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SOCIAL JUSTICE

Understanding "Whiteness"

For most white people growing up in the United States, "whiteness" has been invisible. Because most of us have operated in segregated social contexts where white culture is the norm, white people often fail to understand the kinds of racial injustices that people of color face on a regular basis. For this reason, many white people find it difficult to respectfully engage in informed conversations about race. We often haven't had the opportunity to develop the basic racial awareness skills to effectively navigate interracial encounters and relationships without inadvertently perpetuating harmful patterns and power dynamics. It can also be challenging to learn how to receive feedback from a place of love, without moving into postures of defensiveness. This course/book study is designed to offer white people "eyes to see" some of the patterns and assumptions we have unconsciously inherited, so that we might be able to heed the call to accountability, and engage more productively in antiracism work. Drawing on Robin D'Angelo's White Fragility, Philip Deloria's Playing Indian, historical documents from throughout American history, and the work of antiracism scholars like Ibram Kendi and Iris Marion Young, this study offers white people a chance to "do the work" of educating themselves on how we got here, and learning how to move from a place of defensiveness, guilt, and grief to a posture of solidarity, witness, and allyship. 

Note: This can be presented as a facilitated (or co-facilitated) book study on either White Fragility  or Playing Indian, or it can be offered as a comprehensive 5-week course on whiteness. 

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Servant Leadership & Social Activism

"Servant leadership" is a contemplative posture for activism that is rooted in humility, a deep sense of call, and a recognition of the ongoing need for both inner work as individuals and outer work for systemic change. Healthy spiritual practices can help to ground our social activism in compassion and life-affirming hope, by deepening our sense of solidarity with one another and teaching us how to surrender the habitual demands of our ego, which usually lead us into either complacency or burnout. This course is designed to inspire participants to reflect on their own sense of call through an interpersonal and intersectional engagement with a variety of social justice issues: poverty, racism, immigration, education, health care, housing, food justice, and the environment. Each week, participants will hear stories from "servant leaders" who are working in each of these areas, and be invited to draw from the well of their own experience and wisdom to connect with a personal sense of what they might have to contribute, and collaborate with others in brainstorming new ways to address issues both locally and systemically. 

Note: This topic can be offered as a brown bag lunch series, or a 6- to 12-week class.

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Bible Study on Gender & Sexuality

What does "Biblical marriage" look like? Is the Bible inherently patriarchal? Is it possible to be a Christian and a feminist? Is "homosexuality" a "sin"? This guided bible study examines a variety of sensitive topics relating to sex and gender within the ancient historical context of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, unpacking some of the nuances and complexities of the most oft-quoted Biblical verses concerning sex and gender. We will look at translation issues, the problem of proof-texting, and learn about ancient Greek and Near Eastern constructions of sex and gender, in order to understand how these ancient texts may (or may not) relate to contemporary issues of gender and sexuality. The goal of this study is to help participants become more well-educated in the current Biblical scholarship on these topics, in order to engage more effectively in social discourse.

Bible Study on Science & Ecology

Are science and religion fundamentally incompatible? This guided study explores the ecological and agrarian subtext of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, offering a radical paradigm shift with regard to what the Bible teaches about material reality and our relationship to the natural world. Through a careful, scholarly reading of the Book of Genesis (particularly the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, and the Tower of Babel), as well as excerpts from Exodus, the Gospels, and Revelation, we will begin to see the ecological wisdom at the heart of the Biblical tradition, and hear the prophetic call to turn away from our habits of overconsumption and environmental devastation. Participants will gain a deeper appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between ancient Biblical wisdom and the perspectives of modern Western science. 

Note: This topic can be offered as a lecture or taught as a 5- to 8-week class or group.

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Songs of Social Protest

Throughout history, music has played an important role in movements for social change. We will reflect on examples of musical protest and civil disobedience from antiquity and the middle ages all the way up to today, looking particularly at the role of the spirituals during the time of slavery and later during the Civil Rights Movement. We will also look at songs of protest written during the folk revival of the 1960s, the punk era, and hip hop, and examine some of the more subtle ways that prophetic meanings are constructed and conveyed through music in any genre. Participants will come away with a deeper sense of why and how music can change the world. 

Note: This topic can be offered as an informational lecture, or as an interactive songwriting/brainstorming workshop for musicians and social activists thinking about the most effective ways to compose new tunes or choose songs for social movements.

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For Art's Sake: Social Ethics of Art

Picasso once observed that artists use lies to tell the truth. Because artists have the prophetic capacity to "speak" to us on a level beyond reason - by appealing directly to our bodies, our emotions, and our imaginations - the arts can help us to see the truth about ourselves more clearly, and to imagine our way into a new future. But this same power also allows the arts to be used in emotionally manipulative ways by those in power - for political propaganda, commercial advertising, and religious indoctrination. Is there an ethics of art? Are our aesthetic preferences in music, film, and art merely subjective, or do they connect to deeper values and truth claims? How have factors like class, race, gender, and colonialism historically shaped our aesthetic sensibilities? This lecture/course challenges the ethical assumptions underlying modern Western art's belief in "art for art's sake," by looking at the role of the arts in the curation of social, economic, and political power. 

Note: This topic can be offered as a lecture or taught as a 5- to 12-week class. 

Professional Background

I received my B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I was trained in social psychology, cultural criticism, rhetorical analysis, relational dynamics, and conflict mediation, particularly in the context of intersectional diversity. I later earned my Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where in addition to standard seminary courses in Biblical scholarship and church history, I was exposed to perspectives from Black liberation theology, womanist theology, and ecotheology, and participated in a number of thinktank projects for social and economic justice including Occupy Wall Street, the Poor People's Campaign, Picture the Homeless, and the Poverty Initiative. In my master's thesis, I developed a postmodern and postcolonial analysis of Western art culture, in order to reexamine the relationship between theology and the arts.

From 2015-2017, I also served as assistant director and adjunct faculty at The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro (now Second Breath Center), based in the teachings and principles of The Church of the Saviour's servant leadership school model (now the School for Liberation) which paired liberation-based teachings on the Bible and contemplative spiritual practices with on the ground social activism work, and power analysis at both the individual and the structural level. 

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