Every month, throughout 2022, our Marketing Communications Leader is connecting with parents of young children at our partner organizations to lift up the insights of these hard-working parents and the work of our amazing partners.
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- Name: Arssante Malone
- Pronouns: he/him/his
- Location in NC: Durham, NC
- Year when he became a parent: 2011
- How Arssante is involved in early childhood work and the community: Community Engagement Specialist at NC Child and Executive Director of Budo Academy of Durham. He was previously a part of Durham Children’s Initiative as their Youth Program Advocate.
- Who he parents: six kids, aged 6 months to 11 years old
8 Questions with Arssante Malone
- Lindsay: What issues are you most passionate about and what spurred that interest?
Arssante: I’m most passionate about education, social justice, and issues that specifically impact the Black community. The interest I’d say has its roots in my upbringing. These passions manifest themselves in my advocating for the implementation of race equity and anti-racist oriented policy that seek to disrupt the continued historical harms of institutionalized systemic racism. Policy wise, I think my biggest interest is around the Leandro Case. This interest is tied to a lifelong pursuit of deconstructing harmful societal norms that generated from white supremacy. As an educator and advocate, the data is more than alarming. Looking at the literacy rates, suspension rates, recipients of disciplinary action, to name a few, the disparities become immediately clear; there are two different worlds in which our students live.
Education is one of the foundational key components to a fulfilling life, and if we’re not properly creating environments for all our children to thrive academically, we can never hope to develop objective community centered thinkers with the critical analysis skills necessary to problematize what they encounter in our society, and to effectively combat it for a more equitable future that not only allows individuals and communities to thrive, but also preserves the environment by restructuring our interactions with each and everything around us by shifting the necessary policy issues.
- Lindsay: What worries you the most, as a parent?
Arssante: One of my biggest worries as a parent of children in early childhood is them being exposed to people and environments that don’t value or nurture them in a way that healthily allows them to grow into their true potential as people. I worry about them being unnecessarily harmed or traumatized by the lack of consideration that goes into the policies and environments that shape what their experiences will be as young Black children.
I worry about my sons interacting with law enforcement and them potentially not making it home because of some ill perceived threat. I worry about my daughters who already historically represent the most oppressed and unprotected group in our society: Black girls/women.
What choices will my children have? What situations may be inevitable because of how the world sees them? I worry about the world they’ll inherit and what role I must play to help mold a more welcoming world for them while concurrently equipping them with the tools necessary to successfully navigate their journey.
- Lindsay: What are you reading, listening to, or watching that helps you feel empowered?
Arssante: Currently I’m reading “Racial Matters,” by Kenneth O’Reilly; “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon; and “Fear of Black Consciousness,” by Lewis R. Gordon.The documentary I’d suggest everyone watch is Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America on Netflix.
- Lindsay: What is something unique about your family?
Arssante: ALL OF US ARE MARTIAL ARTISTS. Sans my wife, all of my children have varying levels of martial arts training. I’ve been intentional about sharing the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits of martial arts with my children; each since their birth.Another unique fact is that I have children born in different states AND different countries; all different signposts of our travels and international adventures.
- Lindsay: We just celebrated Father’s Day, Juneteenth, and the 4th of July. What do you think could empower and liberate fathers to be their best, in their roles as parents and partners?
Arssante: I think fathers in general, especially Black fathers, can really be liberated by having courageous conversations around leading with love, challenging patriarchal gender norms in parenting, healthy self-identity formation, and creative ways to lead more holistically healthy lives as men.
- Lindsay: How would you describe what it means to be a parent to Black children during a pandemic?
Arssante: In one word, stressful. Just experiencing a pandemic is tough, but you couple that with the way the pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color then that stress becomes heightened to a certain degree. I’m fortunate in the sense that my wife and I both enjoy a level of privilege that still provided us some comfort during the pandemic, however that doesn’t mean we weathered it unscathed.
Race often dictates a lot of our experiences, and a pandemic is no different. There was a clash of ideologies that created societal tension during the pandemic; a symptom of the already present racial tension. To mask or not…to vaccinate or not…these binary issues almost predictably resembled the conservative vs. liberal climate.
- Lindsay: What does a lot of your work as a Community Engagement Specialist at NC Child and Community Organizer entail?
Arssante: It means organizing organizations. Most of my meetings are different leaders of a variety of organizations that are in close proximity to one another. They might not be in the same city or county, but have similar issues or the community members that they represent. Leadership development workshops for the heads of those groups.
Organizing organizations to assist them in getting their local needs met. That would also entail leveraging our relationship as a statewide organization. It may be lobbying. It may be sharing resources. It may be utilizing what the community has going on on a more micro-scale.
Pushing into spaces as a community organizer, with advocacy work, naturally a racially-centered approach is what I consider to be most impactful because when you think about equitable futures or long-term systemic change, naturally you have to disaggregate the data, operating with a certain lens of specificity. Developing policies and programs around those most impacted will benefit everybody else.
- Lindsay: Who do you look up to for the things you work on?
Arssante: I look to the leaders in the community. When we utilize an asset-based approach to community engagement, we see that there is a plethora of revolutionary work already being developed. The genius and resilience of the Black community always rejuvenates my being.
At both NC Child and the NC Early Childhood Foundation, we believe in advocating and advancing strategies and policies to ensure all children in NC have a strong foundation for life-long health, education, and their overall well-being.
NC Child uses research and data to advocate on behalf of NC children to ensure laws, policies, and programs work for them, particularly with regard to high quality early childhood education, healthy children, nurturing homes and communities, and family economic security. NCECF works closely with NC Child on work to improve access to high quality, affordable early childhood education and address social-emotional health.