About Us

AACWI’s Leadership & Board of Directors

Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya

Dr. BraVada Garrett-Akinsanya is a licensed clinical psychologist and licensed clinical social worker who is co-founder and serves as the Executive Director of the African American Child Wellness Institute, as well, serves as the President of Brakins Consulting and Psychological Services. Her past community service includes organizations such as the Greater Minnesota Day Care Alliance, President of the Minnesota Psychological Association, President of the Association of Black Psychologist, and President of the Society for the Psychology of Women of the American Psychological Association. Dr Garrett-Akinsanya serves on the State Advisory Council’s Sub-Committee on Children’s Mental Health and Chairs the Outreach to Diverse Communities work group whose charge is to recommend to the Governor strategies for reducing disparities and increasing equitable access to quality mental health.

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Akinyele Akinsanya is an astute business leader with extensive knowledge and experience in City & Regional planning. His specific backgrounds include Transit and Transportation planning, housing development, energy development as well as business process re-engineering in the transit and healthcare industries. He co-founded AACWI with Dr. Garrett-Akinsanya and together they have brought the organization where it is today. He is an active member in various community organizations including the Minnesota Institute of Nigeria Development (MIND) and Egbe Omo Oduduwa Minnesota.

Dr. Pearl Barner, II

Dr. Pearl Barner, II is co-founder and Past-President of the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Black Psychologists, and former Treasurer of the Minnesota Psychological Association. In 2013 he retired from the University of Minnesota where he had served as a Psychologist and Director of Boynton Health Service-Mental Health Clinic, Assistant Vice Provost of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology, and Adjunct Graduate Faculty in the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology Program.

Keyana Cannedy

Keyana Cannedy is the owner of her Home Health Care Agency and describes herself as a strong Black woman who has “been through the storm but always remembers to dance.” As a single-parent of “a 15 year old young Black king,” she has worked hard to instill greatness in his self-image in the hope that like her, he will be fearless and confident in his abilities to operate from his greatness at all times. She believes that all families should seek therapy when they need help and answers in raising their children. She contends that by accessing therapy at a young age, parents can teach their children to develop healthy perspectives about using therapy to address challenges that they may face in the future.

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Rev. Dr. Alika Galloway is the co-pastor at Liberty Community Church (formally Kawanzaa Church) in Minneapolis. Dr. Galloway received her Doctorate degree from Virginia Union Seminary and has served as an adjunct faculty member at United Theology Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota. Dr. Galloway is a recipient of numerous awards and honors including a Bush Fellowship, and Benjamin E. Mays Fellowship from the Fund for Theological Education. She is a creative visionary and co-founder of the North-side Healing Space and founder of the 21st Century Academy all located in Minnesota. She is nationally known as a Womanist Scholar and expert in health disparities impacting African American females.

Mary Ann Kowalski

Mary Ann Kowalski is the owner of Kowalski’s Markets. Mary Anne uses her business leadership role to help build a strong civic infrastructure within Kowalski’s that impacts the world around her. Her accomplishments in the grocery business have come from building right relationships with her customers, co-workers, vendor partners and stakeholders. She is the chair of the Kowalski’s 4 Kids Foundation, an organization which raises money for children at risk.

Kris Kowalski Christiansen

Kris Kowalski Christiansen is the CEO of Kowalski Markets. Having grown up in the family’s grocery business and garnering more than two decades of training and education, Kris earned the position of Chief Operating Officer and has since moved into the role of Chief Executive Officer. Kris is responsible for Kowalski Markets’ strategic direction as well as overseeing the company’s daily operations, and needs.

Al McFarlane

Al McFarlane is the founder and owner of McFarlane Media Interests (MMI) as well as the Editor-In-Chief of Insight News, MMI’s flagship media property. Insight News is Minnesota’s largest ethnic newspaper with weekly, audited circulation of 35,000. McFarlane has served as Board Chair for the Minneapolis Urban League and as Board Chair for National Newspaper Publisher Association Foundation (NNPAF).

