By Margie Brickley, MSEd, IMHE® IV

The 2021 Bank Street Infancy Institute, “Racial Consciousness and Social Justice”, was held on March 19th and 20th using a virtual format which allowed the 300 participants to join from all over the country. The keynote speaker was Ijumaa Jordan, an early childhood consultant, and the topic was positive racial identity for infants, toddlers and twos. She started by debunking developmental myths about race, racism and babies. Ijumaa told attendees that silence teaches fear, robs children of the vocabulary to ask about race and racism and forces children to find the information on their own. She asked us to consider how we affirm a child’s positive racial identity through words and actions — what messages are we sending and how are we speaking about our own racial identity?

Each day began with “morning calm” opening sessions to prepare participants for a day of learning. Workshop topics included infant mental health, curriculum, early intervention, children’s literature, development, racism, and advocacy. Several of the workshops were presented in Spanish and all of the recordings can be translated. The featured presentation was by José Velilla, Executive Director of the Bloomingdale Family Center in NYC. José was chosen because of the exceptional support Bloomingdale has provided to their families and staff during the pandemic. He reminded us that “technology needs to be the support and not the replacement for contact.”

Early feedback from the participants included, “The Infancy Institute was inspiring…I enjoy meeting educators that are in the same field…I appreciate the acknowledgement of such a unique and important age group.”