Perspective | For All the Children

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt of a speech, as well as an original poem, presented by North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green at Child Care Services Association's 50th anniversary celebration on May 18, 2024.

Kasserian Ingera! Kasserian Ingera!

Amongst the East African Maasai people, the traditional greeting is not, “How are you?” but rather, “And how are the children?”

The Maasai believe that if the children are well, safety and peace will prevail for all. This powerful notion of embracing our children is also at the foundation and core of 50 years of service and advocacy that Child Care Services Association has provided through the impactive work of ensuring affordable, accessible, high-quality child care for all young children and their families, not only in North Carolina but in 21 other states and the District of Columbia.

There is no other organization that has intentionally focused relentlessly for 50 years on the child’s early years — nurturing healthy behaviors and supporting their educational experiences by making sure that their teachers are not only qualified and trained, but also fairly compensated.

I greet you this evening in the spirit of the greeting. "Kasserian Ingera," or sometimes "Eserian Nakera," which reflects the high value the Maasai people place on the well-being of their children.

We should all be able to truthfully answer “Sepati Ingera," which means, "All the children are well.” Even Maasai warriors with no children of their own respond, “All the children are well,” and despite daily struggles, the priority is caring for the children. We are also many villages and communities without boundaries tied together in this awesome responsibility of caring for and about the children.

Child Care Services staff and Board of Directors come from very diverse walks of life, and for over 50 years, we know that we are the ones we’d been waiting for to chart this journey. We have drawn strong circles around children, parents, and their educators and providers as evidenced by Child Care Services' focus to not allow the education of America’s young children to become an issue to be lost among many others.

Child Care Services Association has led with the understanding that with hands together ... small, large, fragile, gentle, strong ... we can foster the intellectual development of our nation’s children which is a critical precursor to a healthy society. In creating Child Care Services Association, its earliest founder, Sue Russell, and other visionaries assembled and worked diligently to help state lawmakers, local governments, and decision-makers to understand that the intellectual development of our children is the very breath and sustaining oxygen of a citizenry worthy of democracy and freedom. 

For All the Children

Kasserian Ingera

We are your wise messengers clearing paths

Calming storms that often bruise or wound.

Sapati Ingera

We celebrate your tender messages

That promise to reshape and repurpose a tired world.

Kasserian Ingera

You, our children, are a harvest of hope.

You enable us to steady the center of the sky that is always bending.

Sapati Ingera

Your plenitude of grace and truth telling 

Lifts voices, shifts stories, stretches hearts wider.

Kasserian Ingera

You, our children, are new legacies, new poems, new dances, new medicine for our hungry earth.

Sapati Ingera

Your footprints are forever 

Skipping, flying, leaving new promises of new realities.

Kasserian Ingera

Your united nations of goodness

Dresses up in the armor of peaceful warriors.

Sapati Ingera

Children, oh precious ones

You are Light bearers 

Illuminating the wildest dreams of all our ancestors.

Kasserian Ingera

Through the long nights you ripen a harvest that feeds our hearts.

Sapati Ingera

Through the long nights you weave love into bread

Feed the hunger of so many lost ones.

Kasserian Ingera

Children, oh precious ones 

Through the long nights your song

Is a blanket for a motherless child.

Sapati Ingera

We listen to your whispers guiding us to give

All we are in the least we ever do.

All the children are well. 

This article first appeared on EducationNC and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.