Diversity Awareness Partnership

Diversity Summit

Diversity Awareness Partnership’s virtual 2021 Diversity Summit is an opportunity to expand our shared knowledge, as well as deepen our commitment to tangible action in each of our spheres of influence. This year we are partnering with NCCJ St. Louis as we continue to facilitate dialogue among D&I leaders, educators, business representatives, students, nonprofit organizations, religious & cultural institutions, and change-minded members of the public. This annual event is an opportunity to learn how to work collectively toward a more equitable future for St. Louis and the world at large. Individual registration is open. Your voice and your imagination are needed, and we look forward to sharing this digital space.

Date: June 16, 2021
Time: 8:30am – 4:00pm
Location: Virtual


Keynote Speaker

Katrina Jones, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Leader with AWS
Katrina Jones is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leader, champion and entrepreneur. She works with organizations to create strategic and process driven solutions that disrupt bias and foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces. Katrina has served as a diversity and inclusion lead at large, complex, global companies and startups, and has owned and implemented strategies designed to attract, retain, and advance talent from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities.

Katrina’s passion for DEI is rooted in her bold vision for an equitable and just society, in which we collectively work to address access and opportunity gaps. Katrina has a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies from The University of Texas at Austin, and a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management from The Catholic University of America. She lives in the Atlanta metro area with her funny and (very!) lively family.

Click Here for More Keynote Speaker Details

Breakout Session Schedule


Title: Creating Equitable Spaces for Women of Color in the Workplace


Being a woman of color in the world presents a unique set of challenges in workplaces, on campuses, in the classroom, and in the community. This interactive lecture will help participants understand the microaggressions that women of color experience and identify ways that allies, managers, colleagues, and leaders in positions of power can shift workplaces’ dynamics to create belonging, psychological safety, and equity. 


  • Have a greater understanding of intersectionality and the cross-section of race and gender issues
  • Identify how employees with intersecting identities (sexual identity, race, gender, ability status, socioeconomic status, etc.) can experience additional layers of bias, racism, and discrimination
  • Have the tools to define, understand and identify microaggressions, bias, and discrimination
  • Actively identify ways that they personally can dismantle bias within their own spheres of influence


Desiree S. Coleman

Desiree S. Coleman advances equity and empowers women through speaking, writing, and consulting. As a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) leader at a Fortune 50 company, her superpower is helping organizations redefine and reimagine their DEI practices while operationalizing their values. Drawing on her experiences in the corporate, government, and nonprofit arenas, she also coaches, mentors and invests in women leaders. Inspired by her daughters, she founded the Queen Within—a vibrant, online community focused on women’s empowerment. In 2019, the Queen Within’s Virtual Women’s Empowerment Experience brought together over 1,000 women from across the globe—including 30 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, and Nigeria—to prioritize health and wellness. 

Desiree holds a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University, is a Loyola Academy trustee, and is the recipient of the 2019 Rising Star in D&I Award from Investment News. She was also named by Hive’s 2020 Top Diversity and Inclusion Leaders of North America and received the Diverse Business Leaders award from the St. Louis Business Journal.


Title: Working with People with Disabilities: Making Accessibility and Inclusivity the New Normal


Jamie Larson will discuss:

  • The concept of neurodiversity
  • Social/emotional needs of people with different developmental disabilities or complex learning disabilities
  • Employment soft skills and social skills in the workplace as they relate to people with different types of disabilities
  • Unwritten rules of the workplace

Steven Spencer will discuss:

  • Teaching techniques (can be helpful for people with disabilities or people who have been out of the workforce)
  • Delegating or teaching tasks to people with different abilities/learning styles
  • Finding and utilizing natural supports
  • Motivation and reinforcement
  • Utilizing a job coach (both how an employee can use a job coach and how an employer can use a job coach)
  • Outlining the expectations clearly and accessing resources; using SMART goals to have a clear understanding between both employer and employee
  • Workplace accommodations 


  • Define neurodiversity and understand how disabilities are often on a spectrum; when you’ve met one person with a disability, you’ve met one person with a disability
  • Implement several simple strategies to make the workplace more inclusive and accessible to the social/emotional needs of people with disabilities
  • Implement several strategies to make delegating and teaching tasks more accessible to people with disabilities or different learning styles


Jamie Larson 
Pathways to Independence 
Steven Spencer 

Jamie Larson has worked at Pathways to Independence since 2014. Jamie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Truman State University and completed Secondary Education coursework at UMSL. Currently, Jamie manages the Social Focus and GAP programs at Pathways to Independence. In addition to her theatre and education backgrounds, Jamie has over a decade of experience working with both children and adults with disabilities in many different settings. In her free time, Jamie enjoys St. Louis’ local parks, politics, cats, true crime documentaries, and theatre.


