African American Conference on Disabilities

African American Conference on Disabilities, Finding Solutions, Building a Stronger Community

February 28, 2020

Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85040
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


The African American Conference on Disabilities (AACD), co-founded by David Carey with Ability360 and Renaldo Fowler with the Arizona Center for Disability Law, is the only comprehensive conference in the United States that addresses the intersection between race and disabilities. African Americans with disabilities face challenges of race and disability discrimination that the broader community overlooks and views with indifference.

AACD is open to all individuals, families and organizations who are interested in learning and eliminating barriers.

The goals of the conference are:

  • Find and develop solutions
  • Build strong communities
  • Eliminate barriers and create opportunities for persons with disabilities
  • Provide the African American community, organizations and individuals who service the community, with cultural and linguistic competent information and resources.

Conference participants will have an opportunity to attend three general sessions and select among 24 disability-related workshops.


  • Aaron Bishop – Former Commissioner Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Washington DC
  • Tawara Goode – Director, National Center for Cultural Competence & Associate Director, Georgetown University Center for Child & Human Development University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities
  • Talila A. Lewis – Activist/Attorney – Professor whose advocacy primarily focuses on creating equal access to the legal system for people with disabilities
  • William Smith, Jr. – Ed.D. Educator
  • Matthew C. Whitaker – Founder and CEO of the Diamond Strategies, LLC (DSC)
  • Connie Robinson – President Arizona Center for African American Resources
  • Adrian Fontes – Maricopa County Recorder, he is responsible for the administration and implementation of the election process for the fourth most populated county in the United States
  • Leah Landrum Taylor – Former Arizona State Senator
  • Reginald Bolding – Arizona State Representative Legislative District 27
  • Thomas Hicks – U.S. Election Assistance Commission Commissioner
  • Shawn Aleong – Temple University Civil Rights and Disability Advocate


9th Annual African American Conference on Disabilities

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February 28, 2020

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Desert Willow Conference Center
4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85040

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8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.



James Herbert Williams

Opening Session Speaker
James Herbert Williams

James Herbert Williams, PhD., is the Arizona Centennial Professor of Social Welfare Services and Director of the School of Social Work at Arizona State University. He holds his MSW from Smith College, MPA from the University of Colorado and PhD. in Social Welfare from the University of Washington. Dr. Williams is the Interim Director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University, Distinguished Professor in the School of Sociology, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing, China and Visiting Professor at SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw, Poland.   

Dr. Williams’ research and publications focus on human security and economic sustainability, health promotion and disease prevention, behavioral health disparities and health equity, global practice and sustainable development, one health, adolescent violence and substance use, intimate partner violence, academic achievement, social services for African American children in urban schools, and community strategies for positive youth development. His scholarship and research are available in several prominent journals, books, and book chapters.

Dr. Williams has 30 plus years of experience as a scholar/educator and social work practitioner. He is a member of the Steering Committee for the Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative. He is a Fellow in the American Academy for Social Work & Social WelfareSociety for Social Work and Research and chair the National Advisory Committee for the Fahs Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation

Ms. Jean Fairfax

Jean Fairfax

Celebration of Civil Rights Pioneer 
Ms. Jean Fairfax

AACD is celebrating the life and work of Jean Fairfax, an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights movement. Ms. Fairfax committed her life to civil rights and social justice. She was a force for over 40 years, organizing black families in school desegregation cases in rural communities and led the effort to reform the National School Lunch program.

Her work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the American Friends Service Committee allowed her to be committed to a lifetime work of fundamental fairness and simple justice. Ms. Fairfax’s dedication to civil rights led her to provide funding to the first African American Conference on Disabilities in early 2000. Due to her contribution, this event has evolved into the nationally recognized conference that the African American Conference on Disabilities Conference is today.

Ms. Fairfax grew up in Cleveland, Ohio; her parents were the first in their families to be born legally free. She attended the University of Michigan, and then attended  Union Theological Seminary. After college, she worked as the Dean of Women at Kentucky State College and then held the same post at Tuskegee University. It was during this time that Ms. Fairfax found her passion for protecting civil rights and education rights.

