Founder | phoeniXspark, LLC
"Elyse Ambrose, Ph.D. (she/her) is a black queer ethicist, creative, and educator. Her research, community praxis, and art lie at the intersections of race, sexuality, gender, and spirituality. Ambrose’s desire for her scholarship to impact and be informed by real lives leads to her integration of theory and practice through phoenixspark, LLC, where she works with individuals toward shaping ethical values and practices related to gender and sexuality.
Her most recent photo-sonic work, entitled “Spirit in the Dark Body: Black Queer Expressions of the Im/material,” premiered in November 2019 at the L Street Fine Arts Gallery (San Diego, CA) and has shown at the House of Mark West— one of the few black queer owned galleries in the country. Ambrose currently serves as Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethical Leadership and Society at Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary (Chicago, IL) as a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research has been supported by the Yale University Sarah Pettit Fund, the Forum for Theological Exploration, the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, Columbia University's Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice, the Henry Luce Foundation, Auburn Seminary and CrossCurrents Journal.
Ambrose’s work and commentary has been featured in the Huffington Post, the Christian Century, Medium, ForHarriet, Vice, and CBC Radio One’s Tapestry. She is also the curator and co-host of Black Queer Love, a podcast and social medium exploring relationships, sex, love, pop culture, life, healing, embodiment, and art from a black queer lens.
Elyse Ambrose is a graduate of Howard University (B.B.A, 2007), the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div., 2013) and Drew University (Ph.D., 2019). She is a native of New Orleans and currently resides in Chicago and New York City."
Chef | Tanorria's Table
Professor | Pepperdine University
"Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis is a licensed psychologist, ordained minister, and sacred artist who has worked nationally and globally to provide relief and empowerment to marginalized persons. Dr. Thema, a professor at Pepperdine University, is a past president of the Society for the Psychology of Women. Her contributions to psychological research, policy, and practice have been honored by national and regional psychological associations.
Dr. Thema earned her doctorate from Duke University, completed her post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical Center, and is a past American Psychological Association representative to the United Nations. She is co-editor of the groundbreaking text Womanist and Mujerista Psychologies.
She has served as a mental health media consultant for numerous print, radio, and television media outlets, including but not limited to the Huffington Post, NPR, CBS, Oxygen, CNN, BET, TV One, Lifetime, and We TV."
Assistant Professor of Religion | Mount Holyoke College
"Meredith Coleman-Tobias is Assistant Professor of Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in the Americas at Mount Holyoke College. She specializes in Caribbean and North American iterations of African Atlantic religious cultures. She is specifically interested in contemporary religious migrations, which she began to study during her tenure as a Fulbright fellow in Barbados (2009-2010). Her research focuses on the ritual diaspora of two Burkinabé spiritual leaders. Investigating their “reverse mission” in Western countries, she interrogates African and non-African descendants’ intentional practice of Dagara spirituality in North America and the Caribbean. She brings to her research a background in community theater, and interrogations of performance, place-making and knowledge reproduction significantly inform her understanding of religious communities.
Meredith earned her B.A. from Spelman College in 2006, M.Div. from Yale Divinity School in 2009, and Ph.D. from Emory University in 2017.
Professor of Africana Studies | University of Delaware
Monica A. Coleman is Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware. She spent over ten years in graduate theological education at Claremont School of Theology and Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Answering her call to ministry at age 19, Dr. Coleman brings her experiences in evangelical Christianity, black church traditions, global ecumenical work, and indigenous spirituality to her discussions of religion. Dr. Coleman is the author or editor of six books and several articles that focus on the role of faith in addressing critical social and philosophical issues. Her memoir Bipolar Faith shares her life-long dance with trauma and depression, and how she discovers a new and liberating vision of God. Her book Making a Way Out of No Way is required reading at leading theological schools around the country. Dr. Coleman speaks widely on navigating change, religious diversity, mental wellness, and surviving sexual and domestic violence.
Associate Professor of Practical Theology | McCormick Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Stephanie M. Crumpton is a scholar, teacher and ordained minister in the United Church of
Christ. She is the tenured Associate Professor of Practical Theology at McCormick Theological Seminary.
