The Public Voices Fellowship on Racial Justice in Early Childhood in partnership with The OpEd Project and the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI)


The National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) is launching The Public Voices Fellowship on Racial Justice in Early Childhood in partnership with The OpEd Project. We are now accepting applications for the 2023 Fellowship. Partners in the fellowship include The OpEd Project, Dr. Iheoma Iruka, and Sandra Wilcox Conway.

The fellowship is designed to bring new and diverse voices into racial justice in early childhood conversations, and increase thought leadership among women and people of color so that our experiences and voices are included in these important conversations and find just and equitable solutions to these challenges.  

The year-long fellowship will convene twenty thought leaders on racial justice in early childhood, most of whom will be women and people of color. The fellowship will provide exceptional support, leadership skills, and knowledge to ensure the fellows’ ideas shape their fields and today's most important and urgent conversations.

The Public Voices Fellowship on Racial Justice in Early Childhood is part of a prestigious national initiative from The OpEd Project to change who writes history. The curriculum explores leadership, knowledge exchange, and empowerment in an unjust world. Fellows will explore building consensus, how ideas spread, when and why minds change, and how ideas can shape the future. 

The fellowship includes workshops and one-on-one coaching by leading journalists and editors. All fellows will write a minimum of two opinion (“op-ed”) articles during their fellowship. Attendance at all convenings, continuously and in full, is required, including at the in-person convening on October 13, 2023 (see details below). Applicants must be available on the convening dates to apply.


We are looking for new voices from communities of color, early childhood educators and providers, academia, and the private sector, including advocates, entrepreneurs, community and business leaders, scientists, writers, and more. We seek thought leaders working at the intersection of racial, social, and educational justice with a demonstrated desire and ability to contribute to the public dialogue on racial justice in early childhood. Areas of focus could include but are not limited to: activism and movement building, clean air and safe water in Black communities, safe and appropriate Internet policies for children, infants, and maternal health, and global policies on racial justice and food justice.

Fellows will be chosen through a competitive selection process. We are committed to building a diverse cohort and will consider various factors, including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, age, geography, area of expertise, work history, and experience as an agent of change. The fellowship is open to people at least 18 years old residing in the United States.


We are not interested in providing a service as much as creating an outcome. Our goal is 100% success with proven outcomes. We envision that every participant will write a minimum of two opinion pieces, as well as produce other tangible thought leadership content pieces in influential places (which may include speeches, radio/TV appearances, proposals for new initiatives or businesses, and more) and that these will significantly accelerate their impact as thought leaders helping to shape history. Longer-term, we aim to build a thriving and connected community of Public Voices Fellows on Racial Justice in Early Childhood across cohorts.


  • Up to 20 fellows
  • Year-long program
  • Four convenings: 
    • One 3-day virtual kickoff convening (May 31-June 2, 2023)
    • Two virtual convenings (August 10-11, 2023; January 18-19, 2024)
    • One in-person convening in Charlotte, NC, Friday, October 13, 2023. 
    • Please note: Applicants MUST commit to attending these convenings in FULL.
  • Dedicated editors (top journalists) to provide regular, one-on-one support/editing/coaching.
  • Access to ongoing mentoring for the fellowship year
  • Need-based travel and lodging stipends are available to fellows for the in-person convening in Charlotte, NC, on Friday, October 13, 2023. The workshops will be provided free of charge.

Application Deadline – 11:59 pm EST, Sunday, March 19, 2023


  • For over 50 years, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) has been at the forefront of engaging leaders, policymakers, practitioners, and parents around critical and timely issues that directly impact Black children and families. We are a trusted partner in delivering culturally relevant resources and insights that respond to the unique strengths and needs of Black children. Our purpose is to mobilize communities and ignite movements, boldly advocating for equity and a just future for Black children and families. We achieve our purpose through an extensive network of affiliates, members, and stakeholders who engage in their local communities on behalf of the national organization. 

  • The OpEd Project is a think tank and leadership organization that expands history by amplifying the ideas and public impact of new and necessary voices, including women of all backgrounds. We are a community of thought leaders, journalists, commentary writers, and activists who proactively share our skills, knowledge, and connections across color, creed, class, age, ability, gender, orientation, and beyond. Through our programs, we elevate the ideas and knowledge of underrepresented expert voices, including women, and accelerate solutions to the world’s biggest problems – problems that cannot be solved justly or sustainably without a diversity of voices, expertise, experience, and identity. We believe the best ideas, regardless of where they come from, should have a chance to be heard and to change the world.

  • Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka is a research professor in public policy and founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an award-winning developmental psychologist, Dr. Iruka’s work is centered on the social, economic, health, and psychological well-being of Black children and other children of color through an anti-racist and cultural wealth lens focused on research, practice, and policy. She serves as a senior advisor to the Public Voices Fellowship on Racial Justice in Early Childhood.  

  • Sandra Wilcox Conway, M.ED; MBA, is a social impact consultant, philanthropist, and activist. Sandra specializes in public education, civic engagement, and women's leadership and combines these skills with a deep knowledge of education in the American South and a passion for history and justice. Her work has been recognized by the Clinton and Obama White Houses for vision and impact. She has worked with The OpEd Project in partnership with The New Generation of African-American Philanthropists (NGAAP), non-profit leaders, and education activists in North Carolina in the past and is honored to support NBCDI and Dr. Iruka in launching The Public Voices Fellowship on Racial Justice in Early Childhood. 

Application Deadline – 11:59 pm EST, Sunday, March 19, 2023


These FAQs relate to all Public Voices Fellowships led by The OpEd Project.

What time commitment should I expect as a fellow?

Fellows attend four convenings of either a day or multiple half days. (Please see the application for those details). Fellows also commit to writing a minimum of two opinion pieces (“op-eds”). We also encourage other forms of concrete thought leadership in the public sphere during the fellowship year. There is no minimum time commitment; however, we expect fellows to approach this experience in a meaningful and purposeful way, with an appreciation for the extraordinary resources and talent invested in them. Some fellows work a lot (several hours or more weekly) because they want big and consistent results. Others work in waves, communicating in advance with their journalist mentor around a more flexible schedule that may include intense bursts of activity at periodic intervals. Both options are fine as long as communication is clear. We know that we are all busy professionals who have full plates. Our aim is to use time with radical efficiency and maximum meaning, making it possible to achieve remarkable results in an amount of time that would otherwise be impossible.

Will the fellows have mentors?

Yes. Each fellow is assigned a journalist mentor from The OpEd Project. Generally, two journalist mentors are assigned to each fellowship, each of whom mentors ten fellows (they may switch or swap during the year for maximum impact). Additional facilitators and journalists may attend the convenings and provide group mentorship to fellows.

Will there be individual meetings with our journalist mentors?

Yes. Journalist mentors will meet with fellows at each of the four convenings. Additionally, following the first convening, they will kick off the fellowship by setting up one-on-one calls with each of their fellows in the following weeks. Beyond that, there are no required individual meetings. In most cases, fellows will work with their mentors virtually (via email, phone, or Zoom) between convenings.

What can I expect from my mentor?

You can generally expect meaningful and timely support from your mentor, but not 24/7 support. Like you, mentors have other full-time commitments (we are journalists, and we have other things cooking), but you can count on them to be in your corner regularly. 

You can expect your mentor to provide editorial support and coaching for a diversity of ideas, including those with which they may disagree. You can expect your mentor to respond to your emails within 24 hours (except on weekends). Edits to content may have a longer turnaround time but will be delivered in a timely manner. Any urgent, time-sensitive requests will be prioritized by our team, and faster edits can be expected. Fellows can also expect advice and support with pitching at the start of the fellowship, when our team will typically pitch pieces for you and CC you in the outreach. As we progress, you can expect us to provide advice on pitching as you begin to pitch yourself increasingly, building important media relations skills that are imperative for becoming a thought leader.

What will my mentor expect from me?

We expect fellows to treat mentors like colleagues, not employees (better yet, if it’s real, treat us as friends). We expect fellows to be fully present for all four convenings, start to finish, and to bring your most challenging and most meaningful ideas to the table. At these convenings throughout the fellowship, we expect fellows to engage with one another in meaningful dialogue, sharing ideas, challenges, and successes at a regular cadence.

Mentors will expect you to engage with them regularly, responding promptly to our communications (which are designed to support you and will not be intrusive or overwhelming). As a condition for acceptance into this fellowship, you commit to writing a minimum of two opinion pieces. Therefore, over the course of the fellowship, we expect you to send us at least two viable drafts—and hopefully many more—and to respond quickly to edits you receive.

We were asked to commit to writing at least two op-eds. Will these be submitted to media outlets?

Yes. All fellows commit to writing at least two op-eds and are encouraged to work on other concrete “thought leadership” results in the public sphere (for example, a TED talk, an essay or blog post, a speech, a podcast interview, etc.). Our journalist mentors will help fellows pitch at the beginning of the fellowship and, in later months, will guide fellows in pitching themselves on their own. Many fellows will produce more than two pieces as time and capacity allows.

Can one work in other types of public media in order to be considered beyond print (e.g., op-eds, essays)?

