2020 Summit on Racism

Sponsored by PNC Bank

Kalamazoo’s Summit on Racism has since 2004 been a unique and important venue to bring the community together for open dialogue regarding race and to create solutions to eradicate racism. The theme of the 2020 Summit is ‘400 years after slavery began, a collective conversation to chart a better future.’


Pre-Summit Event – 4:00pm


Moderated by Petra Alsoofy, Outreach and Partnerships Manager, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, progressive activist, educator, author, speaker, and podcast host. He is formerly the Health Director for the City of Detroit and candidate for Governor of Michigan.

Included with Summit registration.




Sponsored by Encore Magazine

6:10 –Rita Raichoudri, PhD, Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools

Moderator, Von Washington, Jr., Executive Director, Community Relations, the Kalamazoo Promise

6:40 – Q and A

6:55 – BREAK

7:00 KEYNOTE Sponsored by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation

Moderator, Deveta Gardner, PhD, Associate Dean, University College

Jesse Hagopian
Award-winning educator and a leading voice on issues of educational equity, the school-to-prison-pipeline, standardized testing, the Black Lives Matter at School movement, and social justice unionism.





10:15 – 11:00 – BREAKOUTS A (Choose One)

Is THIS the New Normal? Exploring the Effectiveness of Remote Education For Students and Families
Panel led by Luchara Wallace, PhD, Director Lewis Walker Institute
To Be or Not To Be . . . does remote education meet the needs of students and families in the era of the COVID-19? In this session, the effectiveness of synchronous and asynchronous instruction will be explored from the perspectives of students and families.

Implicit Bias – Sponsored by Warner Norcross + Judd, LLP
Denise Evans, MM, MA, Project Coordinator for Strong Beginnings – Healthy Start, Grand Rapids
Moderator:  Beth Oman, Society for History and Racial Equity

Understanding Racial Disparities in Health: How We Got Here and the Path Forward
Debra Furr-Holden, PhD, Associate Dean for Public Health Integration and Director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions
Moderator:  Komal Razvi, Health Equity Program Manager, YWCA of Kalamazoo

11:00 –STORY CENTER VIDEOS – Sponsored by the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation

11:10 – 12:00 – BREAKOUTS B (Choose One)

Training for Effective Policing – Sponsored by Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Victor Ledbetter, Director Law Enforcement Academy and Training, Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Moderator:  Stacey Ledbetter, CEO of Black & Blue Networking & Consulting, LLC

Effects of COVID on Prison Populations
Amani Sawari, writer, founder of SawariMedia LLC
Moderator:  Rhiki Swinton, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Prison is no place for a pandemic. The coronavirus has had negative impacts on every facet of our society including education, family relations, food access and healthcare. All of these outcomes are dangerously amplified for incarcerated men and women. During this session we’ll focus on the strategies that SawariMedia has used to fill in the genocidal gap that state corrections departments have maintained throughout the past months that deprive people in prison of access to effective medical care, programming, and family visits. This session will demonstrate prison itself is the pandemic.

Cultural Humility

A candid discussion on the necessity to examine cultural experiences through a racial justice lens. Sitting on the sidelines while witnessing the harm to those whose identities are not the same as our own is simply not an option.

Cheree Thomas, Racial Healing Practitioner
Moderator: Caitlin Hoag, SHARE Board of Directors


Voting Rights Today: Strategies to Move from Voter Suppression to Voter Protection

Nancy Abudu, Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group
Moderator:  Elspeth Inglis, Barry County Democratic Committee Organizer

The Southern Poverty Law Center and partner organizations have mounted a massive campaign to challenge regressive and antiquated voting policies, improve access to the ballot box, and demand government accountability.  Ms. Abudu’s talk will address these issues and many more as we reflect on the 2020 election season and gear up for the decennial redistricting cycle.

12:45 – Closing Session

12:55 –STORYCENTER VIDEOS, Sponsored by the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Foundation

2:00pm – 2:30pm

Special Guest – Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist has dedicated his career to fixing problems for hardworking families.  From spearheading campaigns for equality and justice to harnessing technology
to solve everyday problems for Detroiters, his focus has consistently remained on serving serving the public by getting things done.

Bringing Michigan’s state government fully into the 21st century is a top priority for Lt. Governor Gilchrist.  Lt. Governor Gilchrist studied computer engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, graduating with honors, and later had a successful career as a software engineer at Microsoft.  He spent three years as National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org, where he spearheaded equity and justice campaigns, including fighting to expand Medicaid in states with Republican governors, like Michigan.






“Summit Finale!”

