Conference goes virtual in tenth year


Courtesy Photo

A student participates in a previous African American Read-In, part of the African American Children and Families Conference. This year, the conference, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 12, will be held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


UNI’s tenth annual African American Children and Families Conference will take place via Zoom this year on Friday, Feb. 12 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. This year, the conference’s theme is “The Time is NOW: Restructuring Our Mind and Spirit.”

Dr. Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, associate professor at UNI and founder and coordinator of the conference, said that this year, the conference is focusing on topics like unity and togetherness. These topics come as a response to a summer of racial injustices, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“Last night, I was looking at the Super Bowl, and the pre-bowl presentation, it was just—it’s so exciting about the time and changes and people’s attitudes about bettering our world and social justice and fairness for all people,” Kirkland-Holmes said.

The theme of unity at one of the largest events of the year was significant, she said.

“That’s kind of where we’re focusing on,” she said. “The time is now for all of us to come together, unite as people and to learn more about each other. The more we learn about each other, the better we understand each other, then our relationships with each other will be much better.”

Kirkland-Holmes is glad that despite the pandemic, the conference could continue virtually. She attributes this to members of the UNI administration like President Mark Nook, Provost Jim Wohlpart and college deans. Kirkland-Holmes said that these individuals’ support for the conference shows that they also support social justice and UNI’s strategic plan for diversity.

The conference is welcoming various acclaimed speakers. Dr. J. Luke Wood of San Diego State University will give a keynote presentation called “Black Minds Matter.”

“This presentation will draw parallels between the ways that Black people (particularly Black boys and men) are under-valued and over-criminalized in society and the ways that they are schooled,” the conference’s website shares. “Tangible solutions for promoting the learning, development, and success of Black males are offered.”

The conference will also feature a panel of UNI student-athletes, moderated by UNI Director of Athletics, Dr. David Harris.

“We thought that one is very timely since as we looked at a lot of things across campuses at this time, athletes were involved in making a lot of social justice changes,” Kirkland-Holmes said. “Even when we looked at the National Basketball Association and National Football League, for this year, they became leaders. They’re not just playing sports on the court or on the field, but they’re also getting out messages.”

Kirkland-Holmes encourages UNI students to sign up for the conference. There are a variety of panels where students can learn about topics like mental health, diversity issues in schools and teen dating violence.

The event is free for UNI students. Those interested should visit the conference’s website ( and register by Thursday, Feb. 11 to ensure they receive a Zoom link.

“I think that UNI students would not want to miss this opportunity,” Kirkland-Holmes said.