The Impact of the Two Pandemics: COVID and Structural Racism

Part of the Katie Sample speaker series
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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

Iconic Minnesota educator, Katie Sample, shared an inspiring dialogue with distinguished educators, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and Dr. Yvette Jackson about fearless leadership in our time of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and Structural Racism. 

Dr. Ladson-Billings from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that our so-called education “gaps” are not an accurate representation of the problem. "Our problem, says Dr. Ladson-Billings, is that we have an education “debt” that we owe to descendants of slavery and First Nation people upon whose backs this nation was built, and who were denied access to reading and a proper education since the founding of our nation. The debt is moral, social and economical, she says, and we share responsibility for repaying this debt." 

Dr. Jackson is internationally recognized for her work in assessing and capitalizing on the learning potential of disenfranchised students. Having designed the New York City Gifted Programs Framework, Dr. Jackson works with school districts to customize and deliver systemic approaches to reversing underachievement and eliciting high intellectual performance. 

Following this conversation and a brief performance from master storytellers Nothando Zulu and Vusumuzi Zulu, smaller group discussions were hosted by insightful visionaries in education for equity:





Nothando and Vusi Zulu from the Black Storytellers Alliance shared stories and thoughts on Elder Katie Sample.



Dr. Yvette Jackson is the Senior Scholar for the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, founded at the College Board and Teachers College, Columbia University. She works with school district superintendents, administrators, teachers, and students across the United States and internationally to engage and apply an assets-focused equity consciousness to create environments of belonging, value, agency and investment that affirm belief in the innate desire and potential of ALL students for transcendence: to develop and engage personal strengths for self-determination and contribution to society. Winner of the 2019 GlobalMindEd Inclusive Leader Award, Dr. Jackson is the author of The Pedagogy of Confidence: Inspiring High Intellectual Performance in Urban Schools which received the 2012 ForeWord Reviews’ Silver Book Award. Dr. Jackson’s mission is to rekindle in educators the passion and beliefs that led them to choose education as their career. She is driven to provide and promote pedagogy that supports educators in fulfilling their potential as committed, “gifted” teachers and administrators.

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings is Professor Emerita and former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor in Urban Education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and was Faculty Affiliate in the Departments of Educational Policy Studies, Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis and Afro American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the current President of the National Academy of Education. She was the 2005--2006 president of the American Educational Research Association. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Ladson-Billings’ research examines the pedagogical practices of teachers who are successful with African American students. She also investigates Critical Race Theory applications to education.

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 Dr. Martin Luther King 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.

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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