There she teaches introductory level courses on pastoral care and religious education, and elective
courses on pastoral theological method for justice work, womanist/feminist pastoral care and counseling,
and the role of African cosmology and ritual in pastoral care. Her scholarly work extends beyond the four
walls of academia and back into the community as a bridge between the two. In response to the multiple
pandemics that began sweeping across the country in early 2020 she partnered with the Presbytery of
Chicago's Office of Collaboration and Community Partnerships to co-host a seven month online public
symposium on trauma, education, practice and spirituality. Her communal healing work also includes
convening healing space where Black activists, organizers and socially engaged clergy can recover and
reset from oppression even as they fight against it. All of this work is undergirded by her faith and
spiritual practices, which include prayer, fellowship with loved ones, and deep breathing as a vinyasa yoga
Minister & Storyteller | Emory Fellowship UMC (Washington, D.C.) & The Open Church of MD (Baltimore, MD)
Nila Curry is a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary with Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies degrees. Nila is a minister, story-teller, and curator of sacred spaces at Emory Fellowship UMC (Washington, D.C.) and The Open Church of MD (Baltimore, MD). She is currently discerning Ph.D. work and is interested in the parallels between womanist trajectories, prophetic imagination, and the Black-speculative Arts. Nila is a Miami native who enjoys traveling, community storytelling, and creative writing. She is also the founder of TribePurple LLC, a womanist initiative for healing and transformation.
Artist & Author | Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi
"Dubbed the Ancient Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Black Nigerian, Cuban, Indigenous, American Performance Artist, Author, Educator, Speech Writer, a Helen Hayes Award winning Playwright (Klytmnestra: An Epic Slam Poem (Helen Hayes Award 2020), For Black Trans Girls…, Ghost/Writer, The Diaz Family Talent Show, Quest of The Reed Marsh Daughter, The Dance of Memories), Advocate, Dramaturg, a 2x Helen Hayes Award Nominated choreographer (2016, 2018) and co-editor/co-Director of the Black Trans Prayer Book.
She is the curator and a co-producer of Long Wharf Theater’s Black Trans Women At The Center: An Evening of Short Plays.
Her radio play, Quest of The Reed Marsh Daughter, can be heard on the Girl Tale’s Podcast, and her play The Diaz Family Talent Show can be read on the Play at Home Website.
She was featured as Patra in King Ester and acted as a story consultant for the series. She wrote episode 9 (Refuge) of Round House Theater’s web series Homebound, and was one of the writers for Arena Stage’s short film The 51st State.
CEO and Founder | KYND
Kyndra Frazier is an ordained Baptist clergywoman, licensed clinician, and the Founder and CEO of KYND (Knowing Yourself In Need of Devotion) Consulting, Inc. KYND offers trauma-informed care through a variety of services from clinical therapy for individuals, families, and couples to trauma-informed training for corporate entities and ecclesial communities, as well as spiritual direction. These services are centered in evidenced-based interventions such as mindfulness, motivational interviewing, CBT, and IPT. KYND also offers Executive Listening sessions for organizations. Kyndra was most recently the Founding Executive Director of The HOPE Center, a free mental health facility located in Central Harlem of NYC, and formally served as the Associate Pastor of Congregational Care and Wellness at First Corinthian Baptist Church. Known for her work in removing barriers to mental health access for communities of color. She was recently featured on the 2020 Root 100 list of Most Influential African Americans. She has also been featured in multiple print and digital publications including Vice Magazine, New York Times, and Sojourners Magazine. She holds a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology|Emory University, a Master of Social Work from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from North Carolina A&T State University.
Author & Political Activist | Black Lives Matter Movement
"Alicia believes that Black communities deserve what all communities deserve -- to be powerful in every aspect of their lives. An author, political strategist, organizer, and cheeseburger enthusiast, Alicia founded the Black Futures Lab to make Black communities powerful in politics. She is the
co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network, serves as the Strategy & Partnerships Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and is a co-founder of Supermajority, a new home for women’s activism. Alicia has become a powerful voice in the media and frequently contributes thoughtful opinion pieces and expert commentary on politics,
race and more to outlets such as MSNBC and The New York Times. She has received numerous accolades and recognitions, including being on the cover of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World issue and being named to Bloomberg's 50 and Politico's 50 lists. She is the author of the
critically acclaimed book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart (One World Penguin Random House), and she warns you -- hashtags don’t start movements. People do."
