Jack and Jill of America began 84 years ago, when a group of Black mothers in Philadelphia led by Marion Stubbs Thomas gathered to create an organization to provide their children with the kind of social and cultural opportunities they couldn’t get in white society.
When Christine Davenport moved to Maryland from South Carolina in the 1970s and began raising her children in the ’80s, she faced the same kind of problem: Anytime she wanted to take her son and daughter out on activities, they had to go alone.
She heard about Jack and Jill while at a convention in California for her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and learned that Jack and Jill was the only national Black organization at the time whose mission was children.
“Their goal is to nurture African American leaders of the future,” Davenport said.
When she returned to Maryland, Davenport invited about six mothers over to her house and told them she wanted to start a chapter of Jack and Jill. Every Saturday morning, they took their kids on trips to amusement parks, museums — even to the White House for Easter Egg Hunts. And on Oct. 27, 1990, the Glen Burnie Chapter of Jack and Jill was chartered.
“That was the best thing I could’ve ever done, not just for myself but for my kids, and the kids in the community,” Davenport said.
Davenport is a trailblazer who exemplifies excellence and leadership in many areas. She taught school for 35 years, and was the first African American elected to the Democratic Central Committee from District 31 in 2002. She also organized and served as president of the North Arundel County Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She’s currently the regional director of the Continental Society, a nonprofit committed to providing quality program and activities to children.
The chapter she started, since renamed the Arundel Bay Area Jack and Jill, has 45 moms and 65 children, Davenport said. The national organization has 252 chapters representing more than 40,000 families.
Jack and Jill develops projects that deal with cultural awareness, education, health and service, all to help stimulate the growth and development of Black children.
Davenport said Jack and Jill kids are now adults in every profession you can name, and “They will tell you that they credit Jack and Jill for their start … for reminding them who they are.”
Davenport is a grandmother now, and says she’s delighted that her daughter-in-law recently joined a Jack and Jill chapter in Gulfport, Mississippi, knowing the legacy lives on.
This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.