Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated supports the National Children’s Defense Fund
Danielle Brown, National President, Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated
Silence the Shame: Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated participants join effort to dispel the stigma around mental illness
SPOTLIGHT FEATURE ON JACK AND JILL OF AMERICA, INC.
To be valued and loved. To know who you are and that you have the power to make a difference. These are the aspirations that most mothers have their children. In 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, twenty African-American mothers in Philadelphia came together not to hope or to dream, but to provide the opportunities, experiences, and life lessons that would enable their children and others to live these truths. Their group became Jack and Jill of America, Inc. – an organization that’s mission is as relevant today as it was some 80 years ago.
Jack and Jill is a mothers’ member organization focused on enriching and nurturing children, ages 2-19. “Our goal is to help raise strong, healthy, independent children who can think, make choices, express themselves and act,” explains Danielle Brown, the organization’s national president. “You don’t have to be in Jack and Jill to have a successful child. What we do is reinforce what is being taught at home, remind children that they can pursue their goals, and open additional doors to help prepare them to accomplish that.”
There are currently 247 Jack and Jill chapters, representing 40,000 families across the country. Members of each chapter help to develop participatory programs that promote literacy, STEM proficiency, socialization and college preparedness, as well as cultural, philanthropic, and civic awareness and engagement. The mothers are supported by the Fathers’ Auxiliary Committee which assists in strengthening children’s educational, emotional and cultural growth. From an early age, children involved in Jack and Jill take part in oratorical programs and competitions that help them to become comfortable speaking in front of audiences. Older children prepare for positions of leadership by planning their regional and annual meetings and carrying out their agendas. They also accompany their parents on legislative trips to Capitol Hill where they meet with elected officials and share their concerns on issues related to children, families, education, and the environment. Children involved in Jack and Jill are also responsible for performing community service. Activities often include cleaning and beautifying parks and other locations in their neighborhoods; volunteering at food pantries and distribution centers; organizing clothing and book drives; setting up reading corners and providing student-to-student tutoring.
Through its national collaborations, Jack and Jill helps to enhance the lives of children outside the organization. It partners with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to provide resources and forums to discuss mental health, depression, suicide, and cutting. It hosts swim campaigns with the Red Cross that provide opportunities for African-American children to learn to swim and take CPR and lifesaving courses. It also helps to raise awareness about fire prevention and emergency preparedness. In addition, as a major African-American philanthropic organization, Jack and Jill actively supports the March of Dimes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the National Defense Fund.
“In 2019, our children are still facing discrimination,” Brown said. “Many children live in areas or attend schools where they are the only Black child on the block or in their class, and they feel isolated. Social media provides new avenues for bullying and racial taunting, and negative images and messages from elected officials and traditional media can adversely impact our kids’ sense of self.”
“Jack and Jill wants our children to be unapologetically Black and proud. We host rites of passage for girls and boys. We take them on trips – to Birmingham where we visited the 16th Street Baptist Church and reenacted the Children’s March, and to Tulsa, where they will research “Black Wall Street.” This summer we are taking a group to Barcelona to learn about the Moors. All of this is to remind our kids that they are the descendants of kings and queens, pioneers and financiers, and all sorts of other heroes and that they have every reason to walk with pride.”
Finally, to those who persist in dismissing Jack and Jill as an exclusive club, President Brown’s message is clear: “Is it elitist to want your children to do and be their best? I don’t think so. Jack and Jill is made up of Black parents who are cheering their children on with communal support that enables them to grow and thrive. We provide our children with a safe haven where they can explore what they are made of, what they are willing to stand up for, and how they can be change agents and move the needle for those things that important to them. It is electrifying when the light goes off, and our children realize what they are capable of, that the possibilities are real, and that whatever they decide to do, they have the ability to make us all proud.”
This year, as our hearts fill with pride while we celebrate Black History Month, let us also remember to focus on our heart health. And not just on Valentines Day – the entire month of February is American Heart Month.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States and certain minority groups face a greater risk than others. Deaths from heart disease are higher in Black Americans than in White Americans and other ethnic groups, and heart disease develops at a younger age in African Americans.
But, heart disease can often be prevented when people know their risks, make healthy choices and manage their medical conditions. So this month, learn the signs and symptoms and the steps you can take to make a difference in your life and the lives of your loved ones at https://www.goredforwomen.org
The Black Women’s Agenda recently hosted a summit themed, “I Am the Change: Living Your Best Life at Every Age,” at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. Sponsored by AARP and featuring leading experts in the fields of health, education, and economic security, the event focused on the importance of health and wellness in the aging process.
“Too often black women are focused on everyone and everything except themselves,” said panel moderator Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings. “Our concern for and work on behalf of our families and communities competes with our ability to implement self-care strategies that support our physical, emotional, spiritual, and socioeconomic wellbeing.”
According to The American Cancer Society, “Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. But the death rate has not changed much over the last 15 years.” And several studies show that a disproportionate number of women that die each year from cervical cancer are Black women.
The American Cancer Society also stresses the importance of regular screening for the disease, emphasizing that, “Screening tests offer the best chance to have cervical cancer found early when successful treatment is likely.