Wednesday Workshop Descriptions

Invisible No More: The Struggle for Voter Rights and Racial Equality

The struggle for liberation is never ending.  However, today many young liberationist see the struggle for voter rights as a struggle for partisan participation and not one for liberation and reparation. It is essential that the deep relationship between the struggle for voter rights and racial equality in the US be re-knitted. Join us as we discuss how voter suppression has moved into more subtle forms even as we see an unleashing of voter intimidation today and the importance of the restoration of rights movement in fighting modern day voter suppression.

Facilitated by Dr. Charlene Sinclair, founding director of the Center for Race, Religion, and Economic Democracy (C-RRED) and the program coordinator for the Interfaith Organizing Initiative.

Dr. Charlene Sinclair is the founding director of the Center for Race, Religion, and Economic Democracy (C-RRED) and the program coordinator for the Interfaith Organizing Initiative. Previously, she served as program director for Engaging the Powers at Union Theological Seminary and campaign director for the Center for Community Change. A community organizer for over 20 years, Charlene has helped national and local organizations develop grassroots organizing and political strategies. One of her main areas of interest is dismantling mass incarceration by uniting faith conviction and spirituality in social activism. She serves as a lay minister at the Church on the Hill AME Zion Community. Charlene received her PhD in social ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

From Sabbath Schools to Freedom Schools: Christian Education for Emancipation 

This workshop will demonstrate that “The purpose of Christian Education is to set people free: free to be children of God and free to be co-creators with God.” We will unpack this statement by first exploring the theological anthropology that undergirds it and demonstrate how it’s been engaged historically and presently through the Sabbath schools of the Reconstruction Era, the Freedom Schools conducted during the Summer of 1964, and the Freedom Schools as they are run today through the work of the Children’s Defense Fund, and finally explore why this approach to Christian Education is important.

Facilitated by Dr. Reginald Blount, Assistant Professor of Formation, Youth, and culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and pastor of Arnett Chapel A.M.E.  Church in Chicago, IL, and Dr. Virginia A. Lee, Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of Deacon Studies, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Dr. Reginald Blount is the Assistant Professor of Formation, Youth, and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary who believes “the purpose of Christian education is to be emancipatory, to set people free to be children of God and co-creators with God. Many personal, social, spiritual, and institutional hindrances prevent the people of God from becoming all that God has created them to be. Christian education ought to provide an emancipatory pedagogy….” His research interests are in the areas of African American identity formation, adolescent and young adult identity formation, Christian education theory, Christian education and the black church, and African/African American spirituality. He is currently researching the role of the black church in the identity formation of African American youth. He received a BS from Tuskegee University, MDiv from Candler School of Theology, and PhD from Northwestern University (in cooperation with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary).

Dr. Virgina A. Lee is Associate Professor of Christian Education and Director of Deacon Studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.  Dr. Lee is also the co-executive director of the Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program, a partnership with the city of Evanston, Evanston-Skokie School District 65, and other community groups including faith communities. She received a BA from the College of William and Mary, MRE from Duke Divinity School, and EdD from Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education.

Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope

This interactive, participatory workshop will explore the role of church communities in perpetuating violence, including the cradle to prison pipeline, and the role of church communities in dismantling the prison pipeline. Mai-Ahn Le Tran, whose book provides the title for this workshop, asks, “What does it mean to teach for faith in such a time as this?” She is joined by Cadeem Gibbs, activist and animator who was criminalized at an early age and caged at Rikers and by Ndume Olatushani artist and organizer who was caged for 28 years, 20 on death row, for a crime he did not commit. Ndume often comments: “All those years church folk were coming in trying to save my soul. Hell, I didn’t need anyone to save my soul, I needed someone to save my ass.”

Cadeem Gibbs is an activist and animator who was criminalized at an early age and caged at Rikers.

Ndume Olatushani is an artist, organizer, and passionate advocate for justice. He is a consultant with the Children’s Defense Fund, working to help challenge the mass incarceration of people of color and zero tolerance school discipline policies that criminalize children. Olatushani was wrongly convicted of murder and served almost 28 years in prison, 20 on death row. He was released on June 1, 2012.

Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran is the Associate Professor of Religious Education and Practical Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where her research interests include religion and education in cultural productions of violence, practical theological understanding of religion and education for global, inter-cultural, inter-religious faith praxis, Asian American (women’s) studies; Asian feminist theologies; postcolonial feminist theories; immigrant religions, critical race theory; and intersectionality. Previously she was the Associate Professor of Christian Education at Eden Theological Seminary and Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Asian American Cultures at the Pacific School of Religion, Graduate Theological Union (Berkeley, CA). Dr. Le Tran is the author of Reset the Heart: Unlearning Violence, Relearning Hope and numerous articles, essays, and other writing. She earned her BS in Christian Education from Texas Wesleyan University, MRE from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, and her PhD from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Public Theology and Racial Justice 

This workshop will explore the ways in which theology deployed in the public sphere can work as a catalyst for the eradication of racial injustice. As communities of faith are pressed to narrate a response to the rise in vitriol and clamor in the face of resurgent white nationalism, neo-Nazism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, hate, and violence against many racial and ethnic minorities, the question of justice for these marginalized communities requires a commitment to a common meta-narrative which reaches across the pluralities of faiths in the North American context and beyond to form solidarity, meaning, and solutions.

Facilitated by Rev. Jennifer Bailey, Founding Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network and Dr. Teresa L. Smallwood, Esq., Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate Director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

Rev. Jennifer Bailey is the Founding Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a new interfaith community equipping faith leaders to challenge structural inequality in their communities. She comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combatting intergenerational poverty. Named one of “15 Faith Leaders to Watch” by the Center for American Progress, she is an ordained minister, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She writes regularly for publications including On BeingSojourners, and the Huffington Post. Her first book, tentatively titled Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister, is under contract with Chalice Press. Jennifer is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, an Ashoka FellowNathan Cummings Foundation FellowOn Being Fellow and Truman Scholar. Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School where she was awarded the Wilbur F. Tillett Prize for accomplishments in the study of theology. 

Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Smallwood, Esq. currently serves as Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate Director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Dr. Smallwood is licensed and ordained to public ministry and is a member at New Covenant Christian Church in Nashville, TN under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings. Dr. Smallwood possesses a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Juris Doctor Degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law, an MDiv from Howard University, and a PhD from Chicago Theological Seminary.

Giving Every Child an Early Start:  Expanding Early Learning and Development Opportunities 

The younger children are the poorer they are. Nearly 1 in 5 children under 6 are poor during critical years of brain development.  This session will review how a full continuum of high quality early childhood opportunities can buffer the negative impacts of poverty.   You will learn about successful efforts underway in Minnesota to offer early childhood learning and development opportunities to 30,000 children in the state.  The Child Care Assistance Program is a critical investment in children and in the workforce.  You will be encouraged to share your own early childhood advocacy efforts and learn how other faith communities are engaging on behalf of young children.    

Facilitated by MaryLee Allen, Director of Policy, Children’s Defense Fund; Bharti Wahi, Director, CDF-Minnesota  

MaryLee Allen is Director of Policy at the Children's Defense Fund. A regular contributor to CDF’s signature reports, State of America’s Children, Portrait of Inequality, and Ending Child Poverty Now, she has authored and co-authored many other reports and publications throughout her decades at CDF. She co-chairs the National Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition and works closely with advocates and service providers across the country. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Generations United and has served on many other boards, task forces and advisory committees. She received the inaugural Child Welfare Leadership Prize from the Juvenile Law Center in 2017. Ms. Allen is a graduate of Marquette University and received her MSW from the National Catholic School of Social Service at Catholic University.

(Re)membering Racial Terror: On Congregating, Storytelling and Healing    

Remember2019 is an effort to make space for the congregation of the Black communities and Black cultural workers of Phillips County, AR. Our work is to support and facilitate local practices of self-determination, memory, and reflection that are directly related to the mass lynching of 1919, the lasting effects of racial terror, and the current and future health of these communities. We remember in order to recall, reunite, remind and call forth. In this workshop we will gather to explore storytelling, witnessing, and performance traditions that move us between remembering racial terror to imagining healing.

Facilitated by Mauricio Tafur Salgado, co-founder of Artists Striving To End Poverty and co-creative producer on Remember2019, and Arielle Julia Brown, co-creative producer of Remember2019.

Mauricio Tafur Salgado is an artist pursuing justice and healing through a decolonial framework. Noting, “I come from the everglades watershed, my antepasados and a solid plate of my grandma’s arepas and buñuelos,” Mauricio is the co-founder of Artists Striving To End Poverty, whose mission it is to connect performing and visual artists with youth from around the world in order to imagine, think critically, and conceive a world without poverty. Mauricio is also a co-creative producer on Remember2019. He received a BFA from The Juilliard School an MFA from Brown University and is completing an MA at Union Theological Seminary.

