& Inclusion


 A Discussion of Systemic Racism within the Disability Community

Aug. 21, 2020
Noon - 2:30 pm

Live on Facebook 
& Zoom

  • Facebook
  • Zoom

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Series: A Discussion on Systemic Racism Within the Disability Community

Panel Discussion, Part I:  Featuring three multi-disciplinary diversity experts, Dr. Vivian Stith-Williams, Ms. Cheryl Poe, and Ms. Maria Davis-Pierre, who will address the disparities affecting Black/African American families with disabilities and the successful strategies recommended to enhance equity, fairness, and inclusion.  Panelists will present information based on their expertise related to understanding terms and addressing disproportionality and advocating for Black families with disabilities in Virginia in general.


This promises to be an educational, informative and provocative discussion. 

Please join us on Friday, August 21, 2020 from Noon - 2:30 p.m.  

The Speakers





Maria Davis-Pierre

Presenter Topic Focus: A discussion on potential clinician biases and unknown ablest views that may affect the outcomes of successfully joining with Black parents during the therapy treatment process, as well as how to identify effective components of culturally responsive communication between professionals and educators and the autism community.

Founder and CEO of Autism in Black Inc., located in West Palm Beach, Florida.  This organization aims to bring awareness to Autism Spectrum Disorder and reduce the stigma associated with the diagnosis in the black community.

As a licensed mental health therapist, Maria primarily works with parents to provide support through education and advocacy training. Her passion for working in the field stems from her personal journey with ASD when her daughter received the diagnosis at a very early age. In addition to therapy, Maria dons many other titles including coach, speaker, advocate, and author. Her first published work, The Self-Care Affirmation Journal, is currently available for purchase on Amazon. Maria’s unique approach to coaching and counseling exemplifies her drive and motivation toward greater acceptance and overcoming the barriers and personal struggles associated with raising a child on the spectrum. 

Dr. Vivian Stith-Williams

Presenter Topic Focus: A discussion of the historical pattern of African American and other minority students being inappropriately referred and erroneously determined to require special education and related services when, in fact they did not. This presentation will also highlight the impact of this practice on students, families, classrooms and the need to address cultural awareness and culturally responsive teaching.

Vivian Stith-Williams is a native of Southampton County, Virginia. She holds a Doctorate of Education in Early Childhood Special Education, University of Denver; Master of Social Work, University of Michigan; Bachelor of Arts, Sociology-Social Work, Virginia Union University. 

She is currently the owner and president of VSW Consulting LLC, an educational consulting and training company. Vivian recently retired from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) as a School Social Work Specialist. She provided leadership and coordination of activities, training and technical assistance to address cultural responsive practices and cultural competency research/training, school attendance and truancy, school social work services, youth mental health, as well as disproportionate representation of minorities in special education and disciplinary practices, dropout prevention issues and efforts.

Dr. Stith-Williams has over 30 years of professional experience working with students, parents and educators. Her dissertation research focused on involving parents in the education process with particular attention to an individualized action plan.

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Cheryl Poe

Presenter Topic Focus: Special Education Advocacy. Far too often, school divisions ignore the individual differences and needs of Black and Brown children, leaving them frustrated, isolated, and overlooked. Ms. Poe will discuss and expose common struggles that Parents of color face when seeking appropriate specialized instructions for their children. She will also share practical tools and review the rights that parents so they can gain confidence when dealing with school personnel.

Cheryl Poe is the founder and owner of Advocating 4 Kids, Inc., a Special Education Advocacy organization that provides resources, information, and workshops to parents and professionals with a special focus on addressing needs of Black and Brown children and those from the lower socioeconomic status. She is also a founding member and board president of the National Allies for Parents in Special Education NAPSE, a national parent-driven organization that works hard to increase access and quality advocacy resources for special education families from underserved populations to improve educational outcomes.


Mrs.  Poe holds a Master of Arts Degree in Urban Education and Counseling. She also has completed over 15 credit hours of postgraduates hours in psychology. In June of 2004, she completed the Nation Group Psychotherapy Institute at the Washington School of Psychiatry in Washington D.C. in the study of Group Psychotherapy.  Mrs. Poe completed a two-year term as the Student Outreach and Recruitment Committee Chairperson for the Mid- Atlantic Group Psychotherapy Society Board of Directors and was awarded the Jefferson Cup for leadership in her role.


Mrs. Poe was the Chair of The National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities (NAEAACLD) Parent Network, as well as having been on the board for the Council of Parents, Advocates, and Attorney's (COPAA) where she helped develop strategic goals to address the needs of minorities within the organization, among others.


Live Zoom Meeting

August 21, Noon - 2:30 PM

This conversation will also be streamed live on the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities' Facebook page.