Skip to content »

2019 Coloring Mental Health Conference

"Community Care & Counseling: Models for the Survival and Flourishing of Black and Brown People"

September 13-14, 2019
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
2121 Sheridan Road | Evanston, Illinois 60201

Black and Brown people experience disproportionate rates of unjust treatment throughout their lives. In the midst of political alienation, injustice in the criminal justice system, barriers to wealth, subhuman ways of being related to in personal interactions, experiences with domineering, unreflective, and insensitive men and women, and the immigration crisis, Black and Brown people need caring communities to unapologetically and strategically advocate and organize for their mental, spiritual, material, and social wellbeing. The 2019 Coloring Mental Health Conference confronts these social injustices and presents communal approaches to care and counseling to cultivate the survival, liberation, healing, and flourishing of Black and Brown people.

Speakers and Facilitators

Dr. Elizabeth Pierre
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling and Counseling Psychology, North Park Theological Seminary and School of Professional Studies, Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Elizabeth Pierre, assistant professor, teaches pastoral care courses at North Park Theological Seminary and graduate counseling courses at North Park School of Professional Studies (SPS). She has served in various ministry contexts within the United States and abroad. She received her clinical training from Boston College in Boston, MA and Center for Religion and Psychotherapy in Chicago, IL. She obtained her doctorate in pastoral theology from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, also in Chicago, IL. Elizabeth Pierre's research interests involve learning how to provide adequate pastoral care for trauma survivors. She especially focuses on Black women who are survivors of sexual violence and the role that atonement theology may play in their recovery. Other research interests include the role of forgiveness and reconciliation in violent contexts.

Rev. Dr. Nicholas Grier
Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Spiritual Care, & Counseling, Claremont School of Theology

A native of Atlanta, GA, Rev. Dr. Nicholas Grier’s writing, speaking, and counseling privileges the experiences of Black and Brown people and engages a womanist critique of culture. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Spiritual Care, & Counseling at Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California.

Privileging the experiences of persons on the margins of society, Grier enjoys fostering cultures of self-awareness, resistance, healing, and liberation on the path to human flourishing. He works to engage faith communities, clinical counseling practice, the academy, and public on issues related to racism, sexism, Black male identity, liberating faith, and depth understandings of the personality. As a professor, Grier works to inspire present and future faith leaders to cultivate life-giving ministries of care and justice. Grier is an ordained Baptist minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention and served as Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care at Second Baptist Church, Evanston, IL. He also served as Associate Staff Minister at Third Baptist Church of Chicago.

His forthcoming book, Care for the Mental and Spiritual Health of Black Men: Hope to Keep Going, is part of Lexington Press' race and religion series edited by Anthony Pinn and Monica Miller and is scheduled for release Fall 2019.

Grier is the founder of Coloring Mental Health Collective, LLC. In his downtime he enjoys sports, listening to jazz & neo-soul music, spending time in nature, and connecting with life-giving friends & family.

Dr. César Gallegos
Psychologist and Mental Health Coordinator, Adjunct Faculty at Long Beach City College

Dr. César GallegosDr. César Gallegos is a clinical psychologist who has been working with Latino families in the Head Start program for 25 years. He has a bachelor of arts in psychology from Princeton University, a master of arts in counseling psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a doctor of philosophy in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Long Beach City College and has been the psychologist and mental health coordinator at Montebello Unified School District Head Start Program since 1996.

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey
L. Bevel Jones III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling

Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Y. Lartey

Emmanuel Y. Lartey comes from Ghana, West Africa. He holds degrees in Psychology and Statistics [BA (Hons.), University of Ghana], MA en passant, and PhD, University of Birmingham, UK, in Pastoral Theology, Religion and Health. He is currently the L. Bevel Jones III Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care and Counseling at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, GA, USA. In 1984 he began lecturing in practical theology at Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Ghana. From 1989 – 2001 he served as Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Studies and Practical Theology in the Department of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK. He was Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia from 2001 – 2004. He was the Director of the Doctoral program in Pastoral Counseling of the Atlanta Theological Association (2003-2009).

Dr. Lartey has served as Chairperson of the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology (BIAPT); President of the International Council for Pastoral Care and Counseling (ICPCC); and Treasurer of the International Academy for Practical Theology (IAPT). He served as Editor of the Journal of Pastoral Theology (2013- 2017) of the Society for Pastoral Theology.

