2021 NCFR Conference Program Highlights

Presenters at Plenaries and Special Sessions

Watch this page for more information about featured conference sessions.

2021 Plenary Presenters

Special Session

Read more below about each presentation.


Andrea Hunter

Opening Plenary: Wednesday, Nov. 3

Andrea G. Hunter

The Shadow of Suns: Paradigmatic Rifts and the Theoretical Legacies of the Black Struggle in Family Science

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Sponsored by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Human Development and Family Studies

For more than a century, African American developmental and family scholars have sought to juxtapose black life against its representations in the American public imagination. These scholars also exposed the interconnections between knowledge, power, and ideas, and the racial politics of epistemology. To reveal the humanity of a people for whom it was denied would require new and re-fashioned theoretical and interpretive tools, and the paradigmatic rifts that resulted would be transformative. This plenary address highlights these paradigmatic rifts and their theoretical legacies in Family Science, as well as what the pain, joy, struggle, and faith of black folk reveal.

Sustainable Conference Goals

This evidence-based presentation will (a) strengthen research on race, culture, and families; (b) enhance the work of scholars, educators, practitioners, and policymakers; and (c) provide a critical framework for scholars focused on the design, modification, and evaluations of curriculum and courses.

Learning Objectives

  1. To recognize the intellectual traditions and paradigmatic tensions in the field of Family Science rooted in hegemonic discourse(s) about race, family, and gender.
  2. To engage in critical reflections about the political and sociohistorical context in which knowledge-generation occurs and is validated, and in whose interests.
  3. To deconstruct how race and the subfields of Black family and developmental studies influenced the discipline of Family Science.
  4. To recognize the critical role of Black scholars, and the paradigmatic rifts they created alongside the 100-plus year history of Family Science.
  5. To integrate into the canon of Family Science the history of Black family and developmental studies, and their impact on theoretical and methodological advancements of the field.

Andrea G. Hunter, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and a Chancellor’s Fellow for Campus Climate at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She received her doctorate from Cornell University in human development and family studies. Dr. Hunter’s research focuses on African American families and tackles questions central to public debates about the functioning of these families. These include the study of gender constructions and relations, family structure, social capital/networks, extended families, and family history.

For more about Dr. Hunter, listen to her podcast, A Colored Girl Speaks: Meditations On Race and Other Magical Thingsfeaturing personal essays on race, politics, and culture through the prism of identity, memory, and history.


Thursday Plenary: Nov. 4

Patricia Matthews-Juarez

Patricia Matthews-Juarez

Emerging Shapes of Families: The Challenge Toward Family and Social Equity

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Texas Tech HDFS

Sponsored by Texas Tech University, Human Development and Family Sciences

From a social behavioral perspective, this plenary session will focus on the transformation of the traditional Black family structure as impacted by homelessness and inclusion of fluid gender identity. It will explore how the new emerging structure is changing the ways in which we, as a society, must think, act, and plan about marriage and relationships. Using the family system theory, the session will offer a systematic perspective for fluidity of the Black family structure. In conclusion, the session will posit contributions to the common good through contextual influences, social equity, and social justice. The session will use the “traditional” Black family structure as the metaphor for why the newly emerging family structure will endure.

Learning Objectives

  1. To recognize the transformative Black family with a focus on persons who are homeless or who hold a fluid gender identity.
  2. To deconstruct marriage and intimate relationships for Black families who are homeless or with members who hold fluid gender identities.
  3. To recognize the intersecting social equity and justice concerns faced by the transformative Black Families.
  4. To identify enduring resilient, adaptive approaches used by the transformative Black Families who are experiencing homelessness and who hold fluid gender identities.

Patricia Matthews-Juarez, Ph.D., is the senior vice president for strategic initiatives and innovation and professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Meharry Medical College. She is also the director of the Research Training Core for the Health Disparities Research Center of Excellence at Meharry. Dr. Matthews-Juarez participates with transdisciplinary and translational teams of scientists interested in exploring the role of epigenetics in chronic diseases and health disparities. Additionally, she works with community organizations and agencies to bring about social equity around social determinants of health. Recently, her research work has been focused on the inclusion of vulnerable populations (LBGTQ, persons experiencing homelessness, and migrant farm workers) in the training of medical students.

For more about Dr. Matthews-Juarez, visit the website for the National Center for Medical Education Development and Research, Meharry Medical College. You can also view a presentation from the Annual Communities of Practice Conference, which Dr. Matthews-Juarez organizes.


