Equity and Inclusion

In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

From January 2021 through June of 2023, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022. He shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit and educates on topics of equity and inclusion.

Equity and Inclusion Project


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Black History Month | Week Four

Black History Month | Week Four

By Kevin Hofmann
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

The theme for this year's Black History Month is “Black Resistance.” I thought there would be no better way to showcase Black resistance than to highlight Black women. They are the backbone of the Black community and have played a monumental role in creating change through their resistance. Each week throughout the month of February we will learn about women who stood up, spoke out, and changed the world. 

֎ Ruth Ellis ֎ Annie Turnbo Malone ֎ Kamala Harris
֎ Dr. Shirley Jackson ֎ Sister Rosetta Tharpe


Used with permission from the Ruth Ellis Center

Ruth Ellis
Activist, Trailblazer


  • Oldest open lesbian and LGBT rights activist, living to age of 101

  • Co-Founder of Ellis and Franklin Printing Co.

“I never thought about hiding who I was. I guess I didn’t go around telling everybody I was a lesbian, but I wasn’t lying about it either. If anyone asked me, I’d tell them the truth, but it wasn’t the sort of thing people talked about much.”

Ruth Ellis was the daughter of enslaved parents and was born in Springfield, Illinois. She is the youngest of four children. Sadly, Ruth’s mother passed away when she was a teenager. Ruth was raised by her father who was the first Black mail carrier in Illinois.

Ruth Ellis was a trailblazer. In 1915, at the age of 16, she came out publicly as a lesbian. Fortunately, her family was very accepting of her and her lifestyle. Her family and friends were so accepting that Ruth has said, "I was always out of the closet. I didn't have to come out." It was this feeling of acceptance by her that led her to be a safe place for many LGBTQ youth in the future. In 1919 she graduated from high school during a time when only about 7% of Blacks graduated. If you think about her also being an openly gay women in the early 1900s, you get a better sense of just what a trailblazer she was.

Soon after she graduated, she met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin who would become her partner for over 30 years. Ruth worked for several years in Springfield for a printing company before she and Babe moved to Detroit in 1937 in hopes of getting a better wage. In Detroit she was initially the caregiver for a young boy where she made $7.00 a week. Fortunately, that job was only temporary, and she was able to find a better paying job with Waterfield and Heath Publishing. She worked there until she opened her own printing press out of her West Side home in Detroit. She and Babe ran the Ellis and Franklin Printing Company which was Michigan’s first women-owned printing shop and Detroit’s first offset printing press owned by a Black woman.

The home that Ruth and Babe shared became known as the “gay spot,” a safe place for young members of the LGBTQ community to enjoy a night club atmosphere. This was important because often members of this community were denied entrance into the white gay clubs and Black straight clubs. This was decades before the advances made by the civil rights movement and the Stonewall Riots. Ruth often offered more than just her home. She not only gave support to a community that had little, she also gave food and even assistance with college tuition. Fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ and Black communities became her life’s mission. She worked tirelessly until she passed away at the age of 101. Ruth had a heart attack while on her way to work.

In commemoration of the great work she did, the Ruth Ellis Center was opened in Detroit in 1999. The center honors her work, while also being one of only four centers in the United States that is dedicated to homeless LGBTQ youth and adults. Every year during Black History Month, Detroit celebrates Ruth Ellis Day, a day to celebrate the wonderful work of Ruth Ellis. Learn more about Ruth Ellis.

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Julius F. Taylor, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Annie Turnbo Malone
Businesswoman, Inventor, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur


  • America’s First Black Woman Millionaire

  • Founder of Poro College

  • Inventor of Wonderful Hair Grower

Superpower: Seeing a future no one else could see.

Annie Turnbo was born the tenth of 11 children in Metropolis, Illinois, to parents Robert and Isabella Turnbo – both formerly enslaved. Annie’s father fought for the Union in the Civil War and while away fighting, Annie’s mother took the children and fled from Kentucky to the free state of Illinois. 

Annie attended public school in Illinois but was soon orphaned and forced to move to Peoria to live with an older sister. She began high school and became fascinated with chemistry. Unfortunately, she dropped out of high school after an illness caused her to miss a great deal of school. While away from school, Annie turned her attention to hair and hair care. She began experimenting – combining her two loves, chemistry and hair care. Soon she was making her own Black hair care products to provide an alternative to what Black women were already using. 

At the time, Black women were very limited when it came hair care products. They often had to resort to using household items such as soap, oils, goose fat, harsh chemicals, or bacon grease to care for their hair. Unfortunately, many of these items caused hair and scalp damage. Black women needed a healthier alternative and Annie was determined to provide it. 

