On Thursday, February 16, the Texas Family Leadership Council and CHILDREN AT RISK hosted the third annual State of Black Children in Texas summit. The summit explored the challenges Black children face growing up in Texas and how to best support them at all stages of development.   

Sharon Watkins Jones and Amanda McMillian, President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston got the conversation started with a data highlight of Texas households that are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). The United Way of Greater Houston is looking to build a stronger, more equitable community and reduce the number of our neighbors experiencing ALICE, including early childhood programming United Way Bright Beginnings, after school development program Out2Learn, and basic needs via 211, the United Way Helpline 

Sharon Watkins Jones then shared a preview of CHILDREN AT RISK’s recently published 2023 Equity Report, The State of Inequity: Dreams Deferred. The report focuses on four key areas: good health, basic needs, quality education, and fair justice. The report provides a snapshot of areas for further study and improvement, including the findings that 25% of Black children and 18% of Hispanic children experience hunger on a daily basis compared to 7% of white children and roughly 1 in 10 Texas children, ages 0-5, work working parents live in a childcare desert.

Recommendations from the 2023 C@R Equity Report, The State of Inequity: Dreams Deferred

Dr. Anjanette Wyatt (President, American Pharmacists Association Foundation), Nakeenya Wilson (Founder, RESTORE Family Support Services), Sereka Barlow (CEO, YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region) joined moderator Dr. Sean Haley, Ph.D (Executive Director, Center for Civic & Public Policy Improvement) for the Finding a Way to Good Health panel. The group discussed social determinants of health, lack of trust in the medical system, and the importance of creating a pipeline to ensure the state has more Black medical professionals. They also discussed the poor health outcomes that Black babies, children, and mothers experience in this state. Black infants have higher mortality rates if they have a white doctor, said Nakeenya Wilson. “Navigating the systems and advocating is not for the faint of heart. I want to hold space for the fact that people get discouraged and they feel hopeless. I don’t want it to come across that we’re blaming or criticizing, but what we’re doing is we’re saying you deserve to have the same treatment.”

Next came the Paving a Smooth Path to Fair Justice panel, made up of legal experts Joe Herbert (Founder, DEFEND), Trina McReynolds Bailey (Attorney and Author), Na’Shon Edwards, Sr. (Professor of Community Development, University of Texas San Antonio and Kansas State University) and moderated by Devika Kornbacher (Co-Head, Tech Group, Clifford Chance/CHILDREN AT RISK Board Member and past Board Chair). The panel discussed the disparity of discipline in schools for Black children, the onus on Black parents to prepare their children for an unfair system, and the school-to-prison pipeline.There’s twice as many police as counselors in our schools, you are 2 to 3 more times likely as a Black child to be arrested as a white child nationally. But in Texas, it’s 4.75 times more likely based on the past that a Black student will be arrested at school than a white student,” said Devika Kornbacher, referencing a statistic from the State of Inequity Report to launch the conversation. On the topic of evolving the legal system, Trina McReynolds Bailey added, “When I was in law school I was told good lawyers know the law, but great lawyers know the judge. And when you only have 4% of Black attorneys nationwide, the reality is that we have to work a little bit harder to get to know that judge. And the outcomes that Black children are going to have are going to be directly impacted by the representation that they do or don’t have.”  

Sharon Watkins Jones, Kathryn McCartney, Dr. Marla Sheppard, Dr. Dameion Crook, Dr. Khalilah Campbell Rhone, and James Dirden on the Building a Bridge to Quality Education panel

The next panel, Building a Bridge to Quality Education, brought together educators Kathryn McCartney (CEO, Head Start of Greater Dallas), Dr. Marla Sheppard (Deputy Chief of Academics, KIPP Texas – Houston), Dr. Dameion Crook (Principal, Micky Leland Young Men’s College Preparatory), Dr. Khalilah Campbell Rhone (Assistant Superintendent of Transformation, Houston Independent School District), and moderator James Dirden (Academic Performance Coach, Texas A+ Challenge). The group discussed how best to empower students and parents to advocate for themselves, the necessary interventions to ensure the success of Black students, and the advantages of having teachers of color in the classroom. “If a Black child was exposed to at least one Black teacher, their chances of going to college and taking a college entrance exam increases so we know that representation matters,” said Dr. Marla Sheppard.  

The summit concluded with the Meeting Basic Needs on the Journey to Success panel. Leah King (President and CEO, United Way of Tarrant County) moderated the conversation between Demethra Orion (Chairwoman, Target Hunger), Kendra Richardson (Founder, Funky Town Fridge), Felicia Jackson (Family Support Services Manager, Houston Area Urban League). The group discussed the basic needs their organizations provide, the importance of building trust between service providers and the community, and the impact of unmet basic needs on both children and their parents. Said Kendra Richardson, “…a part of the social justice aspect of it all is to depend on community. Depend on trust. Because you do not have community without trust. We do that together and we look out for each other So it’s ‘give what you can, take what you need.’ Not just with food, but with life, with resources, or whatever you have that you can lend to your neighbor to help them improve their quality of life. Whatever they can give you to help you build your quality of life and we build from there together.”


To learn more about the Texas Family Leadership Council and our collaborative working groups, visit childrenatrisk.org/txflc/

Have questions about joining us as a sponsor or partner on an upcoming Learning Event? Reach out to Courtney at cmattox@childrentatrisk.org   



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