Join Us at the 2020 Annual Conference
To my NCFR family near and far, I invite you to this year’s NCFR Annual Conference! When I developed the theme for our 2020 conference, Family Expansions, Expanding Families: Contouring Family Science’s Negative Spaces, I never imagined how truly defining the concepts of expansions and negative spaces would be. However, here we are in the middle of a global pandemic that has called on all of us to find and develop new ways to live, connect, work, and play. I acknowledge there are great disparities in people’s abilities to do these things, and these disparities are particularly prevalent among people and families of color. In addition to the pandemic and those related disparities, Black individuals and transwomen of color continue to be murdered, including at the hands of police in some instances. As family professionals, we have a responsibility to act with greater intention and purpose to contribute to a safer, more secure, and a more just tomorrow for families. The conference provides one avenue for us to come together and engage these responsibilities, and I hope we can do this in new ways in 2020.
The move to our first-ever virtual annual conference is an example of how we are being called on to expand our skills and practices; in this case, we are (re)examining the status quo to identify negative spaces and then recontouring the boundaries of the conference. Stated differently, we have an abundance of opportunities available to us for reimagining the NCFR conference experience. Some we have been able to put into action and test out, and many of those are actually closely aligned with my own goals for enhanced interaction in sessions and across the conference. Others, we now know are imaginable, and we can consider them for the future. Although these adjustments have been stressful and have created a tremendous amount of extra work, I believe that we have set up an excellent conference. We did this by pushing our creativity and trying hard to unbind ourselves—within the context of our resources, of course—from the way things have been while also being cognizant of the wisdom that history and historical practices afford us.
If you previously read the full explanation of the conference theme, you know that part of the meaning of the theme connected the conference to its originally planned location, St. Louis. The meaning of the theme provided a nod to the symbolic nature of the Gateway Arch (U.S. westward expansion) with an understanding of both the (a) potential expansion and an orientation toward the future holds for advancement and (b) a stark reminder that expansion often includes serious maltreatment of many marginalized populations (e.g., Blacks, Native Americans, immigrants) and misuse of their talents and labor to achieve the goals of the day. Suffice it to say, progress often is a result of the hidden work and sacrifices of marginalized individuals and their families. These individuals and families, and their work and sacrifice, are negative spaces that must be made visible alongside the progress that otherwise would not have been achieved without them.
We also must consider advancement in a more global context that highlights the true nature of our interdependencies. For anyone who does not fully realize how highly connected our global world is, or for those who cannot imagine the myriad ways in which we are interdependent, the current pandemic provides example after example. Scientists in multiple countries are now collaborating on the shared goal of developing treatments for COVID-19, as well as a vaccine. We have also learned the degree to which many supply chains are global and highly interdependent such that distribution can break down when just a few businesses slow down or close and/or when there are impediments to moving materials between countries (e.g., think disinfectant wipes). Various global health disparities have garnered new visibility during the pandemic, and others have been made visible for the first time. Concurrent with the pandemic, we have witnessed additional social interdependencies across the globe. One example of this includes multiple protests erupting across several countries after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The point I hope to make is this: We have great opportunity to more deeply and intentionally join with one another in ways that allow us to identify and coalesce around the most critical needs of families today and in the decades ahead. Often, we are put into silos, which limits us to a narrow expertise related to areas within research, teaching, practice, or policy. Rarely do we engage with those in other silos, and even more rarely do we create work that truly bridges research, teaching, practice, and policy. Certainly, this is changing. There is opportunity, and negative space to contour, to collaborate and identify some critical areas of focus for the coming decade, and then to assemble larger groups that come further out from their silos to drive these priorities forward. Over my years in the academy, I have witnessed more movement toward creating project teams (and more pushback against organizational policies that get in the way of these efforts that value the individual over the collective). I also have witnessed, and read in the conference evaluations completed by attendees, the value of coming together for our conference each year so that we, as a larger body, can share, think, and debate ways to continue our mission of strengthening families. We have expanded our own definitions of families, we have engaged some efforts toward diversity and inclusion, and we have begun to assert a more public voice about the strengths and challenges of contemporary families.
As you prepare for the 2020 conference, I ask that you consider these questions: What can we see that has always been there waiting to be seen? What can we imagine and innovate if we remove limits and constraints? Set aside the rules, at least for a moment, and color outside of the lines. Have fun, engage yourself and others, and test out the unknown opportunities awaiting you at this year’s conference. I think that I might be even more excited about this year’s conference because we get to try out some new things and see what happens. That said, I am entirely confident that the conference content will be insightful and rigorous, and that we will find new ways to promote our cherished time to interact with one another. I am thankful for the efforts of the NCFR Conference Program Planning Committee and NCFR staff, especially Jennifer Crosswhite and Cindy Winter, who have made this all happen.
To my NCFR family, I end this conference invitation with a brief overview of the plenaries, with the full realization that what is going on in the world may slightly alter some of the material by the time of the conference. I am absolutely excited about every presenter, topic, and the variation in plenary formats. Each plenary speaks to our world today with an understanding of our history and an envisioning of what tomorrow can be when we work together. Again, please join me at this year’s annual, and first-ever virtual, NCFR Annual Conference!
Focus: Community engagement, helping families navigate systems of oppression, healing, creating empathy, and the needed social justice efforts to continue combating and preventing future injustices against Black individuals and families, especially killings of Black men, such as those experienced in Ferguson, Minneapolis, and too many other communities across the U.S.
Kira H. Banks, Ph.D. (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers), Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University; racial equity consultant for the Ferguson Commission and Racial Equity Catalyst for Forward Through Ferguson; developer of Raising Equity podcast and YouTube channel.
Amber Johnson, Ph.D. (Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs), Department of Communications, Saint Louis University; founder and creator of The Justice Fleet; cofounder of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity
Focus: Global health disparities among families in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussion will (a) identify the structural and systemic inequalities inside and outside of health care that contribute to disparities, and (b) propose ideas for a broad approach to combating these inequalities with a focus on actionable steps.
Ndidiamaka N. Amutah-Onukagha, Ph.D. (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers), Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University; Certified Health Education Specialist
Anis Ben Brik, Ph.D., M.P.A. (Pronouns: He/Him/His), College of Public Policy, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar; former director of the Family Policy Department at the Doha International Family Institute; principal investigator of COVID-19 Family Life Study
Rosario Esteinou, Ph.D. (Pronouns: She/Her/Hers), Center of Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico
Focus: The manifestation of intersectional microaggressions in family contexts. There will be a focus on understanding types of microaggression and their impacts and on identifying effective intervention strategies for working with families of diverse backgrounds.
Kevin Nadal, Ph.D. (Pronouns: He/Him/His), Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York; National Trustee, Filipino American National Historical Society; cofounder, LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network; creator, Out Talk and #ThisIsWhatAProfessorLooksLike