Play’s the Thing: Cultural, Contextual, Clinical and Community Perspectives on Children’s Play

Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 6:30 – 8 p.m. EDT

This panel discussion will focus on working with historically underrepresented and underserved youth. Hassiem Kambui, PhD, and Toni Sturdivant, PhD, will each present their work followed by a conversation moderated by Denisha Jones, PhD, JD, play advocate, Director of the Art of Teaching Graduate Program at Sarah Lawrence College and Co-Director of Defending the Early Years.


Hassiem Ayele Kambui, PhD

Children's Play and Race Behaviors of Intelligence

HassiemChildren's Play occurs across many racial, ethnic, and cultural centers (social contexts) associated with aspects of human functioning, such as the development of high self-esteem and self-confidence. Dr. Kambui aims to cover racial cultural specific theoretical and environmental constructs, whereby children learn through their play race behaviors of intelligence.

Hassiem Ayele Kambui, PhD, is a tenured associate professor of Counseling at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Kambui received a master's degree in School Counseling from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, and a Ph.D. in Counseling and Counselor Education from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Toni Sturdivant, PhD

I’m Gonna Cook My Baby: Black Preschoolers Rejecting Black Dolls

ToniDr. Sturdivant examined how race issues were manifested in the play of young Black preschool girls. Findings indicate that young Black girls had a strong preference for the nonblack dolls. This preference was evident in their repeated rejection of the Black dolls including mistreating a Black doll.

Toni Sturdivant, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Dr. Sturdivant currently teaches pre-service teachers in the College of Education and Human Services. Her research focuses on issues of racial learning and racial identity with young Black girls as well as culturally relevant teaching practices.


Denisha JonesDenisha Jones is the Director of the Art of Teaching Program at Sarah Lawrence College. After earning her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of the District of Columbia, Denisha worked as a kindergarten and preschool teacher and a preschool director. She earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana University in 2013. In 2018, she earned her Juris Doctor from the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia.

Her research interests include: organizing activist research projects that challenge dominant deficit views of Black children and the Eurocentric curriculum; documenting the value of play as a tool for liberation with an emphasis on global approaches to play; and leveraging the intersection of public policy, social movement lawyering, and critical social justice education to dismantle the neoliberal assault on public education. Her first co-edited book, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, was published in December 2020 by Haymarket Books.