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Transforming Early Childhood Mental Health Stigma in the Lowcountry Region of South Carolina

By Adrienne Troy-Frazier, Executive Director of Berkeley County First Steps and BEE-Collective Member

February 26, 2020

Adrienne Troy-Frazier, Executive Director

As early childhood educators, what can we do better as a community to build and nurture healthy children and families that we can’t do alone?

This is just one of a series of questions the Berkeley Education & Early Care Collective (BEE Collective)/Berkeley County First Steps (BCFS) has grappled with over the past 18 months as we strive to align with existing culturally centered programs for the early childhood community in our region in the Tri-County area of Charleston, South Carolina.

To achieve this goal, the BEE Collective recently gathered in partnership with the Transformation Table to sponsor a dinner in the Cainhoy-Huger community. The Cainhoy area is home to African Americans, many of whom are the descendants of enslaved people who toiled on area plantations before emancipation. The communities have changed over the generations due to outward migration and encroaching commercial development. For those who remain, the BEE Collective offered them them a cultural experience that many may have not had before. We broke bread and fellowshipped over Peruvian cuisine and discussed a series of questions to address a range of equity issues in early education.

Photo courtesy of Excellence Photography

Some of those issues included maternal and child health, mental health stigma, environmental justice and ways to build the protective factors in children and families.

During these sessions, we heard stories of families and individuals in crisis who have found support in the community. During this Black History Month (or Women’s History Month in March), my thoughts turn to our very own beloved Lowcountry educator and civil rights activist, Septima P. Clark, who embodied an appreciation of the culture of the community to solve problem by helping them to see how their own skills, experience and knowledge were the most important resources in their struggle for equality.

"I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth,” she once said. “We need to be taught to study rather than believe, to inquire rather than to affirm. I have great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift." -Septima P. Clark

Central and resounding themes emerged from the 18 local community elders, parents, educators, and activists at the dinner included:

  • Families with young children can benefit from the stories of ancestral and elder wisdom from the community; these stories can be used to promote healing and transformative change;

  • There is a deep and important connection between faith, access to western and culturally responsive healing practices and mental health stigma;

  • When we find the balance, equitable change will be tangible.

In response to our recent community convenings like this one, BCFS and the BEE Collective will offer primary caregivers of young children free opportunities to participate in healing centered yoga, social justice storytelling and nature-based play in Berkeley County.

Photo courtesy of Excellence Photography

For more information on the BEE Collective and our healing centered, free gatherings, please email or visit

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