The 5th Annual Black History Education Conference will take place over two days, Feb. 17-18, this year with the theme of “Ubuntu – I Am, Because We Are!” The annual event provides a venue where educators across the state and country will be able to share policies, practices, programs, and procedures that have proven effective in promoting high levels of achievement for those often underserved in our school systems and communities.
Longtime Madison-area educator Andreal Davis, the Statewide Culturally Responsive Practices Coordinator in Wisconsin, is the founder of the event. The Black History Education Conference experience is intended to provide a venue where stakeholders across the state and country will be able to share policies, practices, programs, and procedures that have proven effective in promoting high levels of achievement for Black students.
“Every year, we change the theme up for our Black History Education Conference and so the theme for this year is ‘Ubuntu,’ which means ‘I am, because we are,'” Davis tells Madison365. “We also have a sub-theme this year that kind of emerged organically called “Boss Princess.”
The Boss Princess strand will showcase African American women entrepreneurs who are doing some amazing things. The keynote sessions for the Black History Education Conference are five very impressive women who have made a splash on the national scene in a variety of arenas.
“So we just are really excited about all of the beautiful women that we will be having speak and what we’re really focusing in on is entrepreneurship under that ‘boss’ umbrella and also how to take care of business as a female,” Davis says.
Other keynote sessions will be led by
- Tahira Gilyard is a 23-year-old scholar and 3rd-year law student at the Fordham University School of Law
- reigning Miss Black America is Gabrielle Wilson
- retired Disney Princess Tiana, Keewa Nrullah, who is a performing artist, community organizer and owner of Kido Bookstore, an award-winning children’s shop located in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago.
- Assata Moore, who was voted one of the top mathematics teachers in the state of Illinois and a finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST). In 2015, she was invited to the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama to highlight the importance of college readiness.
- Krystal Allen, the founder & CEO of K. Allen Consulting, an award-winning former teacher and principal, a respected organizational leadership and DEI thought leader, and author of “What Goes Unspoken: How School Leaders Address DEI Beyond Race”
“We have a structure that we created that we’re coining ‘keynote relays’ where the women will be using a talking stick and their keynotes will be a lot shorter than what would be expected but they’re going to be passing the talking stick on to the next person so that we get a chance to hear from all of them about what it means for them to be boss princesses or boss queens,” Davis says.
There will be numerous breakout sessions over the two-day conference that eventgoers can attend.
“Last year, we had 24 sessions with 39 speakers and it just was a very hard decision for people to make about where they wanted to go. So we’re trying to pare it down a little bit this year,” Davis says. “There are so many interesting sessions. We have a strand called AfriICANcer, for example, where we will be focusing on, with help from Exact Sciences and UW Carbone Center, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.”
The Annual Black History Education Conference has come a long way since it first started back in 2019. Davis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UW–Madison, held the first event with the hopes of teaching and sharing innovative instructional and learning strategies that have proven successful in motivating African-American youth and enhancing their minds, bodies and spirits.
“When we first launched, we had about 125 people attend and then we kind of moved up to 200 and we’ve grown to over 400 attendees. Our sponsorships and collaborations have grown through the years, too,” she says.
Something new and exciting this year is that her son, Ari Davis, will be hosting the student strand of the event this year.
“We actually have a plethora of partnerships that we’ve developed there that will be returning, so we’re excited about that,” Ari Davis tells Madison365. “For example, we have the Urban Community Arts Network who will be performing again. The focus is entrepreneurship. So we have the Epsilon Delta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha [Sorority, Inc.] who will be hosting a sponsorship essay contest. And the winner of that we hope will potentially be able to use the funds from that to go on a trip that is hosted by Cultural Practices That Are Relevant, LLC. These students will be able to go on a trip to Delaware State University this August.”
Andreal Davis is the CEO and founder of Cultural Practices That Are Relevant.
“Every summer, with part of the proceeds from the conference, we take between two and three students on historically black college tours,” Andreal Davis says. “So we have previously gone to Morehouse and we’ve gone to Spelman and we’ve gone to Dillard. We’ve gone to Southern University, and as Ari mentioned, this summer we’re planning to go to Delaware State. We’re going to be introducing students to college opportunities at HBCUs but also teaching them about how they might go about funding those opportunities as well.”
Ari Davis, who is 25 years old, says being a leader at the Black History Education Conference, a conference he has attended regularly, is “everything I’ve ever wanted.”
“Outside of the conference and everything, my mom’s my best friend. I love the fact that we as a family can connect and unite and bring something as powerful at this conference to the city each and every year,” he says. “I think this is something that’s definitely needed around the area. In my head, it has always been the thing to do for families, and for people of all ages during Black History Month. It’s one of the staple events in the city surrounding Black history, and Black history education, and I couldn’t be more excited every year to be a part of something so great and something so valuable.”
Ari Davis, a physical education teacher at Leopold Elementary School who has had a lot of experience with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, the African American Ethnic Academy, and MMSD schools and programs, brings a youthful aspect to the conference.
“I’m very well connected with the youth. I’m the youngest in our family so it kind of makes sense for me to be partnered and paired up with this section of the cultural practices that are relevant at the Black Education History Conference,” he says. “Every year, I’m excited to plan and figure out who will be partnering with us this year and what can we bring to the community that maybe the high school or middle school and elementary school students want to see.”
There is still time to register for the 5th Annual Black History Education Conference. You can do so by clicking here.
“The fun part for me is putting it all together. We had the conference in February. I go down for one month in March. And the fun part is getting back up again in April and starting all over again,” Andreal Davis says. “But when I’m creating something like this, the most fun part is collecting the puzzle pieces. Some pieces you seek out and some things come to you organically, and I love putting the puzzle pieces together and creating the event in a way that makes sense to people and that the learning will be powerful and it will have an impact. The main reason why the conference was created in the first place was to eliminate those educational achievement gaps, the opportunity gaps, and the attitude gaps … to see that … that’s the fun part for me.”
“My favorite part of the conference is the unity that it brings. It brings members of all races together,” adds Ari Davis. “It also brings members of all ages together, students, teachers, parents, liaisons, staff of different natures … we all come together, each and every year, each and every February, to celebrate the accomplishments that that we’ve seen in our communities and celebrate Black excellence. That feeling of camaraderie and community is always embedded deeply within the conference and I love it every single year.”