In four short years, Annie developed her own line of hair care products. She began manufacturing hair care products to prevent damage as well as products to encourage hair growth. Her product named the Wonderful Hair Grower was bottled and sold door to door. 

Along with three employees, Annie moved to St. Louis, hoping to grow the business. At the time, St. Louis had the fourth largest Black population in the United States. The move allowed her to be closer to her customers and it paid off. Her products became so in demand she was able to open her own store front and began marketing her product in the Black press and recruiting Black woman to sell her products. 

One of her early recruits was Sarah Breedlove. Sarah began selling for Annie in St. Louis and then moved to Denver, Colorado to sell. Sarah left the company due to disagreements with Annie and start her own line of Black hair care products under the name Madam C.J. Walker. Many believe Madame C.J. Walker took Annie’s original formula to create her own brand.

Annie continued to build her empire, opening Poro College, a cosmetology school. In 1918, Annie’s college included a plant to manufacture her line of products, a store, offices, an auditorium that could seat 500 people, a dorm, a gym, a chapel, a bakery, and a roof-top garden. Located in an upper-middle-class Black neighborhood, Poro College was also a gathering place for the local Black community who were often refused service by white owned establishments. The college employed over 200 people, and through the school and business franchises, Annie’s company created over 75,000 jobs in the North and South Americas, Africa, and the Philippines. Annie made sure her Black employees were paid well and made sure there was plenty of room for advancement in the company.

Although Madame C.J. Walker has been heralded as the first Black woman millionaire, it seems Annie beat her to it. Annie was a multi-millionaire by the early 1920s with an estimated worth of $14,000,000. A few years later, her husband filed for divorce and demanded half of the business. The educator Mary Mcleod Bethune, stepped in to help and eventually Annie negotiated a $200,000 settlement to buy out her soon-to-be ex-husband. She was the sole owner of Poro College.

After the divorce, she moved most of the business to Chicago where she was able to purchase an entire city block. (Imagine what that would be worth today!) Unfortunately, in the mid 1930s a former employee filed a suit claiming credit for the success of Poro college. The lawsuits didn’t stop there. The government also got in line and sued Annie several times for unpaid taxes. Eventually, the government seized the Poro College property in St. Louis to pay the debt. 

At the time of her death, she had lost most of her future. Her estate, valued at $100,000, went to her nieces and nephews since she never had children herself. Like many successful Black people in the early 1900s, the wealth they acquired was stripped from them, preventing the possibility of generational wealth that the successful white community amassed.

Annie lived very modestly and choose to give generously to the Black community. She gave to the YMCA, Tuskegee Institute, and Howard University. She also paid for the education of many Black students, including paying for the education of two Black students at every Black college in America. It was said she bought several homes for her relatives and friends. Her generosity carried over to her employees and she often gave out monetary rewards for work, attendance, and performance. She gave of her time as well, serving as the president of the board for St. Louis’ Colored Orphan Home for 24 years, serving children who were beginning life a lot like she did.

What Annie did was amazing for anyone at that time – creating her own haircare line, establishing a college and business, and buying a city block in Chicago were unheard of for women and nearly unimaginable for a Black, orphaned, high school dropout in the early 1900s. Learn more about Annie Turnbo Malone.

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Lawrence Jackson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kamala Harris


  • Vice President

  • First female Vice President

  • Second Vice President who is a person of color


  • “There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane.’ They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what of what has always been instead can be.” 

  • And my personal favorite quote from 2020, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”

Superpower: Unbreakable – The ability to shatter glass ceilings without getting cut.

Becoming Vice President of the United States was probably the only way Kamala Harris could out-do her parents. Kamala was born in Oakland, California, in 1964 to her parents, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan and Dr. Donald Harris. Her mother, a Tamil Indian, is a biologist whose research has helped further advances in breast cancer research. Her Jamaican-American father was an Economics professor at Stanford University.

Early in life, Kamala moved around quite a bit while her parents worked at several Midwest universities. Eventually, Kamala, her sister Maya, and mother moved to Berkley, California, into an area known as the “Flatlands.” She sang in the choir at a Black church in Oakland and occasionally participated at the Hindu temple her mother attended. She also spent time in India with her mother’s family and in Jamaica with her father’s family.

At age 12 her family moved to Quebec where Kamala attended a French speaking school. She continued her education going to Howard University (a Historical Black College/University or HBCU) where she graduated with a degree in Political Science and Economics. She went on to graduate from University of California’s Hastings College of Law where she was the president of the Black Law Students Association. 

