Challenging Anti-Black Racism in Early Childhood Environments

Dr Barb Hamilton-HinchBlack children in Nova Scotia are experiencing an opportunity gap in the early childhood period (1-5 years) that can impact their mental and physical wellbeing, academic achievement, and access to learning, recreation and play. A team of researchers at Mount Saint Vincent University and Dalhousie University recently led an initiative to better understand, challenge and address this gap, the results of which are being released on July 27.

Project co-investigators included Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch who is Associate Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance, and Assistant Vice‑Provost Equity and Inclusion at Dalhousie University and Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood: Diversity and Transitions and Director of the Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University.

What:  A community event to share findings from interviews with early childhood educators and parents of Black children in Nova Scotia about their experiences with early learning and child care. There will also be a community brainstorm of actions for disrupting anti- Black racism in early childhood.

Who:   On These Shoulders Research Collaborative at Dalhousie University and the Early Childhood Collaborative Research Centre (ECCRC) at Mount Saint Vincent University are co-hosting this event. Representatives at the event will include co-investigators Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch and Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, as well as Nicholas Hickens (Research Assistant, ECCRC) and Crystal Watson (PhD student, Dalhousie University).

When: Wednesday, July 27, 2022, 5 p.m. (remarks at 5:30 and community brainstorm at 5:40)

Where: East Preston Recreation Centre 24 Brooks Dr. East Preston, NS B2Z 1G1

Dr Jessie-Lee McIssacThis project focused on understanding three things:

  • how racism and discrimination are experienced by Black children and families during the early childhood period,
  • how Black children in NS experience and access outdoor and risky play, and
  • how families and educators view the early learning and child care environment for Black children in NS.

Results showed the intergenerational impacts of racism, the experiences of racism across systems, and the importance of positive self-identity and cultural pride.

Results also showed that while Black families and educators value outdoor play, families are fearful of over-policing, stereotyping, and over-surveillance. Additionally, outdoor play spaces are limited in many historic African Nova Scotian communities.

In early childhood settings, parents and educators discussed the mainstream approach to curriculum, the lack of responsiveness to racism, social justice, and equity, and the absence of cultural safety.

“As a researcher and parent whose children went through early childhood education, it was always my fear that my children would experience maltreatment. Through this work it is clear that anti-Black racism is just as prevalent today as it was when my children were in care. Anti-racist initiatives must start at the early childhood level,” says Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, Co-Investigator.

“All families should be supported through culturally responsive, inclusive and high-quality early childhood programs,” says Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Co-Investigator. “Our research provides voice for the experiences of some Black families and educators in Nova Scotia and identifies challenges within the current system that need to be addressed to fully realize the goals of the new federal-provincial childcare agreement. From here, our team wants to continue to hear from community and those working throughout the early childhood system to identify potential actions moving forward.”