Session I: Africa to Pre-Emancipation U. S.
Linda Heywood is the author of Contested Power in Angola, editor of and contributor to Central Africans: Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, and co-author with John Thornton of Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of America (Cambridge University Press, July 2007), which won the Melville J. Herskovits Award for the best scholarly work on Africa published in English in 2007. Her articles on Angola and the African Diaspora have appeared in The Journal of African History, Journal of Modern African Studies, Slavery and Abolition, and the Journal of Southern African Studies. She has served as a consultant for numerous museum exhibitions, including African Voices at the Smithsonian Institution, Against Human Dignity sponsored by the Maritime Museum, and the new exhibit at Jamestown, Virginia. She was also one of the history consultants and appeared in the PBS series African American Lives (2006) and Finding Oprah’s Roots (2007).
John Thornton joined the Boston University faculty in fall 2003 after having taught at Millersville University since 1986. His specializations include Africa and the Middle East, as well as world history. He is the author of The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641-1718 (1983); Africa and Africans in the Formation of the Atlantic world, 1400-1680 (1992); The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684-1706 (1998); Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800 (1999); and in 2007 with Linda Heywood published Central Africans, Atlantic Creoles, and the Foundation of the Americas (Cambridge University Press, 2007), which won the Melville J. Herskovits Prize that year.
Ras Michael Brown is Assistant Professor of Atlantic History and Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He researches the cultural and religious histories of African-descended people in the Americas (especially in the southern U.S.) and the dispersal of West-Central Africans and their spiritual cultures throughout the African-Atlantic diaspora. His book African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry (Cambridge University Press, 2012) examines perceptions of the natural world in the religious ideas and practices of African-descended communities in the Lowcountry from the colonial period into the twentieth century.
Presentation Topic:“Beyond Conversion:Reconceptualizing Engagements with Christianity in African American Religion”-“Beyond Conversion” reexamines the foundational engagements of African-descended people with various forms of Christianity in the African-Atlantic diaspora. Research over the past few decades has allowed us to become very familiar with the historical contexts for the introduction and growth of Christianities in certain African societies and in African-descended communities in the Americas during the eras of the trans-Atlantic trade and institutional slavery. Interpreting the meanings of these engagements, especially as they related to the eventual emergence of Christianities as prominent religious frameworks in many diaspora societies, requires additional explanation, however. Indeed, despite the early presence and prominence of forms of Christianity in the African-Atlantic diaspora, we do not see Christianities predominate in the spiritual cultures of African-descended people until much later, if at all. What was the nature of these engagements such that this “Chrisitianization” process took so long to develop, particularly in North America where it appears (in the eyes of some) that the process was seamless or inevitable? Why do our explanations of these engagements tend to replicate Christianity-based conceptual categories, even when many of us have endeavored to transcend Eurocentric and Christianity-centered methods and analyses? Why do we persist in using the terms of monocultural explanation (accommodation, resistance, “creolization,” and so on) to assess these engagements? And, finally, what did these engagements with Christianities in the African-Atlantic diaspora look like in the spiritual cultures of African-descended people? “Beyond Conversion” resumes our efforts to wrestle with these questions in two ways. First, the essay links the West-Central African and North American contexts to examine engagements with forms of Christianity as interconnected aspects of a continuing dialogue that African-descended people sustained between multiple expressions of “traditional” and Christian spiritual cultures. This framework attempts to get outside of a “conversion” model that tends to treat these engagements as examples of either the acceptance or rejection of Christianity. The primary concern, then, is to see engagements with Christianities as extensions of “traditional” approaches to religion through which people sought access to spiritual power and transformation. Whether or not people in Africa or the diaspora converted to Christianity remained secondary to their perception of Christianity as a valid channel (albeit one among many) for both power and transformation. “Beyond Conversion” argues that this approach defined engagements with Christianities first in West-Central Africa and then in North America. The second concern of “Beyond Conversion” is to ground this reconceptualization in the historical example of the transition by African-descended people to a form of Protestant Christianity in the South Carolina Lowcountry that developed from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century. During this time, we encounter ideas and practices of spiritual transformation associated with “seeking” (joining the Christian community) that in a single context reveal the coexistence of “traditional” and Christian spiritual cultures and represent the foundation for the emergence of Protestant Christianity as the predominant religious orientation in Lowcountry African American communities. The example of Lowcountry “seeking” places this engagement with Christianity within the long dialogue about spiritual cultures which helps to us understand both what happened before and what developed after the transition. Ideally, “Beyond Conversion” enriches our understanding of the historical development of African American religion in North America and highlights ways that we can better situate the North American context within the larger field of African diaspora religious experience.