Dean of the Chapel and the Director of the WISDOM Center | Spelman College
Associate Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions | University of Colorado Denver
"Rachel Elizabeth Harding is a poet, historian, and scholar of religions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Harding teaches in the Ethnic Studies department of the University of Colorado Denver and writes about religion, creativity, and social justice in the experience of people of African descent in the US and Brazil. Dr. Harding is author of two books: A Refuge in Thunder, a history of the Afro-Brazilian religion, Candomblé; and Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering, co-written with her mother, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, on the role of compassion and mysticism in African American social justice organizing. Dr. Harding is an ebômi (ritual elder) in the Terreiro do Cobre Candomblé community in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. And she co-directs the Veterans of Hope Project – an interdisciplinary initiative on religion, grassroots democracy and healing, founded by her parents, Vincent and Rosemarie Freeney Harding. (www.veteransofhope.org)
Harding’s honors include a Cave Canem Fellowship, the Sterling Brown Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Williams College and an honorary doctorate from the Starr-King School for the Ministry. "
Pastor & Blogger | Caldwell Presbyterian Church
Distinguished University Professor Emerita | University of Maryland
Spiritual Teacher, Activist, and Scholar
"Dr. Holmes is a spiritual teacher and writer focused on African American spirituality, mysticism, cosmology and culture. She is President Emerita of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (2012-2016). She also served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Memphis Theological Seminary (2005-2010). She holds the title of Professor Emerita of Ethics and African American Religious Studies at that seminary. Currently, she is a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation founded by Fr. Richard Rohr.
Holmes was called to ministry while working as a corporate lawyer for the J.C. Penney Corporation, and was ordained in the Latter Rain Apostolic Holiness Church in Dallas, Texas. Today, she has privilege of call in the United Church of Christ and recognition of ministerial standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Holmes grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and was a member of Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church.
Dr. Holmes has earned the following degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Theatre Arts from the University of Connecticut; a Master of Science in Education from Southern Connecticut University; a Master of Divinity degree from Columbia Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Religion (Ethics) from Vanderbilt. Also, she earned a law degree from Walter F. George School of Law, at Mercer University and practiced law in Miami, Atlanta, Macon and Dallas. She specialized in civil litigation, corporate, and appellate practice. She says, ""My life is committed to the struggle for justice, the healing of the human spirit, and the art of relevant and radical creativity.""
In addition, Dr. Holmes has worked with homeless missions; HIV/AIDS support groups and international ministries in Kenya (the Presbyterian Church of East Africa) and Japan. The author of several books and numerous articles, her most recent publications include: The second revised edition of Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently, 2002, 2020; Dreaming; Liberation and the Cosmos: Conversations with the Elders; and Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church 2004, second revised edition 2017. Dr. Holmes is married to George Ford and has two sons: Marcus, a film director, and Jason a professor of music.
Author, Publisher, Vice-President & Editorial Director | Just Us Books, Inc.
CHERYL WILLIS HUDSON is publisher of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company she founded with her husband Wade that focuses on Black interest books for young people. She has authored over 25 books for children including AFRO-BETS ABC Book, Good Morning, Baby, Bright Eyes, Brown Skin, Hands Can, What Do You Know, Snow! My Friend Maya Loves to Dance, Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World and We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices which she co-edited with her husband Wade. A second anthology, The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth was released in August 2020. A third anthology, Recognize, Honoring and Amplifying Black Life, co-edited with Wade, will be published in September, 2021 by Crown Books.
A member of PEN America and Society of Children's Book Illustrators and Authors, Cheryl’s honors include induction into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, the Harlem Book Fair Phyllis Wheatley Award, the Ida B. Wells Institutional Leadership Award presented by the Center for Black Literature and the Madame C. J. Walker Legacy Award given by the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation.
Celebrating over four decades of musical excellence.
