Grammy award-winning musician Kashif Saleem, known simply as Kashif, will be the keynote speaker at a conference celebrating the talents of youth.

The public is invited to attend the “Interests, Talents, and Skills of African American Youth,” the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ 24th annual Joint Conference Advisory Council Institute. The event will be held on Friday, June 3, at the Alumni Center of Illinois State University, 1101 N. Main St., Normal. Kashif’s talk will begin shortly after 10 a.m.

The conference will focus on the transition of young, black men from foster care. “Celebrating talents of young African American men has particular significance, given that youth who transition from foster are among the most underrepresented groups of students on college campuses,” said Center for Adoption Studies Director Doris Houston, who added graduation rates are at 4-6 percent among black men who were formerly in foster care.

Those wishing to take part in the entire conference, that includes lunch, must register on the website by Friday, May 27. The full conference begins at 8:45 a.m. Those wishing to attend Kashif’s talk alone do not need to register.

Kashif was born Michael Jones on Dec. 26, 1959, in Harlem, New York. His only connection to his birth family is his birth certificate. His biological mother was incarcerated when he was four months old, and he was immediately put in foster care. He was abused physically and mentally by his foster parents, and at the age of six, he moved into a more stable foster home.

Kashif’s introduction to music came in the form of a $3 song flute when he was in elementary school. He was instantly hooked and insisted on playing his flute all throughout the school day. His teacher encouraged him and delivered on her promise that she would help to enroll him at a junior high school that had a great music program. That is where he first learned to play trumpet, piano, flute, saxophone, and tuba. By age 12, with the mentoring of his junior high school music teacher, Robert Wedlaw, he had mastered several musical instruments and began performing in some of New York’s finest night clubs, The Copacabana and Lloyd Price’s Turntable.

Continuing education credits are available for those working in social justice, child welfare, and child well-being. Find additional information on the website.

The conference is a joint partnership of the African American Advisory Council, the Department of Children and Family Services, Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.