Yes. In addition to the minimum of two opinion pieces, fellows are welcome to focus on any concrete thought leadership outcomes they wish across any media platform they like, whether written, broadcast, online, public speaking, or something else. The purpose of committing to concrete outcomes is simply to ensure we put ideas into the public sphere and not merely talk about them.

Will there be opportunities to work with fellowship advisers to decide how, where, and when to publicize our work? Including in other media?

Yes. We work across a broad spectrum of media and will work with fellows to land on target media outlets for their pieces.

Will the fellowship help with venues like the New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, The New Republic, Harpers, etc., or is it just the short venues that “count”?

It depends. Fellows are welcome to aim for those magazine outlets, too, if they wish - but they should understand that doing so is a different game and (on the whole) may be less strategic. This is because literary and political magazines like the ones mentioned above tend to feature professional writers and journalists with experience in reporting. There are, of course, exceptions (several of our fellows have published in these outlets). Still, these types of outlets tend to favor the skill set of professional writers - and in this arena, academics and nonprofit leaders, who are not trained in this way, may be less competitive.  
By contrast, short-form opinion forums (across all media and public platforms) prioritize the contributor’s ideas and expertise. Communication skills still matter; obviously, one still needs to be able to express an idea clearly and compellingly, but since opinion forums favor expertise, academics, and nonprofit leaders have a strong competitive advantage. For this reason, we place a strategic emphasis on these forums. 
Nevertheless, Public Voices fellows are free to weigh these strategic considerations and decide for themselves. Our curriculum is not about any particular platform – it’s about making more and better ideas happen, creating an environment where we can think more expansively, and using the best available research and methods to increase our ability to influence the planet. If we do our job, the lessons will be applicable not only to any media but to any realm of life.

When will fellows be expected to arrive and depart for the in-person convening in Charlotte, NC, on October 13, 2023?

During the in-person convening, fellows are expected to arrive in Charlotte, NC, by 2 pm on Thursday, October 12, 2023. The in-person convening will take place from 9 am - 5 pm (EST) on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Are there any other in-person opportunities for fellows to attend outside of the in-person convening?

Following the in-person convening, fellows have a unique opportunity to participate in the National Black Child Development Institute’s 52nd Annual Conference from Friday evening, October 13 to Sunday afternoon, October 15, 2023.

Do fellows receive in-person travel stipends?

Yes, fellows can receive need-based travel stipends. Travel stipends will cover room and board (hotel), transportation (flights, transfers, etc.), and cover meals (although most meals will be provided during the in-person convening and the conference) in Charlotte, NC. 

Fellows are strongly encouraged to attend the NBCDI 52nd Annual Conference, and the travel stipend will cover full conference registration. The fellowship will provide need-based travel stipends to allow the fellows participating in their organizational and professional development to utilize those resources if available.

Why are fellows encouraged to attend the NBCDI Annual Conference?

We encourage fellows to attend NBCDI’s 52nd Annual Conference, taking place from Friday, October 13, to Sunday, October 15. The National Conference is the only convening of its kind in the United States that convenes educators, policymakers, elected officials, parents, childcare providers, and corporate leaders to focus on the unique challenges facing Black children and communities and highlight their success, resilience, assets, and strengths. 

Attending NBCDI’s Annual Conference can benefit the writing process and awareness of issues needing a voice, thought leadership, and talented writers to start the conversation.

What if I have to miss a convening?

Attendance at all Public Voices Fellowship convenings is mandatory. Your commitment to attend all convenings in full is a condition of acceptance into the fellowship. 

This fellowship is built around a social mission. Your presence is not just about what you will get out of this fellowship but what you will give. As a fellow, you are an important member of a small cohort chosen in part to contribute to each other’s experiences, and we will expect you to show up.  

If an emergency arises, fellowship institutions may allow fellows to make up a session. In such cases, we encourage fellows to make up the missed convening, at no charge, by attending the corresponding fellowship convening at another participating Public Voices institution. Fellows (or their institutions) are required to cover their travel costs if the make-up convening is in person. In addition, The OpEd Project provides up to one make-up spot (per fellowship cohort) at any of our public programs at no charge, as relevant. Any additional fellows who wish to attend one of our public programs can register and pay or ask for a need-based scholarship. This is because our public programs run on a separate budget under our social justice revenue model. Every spot we give away eliminates a scholarship spot we can give to someone in need.   

Please note it is highly unlikely that a fellow who misses the first convening will be allowed to proceed with the fellowship. Please contact the Managing Director of Fellowships at The OpEd Project to discuss any exceptional situations and how to proceed.