In 1970, there were Kent State, Biafra, Vietnam, the Jackson Five, hip-huggers and vinyl hot pants. In black communities, 42 percent of the children lived in poverty. The air waves filled with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."

In 1990, there are the ruins of the Berlin Wall, Saddam Hussein, 2 Live Crew, Michael Jackson, Nelson Mandela, Africa medallions and kente cloth. And in the black communities, children still are living in poverty: 45 percent of them.

The faces of the children and the times have changed. The kinds of lives they lead have not.

In that dismal fact lie the marching orders of the 20-year-old National Black Child Development Institute, whose executive director and founder, Evelyn K. Moore, opened the institute's annual conference here yesterday, expressing outrage at governmental inaction in the face of a mounting crisis and calling for more blacks to step forward as volunteers to work with black children.

"These are our children. Their needs are our responsibility," Moore said at a news conference at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Moore released an institute report called "The Status of African American Children," which chronicles the social milieu of 1970 and 1990 and places within it the status of black children in such areas as health, education and family.

"We are deeply concerned and outraged that there is still an educational system that insists on remaining separate and unequal, which oppresses black children by letting them fail; that more than 23 percent of African American children have been suspended from school; that approximately 25 percent have repeated at least one grade; and that African American teenagers are still more likely to drop out of school than are white teenagers . . . .

"That black children are still more likely to be born to mothers who either received no prenatal care or received late prenatal care resulting in low birth weight and high infant mortality, {and} to have limited access to health care, and that only 56 percent of African American children have any health insurance coverage.

"We've got to move beyond people who are involved, but to the broader community, like the postal workers, the truck drivers . . . in terms of getting people involved in programs" such as Each One, Reach One, Moore said in an interview.

Each One, Reach One is a mentoring and tutoring program operated by hundreds of volunteers in institute affiliates in Greensboro, N.C., and Detroit. Together the two affiliates are reaching 700 children. The program is starting in several other cities as well.

Conference participants also mounted a massive lobbying campaign yesterday. About 500 went to Capitol Hill, where they had lunch with Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and met with members of the House and Senate on child-care issues.

The conference, where registration was cut off at 3,000 people yesterday, will consist of three days of seminars and workshops attended by educators, psychologists, child-welfare advocates, academics and parents from around the nation.

The focus is on methods to build black children's academic skills, self-esteem and consciousness of their black heritage.

That cultural rallying cry was sounded at a pre-institute summit meeting of leaders of volunteer and service programs Tuesday, where Barbara Huell, secretary of the County School Board in Georgetown, S.C., and founder of a black school in Atlanta, declared that black children need positive reinforcement.

"You must create an environment that is so charged with African American culture that the child feels the way many of us feel when we go to Africa for the first time: 'I belong here. This is me.' "