Splash Fluid

Breaking the Stigma: African American Mental Health Symposium

Shifting the Narrative

Keynote Speakers


Made in America: The Psychological Evolution of the Black Male

Andre Fields, Ph.D.

Audience members will understand the birth and evolution of American racism, the impact(s) of American racism on the developing black male, and learn strategies for helping African American males overcome it.


Speaker:  Dr. Andre Fields received his Doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University and currently serves as a psychologist and associate professor at Grand Rapids Community College. He has authored 14 publications dedicated to providing a greater understanding of the psychology of American racism and  facilitates workshops to improve the mental and emotional functioning. Dr. Fields is a certified Mental Health Aid instructor for the National Council of Behavioral Health.


Soul Wealth: Inner Peace is Really Possible

Vikki Johnson, Ph.D.

Too often people live based on external expectations instead of internal motivation, beliefs and core values. This session will explore the opportunities for and obstacles to wellness. It is possible to live a highly conscious, harmonious existence in the midst of chaos. Inner peace really is possible. 


Speaker: Dr. Vikki Johnson is a transformational speaker, chaplain, spiritual wellness practitioner, best-selling author of 12 books and Founder of Soul Wealth LLC. Her most recent book, “Soul Wealth: Finding Vision, Compassion, Authenticity, Abundance And Legacy In The Midst Of Chaos” was released August 2019. Dr. Johnson mentors women to break up with the status quo in their lives; to be great in the mirror first, then amazing in the marketplace.

Breakout Speakers


What Happens When Our Kids See It? When Black Children Witness Racial Trauma

Regena F. Nelson, Ph.D.

This session will focus on how caregiver and professionals support Black children who have experienced racial trauma through sharing information about effective intervention strategies and presenting success stories. 


Speaker: Dr. Regena F. Nelson is an early childhood education professor with 25 years of research, teaching and consulting experience. She is Director of the Urban Teacher Residency Program formed to increase teachers of color of Benton Harbor Area Schools and Kalamazoo Public Schools. Her work has been published in multiple professional journals including Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Journal of Research on Childhood Education, and Early Childhood Education Journal.  Dr. Nelson has served on the boards of several early childhood organizations.

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Are We Safe? The Science Behind African American Stress Response

David Thomas, MA, LPC

The speaker will explore how racism as an experience in America impacts the African American stress response. Participants will see African American awareness viewed through a fundamental understanding of the autonomic nervous system. There will be a review of resiliency strategies that have been historically supportive and strategies that may prove helpful today.


Speaker: David Thomas received a B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Toledo and became a Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer in 2001. He then received his M.A. in clinical Mental Health Counseling from Spring Arbor University and established his clinical practice. He subsequently retired from Public Safety this year and has dedicated his time to counseling in private practice and developing the business he and his wife formed together, Insight Associates LLC. 


Valarie Cunningham


Elishae Johnson, Ph.D.

Black Woman What's Wrong With You? The Misinterpretation of the Black Woman's Plight

Elishae Johnson, Ph.D., LPC & Valarie Cunningham, MSW, LMSW

This session explores the tension that may be experienced when church, alone, is not providing the support and healing needed to function and thrive. It will address the myths and stigmas that arise as barriers to the utilization of formal mental health care, provide insight into when formal mental health care may be warranted, and tips to successfully locating a mental health professional. 


Speakers:  Valarie Cunningham, MSW, LMSW is the founder and CEO of The Synergy Health Center. Valarie has served as an Adjunct Instructor for the School of Social Work for more than 10 years. She continues to speak and train on the topics of breaking stigmas, racial trauma, and healing, at colleges, churches, business and internationally. 


Elishae Johnson, PhD, LPC, CAADC received her M.A. in Counseling from Spring Arbor University, and Ph.D. from Walden University. She is also a Michigan Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor.


Charmeka Newton, Ph.D.


Tatyana Smith

Not the Client Too? Mental Health Implications for African American Clinicians Experiencing Microaggressions

Charmeka Newton, Ph.D., LP & Tatyana Smith, BS

During this presentation attendees will identity and be able to define what are microaggressions and learn steps they can take to mitigate them. Coping strategies to help those who experience these offenses will also be provided. Lastly, participants will learn how to improve their cultural awareness to help address discrimination and racism.


Speakers:  Dr. Char Newton is a fully licensed psychologist and an instructor at WMU’s Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology program and has over 10 years of experience in clinical, academic, and community settings. She is a peer-reviewed published author and a member of the Michigan Board of Psychology, appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 


Tatyana Smith is a second year Doctoral student in counseling psychology at Western Michigan University, working under the supervision of Dr. Newton. She recently completed her Master’s practicum at WMU’s Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.

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Angela Lewis, MS, LLPC


Maime Butler

Navigating Spaces: Tips for Empowering Mental and Emotional Well Being for Black Queer and Gender Expansive Persons

Angela Lewis, MS, LLPC & Maime Butler

This session will include a discussion on the mental health of Black Q/T/GNC people including guidelines and context examples of navigating spaces as Black queer, trans, and gnc people. We also will discuss the ways therapy can be harmful in an effort to reduce bias and judgement as clinicians working with Black QTGNC people. 


Speakers:  Angela Lewis is a Doctoral student in Western Michigan University’s Counseling Psychology program. She specializes in working with Black, Queer women and Black persons. 


Maime joins CAPS as a staff therapist and Black student liaison. Maime graduated from Western Michigan University with a M.A. in Counseling Psychology where they are currently finishing their Doctoral work.

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Racial Disparities: The Power of Advocacy

Kevin Fischer, Executive Director, NAMI Michigan

This session provides an exploration into the effect racism has on people of color; the statistics and how stigma affects access to treatment and culturally competent care. 


Speaker:  Executive Director of NAMI Michigan. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. A retired businessman, Kevin joined NAMI as a volunteer in 2011 shortly after losing his oldest son Dominique to suicide in 2010. He accepted the role of Executive Director in 2014 and is the Founder and Director of The Dominique Fischer Memorial Foundation. Kevin is dedicated to eliminating the stigma of mental illness, which he considers the leading barrier to early diagnoses, treatment and better outcomes for all.


Beyond Code Switching? Bi-Culturalism

Candy S. McCorkle, Ph.D.

This session will explore the impact of the experience of a person of color learning to live in both their racial/ethnic culture of origin and the dominant White culture on a person of color’s sense of well-being and identity. The session will also engage in a discussion on the influence of White privilege on how people of color navigate a society not based on their cultural norms and values. 


Speaker:  Dr. Candy McCorkle currently serves as the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Western Michigan University. Prior to joining WMU, she served as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Alma College.  She has served in higher education for more than 20 years. She also served as the director of the Masters of Counseling program at Spring Arbor University and was an Assistant Professor of Counseling and Director of the Global Campus Counseling program at Central Michigan University.


I Can't Breathe! The Healing Breath of Trauma Informed Yoga and Meditation

Kimberly Lee, BS

This session will explore how the body stores trauma, specifically racial trauma and relief through the practice of yoga (movement, breath and meditation) helps calm the nervous system, identify trauma stored in the body & identify patterns of behavior on and off the yoga mat.


Speaker: Kimberly Lee has been a certified fitness instructor since 2008 and a certified yoga instructor since 2014. In 2020 she started Kimberly’s Yoga and More, expanding her teaching to an online platform to reach more people and teaching yoga to at risk teen girls at the Urban Zone in Kalamazoo. She soon will have the ability to conduct yoga teacher certifications with a focus on the underserved black and brown population in greater Kalamazoo.