Steven Spencer‘s mission is to create awareness and opportunities for the community to participate in the values of diverse employment, thus improving the lives of both employees and employers. At Paraquad, Steven has assisted many people to find choice-based employment and partnered with dozens of businesses in the St. Louis area. Working along with the Peoples with Disabilities Community, he has also branched out to provide employment services for the Justice-Involved Populations. In support of these services, he has written several curricula for Vocational Preparation Courses. When not pursuing equality and excellence in employment, Steven can be found in his kitchen, attempting to cook the best possible taco dinner while Tom Petty plays on the radio.


Title: Resisting Ageism and Advancing a New Narrative on Productive Aging 

Description: When it comes to diversity and inclusivity, age consistently ranks low in the list of priorities. Yet, age bias affects both young and old, regardless of identity. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic over this past year, this has shown itself more than everin healthcare, the workplace, and our day to day lives. With demographic trends projecting an older population that’s larger than the younger population by 2050, there are plenty of opportunities to harness the value that older adults bring to society. In St. Louis today, over 50% of the population comes from the Baby Boomer generation. Ageism will play a major role in how much benefit we’ll realize post COVID-19. In this session you will learn how ageism impacts people of all ages, including results from a research study conducted in St. Louis on the intersection of COVID-19 and age and how you can address this in your own life. In order to move forward in an equitable way, we must advance another narrative; older adults are a heterogeneous group, survivors and essential workers, and overall have fared well during and will continue to thrive after the COVID-19 pandemic.   


Natalie Galucia 
Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University 

Rey Castuciano 
Table Wisdom 

Matt Picchiello 
Clinical Geropsychology Laboratory at Washington University 

Natalie Galucia, MSW, has a background in social work and a passion for working with older adults. She is currently the Center Manager for the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University, where she most enjoys working on the WashU for Life Initiative. WashU for Life is an initiative that seeks to increase age inclusivity across the campuses of WashU. Prior to this she was a Client Care Manager at Home Care Assistance of MO, where she directly managed the in-home care of her clients. Ms. Galucia started her career in aging as Member Services Coordinator and then Director with Village to Village Network, a nonprofit focused on aging in place. Ms. Galucia started her education at Concordia University in Wisconsin, where she received her BSW in 2010. She then received her Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis in May of 2012. At Washington University, she concentrated in gerontology with an emphasis on policy. 

Rey Castuciano is the Founder of Table Wisdom, an award-winning social enterprise that brings together older adults and younger foreign-borns for meaningful conversations. His immigrant and caregiving experiences for his dad inspired him to create it. He led its program, offering growth from one to over 50 U.S. cities and two international cities. It’s been nationally recognized for innovation as an award recipient and National Finalist for the Encore Prize and has won an award from the Washington University in St. Louis Brown School of Social Work. His work is on the #1 Wall Street Journal book on Aging Well, How to Live Forever, The New York TimesWall Street Journal, CNN Health, Forbes and other media outlets. He’s also a Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project and a Care Fellow of Caring Across Generations. He has degrees from UCLA & USC Marshall School of Business. His career began in a Fortune 500 Biotech firm. 

Matthew Picchiello is a second-year graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. Matthew graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 2018 with a BA in Psychology. After graduation, Matthew worked for one year as a research assistant in the Department of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at Johns Hopkins University. Matthew currently works under the mentorship of Dr. Brian Carpenter in the Clinical Geropsychology Laboratory at WashU. Matthew is interested in studying the early stages of dementia and how individuals learn about and live with these conditions. He is also interested in studying ways to enhance undergraduate students’ perceptions and engagements with older adults. 


Title: Queering Normal: Visions for LGBTQ+ Equity and Inclusion

Description: For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, “normalcy” was never an option. From public spaces to the workplace, how queer and transgender people navigate the world has too often been informed by the ways they are excluded and invisibilized. This session explores these patterns of exclusion and offers a new perspective on what it means to “normalize” LGBTQ+ lives. Participants will be offered a framework for thinking about LGBTQ+ equity and inclusion, as well as practical strategies for implementation.


Following this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify common barriers and inequities faced LGBTQ+ individuals
  • Examine gender norms across contexts
  • Apply strategies for change


Jess Jones
Jess Jones Education and Consulting

Jess Jones (they/them) is an educational consultant, facilitator, and former public school teacher specializing in gender diversity and LGBTQ+ equity. With over a decade of experience in Education, Jess draws upon their lived experiences as an openly queer and non-binary educator to guide K-12 districts, post-secondary institutions, non-profits, and others in implementing gender-affirming practices. Jess holds an MA in English Studies and Gender Studies from East Carolina University.


