African American Children and Families Conference held in SEC

TONI FORTMANN

EMMA STOFFER, Staff Writer

On Friday, Feb. 28, the ninth annual African American Children and Families Conference was held from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Schindler Education Center. Its theme was “Transforming Communities for the Betterment of the Lives of African American Children and Families.”

The event began with a keynote address from Corey Roberto Lanair Holmes, a Waterloo native now living in Atlanta, Ga. where he serves as a pastoral community leader. Attendees could then choose from three breakout sessions to attend: a town hall led by Dr. Kingsley Botchway II, a speech from youth keynote speaker De’Carlos Anderson and “Black Girls,” a panel discussion led by Dr. Tiffany Flowers.

Late morning to early afternoon was filled with multiple breakout sessions separated into a middle/high school track and general track. The middle and high schoolers could choose from five sessions: “It’s Time! Bust Some Moves! Code your own dance party with Code.org” led by Magda Galloway, Leigh Zeitz, Sarah Bryans-Bongey, Farah Kashef, Sadie Specht and Lindsay Laughlin; “Painting with Chaveevah!” led by Chaveevah Ferguson, “Hip Hop Literacy” led by Dr. Shuaib Meacham, an admissions presentation led by Juana Hollingsworth and a panel of UNI students and a session on financial literacy led by Angela Weekley of Veridian Credit Union.

The general track had ten different breakout sessions including: “Reflections of a Transformational Educator: Education as Liberation Theology,” led by Dr. Louis Hilton, “Iowa and the School to Prison Pipeline,” led by Dr. Stephanie Jones, Sarah Beisner and Sophie Shea, “Is My Syllabus Diverse Enough?” led by Dr. Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar, “Disproportionality of Families in the Child Welfare System,” led by Felicia Carter, “Critical Race Theory in Education: A Black Mother’s Narrative on Special Education,” led by Joyce Levingston, “Teaching and Learning About Africa through Hip-Hop and Rap Music,” led by Dr. Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure, “Ghosts of Jim Crow and Its Impact on Black Families in the Metroplex,” led by Abraham Funchess, “Youth Empowerment: Vision book to purpose, wellness, success and happiness,” led by Dr. Theodora Jn Baptiste, and a discussion of the We Believe Summer Academy with Stephanie Shavers, Gina Weekley and Ty Allan Jackson, who spoke as the guest author and

illustrator.

Dr. Theodora Jn Baptiste led a breakout session about youth empowerment focusing on creating a vision for the future, a message she believes is something that the target audience needs to hear.

“It’s along my vision to encourage goal-setting. Young adults need goals to move forward, and it’s what the target audience needs to hear. It’s my passion to share that,” Jn Baptiste said.

A youth dance performance led by Reverend Marvin Jenkins followed the afternoon breakout sessions before the start of two specialized panels. For the youth track, a session about bullying was led by Dr. Theodora Pinnock and the general track held a panel discussion on mental health with moderator Keyah Levy and panelists Juana Hollingsworth, M.S.W., Chatara Mabry, L.M.S.W. and Shantila Caston, L.M.S.W. The final session to end the conference was a community forum on mental health led by Dr. Theodora Pinnock.

Between sessions, those in attendance were encouraged to visit the exhibitions sitting in the G.R.E.A.T. room of Schindler Education Center. UNI Admissions, People’s Community Health Clinic, the KBBG FM radio station, Amani, Estella’s Stop and Shop, Val’s Jewelry, World’s Window and University Book and Supply set up booths.

Brianna Lyons, a sophomore Early Childhood Education major, enjoyed the exhibitions’ atmosphere. “It’s amazing. There are Waterloo vendors here and it’s a lot of culture, which is nice to see on campus,” she said.

This year’s theme was “Transforming Communities for the Betterment of the Lives of African American Children and Families.” According to the conference’s website, this theme was meant to encourage the action of speaking up for others, especially those who cannot.

“We are reminded that we must be the voices for those who can not, will not or shall not stand up and speak for themselves,” the website for the event states.

The website’s statements also draws on the importance of the conference’s history by providing its original mission to increase diversity.

“The College of Education started this conference 9 years ago with hopes of promoting diversity and better understanding among all people as we strive to help children attain positive goals in life through our educational mission.”

The ninth annual African American Children and Families Conference wrapped up at 4 p.m. and also helped signify the end of Black History Month.