Margaret Washington joined the Cornell history department in 1988 as associate professor. Her specialties are African American history and culture, African American women and Southern history. She is one of the foremost authorities on the black experience. Washington’s most recent major work, Sojourner Truth’s America, was published in 2009 with the University of Illinois Press. As a specialist in Southern history, Margaret Washington has written extensively on the Gullah people of South Carolina. Her book “A Peculiar People: Slave Religion and Community-culture among the Gullahs,” New York University, 1988, is one of the most original and frequently cited works among scholars writing about black spirituality, resistance, and the cultural connections between Africans in America and those on the Continent. “A Peculiar People” was awarded the Sierra Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians. Washington’s articles on Southern history include “Meaning of Scripture in Gullah Religion,” in Vincent Wimbush, ed., African Americans and the Bible, Continuum Publications, 2000; “Anthropological Approaches and Studies of Folk culture,” Encyclopedia of Social History, Scribner’s, 1993; “Community Regulation and Cultural ‘Specialization among the Gullahs,'” in Paul Johnson, ed., African-American Christianity: Eight Historical Essays, University of California Press, 1994; “Gullah Attitudes toward Life and Death: An African-Christian Synthesis,” in Joseph Holloway, ed., Africanisms in American Culture, Indiana University Press, 1990. Washington has also written encyclopedia entries on the Gullah people and their culture.
Sylvia R. Frey is Professor of History emerita at Tulane University. Among her authored books are Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton University Press, 1991); The British Soldier in America: A Social History of Military Life in a Revolutionary Period (University of Texas Press, 1981); and co-author with Betty Wood of Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestant Christianity in the American South & the British Caribbean (University of North Carolina Press, 1997). Her edited works include From Slavery to Emancipation in the Atlantic World (Frank Cass, 1999). Among her recent publications are: “Acculturation and Gendered Conversion: African-American Catholic Women in New Orleans, 1726-1884,” Beyond Conversion and Syncretism Indigenous Encounters with Missionary Christianity 1800-2000, ed. David Lindenfeld and Miles Richardson, Berghahn Books, Oxford, England, October, 2011, and “Remembered Pasts: African Atlantic Religions,” in Gad Heuman and Trevor Burnard, eds. The Routledge History of Atlantic Slavery, 2010.
Session II: Emancipation to Civil Rights
Sylvester Johnson is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth Century American Christianity (2004), which won the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book Award in 2005. After completing his PhD at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 2002, he taught religion at Florida A&M University. He later joined the Religious Studies faculty at Indiana University-Bloomington, where he taught the history of Religion in the Americas. His current research examines African American religious history and the intersection of religion and American empire. He is currently writing a history of African American religions and colonialism, a study that interprets the linkage of empire, democracy, and freedom in black Atlantic religion. Sylvester is a founding co-editor of the Journal of Africana Religions.
Presentation Topic:”African Americans, Anticolonialism, and the Civilizationist Problem in Abrahamic Religions” Among the major pillars of Western colonialism was the staple ideology that civilization was a racial enterprise, proceeding most purely from a supremacist, Aryan race. Until the twentieth century, this paradigm was comfortably ensconced in elite and popular culture. Cultural formations like biblical theology and intellectual traditions like Victorian anthropology represented civilization, in addition, as a religious genealogy, one that was Abrahamic. By this logic, because Western empires were rooted in biblical religion, they uniquely embodied the capacity to realize human intellectual, aesthetic, moral, and political potential. My paper examines the severe challenges this civilizationist paradigm posed to African Americans, whose African origins were constructed as the most extreme antithesis of Aryan Christian civilization. And I argue that anticolonial activism of the early twentieth century produced a period of radical ethnogenesis in African American religions that posed striking alternatives to the noetic assumptions of the Abrahamic civilizationist paradigm. As a result, a number of African American religions radically reinterpreted or even rejected the Abrahamic paradigm, not to abandon civilizationist claims but to harness its potent rhetoric in service to different racial order of things.