Title: Equity in the Health and Human Services Sector 

Description: United Way of Greater St. Louis is the region’s largest private funder of non-profit health and human services. We recently completed a regional community needs assessment that has helped to inform us on how to prioritize the most pressing needs of the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way leaned into the work of coordinating the region’s response and continues to work on regional recovery efforts. During the regional pandemic response, long-term inequities were exacerbated, and many of the region’s most vulnerable people were inordinately negatively impacted. Informed by the real-time response and recovery work, we learned that we needed to prioritize some of our work around building capacity within the system and systems change.  

We will discuss several key areas of proposed focus for non-profit agencies, including: 

  • Agency capacity building 
  • Public policy advocacy and systems change 
  • Targeted universalism approaches to regional recovery and rebuilding 


Darlene Martin 
United Way of Greater St. Louis 

Brittin Haury LaMar 
United Way of Greater St. Louis 
Ed Bryant 
United Way of Greater St. Louis 

Darlene Martin has extensive experience in the banking and wealth management industry. She is currently a Portfolio Manager focused on Financial Stability in the Community Impact Division at United Way of Greater St. Louis, where her responsibilities include oversight of two impact areas, five priority needs, and approximately 40 United Way funded agencies, which receive an aggregate of approximately $10MM in annual allocated dollars. Darlene is a certified NCCJ Diversity and Inclusion FaciliTrainer and a former Missouri-Kansas Quality Award Examiner (Baldridge).  


Brittin Haury LaMar has a robust background in nonprofit, agency, and corporate relations. As the Director of Online Giving, she drives Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud implementation, sales, and year-round employee engagement activations through the site. Brittin is a certified NCCJ Diversity and Inclusion FaciliTrainer. 


Ed Bryant provides leadership for the United Way’s Collective Impact teams, specifically the East Side Aligned, Ready by 21 St. Louis child well-being initiatives, and the United Way’s Financial Empowerment Coalition team. He also provides leadership for the United Way’s public affairs/government affairs activities and strategic stakeholder and civic engagement initiatives. Ed is a certified NCCJ Diversity and Inclusion Facilitrainer. 



Title: Defense Mechanisms & Anti-Racism Work 


One barrier to practicing effective anti-racism work is that we often get defensive and stuck in unproductive conversation. In this session, we will discuss the inner work that is necessary to engage in productive outer work around anti-racism. This includes becoming aware of how our defensive mechanisms show up when we are held accountable for problematic behavior. Through mindfulness, self-compassion, and practice, we can build our resiliency and capacity to stay in uncomfortable conversations. This will lead to more authentic conversations and productive action in our community and workplaces.  


  • Identify personal defensive mechanisms 
  • Understand the unconscious motivation behind the defensiveness 
  • Learn the four steps of building resiliency in order to engage in more productive conversation around anti-racism 


Elisabeth Wurm 
Dot Foods, Inc. / Not Just Enneacoach 

Elisabeth Wurm is a corporate recruiter for Dot Foods and a leadership consultant for her business, Not Just Enneacoach. She’s led several D&I initiatives at Dot and serves on the Steering Committee of their Multicultural ERG in St. Louis. She also designs and coaches group workshops for leaders around doing inner AND outer work, leading to transformation for both individuals and our community. Most recently, she’s led workshops that study the work of Brené Brown around shame, empathy, vulnerability, and courage, and how defensive mechanisms show up differently for each individual when doing anti-racism work.  


Title: Insights Into Financial Inclusion During the Pandemic: What We Know. What We Learned. What We Can Do Better. 


Public health and social history suggest that environmental and economic crisis tend to compound existing socio-economic circumstances; therefore, there is no reason to assume that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis-situation is any different.  

It’s also been established that the breadth of dynamics that make this dilemma true are, by nature, exacerbated by crisisthe more critical and broader-based, generally the greater the impact on vulnerable communities. 

Although not limited to, this would tend to suggest that Americans with limited access to or comfort using communications technology found their access to financial services further impeded by the COVID-19 restrictions. 

In this session on Financial Inclusion, we will address the impact the pandemic had on low to medium income communities and other demographic groups. We will discover the role the “digital divide” played in Americans accessing and managing their bank accounts and government relief payments.  

Lastly, we will consider the lessons learned and identify best practices to imagine a more financially inclusive society. 


