The Past, Present & Future of Accelerating Success for Black Children

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

On September 29, 2020 the College of Liberal Arts partnered with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie® to produce the first conversation in the Katie Sample Series. Participants joined virtually for what was an engaging conversation about the past, present and future of education of Black children. The session featured iconic elders and educators and resulted in an incredible dialogue between community members and guest speakers. Small group discussions helped guests leave the event feeling inspired and with plans for action. If you weren't able to attend or just want to revisit the conversation, view the recordings below. 

Local Poet Maya Beecham shared a stirring reading of her poem “Spirit of the Black Child”.

Community Elder and educator Katie Sample joined Civil Rights Pioneer and Author Dr. Josie Johnson and Historian of the Black experience, Mahmoud El-Kati in conversation. Moderated by Rose McGee, founder of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®

Following this conversation and a performance by local poet Maya Beecham, participants formed smaller group discussions hosted by insightful visionaries in education for equity: 

  • Gevonee Ford, Director, NdCAD (the Network for the Development of Children of African Descent)
  • Titilayo Bediako, Executive Director, We Win Institute, Inc.
  • Mary Kay Boyd, Founder, EveryBody’s In Community Educators Network
  • Dr. Rosilyn Carroll, Educator Instructor, Ujamaa Place, and retired Academic Director of Hamline University’s Center for Excellence in Urban Teaching.


  • Mahmoud El-Kati, lecturer, writer, and commentator on the African American experience
  • Josie Johnson, civil rights activist, civic leader, and author
  • Katie Sample, founder and executive director of the African American Academy for Accelerated Learning



Mahmoud El-Kati is Professor Emeritus of History at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of Politically Considered: 50th Commemoration of the Supreme Court Decision of 1954, The Hiptionary: A Survey of African American Speech Patterns with Critical CommentaryA Digest of Key Words and Phrases, Haiti: The Hidden Truth, The Myth of Race/The Reality of Racism: Critical Essays, and Zola Shines, a Kwanzaa children’s book; and is editor of Towards an African Education: Selected Writings on the Education & Development of Children of African Heritage. Learn more about Professor El-Kati on his website and stay connected through his Facebook group, Dr. Mahmoud El-Kati: Books, Events and Speaking Engagements.

Josie Johnson was born on October 7, 1930, in Houston. As the daughter of Houston civil rights pioneers, she grew up with a deep concern for social justice and civil rights. After receiving her BA in sociology from Fisk University and her MA in education from the University of Massachusetts, Johnson went to work in 1956 as a lobbyist to help pass Minnesota's anti-discrimination laws. In 1967, she served one year as the acting director for the Minneapolis Urban League. In 1971, after teaching in the African American studies department at the University of Minnesota, she was appointed to the Minnesota Board of Regents, where she served until 1973. In 1992, she accepted the position as associate vice president in charge of minority affairs and directed their All-University Forum as diversity director. The University of Minnesota established the Annual Josie Robinson Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award in her honor.

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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