She later moved to Phoenix to join her sister, Betty Fairfax, who was one of the first black teachers in the Phoenix Union High School District.  There, they established the Betty H. & Jean E. Fairfax Fund for Educational Equity and the Black Legacy Endowed Fund through the Arizona Community Foundation.

It is through her work that we continue our work. Thank you, Jean.

“Someone had to break the pattern, and very often the civil rights revolution was initiated by the most vulnerable Black persons. Many of them were women and many of them were children—tough, resilient, hopeful, beautiful children. The greatest experience of my life was standing with them as they took the risks.”—Jean Fairfax

Adiba Nelson

Adiba Nelson

Closing Session
Adiba Nelson

Author, Screenwriter, Performer, Activist, & “Emory’s Mom” (that last one is half joking – I always say that’s my title because people are always like “are you Emory’s mom? Can I speak with Emory’s mom? This needs to be signed by Emory’s mom.)

Title: The Beauty of Adult Rebellion

Synopsis: We are raised to do what we’re told, not question authority, and follow the status quo. But does that rule apply when life throws you curveball after curveball? Sometimes you just have to rebel, and that’s ok. Sometimes, that rebellion is even life-changing. 

Author, Screenwriter, Performer, Activist, Wife, Mother, Daughter, and most recently, subject of the Emmy winning documentary, The Full Nelson.

Often referred to as “inspirational,” Adiba Nelson wrote and self-published her first children’s book in 2013 after not being able to find a children’s book that adequately and appropriately represented her daughter (African American, with special needs). Since then she has led numerous workshops for educators and education professionals/paraprofessionals, focusing on disability inclusion and empowerment, and partnered with Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona to introduce a new inclusion patch program, Girl Scouts for ALL (which has now been replicated in California, Texas and soon to be Virginia).

More than just children’s literature, Adiba has also penned several articles for Huffington Post, Ravishly, Everyday Feminism, The Washington Post and My Brown Baby, focusing on issues around race, parenting, body image and womanhood. In 2017, she gave her first TEDx talk (Skating Downhill: The Art of Claiming Your Life), and joined Arizona Public Media as a regular contributor on Arizona Spotlight.

Information for her book to promote on the website and social media:

Reginald Boldin

State Legislation Impacting Persons with Disabilities

Reginald Bolding

Representative Reginald Bolding

In 2018, Reginald Bolding was re-elected to serve a third-term in the Arizona House of Representatives. Bolding was also elected by his colleagues to serve in Democratic Leadership as the House Minority Whip. He serves as the Ranking Member of the House Education Committee and sits on the Ways and Means Committee. Bolding has established himself as one of the most respected legislators in the chamber working on legislation focused on education, economic development, criminal justice, and veterans and civil rights. Bolding has been a leading advocate fighting for issues directly impacting our most vulnerable Arizona communities.

While serving in the legislature, Representative Bolding has been recognized as the Public Elected Official of the Year by several organizations including the AFL-CIO (2018), the National Association of Social Workers (2018), the Arizona Community Action Association (2017), along with several other awards including being named to the Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list (2012).

Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding is an educator, community leader and social entrepreneur. Bolding, a first-generation college student, is an outstanding scholar in both education and justice studies. After graduating at the top of his class from the University of Cincinnati, where he earned an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and International Security, Bolding turned down a full-ride law school scholarship to become a Special Education teacher in South Phoenix to teach underserved youth.

Growing up in an underserved neighborhood himself, Bolding understood firsthand the obstacles and barriers faced by youth and families in these communities and wanted to help create change. He has launched and founded several social ventures focused on community and youth employment. In 2010, he started a non-profit organization to provide students from low-income communities access to internships and workforce development training at top companies and organizations in Arizona. Currently, Bolding runs a civic engagement organization, Arizona Coalition for Change, which empowers everyday citizens to grow their civic and political power to change their communities for the better.

Nationally, Bolding serves as the Chair of Business and Economic Development for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. In the community Bolding sits on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Leading for Change. Bolding lives in Phoenix with his wife Cymone and their daughter Faith.

For registration assistance contact 

David Carey, Conference Co-Chair, Ability360 
(602) 443-0723

Renaldo Fowler, Conference Co-Chair, ACDL 
(602) 274-6287