Diversity And Inclusion In The Black ABA Community With Adrienne Bradley And Tia Glover

Jul 11, 2022

The Black ABA community has long been underserved and underrepresented. But recent years have seen a surge in initiatives to empower black ABA practitioners and bring much-needed diversity to the field. In this episode, Sarah Litvak and Anna Bullard are joined by Adrienne Bradley, President at Black Applied Behavior Analysts (BABA) and Tia Glover, Behavior Analyst and Healthcare Director. They speak about how Black ABAs have been underrepresented, why the ABA conference at Detroit has been invaluable, and BABA’s partnership with the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) to benefit ABA professionals.

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Diversity And Inclusion In The Black ABA Community With Adrienne Bradley And Tia Glover

An Organization That Empowers The Black ABA Community Joins Forces With BHCOE To Support Industry Professionals

We have Adrienne Bradley and Tia Glover. We are excited to talk to them about their organization, Black Applied Behavior Analysts.

Thank you so much for joining us. I would love to know a little bit about what is BABA? Who are both of you? How did you get here? What brought you here, and why did you decide to start BABA? Guys, go ahead.

Thank you for having us. A lot of people have the misconception that myself or anyone that’s on the e-board started BABA. That’s not the case. Kat Jackson started BABA from a Facebook page because she saw a need and a lack of representation in our field. She was a BCBA in Alabama at the time and didn’t see people who looked like her, didn’t have the representation or anything like that but was experiencing a lot of different microaggressions and hardships at work.

From there, Facebook as a community brings people together before 2020. I was on Facebook wondering where are the other Black and African American individuals in the field that. I typed it into Facebook, and then BABA came up. That’s where the inception of BABA started. Tia, I don’t know if you want to say how you found BABA.

I was typing, “I’m going to try to start a Black Applied Behavior Analysts. I’m going to try to do it on my own,” and I saw it was already there. I did just like Adrienne. I clicked, joined the group, and found it pretty enlightening. That’s what brought us here.

I have a couple of friends in the community that is Black. One of my good friends, Helaine Odettapi, I remember when the Floyd situation happened. We were talking about everything that was going on. I hadn’t heard this before. She was like, “Sara, you were one of my only friends. I would go to a conference, and I was the only Black girl at these conferences. You were the one person that came up to me at the bar and was like, ‘What’s your name?’” This was years ago. She’s like, “You don’t realize how hard it is being Black in the community where you don’t see anyone that looks like you. It’s like, how do you find the feeling of comfort and the feeling of feeling connected to people that don’t look like you?

What you are building is incredible, and it’s very timely. I can’t believe that we haven’t had an organization like this a couple of years ago. Tell me a little bit about the impact you have made thus far. You have been around for a couple of years now. What do you think have been the highlights of your organization since its inception?

Honestly, it’s the fact that we exist and that people in our community know we exist and know they have a home to come to. Unless you are outside of the majority, you don’t know what lack of representation does and how that affects the decisions you make on the day-to-day. The biggest value is that there is somewhere for us to go, not that other organizations aren’t trying to do better with representation but there’s nothing like coming home to our community, started by us and for us. That has been the biggest impact.

The other thing is that a lot of what we do is because of the lack of opportunity that our community receives, and we provide those opportunities. We have the training and different partnerships that Tia is involved in. We are strategic with our partnerships because there has been a lack of opportunity for Black and African American individuals, whether people are ready to believe that or not, we wouldn’t exist and need these partnerships if it weren’t the truth. That’s what it has been for me.

To piggyback on what Adrienne said, I believe that it also does something for the people that aren’t behavior analysts. In the BABA organization, we have people who are going to some behavior analysts who are looking to be behavior analysts. What I appreciate about it is that it provides that support. It’s something that I didn’t have coming in. It’s to provide the support of someone that looks, sounds, and can get me in the right direction. That’s an imperative thing as well.

[bctt tweet=”Unless you are outside the majority, you don’t know what lack of representation does and how that affects your daily decisions.” username=”bh_coe”]

What does mentorship look like at BABA?

We have an application that the mentor and mentee fill out. We do make sure that values areas of focus, time, commitment, and things like that align, then we send the email. We say, “Here is your mentor or mentee. This is a little bit about them. We connected you for X, Y, and Z reasons.” They are required to meet at least once a month. At least you are getting that mentorship monthly, and then if you decide to meet more than that, that’s totally up to you. We are always looking for more mentors. We require that you are a Black individual to be a mentor because there are certain things that Black practitioners and students are going through that we can connect with. We are always looking for more Black mentors.