Dr Lartey teaches courses in the areas of his research interests including “Spiritual Care in African Religious Cultures”, ‘International perspectives on pastoral care’, ‘Intercultural pastoral care and counseling’ and ‘Inter-Religious spiritual care’. In addition to 28 chapters in edited volumes and over 18 articles in peer-reviewed journals, Professor Lartey’s single authored book publications include Pastoral Counselling in Intercultural Perspective, (1987); In Living Color: An Intercultural Approach to Pastoral Care and Counselling, (1997/2003) and Pastoral Theology in an Intercultural World (2006), and Postcolonializing God: An African practical theology (2013). He co-edited Pastoral Care, Health, Healing and Wholeness in African Contexts (2016).

Tanisha Castellanos
Speaker, Published Author, Licensed Psychotherapist, and Resiliency Coach

For over 20 years, Castellanos has helped individuals and their families win the battle against mental health.

She has traveled to many places in the world, including Africa, Peru, and Honduras. These experiences have given her the ability to work with diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and various cultures.

Tanisha’s “first love” was the positive development of youth in the judicial system. During her graduate school years, she was responsible for treatment and contracts for youth in non-secure detention centers, secure detention, and in the foster care system. She developed an age-specific Anger Management program that she lead and taught with youth in these programs, and later trained staff to facilitate these programs. Her work later expanded to not only developing psycho-educational programs for youth, but for staff as well.

Her work has expanded to crisis interventions with diverse populations who are experiencing mental health crisis. Populations such as those in the field of criminal justice, first responders, business professionals, and public figures.

Tanisha completed her Bachelor’s degree at Roberts-Wesleyan College and youth development, and a Masters in Social Work (MSW) at Adelphi University. She currently resides in The Hudson Valley, New York where she continues to provide therapy and resilience coaching in the areas of mental health.

Dr. Carroll Watkins Ali
Executive Director, Greater Denver Interfaith Alliance

Dr. Carroll Watkins AliCarroll A. Watkins Ali, Ph.D. (AKA Sadikia Ali) earned a Joint Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology and Psychological Studies from the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology. She is the author of the seminal text in Womanist Pastoral Theology entitled, Survival and Liberation: Pastoral Theology in African American Context. Dr. Watkins Ali is an independent scholar who teaches and lectures throughout the country, including on the discipline of Islamic Studies. Currently, Dr. Watkins Ali is directing two nonprofit organizations in Denver Colorado, the Greater Denver Interfaith Alliance and Muslim Family Services of Colorado. She is also the Founder and CEO of Watkins Ali & Associates, a consulting firm in business development and management, marketing and cultural-based approaches to services. In addition, Dr. Watkins Ali maintains a private psychotherapy practice. She is the wife of Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali of the Northeast Denver Islamic Center/Masjid Taqwa. They are proud of their blended family of eight children, 17 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.

Bishop Yehiel Curry
Pastor, Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church

Pastor Yehiel Curry

Rev. Yehiel Curry was born, raised and still resides on the south side of Chicago with his wife of 23 years, Lashonda and their three daughters: Shemiah, Ashirah and Shekinah.  His first involvement with ordained ministry was an uncommon one. Similarly, the congregation he serves had an uncommon beginning as well. Shekinah Chapel Lutheran Church in Riverdale, Illinois, grew out of a youth development and mentoring program for young African-American men called, Safe in My Brothers Arms (SIMBA), on the south side of Chicago.

Yehiel Curry attended Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, where he received a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Secondary Education in 1995.  After four years in the social service field, Yehiel Curry spent another four years teaching 6th grade Social Studies at Doolittle East Middle School, a Chicago Public School nestled in the Ida B. Wells public housing projects. 

In 1997, he was part of team that was helping to organize a new worshiping community in Chicago with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  In 2007, Yehiel Curry began serving as the lay Mission Developer of Shekinah Chapel.  Rev. Yehiel Curry was ordained on April 26, 2009 after two years of study at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) through the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) program.  In 2012, Shekinah Chapel became an organized congregation of the ELCA and in 2013, Pastor Curry received his Master of Divinity from LSTC.

Pastor Curry was blessed to minister God’s word in Liberia & Rwanda, Africa; before 35,000 youth at the Youth Gathering; at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and various synods throughout the U.S.

On June 8, 2019, Rev. Yehiel Curry was elected to Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod.

Rev. Yehiel Curry serves as board member for Rescue, Release and Restore, Inc. NFP (RRR) – a mentoring organization with programs in six cities. RRR focuses on conflict resolution, rites of passage and cultural expression and houses the SIMBA/ Safe in My Sisters’ Arms (SIMSA) camps for African-American youth and the MYLA Camp – a multicultural leadership camp in partnership with Living Water Ministries in Michigan.