Robert A. Hill, a Jamaican, is Professor Emeritus of History at UCLA and Editor in Chief of the multivolume edition of The Marcus Garvey & Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers in the James S. Coleman African Studies Center. He is also the Literary Executor of The Estate of C.L.R. James. He is the editor of numerous historical editions (Marcus Garvey’s The Black Man; Cyril V. Briggs’s The Crusader; The FBI’s RACON; and George P. Schuyler’s Black Empire and Ethiopian Stories) as well as essays on Leonard P. Howell, J. Albert Thorne, W. E. B. Du Bois, Chief Alfred Charles Sam, and Marcus Garvey. He is currently preparing for publication The Ras Tafari Bible: JAH Version and a history of the Back to Africa Movement in Jamaica of Rev. Claudius V. Henry, in 1959-1960, and the ‘First Africa Corps’ of his son, Ronald Trevor Henry.
Mechal Sobel‘s doctorate is from Boston University. She teaches history and directs the Graduate Program in American Studies and the Center for the Study of the United States at Israel’s University of Haifa. Professor Sobel has been active in international American Studies conferences both at Haifa and in Milan, Italy. Her books include: Trabelin’ On, a pioneering interpretation of the”sacred cosmos” of 18th and 19th century American Afro-Baptists, The World They Made Together (Princeton University Press, 1989), an interpretation of 18th century Virginia as a bi-racial society, and Teach Me Dreams: The Search for Self in the Revolutionary Era (Princeton University Press, 2002), a close study of the role that race played in the dream world of late colonial Americans.
Bettye Collier-Thomas is Professor in the Department of History at Temple University. Currently she is a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center where she is working on a history of African American women and politics. She is the author of the award-winning Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion, Daughters of Thunder: Black Women and Their Sermons, 1850-1979, and the co-editor (with V. P. Franklin) of Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement. Dr. Collier-Thomas is the recipient of numerous book prizes, awards and honors, including the Organization of American Historians 2011 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award, the National Women’s Political Caucus’s 2010 EMMA Book Award and the 2010 Association of Black Women Historians 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award for Jesus, Jobs, and Justice; and the Carter Godwin Woodson Distinguished Scholars Medallion. She has received multiple research grants from the Lilly Endowment, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., the National Humanities Center, and Princeton University.
Presentation Topic: “The Nexus: Women, Religion, Race, and Civil Rights” is derived from the research Bettye Collier-Thomas conducted for Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion (Alfred A. Knopf, 2010). It explores the ways in which black and white ecumenical Protestant women grappled with issues of race and ethnicity in the early twentieth century and how in doing so they contributed to laying the groundwork for the modern civil rights movement.
Walter Fluker is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership and the editor of the Howard Thurman Papers Project. Before coming to Boston University School of Theology, he was founding executive director of the Leadership Center and the Coca-Cola Professor of Leadership Studies at Morehouse College. Fluker is a featured speaker, lecturer and workshop leader for professionals and emerging leaders in public and private domains. His recent publications include two volumes of a multi-volume series entitled, The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman: volume I, My People Need Me and volume II, “Christian, Who Calls Me Christian?” (University of South Carolina Press, 2009, 2011); and Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility and Community (Fortress, 2009). He is completing a manuscript entitled, The Ground Has Shifted: Essays on Spirituality, Ethics and Leadership from African American Moral Traditions. His prior academic experience includes professorial and administrative positions at Vanderbilt University, Harvard College, Dillard University and Colgate-Rochester Divinity School; and has served as visiting professor and scholar at Harvard University, The University of Cape Town in South Africa, Columbia Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. He is married to Sharon Watson Fluker and is the father of four children and five grandchildren.
Lamin Sanneh a naturalized U.S. citizen, is descended from the nyanchos, an ancient African royal house, and was educated on four continents. He went to school with chiefs’ sons in the Gambia, West Africa. He subsequently came to the United States on a U.S. government scholarship to read history. After graduating he spent several years studying classical Arabic and Islam, including a stint in the Middle East, and working with the churches in Africa and with international organizations concerned with inter-religious issues. He received his Ph.D. in Islamic history at the University of London. He was a professor at Harvard University for eight years before moving to Yale University in 1989 as the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity, with a concurrent courtesy appointment as Professor of History at Yale College. He has been actively involved in Yale’s Council on African Studies. He is an editor-at-large of the ecumenical weekly, The Christian Century, and serves on the editorial board of several academic journals. He is an Honorary Research Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies In the University of London, and is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He serves on the board of Ethics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of over a hundred articles on religious and historical subjects, and of several books. For his academic work he was made Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Lion, Senegal’s highest national honor.