I want to jump to the conference that you held in Detroit, which was on the weekend of Juneteenth 2022. It’s an exciting opportunity but I don’t want to miss also the opportunity to ask you how and why did you get into Applied Behavior Analysis. I’m always curious how each person gets into the field.

I fell into it. I wouldn’t think that most behavior analysts, nobody going into it. All of us fell into it. I didn’t have a job set out of college. My mom worked in the field, and she was an auditor at the time. She was like, “You should do it.” I’m like, “No, I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to do that.” I know exactly what happened. I was working in an area and saw the bill that the behavior analyst gave my company. At that moment, I realized I was in the wrong field. I stopped getting my Doctorate and went back to school because, at that point, you had to have a certain type of Master’s degree. I went back to the school for a Master’s and then became a behavior analyst. I don’t think I will look back at all. I probably should have listened to my mom a little bit sooner.

That’s usually how it goes. I have three girls that are out of high school, and I’m pushing them into the medical field, “Any time you look at a job, go into the medical field.”

I also didn’t have a job coming out of college. I realized that I didn’t want to do what I went to college for. I had a little bit of thinking to do but I had got a parapro position in the local school district. I was working in a self-contained ASD classroom. It was the lack of training and education that the special education teachers and the parapros had. We had behavioral kids. They would send the ASD consultant, but the ASD consultant didn’t have to have any formal training, any kind of special degree or certification. What they were doing was masking the behavior.

“We have a kid that’s spinning. Give him a cut.” “He’s spitting in another kid’s mouth, and you said, give him a cut.” With an older parapro that had been there for a year, it was like, “Have you looked in the ABA?” I was like, “No.” I looked it up and was like, “This sounds great,” and I never looked back. I now work for the school that I went to grad school for. It’s definitely a full-circle moment.

I love always to know people’s stories and how they got to where they are. Let’s dive into the conference. Talk about that. Tell us how it went. What were the highlights? I know it was exciting.

Honestly, there has never been anything like it in our field. I know larger conferences and things like that occur but the energy felt in the room was powerful, impactful, and grateful to be there. You couldn’t describe it unless you were there. What we have all been talking about is how do we describe the feeling that everyone felt, being there and then learning from a whole lineup of not only Black individuals. We had White individuals, Latina women, Latino men, and a diverse lineup all talking about different things, not just DEI and behavior analysis. You got to see that representation in our science. It was warm.

It had a different field. A novel field for most people and attendees. We have been to plenty of behavior analytic conferences but we have never been to plenty of behavior analytic conferences with people that look like this. That brought a whole different field to the conference. It brought more of a family feel and being okay to be open. There would never have been a conference where people were crying at the conference. I had never seen them, never experience and it wouldn’t be me until the conference. That was probably one of the best things that I could say to take back, knowing that I felt as if it was a family here.

TSR 5 | Black Applied Behavior Analysts

Black Applied Behavior Analysts: A lot of what we do is because of the lack of opportunity that our community receives, and we provide those opportunities.

 

Usually, I will be honest, and when I go to the conference, I’m going to get the CEUs and move on. I was engaged in the topics and what we were talking about. We have these same conversations outside of the breakout rooms. That was the biggest thing. One thing how novel it was for everybody because a lot of people had the same reaction that I had. This is different. Being able to experience that and looking forward to doing it. I’m ready to go already. Knowing that our hard work paid off, it’s tiresome, especially for Adrienne, the longer nights, everything, the stress, come back to full circle knowing that it was well worth it.

As someone who puts on a conference, there’s nothing better than the post-conference high afterward where you look back and you are like, “I did that.”

That’s exactly how I feel. The biggest thing that I learned was BABA’s impact. There was history made at that conference, and our impact is it’s invaluable, whether people see it or not.

Can you share some of the announcements that you made? I know there were a lot. Don’t be shy. Get into the details. What did we miss?

One of the very first announcements we had, Tia worked hard on that.

I was on stage, and I thought they will think I took in the reaction when we said it. Now sitting back, I’m like, “The crowd went crazy when we said that.” What we had been working on or one of BABA’s initiatives was to get some programs going in regards to ABA verified course sequence in historically Black colleges and universities. Ironically, when I took my role as a Partnership Chair, I was already working on that. I had already done my due diligence, trying to find a university that would support this initiative because it’s hard to get people to respond back to you with something they are unfamiliar with.