  • Understand how/why the Digital Divide was more apparent during the pandemic, especially for the low-income population  
  • Discuss the opportunities and challenges that exist with the pandemic relief programs 
  • Explore ways to apply lessons learned to enhance access to financial services for the low income and the unbanked population 


Pier Yvette Alsup 
Together Credit Union (formerly Anheuser-Busch Credit Union) 

Pier Yvette Alsup is the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer for Together Credit Union (formally, Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union). In March 2021, Pier celebrated her 31st anniversary with the Credit Union. Prior to her DEI position, her roles included Chief Officer of Marketing and of Community Engagement. As Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Pier leads the Credit Union’s commitment to an equitable, inclusive work environment where diversity is celebrated and valued and enriches personal and organizational growth. She designs initiatives to identify inequities within the organization, implements policies that overcome barriers to success, fosters an inclusive and engaging culture, and develops diverse recruiting and hiring practices. Pier is the executive sponsor of the Employee Resource Groups. These groups encourage networking and socialization, create volunteer and service opportunities, boost professional development, and raise awareness of relevant topics or issues.  

Additionally, Pier leads Together Credit Union’s DEI Council as its founding member. Formed in 2018, the Council is comprised of diverse employees from all levels of the organization as well as a member of its Board of Directors. The Council’s mission is to empower its members to serve as thought leaders and champions in the advancement of the Credit Union’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Pier received her BS from DePaul University (Chicago) and MA in Business from Webster University (St. Louis). In addition, she is an adjunct professor at the Washington University – St. Louis Olin School of Business. She serves on boards and task forces both within and outside of the credit union industry. 


Title: A New, Accessible Normal: What the COVID-19 Pandemic Taught Us About Disability and How We Can Do Better 

Description: People with disabilities represent the most vulnerable population to the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet healthcare providers have little to no data about who in their communities has a disability. Data shows that remote workers can be just as efficient as in-house workers, yet employment opportunities for people with disabilities created by the pandemic are threatening to disappear as companies return to the office. New digital tools are enabling people to connect around the world, but many of these tools are inaccessible or too costly. As the world progresses to the “new normal,” what needs to be done to ensure people with disabilities don’t continue to be disregarded or forgotten about? In this breakout session, Starkloff Disability Institute will share best practices that organizations and communities can utilize to ensure the new normal we create is a safer, more accessible, and more inclusive one for people with disabilities. 


  • Gain knowledge in the unique challenges facing individuals with disabilities in employment, healthcare, and digital access 
  • Learn best practice for increasing disability inclusion in the post-pandemic world 
  • Learn advocacy skills to utilize for pushing for disability inclusion in your own organizations and workplaces 


Jason Hartsfield 
Starkloff Disability Institute 

Jason Hartsfield is a career advisor, social worker, and disability advocate. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Arkansas and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. Jason has made improving the lives of people with disabilities his mission throughout his career. As someone living with both a visual impairment and a chronic mental health condition, Jason knows first-hand the challenges facing people with disabilities living in an able-bodied world. Dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and wider community, Jason’s expertise includes adult education, professional development, accessibility, and best practices for hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. As the Disability Inclusion Lead Consultant and Career Counselor with Starkloff Disability Institute, Jason divides his time between teaching career advancement courses to job seekers with disabilities, providing one-on-one career consultation, and delivering workshops on disability inclusion in the workplace to Starkloff’s community and corporate partners, including Ameren Corporation, the Missouri Rehabilitation Association, Centene Corporation, Nestle Purina PetCare, Permobil Seating and Positioning, Wells Fargo, and the Society for Human Resource Managers. Jason developed and led workshops accredited by SHRM that attracted more than 1000+ attendees throughout National Disability Employment Awareness Month during the pandemic in 2020, to ensure diversity and inclusion professionals could leverage their roles during a time of crisis. 


Title: Case Study of Anti-Racism in Philanthropy and Fundraising 

Description: Rachel D’Souza-Siebert will host a panel to discuss shifts and strategy in local giving regarding equity and systems change. We anticipate that participants will develop a baseline understanding of how to introduce anti-racism into practices at their own organizations, get practical tools and knowledge of how to introduce antiracism into practices at their own organizations, and understand the missteps and pitfalls that can occur when moving from mission-thinking to vision-thinking. 


Rachel D’Souza-Siebert (Moderator) 
Gladiator Consulting 

David Dwight IV 
Forward Through Ferguson (FTF) 

Josina Greene 
St. Louis Community Foundation 

Jane Callahan
Joseph H. and Florence A. Roblee Foundation

Rachel D’Souza-Siebert is a proud life-long resident of St. Louis. Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S.A from India, Rachel has always been passionate about bridging differences and celebrating what’s possible when we collaborate from a mindset of abundance, learning, and risk-taking. Rachel is the founder of Gladiator Consulting, a boutique consultancy with a holistic approach to nonprofit organizational development. Through Gladiator, Rachel has combined her knowledge of Organizational Culture & Fund Development with her deep personal commitment to centering community, seeking justice, and creating belonging for those who have been disenfranchised or targeted by institutions, systems, and policy. 