“Presented by Johnson and Associates, Historical and Cultural Services”


Sponsored by the 400 Years of African American History Commission

12:45 – Closing Session




ON DEMAND SESSIONS (Included in registration and accessible through November 30)

Islamophobia – A Threat to All – Petra, Alsoofy, Outreach and Partnerships Manager, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)

Racial Disparities in COVID-19 – Associated Illness/Death and Health Maintenance Education – Dr. Emmanuel Tito, resident physician with the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker Center

Policing – Lisa Brock, academic director and acting executive director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership

Media and Culture – Sue Ellen Christian, professor in the School of Communication at Western Michigan University

SHARE Organizational Racial Healing Program – Joan Hawkshurst, racial healing coordinator, Society for History and Racial Equity (SHARE)


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Nancy Abudu

Nancy Abudu

Nancy G. Abudu is the Deputy Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Voting Rights Practice Group.  In that role, she leads a team of lawyers, community organizers, and technical experts in protecting and strengthening the voting rights of minority communities and other politically vulnerable populations.  Prior to joining SPLC, Nancy was the Legal Director for the ACLU of Florida and a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.  She has litigated a variety of civil rights and civil liberties issues in federal and state courts, including legal challenges to  state felon disfranchisement, proof of citizenship, and voter photo ID laws; and has pushed for greater enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, Help America Vote Act, and other federal laws.  Her practice areas also have included prison conditions, free speech, reproductive rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBT rights, privacy and government surveillance, and education issues. In addition, Nancy has worked as a staff attorney with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, and an associate with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York.  She served as an international election observer in Albania, is a member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Election Law, and is a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program based in Washington, D.C.  She also has published numerous articles and two book chapters, including in the most recent fourth edition of the ABA’s America Votes.  She received her B.A. from Columbia University, her J.D. from Tulane Law School, and has won several awards and honors of recognition for her civil rights work.  She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia, New York, the U.S. Supreme Court, and several other federal and state courts.


Denise Evans

Denise Evans

In addition to serving as Project Coordinator for Strong Beginnings – Healthy Start, Denise Evans is a trained facilitator and practitioner in the areas of unconscious/implicit bias, Cultural Intelligence (CQ), Technologies of Participation, Institutes for Healing Racism and is a facilitator of Truth Racial Healing Transformation (TRHT) Racial Healing Circles. Denise works closely with the National Healthy Start Association, the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) Health Equity group, and state and local health departments on issues of equity and inclusion. She is a local guest lecturer for Spectrum Health Medical Residency programs, a 2017 National Equity Project (NEP) Fellow, and a trained community organizer, working to join community organizers and public health professionals to disrupt systems of oppression and power in order to build a more equitable future for those living in our nation’s most vulnerable communities. Denise is a two-time past chair of Spectrum Health’s System Inclusion Council, a member of Spectrum Health’s African American Resource Engagement group, and a founding member of the Greater Grand Rapids Racial Equity Network (GGRREN).  She mentors seminarians, public health professionals through City MatCH’s City Leaders initiative, and serves her local church as the pastor of outreach and development. 


Debra Furr Holton

Debra Furr Holton

Dr. Debra Furr-Holden is the Associate Dean for Public Health Integration, C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, and Director of the Division of Public Health at the Michigan State University.  She is also the Director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She is an epidemiologist and classically-trained public health professional with expertise in behavioral health equity and health disparities. Dr. Furr-Holden has worked extensively with a wide range of partners including community-based organizations, local municipal officials, and policy makers.  Her research has supported legislative efforts to impact state- and national-level legislation to promote behavioral health equity.  Dr. Furr-Holden’s community-based, action-oriented research has been well received by community stakeholders and driven multiple policy interventions to address some of the nation’s greatest public health challenges, especially among racial and ethnic minorities and in racially- and economically-segregated communities. Dr. Furr-Holden’s research is grounded in the rubrics of epidemiology and consistent with principles and practices for understanding social determinants of health and health equity. Dr. Furr-Holden attended the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (BA Natural Sciences and Public Health, 1996) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (PhD, 1999).

C. Debra Furr-Holden, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Public Health Integration
Director, Division of Public Health
Associate Chair of Public Health and Clinical Integration, Department of Family Medicine
C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, Division of Public Health
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Director, Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian is an award-winning educator and a leading voice on issues of educational equity, the school-to-prison-pipeline, standardized testing, the Black Lives Matter at School movement, and social justice unionism. He is an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, an author, public speaker, organizer, and Ethnic Studies teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School – the site of the historic teacher boycott of the MAP test in 2013.  Jesse is the co-editor of the new book, Teaching for Black Lives, and is the editor of the book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. His writing has been published in numerous books including 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation, Why We Teach Now, and Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States.  Jesse is an organizer with Social Equity Educators (SEE), a rank-and-file group of Seattle educators working for social justice in public schools. He is also an organizer for Athletes for Impact, a group of professional athletes from around the country who use their platform to advance movements for social justice.  Jesse serves as the Director for the Black Education Matters Student Activist Award Foundation, which gives recognition, support, and a financial prize to student leaders in the Seattle Public Schools who demonstrate exceptional leadership in struggles against racism. Jesse started the award with funds he received from a settlement he reached with the City of Seattle after having been unjustly assaulted with pepper spray by a police officer at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally.  Jesse is a graduate of Macalester College, and obtained his Master’s degree in teaching at the University of Washington.


