Black Child and Family Advocates, a Reflection

Aubrey Edwards-Luce, CFCC Executive Director

by: Aubrey Edwards-Luce

This Black History Month, I am reflecting on the contributions, achievements, and inspiration of Black child and family advocates. Lately, I’ve been remembering Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune for her tireless leadership to advance the safety and wellbeing of Black youth – locally, nationally and internationally. She embodied a holistic concern for Black children, working to protect them from lynching in the Jim Crow South and liberate their minds and souls through education. I feel a specific reverence for Dr. Bethune because her service and advocacy for children and families intersects with the vision that I have for CFCC. 

Headshot of Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune African American women posed with hear pulled back wearing dark top with double string of white pearls.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Dr. Bethune, who is known as one of the co-founders of the United Negro College Fund, overcame obstacles to child and family wellbeing by speaking her truth and rolling up her sleeves. When she saw a dearth of educational opportunities for Black girls in the early 20th century, she founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training Institute for Negro Girls. This school went on to become Bethune-Cookman College. When she noticed that her community’s health was suffering, she started a hospital and training school for nurses that were accessible to Black women. Dr. Bethune also used her voice and political influence to advance civil rights and equal opportunities for Black people. After receiving a presidential appointment  to the National Youth Administration (NYA) in 1936, Dr. Bethune became the NYA’s the Director of Negro Affairs just three years later, where she worked to ensure that Black youth had access to the organization’s work relief programs.

I’m very proud to work for an organization that follows Dr. Bethune’s example of liberatory and holistic advocacy for children and families. While the name of the program is new, CFCC’s Tackling Chronic Absenteeism Project (TCAP) has nearly two decades of experience of equipping children (and their families) to overcome personal and systemic barriers to their academic success. When TCAP students or their families identify a challenge to their school attendance or wellbeing, our team rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. Sometimes that looks like helping families apply to public benefits. Other times it looks like tutoring a child and her siblings, or supplying a family with a bag of groceries to help them get through a rough time.

Ruby Bridges with an escort of US deputy marshals leaves school in November 1930. Photograph: anonymous/AP

Another Black youth advocate that my family and I are learning more about this month is Ruby Bridges. Ms. Bridges was just 6 years-old when she integrated an all-White elementary school in New Orleans. In the face of angry White mobs, Ms. Bridges tore down walls with her presence and her pursuit of her education. The  bravery, determination, and sacrifice of Ms. Bridges and parents have inspired me and my family to never let fear or hate turn us around from our dreams of freedom and peace.

At CFCC we are using our voice to expand justice for Black children and all children. I am looking forward to expanding CFCC’s policy advocacy capacity so that we can work alongside children, parents and families to amplify their perspectives and opinions on the issues that matter most to them and their wellbeing. Currently, I am preparing testimony on a Maryland bill that would forbid schools from disciplining students that use reasonable force to protect themselves on school grounds and during school events. CFCC’s position on the bill is informed by the perspectives that TCAP students shared during the restorative circles we conducted at their schools. I hope that CFCC’s approach to policy advocacy will help TCAP students and their families see the power of their perspectives and be equipped to make their voices heard boldly, like Ms. Bridges and Dr. Bethune.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *