My ADOS Conference Experience: Notes from a Jamaican Ally

This past weekend, my little cousin and I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural ADOS conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I had an AMAZING TIME. I expected nothing less than excellence from the braintrust of Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was the best conference I’ve ever attended. And I’ve been to a myriad of conferences, from ones focused on racial equity to ones in the educational sphere. Most of them, I leave frustrated at the lack of focused, well-researched topics, and lackluster conversations. That was not at all the case for the ADOS Conference. I left invigorated to do put “skin in the game,” and do the work of advocating for ADOS on the local, state, and national level.

Here are a few of my highlights:

  • Every single speaker was amazing. It was wonderful how they able to hit on distinct aspects of the ADOS experience and avoid repetition, while maintaining a single, unified focused voice. You don’t see that at other conferences. Typically, there is at least one session that makes you feel as though you’ve wasted your time. That was NOT the case at the ADOS conference.
  • Invited guests were publicly held accountable with firm grace in a way that I’ve never seen before. Yvette and Tone have set a new standard for how black folks engage with those in positions of power–there was no effusive gratitude for doing the bare minimum. You had to come correct, or get corrected. Pressure, not praise was modeled. Representative Yarmouth was firmly corrected on his use of “people of color,” and began utilizing ADOS immediately. He was also publicly informed that reparations with a sole focus on education was not acceptable. Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson was informed that the low-balling reparations estimate that she’s putting forward is not going to be sufficient. 
  • I am a Jamaican-American woman married to an ADOS man, and my little cousin is Jamaican-American as well. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt uncomfortable or ostracized. It was simply a space devoted to the specificity of the ADOS experience, and advocacy for this particular group. You could eavesdrop on any number of conversations, and you wouldn’t be able to hear any examples of vitriol towards black immigrants. I already knew the claims from naysayers about ADOS being xenophobic were unfounded, but if I didn’t know, this conference would have shattered those detractions to pieces. In fact, one of the speakers was a Jamaican woman and she was shown such an outpouring of love and respect for her allyship.
  • Local ADOS chapters were connecting and organizing, demonstrating that this is a movement full of folks ready to do the work, going beyond lip service.  I had the pleasure of meeting up with ADOS Chicago folks prior to the conference, and we continued to connect, reflect, and engage in wonderful dialogue all throughout the conference. Several other groups were strategizing and laying the groundwork, and it was such a beautiful sight to see.

To conclude, I can’t stop gushing about how wonderful my time was. I look forward to digging in and rolling up my sleeves in Chicago. I’m going to leave you with some homework to do in the form of three action items. Yep…always a teacher!

  1. If you’re reading this and you have no idea what ADOS means, I’m so glad you asked! You can find information at the ADOS proverbial Ground Zero here: ADOS 101
  2. If you’re in the Chicagoland area and haven’t done so already, connect with the ADOS Chicago via this website: ADOS Chicago website
  3. Dr. Marguerite Hinrichs presented a wonderful workshop on how to judiciously and effectively use social media for ADOS Advocacy. You can view the slides here: Social Media for Social Justice-Presentation Slide