Beryl Wingate

Beryl Wingate, Psy. D., LP a licensed psychologist, and Global Consultant with Medtronic Employee Assistance Program where she coordinates and provides EAP services to Medtronic’s national and international locations. Dr. Wingate’s career focus has been in the areas of Corporate Leadership, Human Resources, and employee mental health. She has over 35 years of experience working at organizations such as Control Data Corp, Medtronic, Norwest Corporation, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, the African American Family Services, the Hazelton Betty Ford Addiction Treatment Center, Macalester College, and Wells Fargo, where she served as the Assistant Vice-President and Consultant for the Employee Assistance Consulting Department. Dr. Wingate is the owner and founder of B4C Associates, LLC.


Kalena Peterson

Dr. Kalena Peterson is licensed clinical psychologist and assistant clinic director and member if the AACWI team since January 2023. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in 2014 and holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Dr. Peterson has spent the last five years working in private practice providing therapy, psychological evaluations and consultation services to adults and adolescents. Prior to entering private practice, she held a position as the Director of Client Services with the Cook County Jail Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Program where she also completed her post-doctoral fellowship working with incarcerated women with complex trauma and substance abuse issues. Dr. Peterson has broad range of experiences working with disenfranchised communities and minority populations. She has trained in several settings during her graduate studies including schools, correctional/forensic facilities, hospitals and primary care settings. During that time, she has had the opportunity to provide therapeutic services to adults of the homeless and HIV population, male juvenile offenders, school-aged children and adolescents, families and veterans. Dr. Peterson previously held an adjunct faculty position at Adler University where she taught graduate level courses in marriage and family therapy and courses related to trauma and victimization. Her special career interests include working with adults and families who present with various social, emotional, and behavioral concerns that are often related to adjustment issues, traumatic experiences, depression and anxiety. She has also engaged in research related to educational disparities for African American children and conducted an original study for her dissertation in fulfillment of her doctoral requirements entitled Gifted African Americans: The Relationship between Familial Support, Self-Efficacy, Educational Attainment, Life Satisfaction and Income. In her spare time, Dr. Peterson enjoys listening to music, visiting museums and being near the water (preferably a beach).

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Director of Special Project

Dr. Dare Akinyemi is an accomplished Project Manager/Mechanical Engineer with over 30 years of tested experience and outstanding achievement in the areas of engineering, management and leadership in corporate america. His areas of expertise include machine process and product development, failure analysis, facilities engineering as well as energy with emphasis on renewable energy, project and program management, general management, operational management, and leadership. Dr. Dare Akinyemi has advanced degrees in mechanical engineering including a Ph.D. with emphasis on project management. He is currently a Director of Special Project at AACWI, working on numerous projects.


Mirlie Abraham, M.A., LMFT is a clinician and licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been a member of AACWI since November of 2022. Originating from Haiti, Mirlie brings the ability to work well with people of various backgrounds and cultures and continues to use the learning and sharing of culture with compassion, honesty, and trust to build connection in therapy. She believes challenges come in life that can throw you off course, but with proper guidance, support, and work, clients can begin to feel hopeful.
Mirlie works with couples, individuals, and families who may be facing a variety of different life challenges. Her specialty is working with early childhood from ages 1 to 5-years-old and with clients that are impacted by traumatic experiences.
Lester J. Bentley
Lester Bentley, M.A. is a therapist and member of the AACWI team since 2020 after returning to the Twin-Cities during the COVID-19 pandemic after spending the last 20 years in Connecticut. Mr. Bentley is currently teaching general psychology and pathology courses at Augsburg University. He previously held adjunct faculty positions at Connecticut State College and University and Hunter College in New York and has 18 years’ experience as a professor. He has also participated in community-based programs offered by Yale University’s School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry, in partnership with the Judicial Court of Connecticut to decrease domestic and family violence in the New Haven community and surrounding areas. Lester’s previous experience includes a clinical counseling position with The Clifford Beers Clinic for 20 plus years in New Haven, CT. The Clifford Beers Clinic is the oldest community based Mental Health Clinic in the United States. There Lester, participated in programming to aid community reintegration services, sponsored by Easter Seals of New Haven. The interventions were created to assist people transitioning back into the community, and with their families, learning new employment skills to pursue career opportunities to sustain their own personal development and increase family viability. Lester is also a proud member of The Association of Black Psychologists and the Community Healing Network of New Haven, CT. Both organizations provide culturally specific teaching, training, and research-based programs decreasing the negative impacts of cultural trauma and assisting Global African Communities to flourish and regain our rightful seat at the table of humanity.
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Shadlyn Cox-Bourne, MA., LPCC is clinician and member of the AACWI team since 2016. She earned her master’s degree in counseling psychology from St Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2017 and completed the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). She is currently pursuing a certificate as Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC). Shadlyn has years of experience providing counseling services to children, adolescents, adults and families in inpatient and residential treatment facilities as well as outpatient settings. She has worked with clients who present mental health concerns related to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and personality issues among others. Shadlyn utilizes various theoretical orientations in her therapeutic approach including CBT, psychodynamic and humanistic and believes providing clients with a safe and nonjudgmental space to be heard is essential to the healing process. In her spare time, Shadlyn enjoys spending time with her family and making music.
Marita Glasglow