Tudor Parfitt is a Welsh Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where he was the founding director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, historian, writer, traveller, broadcaster and adventurer. His younger brother was the educationalist Robin Parfitt. In 1963 Parfitt spent a year with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Jerusalem where he worked with handicapped people, some of whom had survived the Nazi concentration camps. Upon his return to Britain, he studied Hebrew and Arabic at the University of Oxford. In 1968 he was awarded the Goodenday Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He completed a D.Phil at Oxford with David Patterson and Albert Hourani on the history of the Jews in Palestine and their relations with their Muslim neighbours, which was subsequently expanded and published by the Royal Historical Society. In 1972 was appointed lecturer in Hebrew language, literature and history at the University of Toronto. In 1974 he was appointed Parkes Fellow at the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/nonJewish Relations in the University of Southampton and shortly afterwards took up the lectureship in Modern Hebrew at SOAS. His chief academic interests are the Sephardi/Mizrahi communities of the Muslim world, Jewish-Muslim relations, Hebrew and Hebrew Literature, Judaising Movements, Jewish genetic identity and the discourses surrounding it, attitudes towards Jews and Zionism in South Asia and Jews in Asia and Africa.
Session III: Civil Rights to the Present
Nimi Wariboko (PhD Princeton Theological Seminary) is Katharine B. Stuart Professor of Christian Ethics at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Centre, MA. In his publications he has been able to integrate theology, philosophy, and the social sciences to address the critical social issues of the twenty-first century and the economic dimensions of social transformation. He has authored or edited more than fifteen volumes, including The Pentecostal Principle: Ethical Methodology in New Spirit (2012); Ethics and Time: Ethos of Temporal Orientation in Politics and Religion (2010), and God and Money: Theology of Money in a Globalizing World (2008).
Presentation Topic: “Spirituality and the Weight of Blackness in Nigerian Pentecostalism”–The concept of chosenness is a key part of the Abrahamic religions. It is at the heart of Judaism; Christians and Moslems also claim to have been chosen by God. Nigerian Pentecostals are claiming that their nation has been specially chosen by God to lead the final evangelization of the world before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and to draw the black race into global economic and technological supremacy. The belief in chosenness amid increasing race consciousness and national poverty is pushing Nigerian Pentecostals to redefine what it means to be black and how blacks should bear the weight of blackness in a world of historical contempt for black people. It is the aim of this paper to investigate and analyze these claims and the thinking behind them, in their depths and complexity, through a focused study of concrete spiritual practices.
Lawrence Mamiya is a Professor of Religion and Africana Studies on the Mattie M. Paschall Davis and Norman H. Davis Chair at Vassar College . He was a former community organizer in Harlem, civil rights organizer in SNCC’s Southwest Georgia Project, and minister to young adults at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Methodist Church during the Haight-Ashbury youth counterculture. He is the co-author with Dr C. Eric Lincoln of The Black Church in the African American Experience (Duke University Press, 1990), which received the lead review in the New York Times Book Review and the distinguished book award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Recent publications include: “African American Muslim Leaders and the War in Iraq.” The Review of Faith and International Affairs, Volume 6 No. 1, Spring 2008; “African American Muslims” in the Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History (Facts on File, 2008); River of Freedom, River of Struggle: Trends in Black Churches and Black Pastoral Leadership (Pulpit and Pew Research on Pastoral Leadership at the Duke Divinity School, 2006); co-author, The History of the Riverside Church of the City of New York (New York University Press, 2004); co-author, Journey Inward, Journey Outward: ITC/Faith Factor Project: 2000 Study of Black Religious Life, special book edition of Project 2000 by the Journal of the interdenominational Theological Center (ITC, 2002). He is currently working on a book project on the history and sociology of African American Muslim Movements. He has been the founder and faculty coordinator of Vassar’s prison programs at the Green Haven maximum security prison and the Otisville medium security prison for the past 32 years.