I began working on that. When I got this role, I brought it to Adrienne. She was like, “This is what we are working on. We are already working on that.” I, combined with my alma mater in Florida A&M University, to announce that Florida A&M will be the first HBCU that would have a verified course curriculum for ABA in both the Master’s and undergraduate programs.

I don’t think I was ready for the reaction that we got. In my head, I’m like. “I’m used to doing it. This is just nothing else,” but when Adrienne said it, everybody went crazy. We were even spent, especially thankful that the chair of the psychology department, the person who has helped us with this initiative. Florida A&M University was there to see this news and the reaction of people as well.

That is historic. I also was thinking about the fact, if you recall, a couple of years ago that there was a lot of conversation around the fact that the BACB hadn’t been releasing demographic data about their certificants. They were like so fast to remedy that. They added the field, and then people started filling it out. They ended up showcasing that overall, only 9% of certificants were Black, and 20% were Latino.

You saw that the majority were White, then you think about the populations that we work with and the fact that people want to see themselves in their clinician, doctor, and medical treatment professional. We can’t do that if we are not allowing people to learn and grow into the role. I can imagine why the crowd went crazy. It’s going to make a huge impact on the patients who want to see themselves in the people they are working with.

[bctt tweet=”BABA made history. Its impact was invaluable.” username=”bh_coe”]

If you dig into that percentage, the higher you go when you go to the BCaBA, and the BCBA is about 3%.

It’s 3.9% Black, so 4% for BCBA-D, and the RBT is 13%.

That’s what we are saying that we are getting stuck in this hourly RBT role, and we are not able to do that BCBA-D or BCaBA role. It looks like, “It’s 10%. That’s great.” Of That 10%, only 3% can actually do what we do.

With that in mind, if we look, 53% of all certificants are White. If I look at the BCBA-D, 70% of those are BCBA-Ds. That number is drastically high compared to those entry-level roles. It’s a very good point.

My favorite part was the networking and the awards event. One of the things that BABA was very intentional about was supporting Black-owned businesses. We can forget that as conference organizers. We have a large budget. If you look at where you are spending your money and how you can spend your money, are you diverse in that? 9 times out of 10, it’s a no or like, “It’s woman-owned. It’s a small business,” but what about BiPAp businesses? Both the awards event and the networking event were Black-owned venues. Everything in our slag bags was Black-owned businesses, including the bag and everything that BABA bought to go in our slag bags.

We were very intentional about who and where we are spending our money, and for Black people and behavior analysis, they are not used to that. We went out to the wine store. It was all Black-owned wines, Black chefs, Black people, and Black music but everyone still felt welcomed. You were seeing all the hustles. Social media is blowing up. Seeing that community and that family feel that too was talking about at a behavior analysis conference was the best part for me. We honored Dr. C Richard Spates. Many people don’t know about him because his names were not in the book. His legacy has not been talked about but he is a legend.

You see that happening a lot. He is well into his 70s or 80s. He was in the Psychology department at one of the most long-lasting procedures ABA programs at Western Michigan University. No one knows about him. To honor him and to see his reaction, he was very emotional. We got an email from him saying, “I’ve never experienced this at any ABA conference, let alone in my personal life of the appreciation and the honor,” to what he had done for our community that no one knew about until we bring it to the forefront.

Why do you think that’s the case that he’s never had his day in the sun? I felt the same way. We booked the Women in Behavior Analysis conference in 2021, and Nesiah Alesi was the keynote speaker. I remember, on a whim, posted on LinkedIn that I had never seen a Black individual invited as a keynote speaker in all of my decades going to ABA conferences. I remember posting that being like, “This is history.”

The next day, I woke up, and hundreds of people liked it. I was like, “People agreed that that’s the case.” I hadn’t even thought about it. I thought, “This is amazing.” I remember Nesiah emailed me, “I screenshot that LinkedIn post because it was meaningful to get acknowledged in that way.” I’m curious. Why do you think that these people are not being acknowledged until years of making an impact?

No one thought to care. We don’t exist to a lot of people. As Black individuals in this field, we still get emails saying, “Why does there have to be a Black Applied Behavior Analyst organization?” We got it two days before our conference.

TSR 5 | Black Applied Behavior Analysts

Black Applied Behavior Analysts: One of BABA’s initiatives was to get some programs for ABA verifier courses, the course sequence in Black colleges and universities.