Driven by a passion for systems change and equity, David Dwight IV serves as the Executive Director and Lead Strategy Catalyst at Forward Through Ferguson (FTF), the organization created to carry on the work and vision of the Ferguson Commission, which was a wide-ranging community policy recommendation process engaging over 3,000 residents after the killing of Michael Brown Jr. In David’s role, he leads FTF, develops strategic initiatives, and directs the organization’s policy and systems advocacy strategy. He has served in a variety of leadership roles in St. Louis to engage community voice and apply a Racial Equity lens to regional issues. David has taken root in St. Louis where he has lived for nine years. He received his degree in biomedical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. His experience co-founding Students in Solidarity—a multi-campus student advocacy coalition—led him to center equity, justice, and advocacy in his career. After graduation, he served as the communications fellow for the Ferguson Commission where he worked closely with the Citizen-Law Enforcement Relations working group. He is dedicated to supporting the St. Louis region as we forge a path toward a transformed St. Louis where Racial Equity is the status quo. David balances his equity work, and maintains his sanity, through theatre and dance. 

Josina Greene, MBA, joined the STLCF nearly three years ago as the Donor Relations & Services Manager for the St. Louis Community Foundation, where she was responsible for stewarding donors/their grantmaking and served as a bridge between them and the non-profit work being done in the area.  Josina recently transitioned to a new role in the Development area of the Foundation as a Giving Strategist, where she is now responsible for ensuring that donors commit charitable assets for the benefit of the community.  She does this by cultivating and maintaining strong complementary relationships with donors and professional advisors, helping them to initiate a relationship with the Community Foundation to address the donor’s charitable giving needs. 

Josina is dedicated to inspiring purposeful philanthropy that connects community and donors to build and preserve a more equitable and vibrant region.  Josina is a Forward Through Ferguson Board member (2019 – current) and came to St. Louis, MO from Columbus, GA, where she served on multiple Boards/Steering Committees, worked at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley as the Donor Services Officer, and at the Columbus Consolidated Government as the Public Information Officer/Calendar Clerk for Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. She is a proud graduate of Leadership Georgia (c/o 2018) as well as the Southeastern Council Foundations Hull Fellowship Program (c/o 2018). Josina has an innate commitment to the progression of ‘community’ and is devoted to contributing her experiences, talents, knowledge, and expertise toward the conquering of racial equity.

As the Executive Director of the Joseph H. and Florence A. Roblee Foundation, Jane Callahan serves as the organization’s sole staff member. In her role, Jane represents the Foundation in the community and acts as the conduit to the Board of Directors with local nonprofit partners. She currently is the board chair of Philanthropy Missouri.

Jane worked at Parents as Teachers as their Public Policy Director leading the organization’s policy agenda at the state and federal levels with the goal of increasing funding and expanding policies that support early childhood education and parent engagement. Earlier in her career, Jane worked as a policy and budget analyst in the federal and local government levels focusing on social service and income security programs.

Jane has a Masters degree in Public Policy from Indiana University and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from St. Cloud State University.


Title: Finding PRIDE in Building Community: Recognizing Relationships as a Critical Part of Our COVID-19 Reset 

Description: For a long time, we have understood that LGBTQ+ populations may have familial structures that are non-traditional and often times can be forged out of a need to survive. In this session, you will learn about the intricate dynamics of relationships within LGBTQ+ populations and how they have been crucial to navigating COVID-19 challenges and beyond. You will engage in a reflective space that will produce actionable steps for how you can center the relationship as a tool of support and healing. Join us as we find PRIDE in building community! 


  • Participants will understand the importance of creating and developing a relationship with LGBTQ+ populations and its relationship to strong support systems 
  • Participants will understand how LGBTQ+ populations utilize relationships and family as a driver of personal healing 
  • Participants will dialogue and reflect on how podcasts, blogs/vlogs, and social media platforms contribute(d) to positive self-care, growing, and healing specifically for LGBTQ+ populations with a special lens to COVID-19 
  • Participants will think about actionable steps to disrupt systemically oppressive processes and protocols, whether individual actions or organizational structures 
  • Participants will gain insight into the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality as it relates to inequitable systems and how to shift away from those in a post-COVID-19 world 


Darius Rucker (he/him) 
Williams and Associates, Inc. & Teach for America – St. Louis Prism Board 

Tyrell Manning 
Williams and Associates, Inc.

