I am a white woman who is just a little past middle-aged. I have spent nearly all of my life in the south. I attended junior high school in what was known as the “Black” section of my hometown. In high school, my entire class moved to a newly built school in the same part of town. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. My school had academically gifted classes, just like the other schools. There were students of all races in my classes, and some of the best teachers I have ever known. The newly built high school was architecturally beautiful, featuring a large, open design. We had uniformed security, but there wasn’t any real trouble, just the occasional, typical teenager fight. In my view, it was a regular school. What I didn’t know at the time was the hope for change that brought my new high school to the so-called Black part of town. The hope for equality, equity, and justice for ALL children. The hope that MY generation would be different and lead by example. This new racially integrated school was an effort to bring about change and carried hopes that we would be the agents of change.
While I have fought for change in early education all of my career, today, 45 years after I graduated from high school, it is with a broken heart that I address recent events and reaffirm my commitment to change. Part of my commitment to change is to serve the children of our community. I am proud to be the president at the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. The work we do at the Partnership focuses on advancing child well-being, strengthening the early care and education system in our community, and empowering families. Our founding beliefs are that ALL children receive a sound education, beginning at birth and that families receive the support they need to ensure success. Unfortunately, the data shows that our system continues to fail children who are Black miserably. Black children are at higher risk than their white counterparts, by merely being born Black.
- Infants who are Black are half as likely to reach the age of 3-years old than their white peers.
- More than 13% of infants who are Black are born with low birth weight, as compared to 7% of their white peers.
- The achievement gap has been observed as early as 9-months-old in our Black children.
- More than 25% of toddlers who are Black live in deep poverty, as compared to 7% of their white peers.
- Children who are Black and below the age of 5-years-old are expelled at a higher rate than their K-12 counterparts.
- A preschooler who is Black is twice as likely to be expelled than their Latino and white peers and five times more likely than their Asian American peers.
Recent events have made it crystal clear that, as an organization, we must renew our 27+year-old commitment to the children and families in our community and enact tangible changes in our organization to end the inequalities and inequities for Black children and their families. Moving forward, our organization will make fundamental changes in how we provide services, improve staff diversity training, and continue our work as a collaborator and community convener to ensure we are working smarter.
The Partnership for Children values all of our community members, and we support the Black Lives Matter movement. This community is our home, and our work is our passion. We are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and role models. We know that we are stronger together, and together, with your help, we can achieve success for our children.
Mary Sonnenberg, President
Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Inc.
A heartfelt thank you to, Kevin Greene of Alpha Shots Photography for allowing us the use of his photos.
Help us in our efforts to ensure all children receive a sound education, beginning at birth, and families receive the support they need to ensure success.