Presentation Topic: Is the Black Church Dead?-An Assessment of Black Churches in the Post-Civil Rights Era- The paper begins with an overview and critique of the controversial article written by Professor Eddie Glaude of Princeton University in the Huffington Post declaring that “The Black Church Is Dead.” It also summarizes some of the major findings and demographic trends regarding Black churches and clergy in the post-civil rights era. The paper also points to areas of strength to build on for the future and areas that need to be improved to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century.
Edward Curtis IV is Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts and professor of religious studies and American studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis IUPUI). He is the author or editor of six books, including the two-volume Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History (2010), The New Black Gods: Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African American Religions (2009), and Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975 (2006). His most recent monograph, Muslims in America: A Short History, was named one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. A former NEH Fellow at the National Humanities Center, Dr. Curtis has been awarded Carnegie, Fulbright, and Mellon fellowships. He is founder of the African American studies program at Trinity University in San Antonio, a former AmeriCorps Interfaith campus supervisor, and the director of the IUPUI Summer Abroad in Jordan program. With Prof. Sylvester Johnson of Northwestern University, he recently co-founded the Journal of Africana Religions.
Presentation Topic: “A Transnational History of African American Islam”-From its origins in the 1920s until the today, African American Islamic denominationalism in the United States has been transnational in scope. This presentation emphasizes the international aspects of African American Islam in the United States. It reveals the international connections of African American Muslims to Muslim persons and institutions abroad and explores the travel of African American Muslims in Islamicate lands. Special emphasis will be placed on the immigration of African Muslims to the United States in the latter 20th century.
Emily Budick holds the Ann and Joseph Edelman Chair in American Studies at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she taught since receiving my Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1972. She is a professor of English and American literature and Director of the Center for Literary Studies at Hebrew University. This year, she is a Phyllis Greenberg Heideman and Richard D. Heideman Fellow at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for the Advanced Study of the Holocaust. She has published on a range of writers and subjects in American and Hebrew literature, including several books on the nineteenth-century romance tradition and its inheritors, a book on Aharon Appelfeld, and a book on Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation (Cambridge UP, 1998).
Session IV: The Abrahamic Religions and the Atlantic World
Patrick Sylvain is an academic, poet, writer, photographer and a social critic. He teaches at Brown University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and is also affiliated with the Anthropology Department at UMass/Boston, and the African and African-American Studies Department at Harvard. Professor Sylvain’s main research interest relates to the formation of colonial and neo-colonial subjects in North America and the Caribbean with a particular focus on the intersection between politics and religion. Sylvain has worked on metaphor & political discourse analysis;structural violence; literary criticism; critical political theory; and the politics of language, second language acquisition and national identity. He has been published in numerous anthologies and journals, Including: African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Anthology, American Poetry Review, Caribbean Writers, The Best of Beacon 1999, The Butterfly’s Way, Human Architecture: Journal of Sociology of Self-Knowledge, Massachusetts Review, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, and Ploughshares. Sylvain’s work was recently featured in PBS Newshour as well as in NPR’s Here and Now; his short story: «Odette» is featured in Edwidge Danticat’s Haiti Noir (Akashic Books, 2011), and recent poems in the collection Poets for Haiti (Yileen Press, 2010).
Presentation Topic: “Vodoun: In the Crossfire of Christian Hegemony” This paper aims at viewing how dominant structures within Christianity purporting to be tolerant, compassionate and operating within a democratic legal and religious framework have served as an extension of imperial or neo-colonial dominance. This dominance began with the development of Western European hegemony in the Americas and continued with the expansion of the United States and its supreme influence in the region through various modalities. While diverse religious denominations, at times, have positively contributed to the socio-economic lives of Haitians, they have also systematically carried out atrocities in the name of religious purity or evangelization. While, “religious groups can—and should—offer a permanent institutional framework that provides continuity and social stability” (Olupona, xix; in Peter J. Paris: Religion and Poverty, 2009), change through conversion is facilitated through the pervasive quest for the “economy of souls” (Foucault, 1978), which results in the exacerbation of social, economic, and class divisions. The anti-superstition campaign of 1946 is exemplary of the atrocious capacities of the Catholic and Protestant churches in their zeal to persecute Vodoun practitioners in the name of Christianity. In addition, the 1860 Concordat signed by the Haitian government and Vatican gave the church religious supremacy by declaring Haiti Roman Apostolic Catholic. As such, the extreme subjectivity and vulnerability of the nation to Christian and Evangelical pastoral power has had precarious implications for a feeble democracy. In today’s post-earthquake Haiti, where structural vulnerability is pronounced, the attributive subjectivity of the dark and Vodoun worshiping Haitian, the peasant other, becomes a fundamental constraint on Haitian culturally reflexive ideals of democracy. Thus fundamental evangelism in Haiti is an abstraction of the colonial subject/object matrix of dominance and must be seen as a breach to Haitian national and cultural security since it creates proclivity to harassment via political pastoral power, violently disrupting historical, familial and cultural practices. Vodoun’s complex system of belief and practices provide its followers a profound philosophy of life and resistance to domination.
