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June 25, 2021
We are honored to officially welcome Dr. Eurnestine Brown as the first Director of Relational Equity and Belonging at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center and first Boston Children’s Hospital Division of Developmental Medicine (DDM) Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist, and her specialty areas include African American children and families, adolescent pregnancy and prenatal development, children and families in poverty, racial and gender inequities, parental socialization practices and early childhood social development, Early Head Start and Head Start, and resiliency.
Dr. Brown recently became a Doula, completed the Brazelton Newborn Behavioral Observations System (NBO) training, moderated BTC’s Parenting While Black—a 6-week, free webinar series for and by Black parents—and received an additional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workplace certification. She hopes to expand her work with pregnant and expectant families and the Doula community to address racial and health inequities in families of color.
In this Q&A, she shares her vision for her new role, how BTC is moving forward and towards its vision of becoming an anti-racist and more equitable, inclusive and embracing organization, and a special passion she shares with her son.
How do you define relational equity and belonging?
To me, relational equity and belonging begin with reflection, expanded awareness, and a commitment to action for change. It starts with knowing your “Why” and your “What.” Why are you embracing the call to action towards equity, and what is the quality of the relationships you wish to engage in is as you embrace this call? You amplify your “What” and “Why” with your words and actions. Words matter; actions matter. Together, we aspire to apply our awareness and commitment to activate and sustain relational equity and belonging at multiple levels and within and across multiple systems and structures.
Relational equity and belonging include yet move beyond fairness, being welcomed, valued, and accountable. They also mean recognizing the historical, political, and social roots of today’s inequalities. We are not all starting from the same places; we do not have the same access, opportunities, and experiences that permit us to thrive. We must first ensure racial, social, economic, and political equity before we can all enjoy the fruits of equality.
What are your goals for your new position?
I see my role as ensuring that all of us have an authentic place at the table and that each voice is heard. That’s what motivates me. That’s the core of why I do this work. At BTC, we are all about relationships. We are trying to do the best that we can in the moment that we are in. Our goal is to always operate from an affirming place and not be afraid of having those courageous conversations. We learn something, and then we unlearn it, and then we learn something again. It’s critical to have a vision and to keep learning and engaging.
What are the courageous conversations we need to have?
We need to have courageous conversations about what it means to be equitable, what it means to create a real sense of belonging, what it meant to be authentic, and what it means to ensure that everyone has a place at the table from the beginning. And that beginning is really critical. It’s sort of like that analogy – if someone you thought is your friend is having a party, and they don’t invite you initially. And then you get an invitation, but you already know that other people were invited. Now you’re already thinking you are an afterthought. As another example, if you say to someone, “I don’t see your color; that’s not really who you are.” Well, it IS a central part of who we are, regardless of individual variations. I’m so happy that we’ve moved from “I don’t see color” because if you don’t see color, then you don’t see me. And I think that every person is not just about the melanin or the color of their skin, but also who they are, their culture, their family, their lived experiences, and I hope we get to a place where we can embrace that.
What is your vision for BTC and DDM as an organization committed to relational equity and belonging?
I lead our efforts to become an anti-racist and inclusive Center and Division that promote sustainable excellence by creating an organizational culture where equity, inclusion, and belonging thrive. We do this by acknowledging and bringing forth the many ways that racism — not race — has been woven into the fabric of our American society and global community to oppress, suppress, harm, and, in some instances, erase Black and Brown people and people of color. This is also where diversity, inclusiveness, and belonging come into play—front and center. Every day—actually every moment—as members of this community, we strive to accept and embrace all the ways (visible and invisible) that make us who we are—each individual who they are—including race, ethnicity, culture, language, age, educational attainment, socio-economic class and status, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, geographical location, family status, and more.
Together, we can engage in reflective practices that enhance equitable outcomes and reduce bias and prejudice in our partnerships with each other and the children, families, and communities we have the honor to serve. It is up to every individual at BTC and within the division, and globally, to be a beacon of change. I can present information, I can give readings, I can hold conversations, but each individual has to be that beacon of change and engage in action. Our journey is to become better, uplift and embrace all, and be authentic, resilient, and brilliant.
What does creating a culture of belonging mean to you?
The three most powerful words that we can say to each other after “I Love You” is “I See You.” And I think this is what this work is about. It’s about seeing everyone—their values and who they are. As an organization, and hopefully as a society, where we want to go on this journey is to say to each other, every infant, every child, every parent, every community: “I See You.” And that’s what creating a culture of belonging is all about.
What books are you reading at the moment?
I am currently reading an eclectic mixture of books on leadership and communication. They run the gamut of 5/6/7 principles of leadership (e.g., 6 C’s of Inclusive Leadership: Commitment, Courage, Cognizant of Bias, Curious, Cultural Intelligence, and Collaborative) to books on Servant leadership because my faith and family are my anchors. I am also learning more about Level 5 leadership (e.g., Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, and others). I am still reading, pondering, simmering; I am not advocating any for anyone, just my self-learning.
What books do you want to spend more time reading?
I love fantasy and Black science fiction. My favorite book is Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor. I want to read her latest book Akata Witch. I also want to read Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James and Amanda Gorman’s book of poetry. Lastly, I need books on how to live lavishly on the beach…
Tell us something about yourself that many people don’t know.
I am working on my DC and Marvel knowledge; my son, Jaxson, is the expert. I still have to stop and think about the universes for Thor, Loki, and Hela (Marvel), Green Arrow (DC), Black Panther (Marvel), Aqua Man (DC), Iron Man (Marvel), The Flash (DC) and Batman and Catwoman (DC). I am on Season 4 of the Arrow TV series, which is about the Green Arrow. This is one of our favorite family pastimes—my son watches with me and allows me to ask a limited number of questions.