After law school she held the following positions: 

  • Deputy District Attorney of Alameda County, California

  • Assistant District Attorney of San Francisco

  • Attorney working for San Francisco’s City Attorney

  • District Attorney of San Francisco

  • California Attorney General

  • California U.S. Senator

  • Vice President of the United States

Kamala Harris’ speeches on the Senate Floor questioning fellow Senators during Senate hearings are legendary. Her prosecutorial background made quick work of several Senators she questioned during those hearings. She continued this ability in her debates against Joe Biden and Mike Pence. Her infamous retort to Mike Pence during their debate almost broke the internet when she calmly repeated, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.” So many women who had been shouted down by men in power deeply felt those words.

On January 20, 2021, Senator Harris became Vice President Harris and the glass ceiling shattered. She became the first female Vice President and the first female Vice President who happened to be Black and Indian. Learn more about Kamala Harris.


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Shirley_Ann_Jackson_-_Annual_Meeting_of_the_New_Champions_Tianjin_2010.jpg: World Economic Forum (Qilai Shen) derivative work: Gobonobo, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Shirley Jackson
Physicist, Inventor, Philanthropist


“Do not be limited by what others expect of you, but reach confidently for the stars.”

Superpower: X-ray vision to see the impossible

Dr. Shirley Jackson was born in Washington D.C. in 1946. Upon graduating from high school, she attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics. Shirley remained at MIT to pursue a doctorate, and in 1973 she earned her PhD in nuclear physics. She was the first Black woman to earn a doctorate from MIT in any field. She was the second Black woman in the United States who earn a doctorate in physics.

She said, “I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behavior of magnetic polarons in semi magnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum-wells and superlattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of antiferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems.”

For most, this quote is a string of words placed together in English, but it appears to be another language. Dr. Jackson is so intelligent you need 20 minutes, a thesaurus, and a dictionary to decipher what she said. 

After earning her PhD, she went to work for AT&T in the Bell Labs researching materials to be used in the semiconductor industry. While still doing research and consulting for AT&T she accepted a position as a professor at Rutgers University. She taught for four years and was asked by President Clinton to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Dr. Jackson was the first Black woman to serve in this position as well. While serving on the NRC she was named chairperson for the International Regulators Association, a group of nuclear regulatory officials from Canada, France, Germany, and Spain.

She remained in her next position as the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for 23 years. During her time at Rensselaer, she helped raise over a billion dollars for philanthropic causes. Her intelligence and ability to raise funds made her invaluable. After serving as President for 10 years, the Rensselaer board approved the construction of a guest house on Dr. Jackson’s property to allow her to “to receive and entertain, appropriately, Rensselaer constituents, donors, and other high-level visitors." When the construction project was completed, the new structure was over 9,500 square feet with enough room to entertain large groups. 

In 2015, Dr. Jackson was the highest paid University President with a salary and incentive package exceeding 1.1 million dollars. She is worth every penny. Learn more about Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson.

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James J. Kriegsmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“Oh, these kids and rock and roll — this is just sped up rhythm and blues. I've been doing that forever."

Superpower: The ability to blaze a trail and not get burned

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, on March 20, 1915. Her parents were cotton pickers by day and singers by night. Rosetta’s mother was also a women’s speaker for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) where she also sang. COGIC, unlike many other churches, allowed women to dance, sing, and teach. Rosetta’s mother did all the above. The church encouraged musical expression, and in this space Rosetta flourished. She began singing and playing the guitar at six years old. Soon she performed with her mother as part of a traveling Gospel group. Rosetta was often called a musical prodigy. Her ability to play the guitar better than most men, in a male dominated field, caused her to stand out. 

At age 19 she married Thomas Thorpe, a COGIC preacher who often toured with Rosetta and her mother. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last long. Rosetta performed under the stage name Sister Rosetta Tharpe for the rest of her life. Shortly after she divorced, she and her mother moved to New York, and she began producing Gospel albums. She became an instant success as a Gospel artist and her style of playing the guitar influenced many musical giants such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. Guitarists Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck also were influenced by her style. Because of her influential style, many referred to her as the “godmother of Rock and Roll.” Listen to some of her music here

She performed in nightclubs all over the world, fusing her Gospel with Blues and Jazz, performing with Cab Calloway, Muddy Waters, and the Jordanaires. The lyrics were Gospel, but the music was secular; combining the two was unheard of at the time. Soon she would fall out of favor with many churchgoers because they felt she was too secular. They did not understand that her star and the light that it cast could not be contained to one genre of music. In 2018, Sister Rosetta was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an institution that might not exist if it weren’t for her contributions. Learn more about Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

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U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

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