10th annual AAC takes place virtually


This past weekend, the 10th annual African American Children and Families Conference (AAC) took place virtually from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at UNI.

Sponsored by President Mark Nook, former Vice President and Provost Jim Wohlpartand Dean of the College of Education and Associate Professor Dr. Colleen S. Mulholland, the conference hosted a wide range of panels focusing on centering the Black community in conversations of education, mental health and overall unity.

The theme this year was timely and necessary restructuring and reflection on how to better themselves — those in attendance and beyond — and their communities for the benefit of everyone.

The conference consisted of ten keynote speakers, the African American read-in and an abundance of panels and presentations, like the Black Girls Panel or the session simply called “Mindfulness,” which were divided between three different tracks offered to attendees.

There was something for everyone between the two youth tracks offered to younger participants (6-9 and 9-12), and the general session. The general track, which was scheduled with 15-minute breaks between each session, had high engagement from early morning until the end of the conference.

One such panel that offered guidance for educators of the present and future as well as a new perspective on community was Effua McGowan’s “Building Strong Communities from the People Up.”

McGowan, who is the founder of Amazing You, LLC, utilized narratives from her journey in education, which began in Liberia. Her panel highlighted the importance of educational equity and impact of a unified community.

“I’m a firm believer that a community is never successful if you do not take care of the foundation, the most important resource, which is the human resource of community,” she said.

McGowan told the story of how her own community, which included her first teacher in the long line of many that followed, came together to support the journey into education that she so desired at the age of three.

Using a quote from the former president of Tanzania “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere, she upheld that the job of a community goes back to the Ten Commandments, being as old as religion itself and falls on the individuals within to honor and help one another.

She then expanded upon that smaller idea of community, referencing her present experience in Houston, Texas, which was named the most diverse city in the nation in 2019.

“Community is a collection of people who may or may not have shared values, but in general they have shared values. They are a people who come together ensuring that they can thrive in social aspects, in economic aspects, educational – people in pursuit of a better life,” McGowan said.

In her presentation, she explored the pillars of the African American community, of which teachers play one of the biggest roles as they represent the most vulnerable in their communities: children. She maintained that to help make an impact, teachers must live and participate in these communities as leaders, adopting aspects of organizations who specialize in equal opportunity like the Peace Corps to reach educational equity.

Thanks in part to McGowan and all others who participated in the conference this year, as well as those prior and future, the African American Children and Families Conference accomplished the building of community that McGowan talked about. They also obtained an accessible compilation of resources to further build the UNI community from the people up.

For more information on McGowan’s message or to contact her further, you can visit her website amazingyoullc.com. To register for future conferences, visit their page on the UNI website at aac.uni.edu.