. We encourage you to read When a Childcare Center Became a Political Movement, an interview with writer Laura L. Lovett who wrote the biography With Her Fist Raised - Dorothy Pitman Hughes And The Transformative Power of Black Community Activism, released in 2021. You can also learn more about the West 80th Street Community Child Day Care Center and Dorothy Pitman Hughes's work in this New York Times article.
“It is imperative that every nation invests in the people who build the nation. Early childhood educators build our nation everyday when they go to work by laying the foundation of learning for children and deserve more respect. I just want to be able to look back in the future and see that every early childhood professional is motivated to go to work everyday and can afford a decent life just like other professionals.”
Joy Adeola, RECE
Joy Adeola is a Registered Early Childhood Educator who is currently a member-at-large of the AECEO Board of Directors and serves on the executive team for CUPE 2484. Joy is an active advocate for children and the early learning professionals who care for them, using her voice to draw attention to the ECE workforce crisis with the media and government. Learn more about Joy's advocacy - check out CUPE 2484's Raising The Floor Campaign.
“Violence is Black children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years worth of education.”
Julian Bond, on the systemic inequities within the American educational system
Julian Bond (1940-2015) was a U.S. legislator, social activist, civil rights leader, professor and writer. Bond led student protests against segregation in Georgia and was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Julian Bond was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, being one of the first African American civil rights leaders of his generation to argue that LGBTQ+ rights were civil rights. He also served as chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1998 to 2010. Learn more about Julian Bond on this article written by Jeanne Theoharis, What Julian Bond Taught Me.
"I am here to empower the ECE community to rediscover their passion and purpose. I know I’m impacting the entire community, especially children, when I support ECE professionals. Having walked in their shoes, I aim to affirm that early educators are indispensable members of our society, worthy of both respect and support.”
Anisha Angella, RECE
Anisha Angella is an entrepreneur, author, Registered Early Childhood Educator (RECE), and ECE leadership coach on a mission to elevate and empower the ECE community, one professional at a time. Anisha achieves this by supporting ECE educators, leaders, owners, and parents through coaching, advocacy, and collaborative workshops. In 2020, Anisha published her first children's book. Zoey Has An Allergy celebrates kids with allergies, giving them courage to be themselves and the confidence to speak up for their safety. You can learn more about Anisha and her work to empower educators and ECE leaders on The Early Childhood Coach.
“When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.”
Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was an award-winning American novelist, editor and professor whose work focused on the Black American experience and addressing the consequences of racism in the United States. Throughout the years, her novels have been challenged (and even banned) by schools and libraries due to their honest exposition of racism, violence, and sexism. She was outspoken in her fight against censorship and advocated for libraries and open access to literature. Morrison was the first Black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. To learn more about Toni Morrison, we encourage you to watch this clip of her talking about loving and caring for children on Oprah Winfrey's show in 2000 and read Toni Morrison: American literary giant made it her life’s work to ensure that black lives (and voices) matter, published on The Conversation in 2019.
“I keep asking questions. I'm always asking questions. I will continue to ask why we have such dynamics of power in the system, why there's so much anti-Black racism in the sector. Advocacy, for me, is a way of life. It’s how I show up. It's how I inspire other people who look like me to show up and encourage them to speak up for the things that matter to them.”
Adebola Adefioye, RECE
Adebola Adefioye is a Registered Early Childhood Educator, Child and Youth Care Professional, ECE professor, and the executive director at Afro Women and Youth Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides leadership, empowerment, and mentorship programs to Newcomers, Black Women and Youth. Adebola founded AWYF after her daughter's experience of racism as a newcomer to Canada
Adebola has won many awards, including the 2021 Ontario Premier's Award, United Way Greater Toronto Black Leadership Award, Seneca HELIX Female Entrepreneur Award, YWCA Sudbury Woman of Distinction Award in the social justice category, the 2022 Black Faculty & Staff Community Network Award for Student Leadership and Catherine Howe Memorial Award at Toronto Metropolitan University.
Adebola leads Creating an Anti-Racist Child Care System in Ontario, a Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) funded project, at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. She co-leads the AECEO Community of Practice in Sudbury and is currently a PhD candidate in Policy Studies with a focus on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at TMU. Learn more about Adebola on her website!
“I was getting frustrated with the fact that things weren’t changing fast enough. Instead of criticizing, I decided it was time to get more involved. It was time to put up or shut up.”
Zanana Akande is a former politician from Toronto. She was the first Black woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and the first Black woman to serve as a cabinet minister in Canada. While serving as Minister of Community and Social Services, Akande presided over the increase of welfare benefits and raised the social assistance rate. She later created the jobsOntario Youth Program, while serving as premier Bob Rae's parliamentary assistant.
Outside of politics, she worked as a teacher and a school principal for the Toronto District School Board and was a longtime member of the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario. Akande was a co-founder of Tiger Lily, a newspaper for visible minority women.