"Founded in the fall of 1968 by Melanie Russell (Lee) and Rosalind Thompkins (Lynch), the Howard
Gospel Choir (HGC) is the first collegiate choir of its kind in the world. As a result, HGC has
pioneered an international legacy in gospel music ministry. With an active roster of seventy-plus
persons that consists of students and alumni from Howard University, as well as others from the
surrounding community, the choir is one of the largest religious life organizations on campus,
operating under the historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. The Dean of the Chapel, the
Reverend Dr. Bernard Richardson serves as the choir’s advisor."
Graduate Fellow | Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary
"Aria Michal Kirkland-Harris is a seminarian, womanist practitioner, and ministry consultant. Aria is a Graduate Fellow at the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary where her research focus is Black women’s (read womanist) approaches to economic sufficiency and sustainability.
Aria is also active in Baptist denominational life. In addition to being in school full-time, she serves the Baptist General Convention of Virginia as the Ministry Assistant for Administration and Development. In April 2019, Aria was accepted into the inaugural cohort of the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) Co-Creators Incubator, a two-year integrative program for missional entrepreneurs that helps grow ministry ideas into viable ventures with a Christ-centered mission. Aria is also the Pastoral Intern and an active member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Richmond, VA where the Rev. Dr. Adam L. Bond is pastor.
Before moving to Richmond to attend the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, Aria made a living as freelance strategy consultant for churches, mainline denominations, and faith-based nonprofit institutions that work to transform communities through affordable housing, education, and community health initiatives. Her areas of expertise include nonprofit board development, advocacy and community organizing, PK-12 education policy, and fundraising.
Aria is an alumna of Teach For America, the Education Pioneers Graduate Fellowship Program, and The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation’s Young Adult Life & Leadership Initiative. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Columbia University and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University. In her free time, Aria likes to explore different parts of the world through contemplative pilgrimages and retreats. She also enjoys outdoor music, food, and art festivals and recently discovered a love for hiking."
Co-Founder & COO | Mented Cosmetics
"Amanda E. Johnson is the Co-Founder & COO of Mented Cosmetics, a pigment-first beauty brand celebrating women of all hues. Mented launched in January 2017 and has taken the beauty industry by storm by unapologetically placing women of color at the forefront. The company has been featured in several publications including Essence, Allure, Vogue and Black Enterprise, and the co-founders were honored with the 2019 Dreamers award from the National Retail Federation. A graduate of Howard University and Harvard Business School, Amanda is excited to be an entrepreneur focused on digital strategy and brand building. With a myriad of experiences in finance, consumer marketing, and digital experience Amanda is excited to craft brand stories and build customer communities.
Amanda is very involved in her community through involvement in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, The Junior League of New York, and Howard Alumni Association."
Assistant Professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and Faculty Director of the Global Pop Music Initiative | Indiana University (Bloomington)
Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is an assistant professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and faculty director of the Global Pop Music Initiative at Indiana University (Bloomington). Dr. Jones is a board member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM, a member of the strategic planning task force for the American Musicological Society (AMS), and a co-chair of the Music and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults museums, conservatories, seminaries, and arts organizations on curriculum, live and virtual event programming, and content development. Dr. Jones’ book Flaming?: The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (Oxford University Press) breaks ground by analyzing the role of gospel music making in constructing and renegotiating gender identity among black men. Her research interests extend to global pop music, musics of the African diaspora, music and food, the music industry and the marketplace, and anti-oppressive ways of listening to black women. A little known fact is that Dr. Alisha Lola Jones and her sister Rev. Angela Marie Jones are co-owners of Paradise Media Group, a Black women-owned radio company based in Oxford and Henderson, NC continuing the multi-media work pioneered by their parents Rev. Dr. Alvin Augustus Jones and Rev. Dr. Martha Butler Jones. Rev. Dr. Alisha Lola Jones is newly wed to Rev. Calvin Taylor Skinner, her partner in both ministry and love. For more information, please visit DrAlisha.com.
Director of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership | Union Presbyterian Seminary
The Reverend Melanie C. Jones is a womanist ethicist, millennial preacher,
and intellectual activist. Melanie joined the Union Presbyterian Seminary
faculty as Instructor of Ethics, Theology, and Culture and Inaugural
Director of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership in
fall 2019. Formerly, Melanie served as the first Crump Visiting Professor and
Black Religious Scholar-in-Residence at Seminary of the Southwest in
Austin, TX, and Lecturer at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX,
American Baptist College in Nashville, TN, Chicago Theological Seminary,
and The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, IL.