Arielle Julia Brown is a creative producer, social practice artist and facilitator.  Emerging from her work and research around U.S. slavery, racial terror and justice, Arielle is committed to supporting and creating Black performance work that commands imaginative and material space for social transformation. Arielle is a co-creative producer on Remember2019. She received a BA from Pomona College and was the 2015-2017 graduate fellow with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University where she received an MA in Public Humanities.

Immigrant Youth and Family Organizing for Full Inclusion and Citizenship 

This workshop will describe CHIRLA's organizing strategies and share its history of organizing a powerful immigrant rights movement based on the vision and love of immigrant youth and families. Participants will take away a better understanding of the modern immigrant rights movement and learn about pivotal moments.  They will also learn about the power of organizing immigrant youth and families and learn strategies that make this organizing successful.  Finally participants will become aware of the challenges currently facing immigrants and their families and active campaigns to defend human and civil rights.

Facilitated by Angelica Salas, Executive Director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).

Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) since 1999, has spearheaded local, state-wide, and national campaigns that included winning in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students, establishing day laborer job centers, and leading efforts to allow all California drivers to obtain a driver’s license. She is a spokesperson on federal immigration policy as an active member of FIRM and RIFA. As part of a national coordinating committee, Angelica helped convene a coalition of organizations in California which have successfully mobilized millions of immigrants to demand comprehensive immigration reform including legalization with a path to citizenship, family reunification, and the protection of civil and labor rights. She understands immigrant experience firsthand; as a five year old, Angelica came to the U.S. from Mexico to rejoin her parents who had come to the U.S. to find work and better provide for their family.

Food Justice Eating and Believing: Religion, Food Justice, and Cultural Formation in Urban Life 

This 2-day workshop will consider religious, historical, ethical and culturally centered ways to positively impact communities through the valuing of their religious and culinary cultures. We will give attention to community traditions and resources as the two-part workshop aims to 1) articulate the rich history and culture related to the ways food and faith converge in African American life and, 2) identify the opportunities churches have to improve their own communities by tapping the cultural resources, stories, organizing strategies, and social capital within their proximities. 

The workshop will begin with a cultural history of food and faith in African American life. Through an introduction of the concept of “religio-gastro diplomacy,” we will move toward a deep reckoning with the wondrous and complex history of religion and food for a people and communities struggling for human dignity. Here we will survey the vibrant traditions of black agency, even as far back as during enslavement, that to undergird contemporary notions of food and religious sovereignty available to communities of color.

The next phase will be to assess the on the ground work of ensuring food security in these communities through the efforts of the church. We will study the work Rev. Heber Brown is doing in Baltimore to specifically bring churches together around this issue through the Black Church Food Security Network, which links Black Churches and Black Farmers in partnership to create a community-controlled, alternative food system based on self-sufficiency and food and land sovereignty.

Facilitated by Dr. Derek S. Hicks, Associate Professor of Religion and Culture at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown, III, Senior Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. Derek S. Hicks is the Associate Professor of Religion and Culture at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, teaching and researching in areas including African American religion, race, the body, and religion and foodways. Co-chair of the Religion and Food Group at the American Academy of Religion, Dr. Hicks is writing Feeding Flesh and Spirit: Religion, Food, and the Saga of Race in Black America. He authored Reclaiming Spirit in the Black Faith Tradition, served as assistant editor of African American Religious Cultures, and contributed chapters for Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions and Religion, Food, and Eating in North America. Dr. Hicks has been awarded fellowships and grants from the Ford Foundation, the Fund for Theological Education, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Wabash Center, and elsewhere. He earned a BA from Grambling State University, Masters from Dallas Theological Seminary, and PhD from Rice University.

Rev. Dr. Heber M. Brown, III is the Senior Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the Founding Director of Orita’s Cross Freedom School. He launched the Black Church Food Security Network which combats food apartheid by providing seed funding and support to help congregations grow food on church-owned land and partnering Black churches and Black farmers to create a community-controlled, alternative food system based on self-sufficiency and Black food and land sovereignty. Dr. Brown’s awards include the Ella Baker Freedom Fighter Award, the Afro American Newspaper’s “25 Under 40 Emerging Black History Leaders” award, and in 2018 being highlighted by Baltimore Magazine as one of 30 Visionaries of the city. He earned a BS in Psychology from Morgan State University, an MDiv from Virginia Union University and DMin from Wesley Theological Seminary.