Justice starts at birth

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Over the past many days, there has been an outpouring of support for the protestors uniting and speaking out for racial justice and police reform. First and foremost, we firmly believe in the work needing to be done. The violence and hate, the use of excessive force, the inequities and horrors perpetuated toward people of color, and from many other communities, must end.

Yet this has been said before, too many times. What is different now? What is our role? From what place do we at LENA make this statement, and how do we seek to be agents for change? This statement cannot be a box check. In response to recent events, we have made a point to step back and deeply reflect in order to be both authentic and to highlight commitments on which we can and will act.

...we firmly believe in the work needing to be done. The violence and hate, the use of excessive force, the inequities and horrors perpetuated toward people of color, and from many other communities, must end.

-Stephen M. Hannon, PhD

We are a nonprofit, with the honor of working with trusted organizations in communities worldwide trying to make the world a better place for children, right from birth. We do this by fostering interactive talk between very young children and the adults in their lives. We are also a largely white organization headquartered in an affluent community. We can’t speak out without examining our own privilege and looking to the learning and work we still have to do.

In any vision of a better future, we believe that talking with children matters. Nourishing early language environments are key to healthy development and a trajectory toward opportunity. And the process of learning how to talk with a young child is also the process of learning how to listen and to see the world through an unfamiliar lens. Talking with children builds empathy, compassion, and openness, both right now and in the next generation. In these ways, and so many others, our early childhood work is social justice work.

But as we remain committed to moving our mission forward, we must also work to become better as an organization by:

  • Continuing to make progress to diversify our team to better reflect the communities and partners we serve.
  • Identifying and creating opportunities to dive deeper into subjects focused on racial equity, white privilege, and other related topics, so that our individual frames and collective voices are better informed and tuned.
  • Deepening our understanding of the lived experiences of our families and partners so that we can enhance our supports and adaptations in the years ahead, including factoring the significant digital divide that disproportionately impacts communities of color.

We strive to ensure that LENA and its data are the ally of the teacher, the parent, and the primary caregiver, no matter the language they speak, the words they use, or the color of their skin. We meet partners, parents, and teachers where they are: we don’t tell people what to say or how to say it, and LENA is not a tool for casting judgment on any individual.

Together in this work and these commitments, we will continue the fight toward a more equitable and just society. We hope you’ll join us.

Stephen M. Hannon, PhD

Dr. Stephen M. Hannon is the President and CEO of LENA and is thrilled to lead a team of talented people on a mission to close the achievement gap. He brings a wealth of technical and leadership skills spanning a 20-plus year career.

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One Comment on “Justice starts at birth”

  1. I appreciate your thoughtful attention to this subject and your practical steps in moving forward. Kudos!

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