 

When we first started, I remember people were up in arms, “Why do we need a women and behavior analysis conference?” There are so many women in the field it’s already women-dominated. I remember thinking, “I’m a woman, and I’ve accomplished a lot. The number of male keynote speakers at these conferences is exceedingly high.” It’s changed a lot since we both came out, and I’m sure it will change on the diversity side since BABA has come out. At the end of the day, everyone knows what it feels like to be another, whether you are a woman, Black or whatever it is, even like a man who’s short. He’s like, “I wish I were taller.” Everyone knows how to feel like you can’t be someone else.

It’s three times worse when you are Black in America. When you are Black and a behavior analyst in a community that has never seen you. Dr. Richard Spates helped start ABAI, one of the longest-lasting organizations. He worked with Robust. He worked with everybody that we talk about, everybody that’s in our books but you don’t see and know him. You don’t know what he’s done, for the simple fact that we do not exist still to this day to many people. Nesiah is speaking at NEPA. She has been in the field for many years doing the work at her house. There’s still a lack of caring, and is it at your frontal or is it like, “Yeah, okay?”

I’m appreciative that you are bringing this to light and that people are able to read that message because what I was trying to say about the others is to imagine the slight discomfort you feel about your other. Think about how amplified it must be when you add race to it or things that you can’t change. I love the thoughtfulness around the Black-owned businesses. There’s a level of detail that you provide that you rarely see at conferences. I always joke when my partner, Ronit, and I started the Autism Investor Summit, we were like, “We would go to these conferences. They have like Cheez-Its and Ritz crackers. It feels like they went to Costco, bought a bunch of stuff, and threw it on a table.”

We wanted to create something more special and unique. It sounds like you did something similar and thoughtful. I know how much attention goes into that. It doesn’t just show up overnight. I hope everyone who attends realizes how much thought went into that. I wasn’t able to attend in 2022 but I know that two of our team members were able to join, and they were raving about it. They thought it was fantastic.

The idea of Black-owned businesses, we announced a partnership with BABA that’s focused on trying to benefit ABA professionals and make them aware of some of the issues that we talked about, and then also help support Black-owned businesses as well. Do you want to give us a little bit of a hint about what that partnership looked like and why that was important for your membership? I’m happy to chat about what it means for us as well.

One of the main things that happen when you are a person of color is that when you are getting everything started within your own organization, and you want to go for those different accrediting bodies, the main thing, at least for me, when we were developing this was giving people the opportunity to do that. As we all know, those fees can be a pretty hefty fee. One of the main things that we are highlighting with this partnership is that they are able to get a 30% discount. You want this accreditation, and you can use this to help better your business. Having that will also draw more eyes and attention to your business.

Being able to assist with that financially was one of the biggest things for me when we were developing this partnership, and what could you guys bring to the table as well as ourselves. Interchangeably, both of us are offering CEUs. We will do a CEU event for you guys or whatever CEU we have that month, and you will be able to attend. On the flip side, we will have access to your learning hub, which will assist with the CEUs and live webinars as well.

We were talking about hopefully, maybe doing some Q&A for people who want it to have the accreditation and being able to have that helping hand when it does come time for the accreditation and being able to do that because we have been through that. It can be a long and hard process. You don’t want to deter anybody from doing that.

You want to have African-Americans having that accreditation from you. That was probably the bigger thing when we were developing this partnership and being able to empower our members, to make sure that they have the same thing that their White colleagues, White counterparts or White cohorts may have as well.

We have a section within our accreditation process on diversity, equity, and inclusion. There are certain requirements that we have in place for our organizations to make sure that they are upholding the values that we would like to see in this area. It was important for us that we help our organizations live and breathe this. For us, what was exciting is if you do become accredited, you will receive one free BABA membership for your staff. What that would allow us to do is make sure that the hundreds of organizations we work with have representation at BABA and are able to have those important conversations and bring that back to their organization and share what they’ve learned.

[bctt tweet=”One of the things that BABA did very intentionally was support Black-owned businesses.” username=”bh_coe”]

The CEU piece is exciting because we want to help Black-owned businesses continue to grow, thrive, and learn. Having your members access is going to be meaningful, and then vice versa, some of the content that you guys are putting out is something that is meaningful to our population. I’m excited about it, and it feels mutually beneficial. It pushes both of our missions forward in a way that I think will ultimately benefit the way the field operates then also the way the staff is trained and patients receive care. It feels like a win-win across both organizations.

