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Featured Speakers


Dr. Deadric T. Williams Associate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville

I am an Associate professor Professor of Sociology (2020-present) in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. My research focuses on race & racism, Black families, poverty & economic hardship, stress & health, and quantitative methods (longitudinal and dyadic analyses). My work emphasizes three general themes: (1) Critical Race Theory and Black family life; (2) reciprocity between stress and relationship health in couple dyads; and (3) stress exposure and mental (and physical) health outcomes. (For more information on my research, see the Research tab).

In 2022, I was selected as a William T. Grant Scholar. The Scholars Program supports the professional development of promising social, behavioral, and health sciences researchers who have received their terminal degrees within the past seven years. Scholars receive $350,000 to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods. I will investigate structural mechanisms, rather than individual characteristics, that sustain poverty among Black, Latino, and White families. Specifically, the study examines whether state-level structural racism, defined as racial inequalities in life chances, and tract-level racialized space, defined as the percentage of a census-level tract that is different racial groups, are mechanisms that maintain inequality. 

From 2016-2019, I was an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Department of Sociology. Before entering the department (2014-2016), I was a post-doctoral research associate with minority health disparities.

In 2012, I received the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship. The honor was also highlighted in The Midwest Sociologist.

I received a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2014), an M.S. in Sociology (2009), and a B.A. (2006) in English from Mississippi State University. 2004, I completed my Associate of Arts degree at East Mississippi Community College.


Dr. LaVonne M. Moore

CEO and Founder of Chosen Vessels Midwifery Services and The Chocolate Milk Club


Has a Doctor of Nursing Practice from St. Catherine University, a Master of Science in Nurse Midwifery from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Arts in Health & Human Services Administration from St. Mary’s University. She is a certified nurse midwife, certified women’s healthcare nurse practitioner, international board-certified lactation consultant, and certified childbirth educator. Dr. Moore is an adjunct faculty at several universities, including Thomas Edison State University, teaching graduate nursing and women’s health courses. She practices at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center. She is CEO and Founder of Chosen Vessels Midwifery Services and The Chocolate Milk Club, a culturally specific service of Chosen Vessels Midwifery Services that provides breastfeeding education and support for African American families. Dr. Moore's goal is to use the midwife model of care to inspire all women to breastfeed and support all those who do because she believes that good health begins with breastfeeding.

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Dr. Andre L. Johnson

 Founder, President and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project

Dr. Johnson, a native Detroiter, is the Founder/President/CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project Incorporated (DRP).  DRP is a trailblazing multi-service non-profit agency that provides a broad spectrum of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services to the city’s recovery community. DRP is Michigan's first recovery community organization designated as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.

Dr. Johnson has consulted on behalf of the United States President's Emergency Plan Against Aids abroad to the Department of Ministry of Health in Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Dr. Johnson was appointed by Kathleen Sebelius, former U.S. Secretary of Health Human Services, to serve a three-year term (2015-2018) as a National Advisory Council member for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment/ Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration. Dr. Johnson teaches Psychology classes at Wayne County Community College He is a pass Advisory member of the Third Judicial Circuit Court Family Division Drug Court Team. Dr. Johnson is a board member of the Wayne Center, an agency that provides services for the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. The United States President Barack Obama recognized Mr. Johnson as the “2016 Champion of Change for Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery” at the White House.  Dr. Johnson completed his clinical internship at an approved American Psychological Association site at Tarzana Treatment Center, treating 12–18-year-olds with substance use and mental health disorders in Tarzana, California. In 2023, Dr. Johnson was appointed by U.S. Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, to serve as a member of the SAMHSA National Advisory Council.

Dr. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Morehouse College, a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix, and a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from Michigan School of Psychology.

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Sam Simmons, Behavioral Consultant and conference organizer

Sam has over 34 years of experience as an alcohol and drug counselor and behavioral consultant specializing in practical, culturally sensitive trauma-informed strategies addressing historical trauma and focused on improving outcomes for African American males and their families. He is an Adverse Childhood Experience Interface Trainer in Minnesota and certified as an administrator of the (IDI) Intercultural Development Inventory. Sam received 2016 Healing the Hidden Wounds of Racial Trauma award and the Black Tear Drop Award for his vision and leadership in culturally sensitive trauma-informed work in the community and around the country. In 2018 he received the city of Minneapolis Public Health Hero Award for his unique, innovative, and culturally specific trauma-informed work in the community.


In 2020 he was called upon to assist organizations in addressing the challenges of recruiting and retaining African Americans and other staff of Color and developing culturally sensitive, trauma-informed diverse organizational practices. Sam is the co-creator of the Community Empowerment Through Black Men Healing conference called “Groundbreaking and Visionary”. He co-hosts the "Voices" radio show on KMOJ FM that addresses urban community issues.


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Edrin C. Williams serves as the Lead Pastor of Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis, MN. Edrin came to Sanctuary in 2011 to lead MOSAIC, a youth ministry comprised of students from all over the Twin Cities metro. Before joining the staff of The Sanctuary, Edrin served the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN for six years.


Edrin is a graduate of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC where he studied African American Studies and U.S. History. He holds a Master of Divinity degree in Preaching & Communication from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN.


Edrin is an advocate of the local church and is very passionate about equipping leaders of all ages. Edrin is also a gifted writer and highly sought-after speaker. He uses biblical teaching, humor, storytelling, and his background in the humanities and the social sciences and theology to shape society and influence others in the ways of Jesus. Edrin writes and speaks often about developing men, especially fathers. His published writing projects include Father Factor: American Christian Men on Fatherhood and Faith, a project with White Cloud Press, and Reclaiming Fatherhood, which appeared in YouthWorker Journal.


Edrin describes himself as a native South Carolinian who loves people, nature, music, cities, history, travel, Bar-B-Que, and SEC football. Edrin has been married to the woman of his dreams, Shanequa, for 17 years. They are parents to two beautiful daughters, Taylor (13) & Harper (7).

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Jaton White is the Director of Community Wellness with the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), focused on family and organizational wellness, which is her alignment with her life's purpose. She works hand-in-hand with partners, families and scholars to understand their needs related to conflict, social-emotional, safety, and other wellness concerns. Jaton began her work at NAZ in 2012 as a family achievement coach, working to increase parent engagement and boost scholar outcomes. Through active engagement with systems, families, and scholars, she adopted a belief that when a person or system seeks healing that it should be treated as an emergency — it requires deep, intimate, and personal work and an authentic supportive team. Armed as a trained facilitator in personal empowerment, EQ practitioner, Awareness Coach under the direction of Jodi Pharr, ACE trainer, and Emergent Embodied Coach under the tutelage of Resmaa Menakem, she is able to provide supportive, evidence-based tools to aid in the spaces that have a direct impact on Northside scholars and families.

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Joseph Cole, aka Brother RA, is a member of the Youth Leadership team at the Black Youth Healing Arts Center(BYHAC), helping co-lead inhouse programs, facilitating workshops, teaching mind-body medicine practices, and also out in community part of the Pop Up team sharing breathing tools, poetry, and playing Bomba; an Afro Puerto Rican drum style alongside other BYHAC members. RA is a youth advocate and Pan-Afrikan Community Activist dedicated to the liberation of Black/Afrikan people across the globe. RA serves our community as the Vice Chair of YouthLink MN Voices of Youth Advisory Council. He works with the 2nd Chance project as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist and facilitates longitudinal systems transformation assessments as program manager of the Youth Research Task Force, a community participatory action research program offered by the Black Community Board.

“A role model is one who is aware that the babies are watching and acts accordingly.” Uncle Big

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