ST. PETERSBURG — The Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) of the Greater Tampa Bay Chapter held its end of the year celebration for July 28 at the Greater Mt. Zion AME Church.
The organization received its charter last year from the National Black Child Development Institute, which is dedicated to the success and well being of African American children across the country.
Terry K. Bradley of Hillsborough County Public Schools, Head Start presided and Mayor Rick Kriseman was on hand to praise the efforts of the BCDI.
“I want to congratulate you all for a year’s worth of good, important and necessary work,” Kriseman said. “And as you celebrate the accomplishments of your first year, I ask you to remember this: the path to improving the lives of our children is one that never ends.”
Louis A. Finney, Jr., president of the Greater Tampa Bay BCDI, talked about the importance of closing the achievement gap when it comes to black students in both Pinellas and Hillsborough and noted the progress that the BCDI has made in the last year.
Rev. Clarence Williams, senior pastor of the Greater Mt. Zion AME Church said in his keynote speech that there is “an all-out assault on education.”
“Education has a two-tiered problem, in my opinion,” the pastor said. “Personal responsibility—parents—and public health. Both of them have, in some cases, detrimental effects to the end product of education.”
Evoking the biblical book of Lamentations, where “with their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children,” Williams drew a parallel with modern families and urged parents these days to “stop eating their children” by always making time for them. He condemned the habits these days of many parents letting their children tune out the world by burying their heads in electronic devices.
“We need time to show these children what reality really is!” he said.
Parents must have concern for their children, he attested, asking rhetorically, “Are your children a burden or blessing to you?” Preparing them for the future is also crucial, as is willing to make sacrifices for them.
Rev. Williams condemned the “selfish” actions of some parents who are “unwilling to wait in the line at the bus stop or at the school, so you come an hour early to grab the kid early, so the kid misses the last hour of school because you don’t want to be inconvenienced!”
Finney, Jr. underscored that the BCDI is focused not only on early learning but on health and wellness, family engagement, literacy and child welfare, and acknowledged the help of people from the school districts, sheriff’s department, both Tampa and St. Pete campuses of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College, the Juvenile Welfare Board and various nonprofits and churches.
The organization received a health grant for about $18,000, used toward fitness programs for black children primarily in south St. Pete. It also hosted the NBCDI’s conference in Orlando, featuring such notable keynote speakers as poet Nikki Giovanni, attorney Benjamin Crump and activist and author Marc Lamont Hill.