Melanie is a thinking woman of faith embodying radical love and
revolutionary justice in the academy, Church, and global community.
Melanie earned a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Howard
University and a Master of Divinity with a certificate in Black Church
Studies from Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Currently, Melanie is
completing a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Chicago Theological
Seminary. Melanie’s research engages womanist theological ethics and
sacred texts, millennials and faith, Black aesthetics and digital
technocultures. For her distinguished research, Melanie has received
notable fellowships and scholarships, including The Forum for Theological
Exploration, The Louisville Institute, Wabash Center, Villanova University
Center for Church Management, and The Henry Luce Foundation.
Committed to enlivening a world where Black women and girls are whole
and free, Melanie serves professional societies and international boards as
a global leader in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (former
International Second Vice President 2008 – 2010), Black Religious Scholars
Group, and Daughters of the African Atlantic Fund. Melanie is Co-Founder
of The Millennial Womanism Project (TMWP) and Co-host of The Womanist
Salon (TWS) podcast— an intergenerational, woke, womanist podcast that
integrates the hair salon as site, source, and sanctuary for authentic Black
Melanie is the youngest ordained woman minister at South Suburban
Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of her beloved mother,
Pastor Annette Jones. A third-generation ordained Baptist preacher and
sought-after lecturer, Melanie is an emerging millennial voice with noted
academic and popular publications as well as features on television, radio,
and news outlets. Follow Melanie at www.revmelanie.com and
@revmelaniej on social media.
CEO | Love Cork Screw
"Success in today’s marketplace is often defined by a person’s ability to create something new while simultaneously paying homage to elements that are classic. However, success to Chrishon Lampley is inspiring at least one person to follow and reach their dreams.
Lampley is a negociant, wine enthusiast and founder of LCS Entertainment, LLC that features Love Cork Screw wines. Love Cork Screw is a lifestyle brand that launched six varietals December 2013 in Chicago. Since its inception, the LCS brand has acquired over 300 locations including, Target, Mariano's, Binny's, Whole Foods, World Market, Walmart and more.
Lampley’s 15 years’ of experience in the industry has given her keen awareness of what the traditional wine novice and enthusiast enjoys and what the market is missing.
Touching all senses, five wine-scented candles were added to the portfolio in 2014 available on Target.com, and online.
Lampley leverages her platform to mentor young women and budding entrepreneurs. She gives her time and resources greatly to nonprofit organizations through sponsorship and speaking engagements. Lampley has mentored youth through Urban Broadcast Media, Chicago Sky and Polished Pebbles to encourage Chicago’s youth. She is a member and supporter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
LCS Entertainment, LLC is a licensed wholesaler and importer, and a certified Minority Business Enterprise.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Constructive Theology | Meadville Lombard Theological School
"Dr. Pamela Lightsey has a stellar history as a senior administrator and scholar in higher education. She currently serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Meadville Lombard Theological School and Associate Professor of Constructive Theology. Before her appointment at Meadville, she was Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology. She is also an ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Dr. Lightsey is a womanist theologian who has lectured at schools within and outside the continental United States. She has served as co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Group. She is currently a member of the Workgroup on Constructive Theology. Dr. Lightsey is an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army. She served as a member of the original executive committee for the Soul Repair Project, which studies the role of moral injury in military veterans.
As an activist, Dr. Lightsey has worked within the LGBTQ community to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell military policy, and to ensure marriage equality. She continues to critique churches for homophobic polity, liturgy, and homiletics. Pamela was on the ground protesting against excessive police force during the first 21 days of unrest in Ferguson and across one year was one of several livestreamers providing ongoing broadcasts. Her work is the largest video archive on this historic time captured live by a solo African American theologian in the country. Dr. Lightsey has consistently collaborated with activist colleagues in the movement for the liberation of Black lives, those addressing violence against Black transwomen, and institutional racism on college campuses. She currently serves as a member of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ+ issues.