Marita Glasglow, MA., LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and previous trainee and staff member of AACWI since March 2023. She received her master’s degree in Marriage and Family therapy from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in 2017 and earned her LMFT license in 2021. Marita has over eight years’ experience working with adolescents and adults who present with various mental health concerns. She is trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), grief therapy and certified in psychological first aid and PREPARE/ENRICH, an evidenced based assessment tool for marriage and couples therapy. In her spare time, Marita enjoys reading books and watching documentaries on African culture, swimming, gardening, traveling, playing pickleball, and spending time with family and friends.

Madia Grigsby
Madia Grigsby, MA, LADC is a clinican/therapist and member of the AACWI team since February 2022. She graduated from St. Mary’s University with a master’s degree in counseling psychology in 2020. She earned her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in March of 2021. Prior to AACWI, she worked with Life Choices as a substance counselor and has experience treating culturally diverse populations, including adults, adolescents, and families. Although Madia specializes in working adults with substance use disorders, her knowledge, skills and integrative approach has also aided her to helping individuals who struggle with anxiety/panic disorders, depression, marriage/family conflicts, interpersonal relationship issues, and life transitions. In her spare time Madia enjoys watching movies and walks in the park.
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Deleta Hayden, BS, AA, AS/HRA is the Executive Administrator for the African American Child Wellness institute. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, associate Science Degree in Computer Operations and in Human Resource Administration from Cardinal Stritch University. Ms. Hayden is essential to the daily operations of AACWI as she fields all call and correspondence to the clinic, coordinates initial screenings and schedules intakes for new clients and provides assistant duties to the Clinic Director and staff. Deleta is also a Certified Microsoft Professional.
In her spare time, Deleta enjoys traveling, bowling and playing board games with her family.

Shirlynn LaChapelle
Shirlynn LaChapelle, RN, BSN, SNP, PHN, MSN, PMHNP is one of the most accomplished health care professionals in the state of Minnesota. She currently serves as the President and CEO of Nursing Is The Answer, LLC. Previously, Shirlynn served as the President of the Minnesota Back Nurses Association and as an RN Case Manager for Disease Management for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Her goal is to impact the health of people holistically and positively, specifically those in the African American community and other communities of color. Her biggest achievement has been compassionately addressing the needs of the community through educating and teaching self-advocacy while empowering community members to access and utilize the healthcare system. She focuses on providing education on heart disease, diabetes, and their comorbidities, which equips the community with the tools needed to participate fully as active partners with their providers in their care and results in the desired achievement of positive health outcomes.