Victor Ledbetter

Victor Ledbetter

Captains Victor Ledbetter and Stacey Randolph Ledbetter (retired, 2017) are Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) veterans who spent over 50 combined years committed to protecting, serving, educating, networking, collaborating, and directly addressing “Black and Blue” issues involving law enforcement and the community.  They often team up to do presentations and speaking engagements for young people and adults on education and awareness of the criminal justice system; and bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community. They have decades of experience in patrol, community policing, undercover investigations, criminal investigations, training, SWAT, and other facets of law enforcement.  Vic Ledbetter is currently the Director of the Law Enforcement Training Center, overseeing the Police and Corrections Academies at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.  Stacey Randolph Ledbetter is the CEO of Black & Blue Networking & Consulting, LLC, specializing in cultural awareness training and programs, and is currently the Kalamazoo Law Group Lead of the W.K. Kellogg and Kalamazoo Community Foundations’ Truth and Racial Healing Transformation (TRHT) initiative.  Director Ledbetter, a North Carolina native, earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science from North Carolina Central University, his Master’s degree in Public Administration from Ferris State University, and is a graduate of the 244th session of the prestigious FBI National Academy.  Capt. Randolph Ledbetter, a Detroit native, earned both her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University, and was the first African American female supervisor promoted in KDPS’s history.   They are the parents of two adult sons, Victor II and Darius, servant leaders in the community, members of The Galilee Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, members of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, respectively.


Dr. Rita Raichoudri

Dr. Rita Raichoudri

Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri began her tenure as superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools on June 1, 2020.

A native of California, Raichoudhuri has almost two decades of experience in education. She was the executive director of Early College and Career Education for CPS from 2017 to May 2020. During that time, she implemented processes and systems of support to provide students with rigorous, relevant, college-level, hands-on, and career-focused courses and facilitated the design and implementation of high-quality STEM learning environments. In that position, she also established several secondary-to-employment pipeline programs that helped students gain college credit, professional credentials, and the soft skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century labor market.

From 2013 to 2017 she was the principal of Wells Community Academy High School, where her accomplishments included increasing attendance, high school graduation rates, and the freshman on-track rate — as well as decreasing the school’s drop-out rate. She served as resident principal at the school from 2012 to 2013 as part of the Chicago Leadership Collaborative.

Raichoudhuri’s other positions within Chicago Public Schools, included director of the Office of Professional Learning, from 2011 to 2012 and senior manager of the Office of Performance, from 2010 to 2011.

Raichoudhuri earned her doctorate in urban education leadership from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She also holds a master’s degree in education from Chapman University, Orange, California; and a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of California, Davis. She has had fellowships at the Erickson Institute in Chicago; Northwestern University; and the University of California, Berkeley.  

 Amani Sawari

Amani Sawari

Amani Sawari is a writer, founder of SawariMedia LLC, coordinator for Michigan’s Good Time Campaign to Repeal TIS and spokesperson for Jailhouse Lawyer Speak’s National Prison Strike and current Nationwide Right2Vote Campaign. Sawari is also a 2019 Civil Rights Fellow with the Roddenberry Foundation. She graduated from the University of Washington with her bachelor’s degree in both Media Communication Studies and Law, Economics & Public Policy in 2016. Her visionary publications, including the statewide Motivate Michigan and the National Right2Vote Report, aid in distributing prison resistance movement updates and building community among participants in the prison resistance movement on both sides of the wall across 30 states.

Pronouns: She/Her
Location: Detroit, MI


Cheree Thomas

Cheree Thomas

Chéree Thomas is the Associate Director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. She engages in prevention, intervention and creating inclusive environments for survivors, advocates and the community as a whole. Chéree brings both direct service and non-profit management experience.  She is a graduate of the University of Toledo where she earned a Masters in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Diversity and Multicultural Studies, a Bachelors in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Women and Disability, an Associates in Correctional Technology and a Certification in Diversity Management. Her desire to create equity for all extends into her work as a Doula where she assists BIPOC birth givers with the tools necessary to minimize the trauma experienced during childbirth. She is also a racial healing practitioner.


Luchara Wallace

Luchara Wallace

Dr. Luchara Wallace is the Director of the Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations and an Associate Professor in Special Education. Most recently, Dr. Wallace developed a summer youth employment program based upon preliminary results from the alternative to school suspension research and feedback from incarcerated youth.  Throughout her career she has coordinated programming to support students with learning disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral disorders. The programs offered to students focused on empowering them by teaching tools of self-advocacy and independent learning.

Dr. Wallace is also interested in determining the ways families learn about the policies that impact them and how that knowledge impacts their family’s quality of life.