Denize de Almeida Ribeiro is a Professor and Coordinator of Affirmative Policy at the Federal University of Bahia Reconcavo (UFRB). A supporter for the black women’s movement she earned an M.A. in public health, where she researched the food and health practices of Candomble, and also specialized in public and racial inequality in education. Currently, she is completing a PhD in Public Health at the Institute of Public Health, Federal University of Bahia. Her dissertation research deals with the “Concepts and Strategies for Food Security in Candomble Temples”. Ribeiro was the advisor to the Municipal Health Secretary of Salvador, where she worked to implement health policies in the black community. In this capacity, she is working to consolidate policies in the university that promote racial equality. Denise is a member of the Standing Committee on Education and Social Control in the SUS National Health Council (Brazil’s public health care system), where she represents the National Articulation of Black Women. She is also part of the Municipal and State Technical Committee on the Health of the Black Population. Ribeiro has a 22 year-old daughter who studies architecture and an 83 year-old mother. She is ekedi (temple caregiver/conductor of divinities) in the Candomble Casa Branca Temple and organizer of the Women’s Network of Candomble Temples of Bahia.
Ivor Miller, a cultural historian specializing in the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and the Americas, is a Senior Fellow at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution (2011-2012). He was a Fulbright Scholar teaching in the Department of History at the University of Calabar, Nigeria (2009-2011), and has been a Research Fellow in the African Studies Center, Boston University, since 2006. His most recent book, “Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba” (UP of Mississippi 2009) was awarded Honorable Mention by the Association for Africanist Anthropology. Based upon fieldwork in Nigeria, Cameroon, Cuba, and the USA, it documents ritual languages and practices that survived the Middle Passage and evolved into a unifying charter for transplanted slaves and their successors. Current research interests are the pre-colonial formation of the Ekpe (leopard) society in West Africa, as well as issues of gender in initiation societies in the African Diaspora. His first book treated the Yoruba Diaspora in the Caribbean (written with Professor ‘Wande Abimbola); his second book documented the early Hip hop movement in New York City. See <afrocubaweb.com/ivormiller/ivormiller.htm> for more.
Presentation Topic: “Coded communication using symbols from the Catholic church and African-derived institutions in 19th century Cuba” will focus on the mid-1800s in Havana, Cuba, when leaders of African-derived institutions — from Kongo, Abakuá and Lukumí communities— integrated symbols and ideas of Christianity with their own. This process occurred both ‘vertically’ and ‘horizontally’ between Catholic and African-derived systems. This Caribbean phenomenon was preceded by the interaction of Abrahamic monotheisms with West and Central African cultures for many centuries, long before the transatlantic trade, so that during migration to the Americas, Yoruba-speaking peoples brought ideas of Olodumare as a Sky God while Efik speakers in Old Calabar identified Abasi as the same. But in colonial Cuba, the flexibility of African traditions to incorporate new ideas was harnessed for political imperatives.The public accommodation to Catholicism with the use of the crucifix and images of the saints was a natural gesture given the violent repression of ‘slave society’. But the actual practices of Abakuá communities, for example, show not an increasing tendency towards monotheism, but an acknowledgement of God’s distance from Man, with the corresponding need for good governance on the land. I will illustrate this discussion with images of Kongo and Abakua ritual objects as drawn artistically by African-descendants in 19th century manuscripts that have not previously been viewed by outsiders to these practices.