Darius Rucker is the oldest of five from a single-parent household in which he was a first-generation college student. Upon graduating college, he taught for two years in St. Louis public schools while obtaining his Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. After his second year of teaching, he realized that he wanted to have a bigger impact on the broader community, upon which he chose to begin his pathway to become an executive director of a non-profit. He currently works to support local youth and young adults at Williams and Associates, Inc. He specifically works with those who are affected by health disparities around sexual health.  

Through his work as both an academic teacher and sexual health educator, he has realized the impact of trauma on the mind, body, and soul as well as how it blocks opportunities for us. If we place people at the center of our work, we can recognize trauma sooner and start to support our communities to overcome systemically oppressive systems.

Tyrell Manning is a native of St. Louis, MO. He currently works for Williams & Associates, Inc. as an Early Intervention Outreach Specialist. His work is deeply rooted in community-centered advocacy for those who exist along the margins of society. This influences every aspect of his work, whether it’s connecting a community member to resources to better their health outcomes or creating space for the Black LGBTQ community to simply exist. He is deeply devoted to the holistic wellness of Black Gay and Bisexual men. He continues to work selflessly to help his community overcome systematic injustices from all fronts.



Title: Books Are Magic: An Ingredient to Address Bias and Racism in the Classroom 

Description: Although the majority of educators read stories out loud to their students on a daily basis, most do not use their texts as an opportunity to facilitate conversations on bias, racism, microaggressions, and more. The countless benefits for children being read aloud to include: building good listening habits, reading comprehension and language processing, and even inspiration to read on their own. However, one benefit that isn’t addressed as commonly is the opportunity to engage children in anti-bias anti-racism work through literature. Reading aloud novels serves as a developmentally appropriate springboard for these conversations while still supporting grade level standards. The rich opportunities present in novels to help understand the characters’ points of views in dealing with issues such as police brutality and racial stereotypes help students not only better understand these experiences but also build empathy and brainstorm action for change.  


  • Identify how to choose a novel to create a more equitable learning environment  
  • Plan the implementation of a text  
  • Explain the significance of building empathy through read alouds 


Rabell Afridi 
Social Justice Educator and Advocate 

Rabell Afridi is a social justice advocate and educator based in Los Angeles, CA. A proud Pakistani, Muslim American, Rabell grew up in Fremont, CA. Rabell attended public schools for her entire K-12 education and always found strong mentors in her teachers. She attended the University of San Francisco where she received a BS in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry. After graduating from college and on the job hunt, Rabell discovered a love for teaching while tutoring elementary students of a variety of ages. She then pursued a job as a teacher’s assistant at a private school and later became a third-grade classroom teacher. Although Rabell found passion in the classroom, she wanted to continue growing as an educator and fine-tune her craft, so she decided to pursue a Master’s in Education at the University of California Los Angeles, where she also obtained a teaching credential. Rabell received her Master’s of Education in 2018, completing her thesis on using Muslim narratives in the classroom as a tool to resist Islamophobia. Rabell currently is a fourth-grade educator and professional development facilitator, where she continues to implement diverse cultural narratives in literature instruction, address biases, and develop students’ and educators’ understandings of privilege, race, and xenophobia. 


Title: Connecting and Healing Our Communities Through Nature 


We know that social relationships have a profound effect on our physical and mental health, longevity, and happiness. Yet, in our country, one in five Americans report that they are lonely. Research also suggests that connecting with nature has profound effects on our social well-being and our health, resulting in decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune disease. All indications suggest that the pandemic is the beginning of a new normal that will require us to shift how we live in relation to one another and our natural environment. The good news is that many of us have already begun to make this shift, so it is the perfect time to design how to do this more equitably and in a way that promotes connection and healing. The breakout session will provide an overview of the importance of community-building strategies that provide opportunities for people to connect with one another and with nature. Session facilitators will share practical examples of ways to engage community members through food production, mutual aid, and creative placemaking that promote racial healing and equity. More specifically, the work of A Red Circle, located in North St. Louis County, will be highlighted as a promising practice example of connecting and healing through nature. 