As ordained clergy, Rev. Dr. Lightsey is among the leading voices fighting for LGBTQ rights in the United Methodist Church. She was the first out queer lesbian African American ordained elder in full connection in the denomination. As United Methodism faces schism, Rev. Dr. Lightsey - understanding the subtle work of racism in times of crisis - is coordinating with other LGBTQ persons of color to ensure their lives are not made subordinate to the needs of white LGBTQ persons.
Pamela’s several publications include the full manuscript, “Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology” (Wipf and Stock, 2015), Transforming Service: Reflections of Student Services Professionals in Theological Education. Editors Shonda R. Jones & Pamela R. Lightsey. (Wipf and Stock, 2020). “He Is Black and We are Queer” in Albert Cleage Jr and the Black Madonna and Child (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), “Blinking Red: The Escalation of a Militarized Police Force and Its Challenges to Black Communities” (Lexington Books, 2019)."
Foundational Associate Professor of African American and African Studies | Michigan State University
Tamura Lomax is the Foundational Associate Professor of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 from Vanderbilt University in Religion, where she specialized in Black Religious History and Black Diaspora Studies, and also developed expertise in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Black British and U.S. Black Cultural Studies. In 2018, Dr. Lomax published Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture with Duke University Press. In addition, she organized and guest edited “Black Bodies in Ecstasy: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Politics of Pleasure,” a special issue published with Black Theology: An International Journal. In 2014, she published Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry’s Cultural Productions with Palgrave Macmillan, a co-authored edited volume with Rhon S. Manigault-Bryant and Carol B. Duncan. And she is currently at work on a new book, Parenting Against the Patriarchy: Raising Non-Toxic Sons in White Supremacist America with Duke University Press. However, Dr. Lomax isn’t solely a writer and researcher. She’s a scholar-activist. In 2017, she co-organized “Our History, Our Future: A Multigenerational Human Rights Conference" at Boston University, which brought together 1960s Civil Rights and Black Panther Party activists with Black Lives Matter activists. And in 2011, Dr. Lomax co-founded The Feminist Wire (TFW), an online publication committed to feminist, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist socio-political critique. Her vision is to create space for justice work through critical conversation, exchange, mass-mediation, and dynamic accessible education. Her hope is to bring academic expertise to the streets and vice versa. Since its founding, TFW has published close to 3,000 intersectional and justice centered scholarly essays, including the original Black Lives Matter herstory by Alicia Garza in 2014; organized the very first university conference on Black Lives Matter at the University of Arizona; and coordinated various forums on topics such as Black (Academic) Women’s Health; Assata Shakur; Trayvon Martin; Disabilities; Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism; and Mumia Abu-Jamal, Race, Gender, and the Carceral State. In addition to online publishing, TFW has a book series with the University of Arizona Press: The Feminist Wire Books: Connecting Feminisms, Race, and Social Justice.
Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Religion | Williams College
LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant is Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College and founder of ConjureGirlBlue Productions. A proud native of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Rhon navigates the academy as a scholar-artist, where she merges her life as a thinker, musician and filmmaker. She is the author of multiple academic books, public-facing writing, and films including Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory among Gullah/Geechee Women (2014) and the award-winning documentary short “death. everything. nothing” (2020).
Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies | Beloit College
Artist | Austin "Auz" Miles
"Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Austin ""Auz"" Miles is a practicing painter,
designer, and public artist located in Richmond, VA. She uses color, texture, and
distortion to embody her own stories and contribute to the conversation about Black
female experiences. Miles is an alumna of Virginia Commonwealth University School of
the Arts (VCU), receiving her Bachelors of Fine Arts in 2017. Her paintings are a
glimpse into a realm where emotions are personified and become out-of-body
experiences of connection. Through her work, Austin ""Auz"" Miles hosts visual
conversations that ignite understanding and inspire community healing.
Austin ""Auz"" Miles has shown work at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture
during their Fresh Paint(2018) and Mending Walls(2020) exhibitions. In addition, Miles
collaborated with the Jamestown Settlement in 2019, creating two works featuring the
tenacious tri-cultured women of Jamestown and the first Black women to be
documented in the United States in 1619, Angelo. These paintings were displayed in
their Tenacity exhibition. Austin ""Auz"" Miles has painted many vibrant, uplifting murals
throughout Richmond's city and has shown her work in Virginia, North Carolina,
Washington D.C., Atlanta GA, and Cusco Peru.
