Conference 2017 Highlights

Conference 2017 Highlights
March 23, 2017 Echo

Federico Bustamante and Casa Libre graduates (Gaspar, Emanuel and Tomas)

When Echo first announced the theme for this year’s conference – Social & Historical Trauma – some were worried about whether we could pull off an event built around such a difficult and sensitive topic. Yet we felt we had to tackle this subject since every year at our childhood trauma conference participants always raise the questions, “What about racism? What about community trauma and poverty? How do these things contribute to Adverse Childhood Experiences?”

Kanwarpal Dhaliwal from RYSE, opened the conference by presenting the extended AdverseChildhood Experiences (ACES) pyramid in answer to these questions. Her version of the pyramid incorporates community trauma as additional layers to the graphic that links ACES with physical, mental and social problems and even early death.

The newest Echo board member, Dr. Randal Henry, talked about his own family history of slavery and massacre as a fitting introduction to our keynote speaker, Dr. Joy DeGruy, who rocked the house with her presentation on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Ever seen the broken chains that are part of the Statue of Liberty? Exactly. You know how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but do you know how many slaves died on the slave ships? Precisely. Joy revealed the cognitive dissonance and omissions in the sanitized view we are given of American history.

Day One ended with an art activity, “Transforming Trauma Tree” led by our partners A Window Between Worlds and Susan Lee from United American Indian Involvement.

Snowstorm Stella also played a role in the proceedings. Dr. Kenneth Hardy was a much-anticipated keynote speaker but couldn’t get a flight out of New York. The conference participants became so invested in the updates as Dr. Hardy struggled for 24 hours to find a flight, that when he finally had to leave the airport in defeat, we put together this little video clip that left him “deeply and profoundly touched by the warmth and generosity.”

Meanwhile, Echo trainer Nicolle Rosario was overwhelmed when she got to meet our keynote speaker for Day Two, Asadah Kirkland, whose video on “Beating Black Kids” is used in Echo parenting trainings.

On Day Two, the President and CEO of The California Endowment, Dr. Robert Ross, greeted participants and told us that the conference center was built for exactly this kind of meeting and these kind of discussions.

We also got to hear from Federico Bustamante from Casa Libre shelter for undocumented minors. Here is his own account of what for us was one of the most profound moments of the conference:

We had a surprise up our sleeves for lunchtime on Day Two – the director of DODGING BULLETS (a film about historical trauma in the Native American community) flew in from Minnesota to screen a rough cut of his film. Echo trainer, Hanna House Gilan, who is from the Oneida tribe, introduced the film by detailing some of the trauma endured by Native American people.

There were too many other great speakers to mention here but please check out the conference page to see an overview and to find speaker slide presentations (those we were given permission to post), and soon videos of all the main sessions and most of the breakouts.

Lastly, here is what some of the participants had to say about their experience:

“I will not be the same person after this conference. These two days have opened my eyes. The speakers were truly exceptional.”

“Thank you for bringing us this information. I feel a responsibility to pass it on and I have several ideas about how I can bring this back to my community and work setting.”
(Riverside Unified School District)

“It was a well thought out conference, very relevant and much needed. I think for some it was the first time hearing the experiences of communities of color. I witnessed some folks share their discomfort yet I hope they will continue to participate in these important conversations.”
(First 5 LA) 

“Thank you for a professional reboot. Filled with the audacity to now intentionally bring up and hold a space for discourse. Conversations to promote change and challenge the status quo.”
(LAUSD School Mental Health)

“Very brave to offer this. Amazing speakers. Stories that need to be told.”
(Local business owner)

We would love to hear what you took away from the conference – your experiences, your favorite moments, and your pictures! Email them to or share them on social media.