Kim Butler is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Rutgers University. She received her Ph.D. in History from Johns Hopkins University in 1995, and holds M.A.s in History from Johns Hopkins and Howard Universities. She is a historian specializing in African diaspora studies with a focus on Brazil and Latin America/Caribbean. Two of her courses, “Afro-Atlantic Diaspora” and “Afro-Brazilian History” engage students with diaspora studies directly. Dr. Butler also brings her training in material and oral history, and her curating experience at the Smithsonian Institution, to a special course in Advanced Methodologies for Africana Studies Research. As a member of the graduate faculty in History, Dr. Butler teaches a graduate colloquium in African diaspora studies as well. Professor Butler is the author of Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador, winner of the Wesley-Logan Prize in African Diaspora History from the American Historical Association, and the Letitia Woods Brown Publication Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians. She has published numerous articles on Afro-Brazilian history and, more recently, diaspora theory. Her current work applies advances in diaspora studies to new interpretations of African diaspora history.
Session V: African Americans, Abrahamic Religions, and Social Justice Campaigns-Bag Lunch and Roundtable Discussion
Rabbi Capers Funnye is rabbi and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, located at 6601 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60629. Rabbi Funnye also serves as the National Associate Director of Be’Chol Lashon and Director of Be’Chol Lashon Midwest region. Be’Chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) is an initiative of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, located in San Francisco, CA. Rabbi Funnye serves as the Rabbi of Nigeria Orthodox Sabbath Solidarity (NOSS), which has headquarters in Akwete, Nigeria. Rabbi Funnye also serves as the Rabbi of the Pan African Jewish Alliance/Nigeria (PAJA). PAJA is a program offered to emerging Jewish communities that seek to be integrated into the world Jewish community. Rabbi Funnye earned a Bachelor of Arts in Hebrew Literature and rabbinic ordination from the Israelite Board of Rabbis, Inc., Queens, NY. He also earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Jewish Studies and Master of Science in Human Service Administration from Spertus Institute of Judaica, Chicago, IL. Rabbi Funnye has lectured at several institutions throughout the United States, Europe and Africa. Rabbi Funnye has also served as a consultant to several institutions throughout the United States. Rabbi Funnye is a member of several boards in the community, The Chicago Board of Rabbis, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, The Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and Vice President of the Israelite Board of Rabbis, Queens, New York. Rabbi Funnye and his wife Mary, have four children and are the proud grandparents of seven grandsons and two granddaughters.
Reverend Pamela Lightsey is a scholar, social justice activist, and military veteran whose academic and research interests include: classical and contemporary just war theory, Womanist theology, Queer theory and theology, and African American religious history and theologies. Prior to coming to BUSTh, she served as Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, which is where she received her PhD in theology and ethics. She has served on the American Academy of Religion’s steering committee for the Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group and currently co-chairs the group. She has recently accepted a position on the Executive Committee for the Soul Repair Project, which will study the role of moral injury in veterans. The project is funded by several sources including a Lilly Endowment grant and is directed by feminist scholar, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock. Pamela’s forthcoming publications include “Reconciliation,” in Radical Evangelical (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), “If There Should Come a Word” in Black United Methodists Preach! (Abingdon Press) and one work in progress, Inner Dictum: A Womanist Reflection from the Queer Realm.An ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, Pamela pastored an urban church on the south side of Chicago, has done work for several UM general agencies and has strong connections within several mainline denominations. She has been a member of the Pan Methodist Commission for the last two quadrennials.
Imam Abdullah Faaruuq serves as Northeastern University’s Muslim chaplain, as well as spiritual adviser to the Islamic Society student group. He is also Imam of the Mosque for the praising of Allah, located near the NU campus on Shawmut Avenue.
Closing Keynote Speaker:
Albert Raboteau, a native of Mississippi, grew up in Michigan and California. He graduated from Loyola University in Los Angeles and continued his studies in English Literature in the graduate school of the University of California at Berkeley. After receiving a master’s degree from Berkeley, he went to Marquette University to study Roman Catholic Theology. Following two years of graduate study at Marquette, he taught Theology at Xavier University in New Orleans and then finished his Ph. D. in Religious Studies at Yale University. Raboteau has taught at Yale, Berkeley, Harvard, and currently is the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton University, where he has chaired his department and served as Dean of the Graduate School. His written work includes Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South, which was reprinted in an updated edition upon the 25th anniversary of its publication; A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History; Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans; and A Sorrowful Joy: a Spiritual Memoir. He co-edited with Richard Alba and Josh DeWind, Religion and Immigration in America: Comparative and Historical Perspectives. His interests include African American religious history, religion and social change, religion and cross-cultural encounter in the Atlantic World, classics of western and eastern Christian mysticism, literature and the holy.