Speakers & Topics for UMOJA MN 2016

Robert O’Connor has more than 20 years of formal experience working with children and families who are at-risk for out-of-home placements. As a child, Robert and his siblings experienced multiple failed adoptions and foster care placements before being transracially adopted at the age of four. Today, Robert is Associate Professor of social work at Metropolitan State University, and director of the university’s Multicultural Title IV-E Program. He is a frequent speaker on cultural competency related topics in child welfare and the workplace, transracial adoption and leadership. Previously, Robert worked for the MN DHS in Adoption & Guardianship, and as a consultant for the federal Children’s Bureau’s National Resource Center for Adoption’s Training and Technical Assistance team.

UMOJA 2016 topic:  Intentional Parenting: Race & Culture: Whenever a child joins a family through adoption from another culture, the family becomes a multicultural family. In our multicultural families, workplaces and communities we tend to leave much to chance versus choice when it comes to creating supportive and peaceful environments. This session will help families examine how parents can become positive agents of change to create strong, thriving communities and families. Participants will also learn the following objectives:  Identity what “intentional” parenting is and why it is important for multicultural families.  Help your child develop a strong sense self and cultural/racial identity.   Strategies for being agents/allies of change for multiculturalism. http://www.robertoconnorassociates.com | robert_oconnor_@msn.com

Michelle K. Johnson is a highly energetic goal oriented person who has an optimistic outlook on life. Serving families and children in crisis is her passion. As a cross-culturally adopted adult from foster care, she has a special skill set in anti-racism and diversity work, multi-ethnic families and communities. She is the cofounder of the MN Chapter of the Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, which brings together adult adoptees and fosters care alums from across the global African diaspora, believing that providing connections for and creating space to make visible the adoption and foster community in Black/ African diasporic cultures worldwide will give support to those who otherwise remain isolated in their experiences.  She also has been a CASA/Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Coordinator for the State of Minnesota- 4th Judicial District Court for the past 9 years.  She trains, retains, supports and celebrates 230+ volunteer child advocates who represents abused and neglected children in Minneapolis Juvenile Court (Hennepin County). http://www.startribune.com/new-challenges-unite-adult-adoptees/126529928/

UMOJA 2016 Topic: From Grief and Loss to Empowerment: Creating your Child’s Ethnic Story.  Research has shown that children who leave foster care without an ethnic identity develop a system identity which is damaging and life-altering in many negative ways. Adopted children and adults can experience similar fates without intervention from parents and other professionals. This workshop will explore ways in which parents  can validate their child’s birth culture and adoptee identity through oral and written stories.  Concepts to explore include:  Courageous conversations about white power and privilege, Acknowledging grief and loss in adoption, Understanding African oral traditions and African American writing styles & Creating life books and other stories as a form of healing.

Panel Discussion: Strategies a Village Uses to Parent Children of Color:  Facilitated by: Ken Pugh, MA. 75 year old African American male born and raised in St. Paul. Certified Cultural Competency trainer/facilitator. Former Evolve Social Worker. African American Cultural Liaison at St. Paul public charter school. Father of 12.  kdpug@comcast.net, 612-741-8843


Hair Professionals

Dominic Warren is a registered barber, barber instructor and co-owner of Final Cut Sports Barbershop, Twin Cities barbershop chain. Dominic has had a passion for barbering and helping people look their best since he was a young boy watching his mom support her family as a barber. Dominic’s barbering career has also allowed him to fulfill his desire to help people, in a variety of ways. He often says “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”.  http://www.finalcutshop.com/



Universal Dance Destiny is a dance performance and entertainment company offering a variety of dance educational presentations, master classes, workshops, residencies in primarily traditional west African dance with live drumming accompaniment and modern African dance to upbeat African music. Our mission is to connect people of all communities through the history, meaning, and movement of dance. We believe demonstrating the value of various dance forms foster respect for different cultural groups. We strive to inspire individuals – especially youth – to discover their inner talent, confidence and style. Edna Stevens will be joining us for UMOJA and is the artistic director, instructing various classes, workshops, and residencies at various locations year round. She promotes having individual style in dance and believe creativity is limitless.

During the UMOJA 2016 weekend, Edna will be teaching an African dancing class to our children 3 years and older, having them do a short performance for the adults and also doing s shortened version of their Africa to the Streets performance.  udancedestiny@gmail.com | https://www.facebook.com/groups/universaldancedestiny/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s