BUILDing Strong Foundations

Advancing Racial Equity in Darlington County, South Carolina

1/15/2018 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: Build Initiative

By Mariana Florit, Communications Director at BUILD Initiative

Darlington County, South Carolina. These are the basics about the county: Nearly 42 percent Black or African-American. Fifty-six percent White. Less than two percent Latino. Median income of $34,773. Seventeen percent of residents hold a bachelor’s degree. Thirteen percent of residents don’t have health insurance. Twenty-one percent of residents are living in poverty.

Darnell Byrd-McPherson would say that these statistics are simply, “the things that people see first.” Applying a racial equity lens to community solutions means more than analyzing and “fixing” the things people see first. Focusing on racial equity in communities, policies, and practice means that leaders are talking about, “how we look at ourselves, how we do business, how we are diverse, whether we are inclusive and equitable.” It means ensuring that all systems change strategies drive toward equitable opportunities for children and families.

Darnell Byrd-McPherson is the Executive Director Darlington County First Steps. The organization recently contributed to the development of the South Carolina Equity Assessment, and launched the Darlington County Men’s Health Collaborative. Darnell attributes the spark for the assessment and the collaborative to the influence of the BUILD Initiative project, Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN). The ELAN has been working since 2015 to advance racial equity in early childhood systems. ELAN fellows have sought to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning, and family support as well as to influence state-level policy. Darnell said, “The ELAN opened my eyes to all of the issues that people face. It has had a direct impact on how I lead and do my work.”

Building equity into communities, policies, and practice in Darlington County is concretely demonstrated here:

Darlington County Men’s Health Collaborative

In line with the BUILD Initiative and ELAN vision to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning, and family support, supporting men’s health is a priority for Darlington County First Steps. Health disparities in minority men are a national problem, stemming from a lack of access to care, low income, cultural incompetence in the medical field, and other barriers. By supporting the mental and physical health needs of minority men – fathers and family figures - Darlington County First Steps is strengthening families and communities in the county. Often, men are forgotten in family support, and the Men’s Health Collaborative will work to mitigate that.

South Carolina Racial Equity Impact Assessment Guide

In 2014, Darnell’s work at Darlington County First Steps crossed paths with state legislators. As an ELAN fellow and voice for equity in her community, Darnell specifically focused on the most vulnerable children and families in Darlington County. She was concerned that proposed policies were not addressing the needs of the people most at risk. In partnership with South Carolina Children’s Trust and Kids Count, the South Carolina Racial Equity Impact Assessment was developed and integrated into state policies to ensure that all children are given an opportunity to succeed. The assessment is a step-by-step manual for decision-makers, analysts, and organizations to evaluate policy impact by people’s race and ethnicity to determine how to advance equitable outcomes in the state. 


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