Moving Forward: A conversation with Black educators about the future for Black students

Part of the Katie Sample speaker series
Event Date & Time
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The Katie Sample Series

The College of Liberal Arts is partnering with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie® to host a series of conversations with thought leaders who are paving the way for successes in educating Black children.
Learn more about the Katie Sample Series

Community Elder and educator Katie Sample joined Lauretta Dawalo-Towns, (Roseville Area Schools),David Stovall (University of Illinois at Chicago), K. Pearl McClintock (Givens Collection of African American Literature), and Monsurat Tiamiyu (Roseville Middle School). Moderated by Rose McGee, founder of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®.

Ghana Mbaye, a Master Drummer who has worked with Katie Sample many times in the past, performed a song in her honor.

Iconic Minnesota educator Katie Sample talked with exemplary educators, a researcher, and a student-teacher about how we can move forward with realistic hope to center culturally relevant curriculum in education while engaging students as leaders in educational transformation.

Dr. Stovall, a professor of African American Studies and Criminology, Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he’d “get into trouble with his homies constantly” until he had a teacher who cared about him finally say, “Let’s just put it out in the street. Adults don’t have your best interests in mind. We’re here to prove them wrong!” Dr. Stovall has created an “eighth hour” for students to learn how to overcome the racial and legal barriers they face. He would like to see education as change and learning, not our current school system of order and compliance. He joined Lauretta Dawalo-Towns, whose letter for her Black students during COVID-19, is a powerful example of how educators can turn struggles students are facing into teachable moments that engage them in learning and inspire their best instincts.

Following this conversation and a brief performance, smaller group discussions were by insightful visionaries in education for equity:

  • Gevonee Ford, director of NdCAD (the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent)
  • Titilayo Bediako, executive director of the We Win Institute, Inc.
  • Mary Kay Boyd, founder of Everybody’s In community educators network
  • Dr. Rosilyn Carroll from Ujamaa Place and retiree from Hamline University’s Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching.


    Immediately following the event, participants were invited to remain for an informal post-discussion with the speakers hosted by Kate Towle who is a Community Weaver Consultant and member of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®




    Rose McGee, founder of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®



    Lauretta Dawalo-Towns is a native of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and refers to herself as a student of the written word. Lauretta earned her BA in English and American & racial multicultural studies with a media studies minor at St. Olaf College in 2004. Her professional background is in community and ethnic media, specializing in coverage of underrepresented and underserved populations. She has worked for such local outlets as Insight News, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and KFAI-Fresh Air Community Radio. After starting a family in 2008, she set her sights on another skill set: youth development. She worked full-time as program manager for Girls in Action™, a curriculum-based leadership program for urban high school girls. Subsequently, she worked as community coordinator for The Banyan Community in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood furthering her experience in parent advocacy, community building, and youth education. In 2016, she received a Master of Arts in Education from Augsburg University after earning a teaching license in communication arts and literature. Lauretta has been teaching full-time for six years. She currently teaches 8th grade English language arts at Roseville Middle School, and also teaches in the Adult Basic Education program in the same district.

    Rose McGee is founder of the internationally recognized Sweet Potato Comfort Pie® approach—a catalyst for caring and building community. She is a well-known facilitator, a 2018 honoree of AARP Minnesota and Pollen's "50 Over 50" list, a member of Women Who Really Cook, the Women’s Business Development Center, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and works as a humanities officer for the Minnesota Humanities Center. She resides in Golden Valley, Minnesota where she was named “Citizen of The Year,” presented the Bill Hobbs Human Rights Award, and is a recipient of the prestigious Bush Fellowship. She is featured in the PBS documentary, A Few Good Pie Places, author of the books Story Circle Stories and Kumbayah: The Juneteenth Story, and has a TEDx Talk on "The Power of Pie." In 2021 her children’s book, Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie like Our Mama, will be released by the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

    Katie Sample is a revered elder in our community whose enrichment programs and bi-annual conferences to spotlight successes in educating African American children raised the local bar on educational practices for all children. In 1968, right after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died, Katie began her work as one of the first African American social workers in the Minneapolis Public Schools. In the late ’80s, she completed visionary research on racial inequities in school discipline policies. As founder and executive director of the African American Academy for Accelerated Learning, Katie grounded African American children in their history, culture, and values through summer programs, parent education, education conferences, and international travel. Katie’s legacy of lifelong learning and sharing the strengths of her culture have sparked numerous projects to support youth, parents, and community engagement. In January, she received Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®’s first The Batter that Matters Award.

    David Stovall, PhD is Professor of Black Studies and Criminology, Law & Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). His scholarship investigates three areas 1) critical race theory, 2) the relationship between housing and education, and 3) the intersection of race, place, and school. In the attempt to bring theory to action, he works with community organizations and schools to address issues of equity, justice, and abolishing the school/prison nexus. His work led him to become a member of the design team for the Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice (SOJO), which opened in the fall of 2005. Furthering his work with communities, students, and teachers, his work manifests itself in his involvement with the Peoples Education Movement, a collection of classroom teachers, community members, students, and university professors in Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area who engage in collaborative community projects centered in creating relevant curriculum. In addition to his duties and responsibilities as a professor at UIC, he also served as a volunteer social studies teacher at the Greater Lawndale/Little Village School for Social Justice from 2005-18. 

    K. Pearl McClintock is the collections assistant at the Givens Collection of African American Literature at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Pearl moved to Minneapolis from Kansas to attend the University of Minnesota where she graduated with a degree in linguistics. She began working at the Givens Collection in 2016 as a student and in 2019 became the collections assistant. She loves reading, writing poetry, and films.

    Monsurat Tiamiyu is currently a senior at Augsburg University, studying secondary education with a focus on communication arts and literature. She is a student-teacher working with Lauretta Dawolo Towns at Roseville Middle School. Her decision to become a teacher comes after a disappointing K-12 experience dealing with microaggressions and racial comments from teachers. When she finally spoke up, she was given a choice to apologize or sacrifice participating in her own high school graduation. “I chose to apologize, and I wondered how many students like me were put in a position like this where nobody stood up for them.” She channeled her frustrations and began to set goals as a future educator, including advocating for all students inside and outside of the classroom, welcoming student voices, and encouraging students to learn about all cultures. She chose English language arts as a versatile subject area to engage students in meaningful discussions and to promote her love for books. For the last four years, Monsurat has used her experience working with diverse children of all ages in child care and after-school programs to gain experience and to further her passion for education.

    Series sponsors: Presented by Sweet Potato Comfort Pie® and the University of Minnesota Department of History

    University of Minnesota Co-hosts:

    Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature
    College of Liberal Arts Public Engagement
    College of Liberal Arts Race, Indigeneity, Gender & Sexuality Studies Initiative
    The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub in the College of Liberal Arts
    Umbra Search African American History
    University of Minnesota College Readiness Consortium
    University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Study

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