The life work of Andreal Davis in the field of education and the connections that she has made statewide have really come in handy as she organizes and prepares for “Bringing the Gifts That My Ancestors Gave Black History Education Conference,” an innovative conference – the first of its kind in Wisconsin – that aims to teach and share innovative instructional and learning strategies that have proven successful in motivating African-American youth and enhancing their minds, bodies and spirits.
“I just felt like we have inside of us a lot of the wisdom that has been passed down through our bloodlines. We have talents and skills and gifts that – if we come together collectively as a state – I feel like we really can tackle these gaps that we see like the opportunity gap, the attitude gap, the education gap, pipeline to prison, etc.,” Davis says, explaining the conference’s theme. “I feel like that if we just have a way to bring people together and we just went back to what’s been handed down to us – the bodies of knowledge and wisdom and talents and skills that we can draw from – then we can really begin to impact change.”
Davis, who is the Culturally Responsive Practices Coordinator at Wisconsin RtI Center, is also the president and CEO of Cultural Practices That Are Relevant, LLC, whose mission is to draw from our highest order models and traditional ways of being and knowing to bring the best that we have to offer by mobilizing and sharing research-based best practices and models that exist across the country.
The “Bringing the Gifts that My Ancestors Gave: Black History Education Conference” is intended to provide a venue where community members, practitioners, educators, and families from across the state will be able to share policies, practices and procedures that have proven effective in promoting high levels of achievement for those often underserved in the school systems. It will be held Friday-Saturday, February 15-16 at Edgewood College and the Madison Concourse Hotel.
“Our deep commitment to the value of partnership and vision for inclusion continues to elevate the importance of being in and part of the community,” Tony Garcia, Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Edgewood College, said in a statement regarding the conference. “This community-based conference is an opportunity for educators, practitioners, and families across the state of Wisconsin to engage in meaningful dialogue on how best to promote and model academic excellence.”
This event will feature a variety of workshop sessions, national consultants, performances, videos, resources, networking opportunities and much more. Highlighting the event will be keynote speaker and education expert Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Professor Emerita and former Kellner Family Distinguished Professor in Urban Education at UW-Madison. The special guest will be Dr. Mahalia Hines, public education champion and president of the COMMON Ground Foundation in Chicago.
Many people know Davis from her work in the Madison Metropolitan School District, where she was an elementary teacher, reading specialist, district administrator, and the assistant director for equity and family involvement. She says that she enjoys working at the state level now. “I’ve been working with a group and we’ve been charged by Gov. Tony Evers to come together as a stakeholder group and work with a national group called Regional Education Navitory,” Davis tells Madison365 in an interview at Cargo Coffee on South Park Street.
Their specific charge was to focus on the black-white achievement gap.
“We did a lit review over a 2-year period and what we found were 22 interventions that have proven positive outcomes for black students,” Davis says. “We created a documentary video viewing guide for people to use.”
Davis felt like people at the state level needed to do some more intensified work around black education.
“I travel around the state training culturally responsive practices of professional development that I created while I was in the Madison School District,” Davis says. “I see all of these practitioners with these powerful pedagogical approaches and outcomes. All of a sudden it started to click – it was like a puzzle with all of these practitioners and interventions were coming together and how people were connected together.”
Out of this came the idea for a statewide education conference – “Bringing the Gifts That My Ancestors Gave Black History Education Conference.”
“I started to think about all of the people that I could bring together,” Davis says, “and then I started thinking about how powerful it would be to have a statewide approach to this issue. I knew that I had the reach because of how I work across the entire state so I started to think about districts that I had really powerful relationships with.”
This conference will feature 22 evidence-based interventions associated with black students’ educational outcomes and development. Davis says that she has over 38 people who will be presenting over a two-day period.
“One of the things that I will ask the presenters to do is to be really specific somewhere in their session about talking about some of the gifts they bring to share at the ‘Bringing the Gifts That My Ancestors Gave Black History Education Conference,’” Davis says.
Davis is honored to have her friend and fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sister Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings as the keynote for the event and also to have Dr. Mahalia Hines, a former teacher and principal who taught in the Chicago Public School system for over 35 years who is the mother of recording artist and actor, Lonnie “Rashid” Lynn – better known to the public as Common.
“Dr. Mahalia Hines will bring some incredible expertise,” Davis says. “Her big focus is around working with kids so she’s going to actually be leading a session with high school kids at the conference.”
This conference will focus on 22 evidence-supported interventions associated with black students’ educational outcomes found from a systematic review of research conducted by The Midwest Achievement Gap Research Alliance.
“We want to have people leave the conference with action plans about how they can take small steps and they can move towards their short-term goals and they can see and access what they have right here in their state with a few people who are coming in from out of state,” Davis says.
Davis noted that the conference will have people coming in from places like North Carolina, Arkansas and Minnesota.
At the conference, there will also be professionals from school districts in Sun Prairie, Madison, Milwaukee, Beloit, Sheboygan, Appleton that Davis says she hopes will be provided with tools that will help breathe new life into their instructional practices.
“Long-term, I hope that we have representation from all across the state for this conference and we come together to create action plans and action steps from a collective work and responsibility lens,” she says. “There are going to be some really amazing people at this conference and it will be a great opportunity to network and share ideas. This is the first conference and we would love to see it grow year after year in the future.”