  • A greater understanding of the concept of belonging as a keystone to equity-based community building 
  • Creative ways to identify connection and healing opportunities in organizations and communities 
  • Strategies to engage the skills, talents, and knowledge of community members in nature-centered healing activities 


Dr. Kristen Wagner 
Three x Three Consulting, LLC 

Erica Williams 
A Red Circle 

Kristen Wagner has built her 25-year career with a commitment to social inclusion, community health, and empowering people to realize their full potential. She has served in a variety of non-profit organizational roles, including middle and executive management as well as academic positions engaged in research, teaching, and community engagement in three key areas: asset-based community development, culturally relevant capacity building, and participatory development strategies that promote community wealth-building. In addition to community building work, Dr. Wagner facilitates grassroots inclusive leadership trainings. She has worked with numerous neighborhoods throughout the St. Louis region, American Indian and Native Alaskan tribes across the United States, and remote villages in Madagascar. Outside of this community work, you can find her observing the honeybees in her backyard in awe, dreaming up a menu with food from her garden or local producer, pausing to catch a glimpse of a butterfly or bird visiting her pollinator garden, or learning about Indigenous ways of knowing and being that can inform better ways of connecting people and place. Dr. Wagner holds a BA in Psychology from the University of North Dakota (1997); an MSW (2005) and PhD (2011) in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. She currently serves as Board President of the Sustainable Backyard Network in St. Louis.  

Erica R. Williams holds a BA in Paralegal Studies and an MBA, both from Maryville University. She is working on her PhD in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University, with a concentration on policy analysis.


  • Is a St. Louis Master Gardener 
  • Chairs MOCAN – Missouri Council on Activity and Nutrition and is a member of the Food Systems Work Group for same 
  • Led a Peer Circle for Executive Directors of Color for Winrock International’s Food Systems Leadership Network  
  • Sits on the Youth Ed & Development committee of Kids Win Missouri and participates in HomeGrown STL 
  • Is a member of the Nine Network Community Advisory Board 
  • Is the recipient of several awards from local entities 

When not working for A Red Circle, Erica is on the Board of Directors for Kids Win Missouri and the Community Advisory Board for Refuge and Restoration Nonprofit Organization in Ferguson, Missouri. 


Title: How to Show Up as an Ally for the Immigrant Communities During and Post the Pandemic 

Description: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the racial economic inequality among migrants and refugee communities. Moreover, AAPI in America are facing a heightened fear of racist abuse among other health concerns due to the pandemic. What can local leaders and organizations do to alleviate the pain of distressed communities? Hear from St. Louis community leaders on how to show up as an ally for the immigrant communities in St. Louis.  


  • Understand how racial economic inequality and racism towards immigrant communities have been exacerbated since the pandemic
  • Learn about allyship for immigrant communities
  • Understand how local leaders can step up to support the distressed communities


Bomi Park (Moderator) 
St. Louis Mosaic Project 

Geoffrey Soyiantet 
Vitendo 4 Africa 

Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano 
Cortex Innovation Community 

Rachel D’Souza-Siebert 
Gladiator Consulting 

Rita Chang 
Immigrant Service Providers Network 

Bomi Park came to the United States in 2008 as an exchange student and calls St. Louis her home now. Bomi is the Project Manager at the St. Louis Mosaic Project and the World Trade Center St. Louis. In her position, Bomi ensures the success of Mosaic’s mission to attract and retain foreign born to the region by creating and supporting programs that are welcoming to international people. Prior to her current position, Bomi worked as an International Admission Counselor and Advisor at McKendree University, where she got her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Bomi was a New Leaders Council 2019 St. Louis fellow and served as the Community Liaison board member at the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of St. Louis for two years. Bomi loves to build relationships, especially through culture and food. 

A native of Kenya, Geoffrey Soyiantet moved to St. Louis 16 years ago after graduating from college in Nairobi. He is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Vitendo 4 Africa. Vitendo’s mission is to empower African immigrants through educational and outreach programs in Missouri. Vitendo 4 Africa exists to provide immigrant and refugee families with direct services and interconnected resources to improve their quality of life. Geoffrey is co-founder and Board Chair of St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote business and trade in the African Continent and St. Louis Region. He also serves on the advisory committee of St. Louis Mosaic Project. 

Originally from Guanajuato, Mexico and inspired by her own experiences growing up as an immigrant in the United States, Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano is passionate and committed to helping people in marginalized communities have access to opportunities for wealth creation. Gabriela uses her voice to bring attention to issues around access, has been recognized as a thought-leader in social innovation and entrepreneurship, and was named one of the Top 100 people to know in St. Louis to succeed in business, as well as a Diverse Business Leader in the St. Louis region. Gabriela has been recognized as a Diversity Champion by the MO Department of Transportation and a Diversity and Inclusion Champion by the St. Louis Council of Construction Consumers. Gabriela leads the Center for Emerging Technologies, the largest and oldest Innovation Center in Missouri, as its Executive Director and is also the Director of Entrepreneurship at Cortex. She is a longtime volunteer with the BALSA Foundation and sits on several boards, including Propel Kitchen, Lindenwood University’s PACE Advisory Board, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Skills Trade Committee, and STLJuntos. She and her husband own Don Emiliano’s Restaurante Mexicano in O’Fallon, MO, and she is co-host of the Auténtico Podcast, which empowers and showcases bilingual Latinx professionals and small business owners. 