For me, looking at the type of organizations that get this accreditation, they are the larger, the big ones that can afford to do these things. Being able to empower our members to be able to say, “Let’s help you out here. What can we do to help you with this accreditation?” It is a good accreditation to have something good to have upon your belt. Being able to give that to our members and help them thrive.

It’s exposing that. There is a lot that Black practitioners and Black-owned businesses don’t know. Being at the conference was beneficial for BHCOE but also for our Black-owned businesses. We will always have a business track because of the experiences that our practitioners are having in the field. They are starting their own but many don’t know about accreditation because it’s not taught to them. It’s not exposed. They don’t have the opportunity. That’s where our field is going.

You guys have partnered with insurance companies, so I can only imagine what’s going to be coming here in the near future. We are also about exposure and knowing that this is out there and this can help your business grow. This can validate your business ethically with quality care. The most exciting part is that our community will be exposed to something that aligns with us. BABA doesn’t matter about partnerships with everybody.

We feel very special. I was going to say one thing because you talked about the larger organizations. I’ve heard people say that before that we mostly work with large organizations, and that’s a slight misconception. I wanted to correct it in case anyone is reading. Our experience has been that the field is divided into a large amount of small providers, under 250 staff.

You have a few number of large providers that are maybe 40 of them that have 1,000 plus staff. They may make up the majority of the staff but in terms of volume, there are only 40 of them, whereas there are thousands of small providers. We’ve found that our accreditation matches the bell curve of where the field fits.

Most of our providers are on the smaller end only because there are only 40 large ones. About half of them are accredited with us but we spend so much time with small providers and see them grow to scale. For anyone reading who’s on the smaller side, a large amount of our providers started with us. They had 1 patient, and now they have 200. It has been exciting to see that progression of them coming to us years ago with a handful of patients and then seeing them grow into that.

We definitely work with all different sizes, and now we’ve seen a lot of bigger ones leaning into accreditation as something that they need to do. We see across the board, and all sizes tend to engage in that type of thing. I want to put that out there because we get that sometimes. I’m thinking about BABA, and you were incorporated in 2019. What does the road ahead look like for you? What’s to come?

We need everything. Our community needs everything. We have our strategic plan, our five-year goals, and things like that. That’s what grounds us. We would love more HBC use. We would love to help with that process. Being able to grow more BCBA in research. Is there a journal article? A lot of people talk about these journals and what they look like. I have been president for the last years.

My journey to this presidency was not your typical journey. I think BABA as a baby organization and things like that have been through a lot but I’m ready to pass the Baton. You will hear it here first, and we love our partnership with BHCOE. Tia Glover is going to be the new President of BABA starting in October 2022. We are excited about that.

TSR 5 | Black Applied Behavior Analysts

Black Applied Behavior Analysts: We’ve been to plenty of behavior analytic conferences, but we’ve never been to plenty of behavior analytic conferences with people that looked like us. So that brought a whole different field to the conference.

 

Congratulations. It’s going to be awesome. I wanted to ask the question for all of these organizations out there who employ Black or African American staff, what can they do, and how can they lean on you to help promote their staff to become behavior analysts?

Don’t lean on us. Support and let expose your staff so that we let them know that we exist and we are here to help. We get a lot of emails of, “How can I increase my recruitment of Black individuals?” You are going to have to look at your policies, procedures, and representation, and that’s on you. You don’t help with those things.

One of the things we will ask for our community is that there’s an obligation to make sure that we still exist because if you are serving Black families or employing Black RBTs and Black practitioners, our field is not in a state where everybody is, treated equally. It doesn’t happen. That’s where we are. Please make sure that we can still exist by supporting us. We take donations and sponsorship when we do a call to action like, “We got this HBCU. We were looking for practicum sites. What does that look like?”

I know we talked enough but you will let us know how we can help as well. Hopefully, our accredited providers who are reading take this as a call to action to get involved in some way as well.

Thank you so much. This has been enjoyable to have this conversation. I feel like I definitely am coming to the conference.

I joined in 2021 virtually. I loved it mostly because I got to listen to every talk from a beach chair. I remember it was the weekend of Father’s Day, and I was with my husband and I was like, “I’m so sorry. I have to listen to this.” We will definitely have to be there in person. Thank you so much for all that you do. We appreciate you taking the time to come and chat with us.

 

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