African American Children & Families Conference

Education, Justice and Equality: A Shared Responsibility

Welcome to the 12th African American Children and Families Conference which carries the theme: Education, Justice and Equality: A Shared Responsibility.  This year's VIRTUAL event on February 17, 2023, once again promises to provide high quality and culturally relevant  presentations on topics that appeal to faculty, staff, professional colleagues and community friends and neighbors, locally and far beyond the Cedar Valley. 

Our parallel event, the African American Read-In, is scheduled for Thursday, February 16. Through this event, we plan to engage a growing number of first grade students across the state through African American literature and storytelling by renowned authors and illustrators. 

African American Childrens and Families Conference African American Childrens and Families Conference

About the Conference

The College of Education started this conference 13 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. This conference engages local, state, regional, national and international stakeholders in meaningful dialogue and problem solving to serve African American children, families, communities and allies as we network to strengthen our collective perspectives on our campus community.

Who should attend?

Pre-service and in-service teachers, administrators, childcare providers, law enforcement, policy makers, social workers, health professionals, business leaders, employers, students, faculty, community members and anyone committed to improving the lives of children are encouraged to register. 

We gratefully acknowledge the support and sponsorship of Mark Nook, UNI president; Jose Herrera, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs; and Colleen Mulholland, dean and professor, College of Education, for their support and sponsorship of this annual conference. 

Keynote Speaker

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr.

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., a descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, will speak to "History, Human Rights and the Power of One," in the keynote session to this year's African American Children and Families Conference. Morris continues his family's legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). An accomplished public speaker, Morris regularly appears before charitable organizations, local, state and federal government agencies and civic organizations and presents to students across the country and internationally. Among his many honors, he served as the Commission Chair of the federal Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in religion degree from the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies at the University of La Verne. As did Douglass and Washington before him he firmly believes that education is the pathway to freedom.

Take a living history journey with Morris as he gives a dynamic presentation about his famous family's history, the pressure he felt growing up in the shadow of his esteemed ancestors, and his work today building strong children and ending systems of exploitation and oppression as co-Founder and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. 

Honoring Gloria Kirkland-Holmes


‌Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, PhD, started with a simple idea: to address diversity on the UNI campus and in the community by bringing the National African American Read-In to the UNI campus. It began with her reading to a small group of children. 

Five years later, her passion to share and educate others about African American culture led to the first African American Children and Families Conference at UNI. It attracted community members, UNI faculty, students and staff, professional colleagues, and – of great interest to her – middle school and high school students as youth tracks were incorporated. 

Including the 2023 event, 16 more read-ins would follow, with participation growing to nearly 1,000 first grade students from the Cedar Valley visiting campus in 2019. And then, in a broadened effort as the event went virtual post-COVID, it connected with more than 2,200 students in 2022. The 2023 children and families conference is the 12th, an event which has drawn more than 1,000 attendees over the years. As always, it features a broad mix of locally to nationally recognized guest speakers to inform, educate and inspire. 

The emerita professor continued to lead these events following her retirement in 2020, once again demonstrating the dedication she had shown in her 41 years with UNI, including 25 years teaching at the Malcolm Price Laboratory School. 

We received word of Dr. Holmes’ passing in December 2022. This year’s conference and read-in are dedicated to her in recognition of her long-lasting impact and commitment to her community and her students. 

Read more about Dr. Holmes and her legacy. 

Schedule At-A-Glance

Friday, February 17, 2023

A Virtual Event

NOTE: All times are Central Standard Time (CST). You will log in using the link emailed to you upon registration (from During the conference, you will be able to select your session. Session times and speaker's subject to change as schedule is finalized.

8 - 8:05 a.m. CST – Welcome

8:05 - 8:35 a.m. CST

Tribute to Gloria Kirkland-Holmes, PhD 

8:35 - 8:55 a.m. CST

UNI African American Heritage Trail Project
Kathleen Scholl, PhD, CTRS
Charles Pearson, Pearson Consulting
Oksana Grybovych Hafermann, EdD
Students of RTNL 4779 Community Workshop Planning, Fall 2022

9 - 10 a.m. CST – KEYNOTE
History, Human Rights and the Power of One
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. 

10:00 - 10:10 a.m. CST – Break
10:10 - 11 a.m. CST – Concurrent Sessions

‌Curriculum as a Tool for Affirming Race, Culture, and Identity in the Classroom

Denisha Jones, PhD


‌Delivering on the Promise of Early Childhood Education for Black Children: An Equity Strategy

Iheoma U. Iruka, PhD

11:00 - 11:10 a.m. CST – Break
11:10 a.m. - Noon CST – Concurrent Sessions

Black Males Panel

Theme: Decisions That Black Men Make
Shuaib Meacham, PhD, Moderator

Trauma-Sensitive Social and Emotional (SEL) Practices for Racial Justice

Sarah Montgomery, PhD

Noon - 12:30 p.m.  CST – 30-minute Break 
12:30 - 1:20 p.m. CST – Concurrent Sessions

Community Panel

Theme: Faith, Community and Social Justice
Pastor Charles Daniel, Moderator 

(CANCELLED) A Study to Explore the Linkages Between Institutionalized Racial Oppression and Internalized Racial Oppression on Self-Efficacy in African American Youth in Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)

Rev. Belinda Creighton-Smith, MDiv, EdD

Black Girls Panel

Theme: Inspire, Educate, Protect & Empower Black Girls
Tiffany Flowers, PhD, Moderator 

1:20 - 1:30 p.m. –  Break
1:30 - 3:30 p.m.  CST – Concurrent Sessions

Juvenile Court Services (1 of 3)

Lawrence Daniel

Iowa Safer Areas for Everyone (IowaSafe) (2 of 3)

Lawrence Daniel

Juvenile Court Panel (3 of 3)

Lawrence Daniel, Moderator

Helping Families Become More Financially Stable & Supportive Through a Money Mindset

Choyo Wilson-Daniel

Affirming Black Students’ Lives and Literacies

Gwendolyn McMillon, PhD
Patriann Smith, PhD