Rachel D’Souza-Siebert is a proud life-long resident of St. Louis. Born to parents who immigrated to the U.S.A from India, Rachel has always been passionate about bridging differences and celebrating what’s possible when we collaborate from a mindset of abundance, learning, and risk-taking. Rachel is the founder of Gladiator Consulting, a boutique consultancy with a holistic approach to nonprofit organizational capacity building. Through Gladiator, Rachel has combined her knowledge of Organizational Culture & Resource Development with her deep personal commitment to centering community and seeking justice. 

Rita Chang (she/her) is a first-generation Taiwanese-American from St. Louis, MO. Rita graduated from Beloit College in 2018 with a BA in Sociology. Her research has focused on community-based learning practices in higher education and learning experiences of first-year college students at a residential liberal arts school. Rita has studied binational collaboration of NGOs at the US/Mexico border, an experience that has been funded by the Weissberg Foundation Program in Human Rights and Social Justice. Her primary interests involve social movements, human rights, immigration, and education, and she is passionate about social change that centers the dignity of all people. Since 2019, she has been the Program Manager of the Immigrant Service Providers Network (ISPN), a coalition of 40+ agencies and individuals in St. Louis that collaborate on initiatives impacting immigrant community members. Rita joined the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) in March 2020 as the Policy & Advocacy Coordinator. 


Title: Liberation Is a WE Thing, Not a THEY Thing: Why All Racial Groups Need to Work to End White Supremacy  


In the United States, people of all racial groups have all been enlisted in upholding white supremacy in varying ways. In this workshop, we will explore the roots of our divisions and emphasize the need to be of one accord to eradicate white supremacy.  


  • To explore various ways white supremacy has sewn divisions between and enlisted different racial groups to uphold white supremacy 
  • To hear some of the ways racial groups have been negatively impacted by white supremacy 
  • To discuss how our liberation is tied to one another 


Christina Meneses 
NCCJ St. Louis 

DeWitt Campbell 
NCCJ St. Louis 

Sarah Masoud 
Diversity Awareness Partnership 

As Professional Development Program Manager for NCCJ St. Louis, Christina Meneses oversees the program that prepares candidates to become certified as FaciliTrainers, trained to create and lead opportunities for learning on diversity, inclusion, and equity in their corner of the community. 

In her full-time job, Christina Meneses is the Community Education Supervisor at the YWCA Women’s Resource Center. Over the last 15 years, she has spoken to tens of thousands of students, professionals, and community members on issues related to child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape, healthy relationships, and the prevention of sexual violence. Most recently, she has joined the YWCA Sexual Health and Disability Education (SHADE) program, which provides sexuality education to individuals with disabilities as a component of preventing sexual abuse against this population. 

Christina also teaches Social Justice and Human Diversity at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. 

Dewitt Campbell was born and raised in the city of St. Louis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Webster University and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Washington University.  Dewitt has more than eighteen years of social service experience in a number of distinct areas, including: prevention services, fund distribution at the United Way of Greater St. Louis, adult and youth homeless services, emergency disaster services, and workforce development services.  Dewitt has previously taught Social Justice and Human Diversity at the Washington University School of Social Work, and he currently serves as a private social service consultant and freelance social worker through his company, DCIII Solutions.  

Dewitt has been involved with NCCJ St. Louis since 2000 in a number of different capacities.  He is an alumnus of the Dismantling Racism Institute, has served on staff of the AnyTown Youth Leadership Institute multiple times, and oversees the cadre of NCCJ’s Certified Diversity FaciliTrainers, who provide services to both youth and adult populations throughout the region.  

Sarah Masoud is the Manager of Training and Education at DAP. She started her career working in the refugee and immigration field and received her Master’s in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis. Through her experience in working with immigrants and refugees, she has been surrounded by a multitude of different cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, which led her to delve into the field of diversity and inclusion. Additionally, her identity as an Arab-American woman with a rich and diverse family history has shaped the way she is able to facilitate difficult conversations about social issues such as race and gender identity. 

Sarah has 10 years of experience conducting skill-building cultural competency trainings as well as diversity and inclusion trainings. She focuses on helping a variety of institutions create more inclusivity within their respective environments and making space for more diverse individuals. She has experience leading trainings and facilitating workshops for both youth and adults. She also has many years of experience creating content for trainings and tailoring them to fit the needs of the participants. She sees the field of diversity and inclusion as consistently growing and changing, and she will forever be a student learning through scholarship and activist work.