Associate Professor of African-American Studies, Religious Studies | Georgia State University
"Dr. Monique Moultrie is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University and was recently a Visiting Associate Professor of Women's Studies and African American Religion at Harvard Divinity School. She earned degrees from Vanderbilt University, Harvard Divinity School, and Duke University. Her scholarly pursuits include projects in sexual ethics, African American religions, and gender and sexuality studies. Her book Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women's Sexuality was published by Duke University Press and was the 2018 Book of the Year for the Religious Communication Association. She has published extensively in journals and edited volumes, and her forthcoming research is a study of black lesbian religious leadership and faith activism. Her research has been supported by Harvard Divinity School's Women's Studies in Religion Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Grants, a GSU Dean's Early Career Award, and an American Academy of Religion Individual Research Grant.
Outside of the university, D. Moultrie was a consultant for the National Institutes of Health and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual. Transgender-Religious Archives Network. She was a Content Development working group member for the Columbia University’s Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s Scholars Group, a group of religious scholars collaborating at the intersection of religion and reproductive justice. Within the larger American Academy of Religion guild, Dr. Moultrie is the former Status of Women in the Profession Chair and a former co-chair of the Religion and Sexuality unit."
Associate Minister of Faith Formation and Community Outreach | Myers Park Baptist Church
Reverend Mia McClain is an artist, pastor and king cake lover. She currently serves as the Associate Minister of Faith Formation and Community Outreach at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she works to create and sustain a vibrant adult small group ministry, Sunday morning classes, and educational conferences, as well as coordinating and facilitating justice initiatives and community partnerships. Originally from New Orleans, Mia went on to obtain a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University, a Master of Arts in Art and Public Policy from New York University—Tisch School of the Arts, and a Master of Divinity, with concentration in Psychology, Religion, and Homiletics from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. At Union, she was 2018 recipient of the Jonathan Kneeland Preaching Fellowship—awarded by Auburn Seminary—and the 2019 recipient of the Karen Ziegler Feminist Preaching Prize. This year, she is the recipient of the Duke Divinity Innovation Grant that will enable research and production around decolonizing liturgical practice and space. A licensed Baptist minister, Mia is ordained in the United Church of Christ and will serve as a liturgist and songwriter at the UCC's 2021 General Synod this summer. Prior to her call to ministry, Mia lived into her arts career fully, performing in theatres across the country, composing and executive producing projects, such as the Voice of Peace EP (’12). When Mia is not working, she enjoys cooking, taste-testing banana pudding, and being a dog-mom to Harry.
Founder & CFO | The Free People Project
EbonyJanice is a dynamic lecturer, transformational speaker, and passionate multi-faith preacher focused on Decolonizing Authority, Hip Hop Scholarship, Womanism as a Political and Spiritual/Religious tool for Liberation, Blackness as Religion, Dialogue as central to professional development and personal growth, and Women and Gender Studies focused on black girlhood. EbonyJanice has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Political Science, and a Master of Arts in Social Change with a concentration in Spiritual Leadership, Womanist Theology, and Racial Justice. She is the founder of Black Girl Mixtape, a multi-platform safe think-space, centering the intellectual authority of black women in the form of a lecture series, a podcast, and an online learning institute lead by black women scholars, and Dream Yourself Free, a Spiritual Mentoring project focused on black women's healing, dreaming, ease, play and wholeness as their activism and resistance work.
Co-Owner | Black Broadway Performing Arts Company
"At the heart of youth development and creativity emerges a true, modern-day Renaissance woman. Keisha B. Nelson is a life-long educator, wife, and mother who seeks to explore ways to support communities with each gift she possesses. Keisha earned a B.S in Human Development and Psychoeducational Studies from Howard University in 2009, and later earned a Master’s in Education in Reading, Writing, and Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her career as an educator includes teaching, youth development, and student support services. In those capacities, she developed programming, provided college and career counseling, and advocated for students of color in communities and school districts. She also worked as a full time entrepreneur and educational artist as co-owner of Black Broadway Performing Arts Company in DC. Black Broadway is an educational performing arts program that utilizes theater and music arts to teach history and strengthen literacy skills. Keisha’s pivot to a full-time boss mom in 2017 inspired her to study Women’s Entrepreneurship, and she later earned a certificate from Cornell University in 2019.