Rev. Curry is a past contributor to an ELCA worship resource, Sundays and Seasons and has authored Bring them in, train them up and ship them out and Rods and Blessing for other ELCA publications. 

Rev. Curry is the recipient of:

  • The Ark of St. Sabina - Dream Maker Award
  • Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) – Leader of the Year
  • Metro Chicago Synod AA strategy team – Spirit of Timothy Award
  • Rev. John Steinbruck – Leadership Award
  • Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago – Distinguish Alumni Award
  • ELCA Youth Ministry Network – The Tom Hunstad Award

Pastor Curry’s life’s journey informs and influences his apprenticeship model of mentorship which maintains that you should make a friend before you try to make a member because it’s easier to quit on a denomination and harder to quit on a friend.



Friday, September 13, 2019

9:00 a.m.

On-Site Registration & Live Music

9:30 a.m.

Session 1 – Community Dialogue: Survival and Flourishing in Black and Brown Communities
Dr. Elizabeth Pierre

10:00 a.m.

Session 2 – The Art of Creativity: Community-Based Care and Counseling for the Survival and Flourishing of Black and Brown People
Dr. Nicholas Grier

10:45 a.m.


11:00 a.m.

Session 3 – A Communal Approach to Care and Counseling with Latina/o Families
Dr. Cesar Gallegos

12:00 p.m.

Lunch (provided)

1:00 p.m.

Session 4 – A Postcolonial Communal Approach to Care and Counseling
Dr. Emmanuel Lartey

2:15 p.m.


2:30 p.m.

Community Reflection


Saturday, September 14, 2019

9:00 a.m.

On-Site Registration & Live Music

9:30 a.m.

Session 1 – A Communal Approach for the Survival and Flourishing of Black and Brown Youth
Ms. Tanisha Castellanos

10:00 a.m.

Session 2 – Mental Health Practitioners and Black and Brown Youth in Dialogue

11:00 a.m.

Lunch (provided)

12:00 p.m.

Session 3 – A Decolonized Intergenerational Communal Approach for the Survival and Flourishing of Black People
Dr. Carroll Watkins Ali

1:00 p.m.


1:15 p.m.

Session 4 – Strategies for Mental Health Practitioners, Clergy, and the Community-At-Large to Engage in Community Organizing for the Survival and Flourishing of Black and Brown People
Bishop Yehiel Curry

2:15 p.m.


2:30 p.m.

Community Reflection and Next Steps

*Note: All times are Central Standard Time


Register Now

Registration includes lunch on Friday and Saturday as well as access to all sessions. A student ID must be uploaded to receive the discounted rate.

Registration Fees

General Registration

  • Early Bird Rate: $100 per person (July 1st through August 12th)
  • Regular Rate: $125 per person (August 13th through September 9th)
  • Onsite Rate: $150 per person (on-site registration on September 13th-14th)

Student Registration (high school, college, graduate school/seminary)

  • Early Bird Rate: $40 per person (July 1st through August 12th)
  • Regular Rate: $50 per person (August 13th through September 9th)
  • Onsite Rate: $60 per person (on-site registration on September 13th-14th)


Dre Dennis

Dre Dennis born in the great city of Atlanta, GA has been trained as a drummer/musician since the age of 3. He attended the prestigious North Atlanta High School of the Performing Arts (NAHS), where he became the principle percussionist for the schools top performing bands, orchestras, theatrical plays, and chorus ensembles. After high school, Dre was accepted into Georgia State University music school where he has built long-lasting music and entertainment industry relationships. Dre has transitioned his music career to now singing, songwriting, and producing for the past several years. In this short time frame, Dre has shared the stage with many great national and international recording artists and has been working as a musical director/composer with his band Collective Element for various groups, artists, venues and stage plays. His most notable accomplishment was as the composer, arranger, lyricist and musical director for the hit stage play “Pretty Hurts: The Musical”, which will be releasing a forthcoming soundtrack. Not only is Dre a seasoned entertainer, he is also an entrepreneur and CEO/Founder of DreDrumming Music LLC, where they produce shows, events and help to nurture new up and coming talent.

September 13, 2019 - September 14, 2019

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

2121 Sheridan Road
Evanston , IL 60201

Presented by Coloring Mental Health Collective in conjunction with The Center for the Church and the Black Experience of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and The Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago (CRPC)

coloring mental health collective