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Redefining America’s Education Agenda:
Preserving Culture & Historical Perspectives

Given all that is occurring in our nation today relevant to intense race relations, there is no better time than now to reaffirm the words in the quote “preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” – Cesar Chavez.

In this virtual national townhall discussion the distinguished panelists will:

*Discuss the importance of making America’s classrooms safe places for teachers to provide instruction focused on contributions made by black and brown Americans into their daily lessons.

*Reiterate the need for students of all racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds to develop an appreciation for the contributions made to society by all Americans.

*Discuss the difference between Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.

*Provide a parent’s perspective on the types of policies and practices that are counterproductive to ensuring that all students gain equitable access to a quality academic experience.

*Provide recommendations for accomplishing equity-based goals and objectives.

We look forward to hearing from our panelists, who bring a wide variety of experiences to this discussion topic. Together, our intent is to move the nation towards making school safety a top priority.

Virtual Panel Discussion
Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022
6:30 – 8:00 pm CST

Moderator: Dr. Sonya Whitaker

Dr. Sonya Whitaker, the National Education Policy Director for PUSH Excel, will be the moderator of our upcoming virtual town hall discussion. Dr. Whitaker is a national speaker and highly regarded educator who started as a classroom teacher and has since served as Superintendent of Schools in two different school districts in Illinois. She also has served as Deputy Superintendent of Schools and as a central office administrator for the largest elementary school district in the state.

Dr. Whitaker is the founder of Whitaker Educational Consulting, Inc., the author of Is There Anybody That Can Teach Me How to Read?, and the host of the national radio show and podcast: What’s Really Going On??, a spotlight on solutions for improving student achievement in America’s schools.

Speaker: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Rev. Jackson is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures and the Founder and President of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which focuses on civil rights work through economic parity, equal educational opportunities, and international social justice and peace.

Over the past 40 years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Clinton. A hallmark of Rev. Jackson’s work has been his commitment to youth. He has visited thousands of high schools, colleges, universities and correctional facilities encouraging excellence and inspiring hope in  young people.

Speaker: Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Dr. Julianne Malveaux is the President of PUSH Excel. She is a nationally renowned economist, scholar and columnist. Most recently, Dr. Malveaux has been appointed dean of the new College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA—the first such college to be established in the U.S. in 50 years. She has taken the helm of this unique college, which focuses on an interdisciplinary analysis of the histories, cultures and social experiences of people of color, as debates over racial injustices and pedagogy make headlines.

She has long been recognized for her progressive and insightful observations. Dr. Malveaux’s popular writing has appeared in USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, and the Progressive.  Dr. Malveaux has also been a contributor to academic life since receiving her Ph.D. in economics from MIT in 1980. During her time as the 15th President of Bennett College for Women, Dr. Malveaux was the architect of exciting and innovative transformation at America’s oldest historically black college for women. She is the President and owner of Economic Education, a 501 c-3 non-profit headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Speaker: Dr. Chike Akua

Dr. Chike Akua is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Clark Atlanta University and a leading authority on increasing the achievement of today’s students, especially those in some of the most challenging schools and communities.  His cultural proficiency, equity and accountability work is known nationally for assisting school systems in improving school and community climate and culture.  As a recognized master teacher and trainer, Dr. Akua is one of the most sought-after speakers at regional and national conferences, urban school districts, colleges and universities.   With a culturally relevant approach toward closing access and opportunity gaps, he is known for his dynamic, interactive presentations to teachers, leaders, parents, and students.

Dr. Akua is a former Teacher of the Year who has been recognized in two states (VA and GA) for teaching excellence. He was also selected as one of Ebony magazine’s “50 Leaders of Tomorrow” a distinction he is living up to today.

Deeply committed to culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy and instructional materials, Dr. Akua has written and published several books and parent/teacher guides designed for today’s students. Education for Transformation: The Keys to Releasing the Genius of African American Students is a book for teachers and leaders that is used in a number of urban school districts for professional development. It is also used in a number of colleges and universities for preparation of pre-service teachers and leaders.

The book, Honoring Our Ancestral Obligations: 7 Steps to Black Student Success is also used at a number of higher schools, colleges and universities for students and those who serve them. The book Parent Power: The Keys to Your Child’s Academic & Social Success has been used to equip and empower parents with tips and strategies to better assist their children.

Dr. Akua has written 11 books in all, produced a series of 10 African Origins historical videos online and 70 Black History and African Proverb Posters along with impactful online curricula for students, parents and professional development for teachers.  
Dr. Akua earned his Bachelor’s degree in Education from Hampton University, his Master’s degree in Education and School Counseling from Clark Atlanta University and his doctorate from Georgia State University.  Dr. Akua is frequently called upon by education, civic, and social organizations to speak about educational excellence and cultural knowledge. He resides just outside of Atlanta with his wife of 25 years and their two sons.

Speaker: Ida Nelson

Ida Nelson is a Parent Advocate & Ice Cream Entrepreneur. She is the founder and owner of Ida’s Artisan Ice Cream & Treats, a business she began in her North Lawndale Kitchen-in the middle of pandemic and during significant social unrest after the killing of George Floyd. She is the mother of five, and a change agent who looks to help her community.

More specifically, Ida Nelson’s fight against hair bias brought about real change at the state level in Illinois. Chicago resident Ms. Nelson sent her son Gus “Jett” Hawkins, to school one day with his hair in braids. The next day, she received a call from the school administrators who indicated that Jett’s hair violated the school’s code of conduct. After she was informed that Jett could not return to school with his hair in braids, Nelson took them out and put Jett’s hair in a ponytail-bun style, which also presented a problem for school officials. Nelson and Jett’s story caught the attention of Illinois State Sen. Mike Simmons, who then began drafting the Jett Hawkins Act. This act became effective January 1, 2022. The Jett Hawkins Law, inspired by the Crown Act, eliminates discriminatory hair policies against children of color in all Illinois schools and is the only state law nationwide that includes private schools in its ban.

As a mother of humanity, it remains important to Ms. Nelson that this legislation not only protect her child but protects all children and provides atonement to those who have been negatively impacted by the development of polices which are bias against hair. Nelson life’s mission has become helping parents worldwide advocate for their children, promoting body confidence in children, and educating teachers about the unique cultural and social experiences of the black community. 

Speaker: Dr. Charlie Wilson

Charlie Wilson is an emeritus professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law where he teaches Education Law, Education Policy, School Funding Law, Comparative International Education Policy & Law, Labor Law, and Civil Procedure. Wilson was first elected to the Worthington, Ohio school board in 2007.

He was the Ohio School Boards Association’s president in 2013 and is the immediate past president of the National School Boards Association. As a member of various International Education study groups, Charlie has studied school systems in more than 20 nations including Singapore, Japan, China, and in South America, Europe, and Asia. Wilson grew up in western Kansas, attending 28 different school systems while living in some of the more interesting trailer parks in western Kansas.

He attended Garden City, Kansas, Community Junior College on a basketball scholarship before graduating from the University of Kansas and New York University School of Law. Prior to becoming a law professor, Charlie clerked for the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, declined an offer to serve as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Byron White, and was a labor negotiator and litigator at the Wall Street law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York City.  Charlie and his wife of 44 years, Melonie Buller, are the proud parents of two sons and grandparents of three precious grandchildren. 

About Redefining America’s Education Agenda Series

We need an education agenda that makes equity a priority for schools and organizations serving our country’s most vulnerable children and their families. The ultimate goal of this series of events is to bring policy makers and members of the education community together to discuss shaping our educational agenda and pushing it to the front of public policy at local, state, and federal levels.