Closing Plenary: Friday, Nov. 5

Camara Jones

Four Allegories: Tools for Naming Racism and Moving to Action

Camara Jones

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Racism is a huge roadblock to achieving health and social equity in the United States, yet many people are in staunch denial of its continued existence and profoundly negative impacts on the health and well-being of the nation.  And even those who acknowledge that racism exists sometimes feel ill-equipped to say the word “racism” out loud or take action to address it.

Dr. Jones will share four of her allegories on “race” and racism to illuminate four key messages:

  1. Racism exists | Dual Reality:  A Restaurant Saga
  2. Racism is a system | Cement Dust in Our Lungs
  3. Racism saps the strength of the whole society | Levels of Racism:  A Gardener’s Tale
  4. We can act to dismantle racism | Life on a Conveyor Belt:  Moving to Action

She will also provide definitions and action frameworks to equip participants to engage in a sustained National Campaign Against Racism.

Learning Objectives 

After participating in this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Define racism as a system with three impacts
  2. Illustrate three levels of racism with a Gardener’s Tale allegory
  3. Use the question “How is racism operating here?” to identify anti-racism targets for action in our decision-making processes

Sustainable Conference Goal

Participants will be equipped with communication and action tools to confidently engage in anti-racism in their practices and in their communities.

Camara Phyllis Jones, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is a family physician, epidemiologist, and past president of the American Public Health Association whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. Dr. Jones is currently the 2021-2022 UCSF presidential chair at the University of California, San Francisco. She recently completed her role as a 2021 Presidential Visiting Fellow at the Yale School of Medicine and as the 2019-2020 Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She earned her B.A. in Molecular Biology from Wellesley College, her M.D. from the Stanford University School of Medicine, and both her Master of Public Health and her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. She also completed residency training in general preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins and in family practice at the residency program in social medicine at Montefiore Medical Center.

For more about Dr. Jones, watch her Emory PA Program Commencement Address; her presentation Dismantling Racism in the Children and Nature Movement; and her TEDx presentation Allegories on Race and Racism.


Special Session: Thursday, Nov. 4

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham
Andrea G. Hunter
Patricia Matthews-Juarez
Camara Jones

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham

Racial, Ethnic, & Cultural Influences on Black Mental Health during COVID-19: Lessons Learned and Findings

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Lamar University

Sponsored by Lamar University — Department of Nutrition, Hospitality, and Human Services

Based on a community-based participatory approach, we developed a culturally-responsive needs and assets assessment to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in six Black communities across the United States. An online survey and secondary sources were used to collect data on health, mental health, well-being, coping strategies, family and child life changes, race-related factors, COVID-19 behaviors, and social determinants of health. Social determinants included children experiencing social isolation due to online instruction, cultural mistrust, the intersection of COVID-19 with racial injustices, living in disaster-prone areas, food insecurity, and preexisting health conditions that compounded developmental pathways of participants. Findings from the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) COVID-19 Needs Assessment Project will serve as a centering point with plenary speakers linking similar and dissimilar findings from other studies. The session closes with best practices for culturally accountable mental health strategies and recommendations that could support the acquisition and maintenance of hope, health, and happiness in the face of ongoing layers of daily living, posttraumatic slave distress, historical trauma, survivor’s guilt, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sustainable Goals

The current session includes innovations in community-based and culturally aware approaches to translational science. Participants will also learn ways to apply lessons learned and findings to inform policies and programs that support persons from diverse locations to manifest a sense of hope, happiness, and health in the face of COVID-19, racial discrimination, environmental, historical, and other factors.

Learning Objectives

Participants of the special session will be able to:

  1. identify a strengths-based, community-oriented model to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Black communities.
  2. critique the multidimensional risk and protective factors (e.g., economic, continuum of coping strategies, personal and environmental factors, religious practices, and other positive coping strategies, etc.) that shape Black individuals’ and families’ capacity to remain healthy, happy, and hopeful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. describe culturally responsive approaches to examine the intersection of race, ethnicity, culture, historical, and mental health during COVID-19.

Suzanne Randolph Cunningham, Ph.D., is chief science officer, senior research scientist, and director of continuing education of MayaTech, an applied public health research firm. She served as senior researcher for the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) COVID-19 Needs Assessment Project. She is also associate professor emerita of Family Science at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Dr. Randolph Cunningham has over 35 years of methodological expertise in survey, experimental, and evaluation research designs applied to the study of social and human services, and public health programs and policies.