Coalition Narrative

portrait of mother and son. Nancy Wong Photography, LLCThe African American Babies Coalition (AABC) and its partner the Wilder Center for Communities recently completed three phases of work to bring a campaign focused on building healthy brains for children from conception through the early years of development targeted to the African American public and the entire Twin Cities community.

The focus of this campaign is to make sure African American families are aware of early traumatic experiences that can short circuit young brain development. Since African Americans often have negative responses to research because of historical baggage and the disturbing actions and opinions prompted by it, AABC’s number one priority was to develop steps to engage our families and assist them to trust the research process.

The AABC designed a plan to impact the community from the ground up through informal discussions and personal interviews reflecting on historical messages and methods for child rearing. These hands-on interactions were conducted by four African American educators, and Parent Voices Talk Radio. Dialogues explored historical traditions and behaviors that were healthy and unhealthy. They concentrated on discipline and simple interactions with children that impact daily lives.

The facilitators focused ultimately on the benefits of community to understand the development and functions of healthy brain growth for parents, to ensure the extension of learning throughout parenting, to share in everyday encounters such as at churches, doctors’ offices, parent teacher conferences, friend and family visits, etc. about how health social and emotional growth promotes successful outcomes in school.

Participants in our discussion groups and community interviews were single and married parents, teen moms, grandparents, foster parents, and child care professionals. They had an average of 2 to 3 children. About two-thirds grew up in Minnesota. The African American Babies Coalition engaged the community very well through the three stage process resulting in the launch of the Brains are Built campaign, which advances the research mission of educating the African American community.

The significance of engaging community is to increase knowledge and to be comfortable following evidence based research. The final outcome of the project is developing a training guide targeted to all adults and used to cultivate appropriate best practices in child nurturing.