Shirlynn’s current health related affiliations include:

Attorney General’s Drug Pricing Taskforce
MDH Cardiovascular Collaborative
MDH 2030 Cardiovascular and Diabetes Work Group
Ramsey County’s Mental Health and Wellness Action Team (MHWAT)
DHS COVID taskforce member with the African American Child Wellness Institute
MN Nurses Association Diversity Taskforce
MNA Government Affairs Commission (GAC)
National Black Nurse Practitioner Association
Holistic Nurses Association
Hennepin County Juvenile Diversion Alternatives Steering Committee
Previous member of Hennepin County Biomedical Ethics Committee

Demetria Turnage
Demetria Turnage currently works as a Mental Health Practitioner. Demetria holds a great deal of experience working with adolescents and adults across various sectors. She has worked with those impacted by mental illness for over 15 years and is skilled at working with adolescents within the juvenile justice system, state human services systems and local school systems. Demetria enjoys working with at risk youth and their families, particularly those involved with the juvenile justice system, targeted youth and those impacted with substance addiction. Adolescent behavior issues, substance addiction and family therapy are of interest. Demetria is a firm believer in empowering families to effectively intervene with their youth struggling with mental health and impacted by the justice system. She is an advocate for managing the myriad of other dynamics often associated with helping youth and families overcome adversities, to cope and function more effectively. Demetria works effortlessly with children and adolescents, coupled with her significant experience working with individuals and families. Demetria became a mental health practitioner to help people navigate their complex worlds, in to order to live a healthier and happier life. She is highly effective working with young people as well as adults and enjoys engaging people in the process of positive change. Demetria has a passion for helping our youth and older adults, especially those populations that are stigmatized, or of a lower socioeconomic status, receive the opportunities needed to be successful. She believes in a holistic approach to health; that all components of ones’ life are interrelated. Demetria loves to exercise for the mind and shop for the soul. Demetria completed her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Capella University, Master of Science in Applied Psychology from Walden and Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Metropolitan State. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Walden University.
Zoey Severson
Zoey Severson Is a clinician/therapist and member of the AACWI team since 2016. She obtained her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She also completed the requirements to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health in 2022. It brings her joy to work with people from diverse backgrounds and to providing a space for client’s voices to be heard and to foster empowerment through validation and support. She identifies as a biracial woman and feels that it gives her the opportunity to offer a unique multicultural lens which she finds to be rewarding. She facilitates tough conversations around acceptance, privilege, equity, and inclusion. She believes every human holds great resiliency and strength that when combined with deep understanding and compassion are the key to overcoming, healing, and thriving. She feels called to walk with people on their journey of self-exploration and which can change the course of her client’s lives for the better. She utilizes a variety of modalities, including Narrative Therapy, Person- Centered Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy, Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Therapy, Grief & Loss and Spiritual exploration to ensure goodness of fit with each client. Zoe specialties include working with biracial individuals, teenagers and women who present with various concerns including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and loss, and chronic health issues.
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Shanasha Whitson, MA, LADC, LPCC has worked within the community for two decades and works to help the community improve health outcomes by helping to improve their social determinants of health. She has provided technical assistance to the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Human Services and other city/ county organizations. In 2017 she and Dr. Okoro were published in the International Journal of Women’s Health and research project on social determinants and health disparities. She is a licensed Social Worker and has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice from Metropolitan State University. She obtained a Master’s degree in Psychology from Saint Mary’s University that allows her to work as an LADC/LPCC. Shanasha sits on the Alumni Board for Metropolitan State University, The Aliveness Project and The Unity Community Mediation Team tasked with social justice reforms to help improve public safety in the community. She also sits on the diversity committee for the Minnesota Psychological Association and as of 2021 is a member of the Association of Black Psychologists and hopes to someday obtain a Psy.D. or Ph.D.
Dante Williams
Dante Williams M.A., is a currently earning his Doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of St. Thomas. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University and master’s degree from Saint Mary’s University in Counseling Psychology. Danté describes himself as an open-minded and aims to create a space where clients feel accepted affirmed and validated. He hopes to empower each of his clients through his person-centered and liberatory approach. Danté has worked with clients across the lifespan in individual, couples, and group therapy. In his spare time, Danté likes to play video games (Madden and 2K basketball), weightlifting and creating music.