Although Keisha expressed her passion for performing arts at a young age, it was during her graduate studies when she wrote her first theatrical production, The Evolution. She has since written, directed, and produced a total of 7 original musicals featured in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. Keisha’s productions have been attended by numerous audience members, acknowledged by several newspapers, and was recognized by Tony and Grammy Award Nominee, Valisia LeKae (Motown The Musical). Keisha is both entertaining and meaningful, and she strives to serve her audiences with quality artwork.
Above all, Keisha’s anchor passion is service. Keisha consistently explores ways to support communities. She uses creative ideas to provide resources to families by sharing #teachermommy hacks and by using her creativity and business savvy to build businesses, brands, and ideas by supporting startups, organizations, and events. She is committed to empowering families to not only coexist but thrive together through her newest brand, And Me Tribe. And Me provides educational resources, fun activities, and unique shopping experiences for youth to make memories with their favorite adults.
Keisha is most proud of her roles as wife and mother to her children, Cleveland, IV, & Kamari Nadine. Keisha looks forward to a bright future as she follows her dreams and pursues her passion in service.
Program Associate | The Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership
"Rev. Dr. Paula Owens Parker is the program associate for The Katie Geneva Cannon Center for
Womanist Leadership and also the senior program developer of Roots Matter LLC, a program
which identifies approaches to healing generational trauma in families and communities. Dr.
Parker is the developer of RAPHA: A Course in Contemplative Healing Prayer, a spiritual direc-
tor, and a certified facilitator of Emotional Emancipation Circles (EEC) of Community Healing
Network. Dr. Parker is the author of Roots Matter: Healing History, Honoring Heritage, Renew-
ing Hope (2016) which recognizes the impact of transgenerational trauma, as a result of chattel
slavery, on the African American community. She has contributed articles to Healing Line,
Christian Century and Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology and co-authored the
chapter “Internal Liberation” in Kaleidoscope:Broadening the Palette in the Art of Spiritual Di-
Dean, and Professor of Religion and Literature | Howard University
Praise and Worship Leader | The Ray of Hope Christian Church
Principal Researcher of African American History Project | Richmond Hill
"Pam Smith is a historian and coordinator of the Micah Initiative -- faith communities in partnership with Richmond Public Schools -- at Richmond Hill. Before joining the residential community in 2019, she worked for 12 years as a planning and research consultant for nonprofit organizations in her home town of Chicago. She is a certified trainer in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach to nonviolent conflict reconciliation.
Earlier in her career, Pam served as press liaison for Barack Obama and Rev. Jesse Jackson. She has taught elementary school in Africa, history at community colleges, and served as research consultant at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest Plantation located in Bedford County, Virginia. Pam has used her genealogical skills to trace many of her own enslaved ancestors in Virginia and elsewhere. She is now leading an initiative at Richmond Hill to unearth buried stories associated with people formerly enslaved on the property.
Public Theologian, Historian, Activist, Social Critic, and Educator
"Ruby Nell Sales looks at her work as a calling rather than a career. She answered the call to social justice as a teenager at Tuskegee Institute where she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked on voter registration in Lowndes County, Alabama.
Sales received a B.A. degree from Manhattanville College and attended graduate school at Princeton University. Sales received a Master of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School where she was an Absalom Jones Scholar. While there, she developed a reputation as a preacher and has preached at churches and cathedrals around the nation. After divinity school, she founded a national nonprofit organization, the SpiritHouse Project.
As a social justice activist, Sales’ work is cited in several books, journal articles and film. Sales has received numerous awards and honors. She was selected and honored as a Veteran of Hope by Vincent G. Harding in 2004. Sales was one of the founders of SAGE Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. Sales became a national HistoryMaker in 2009. In August 2013, Sales was awarded the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference Living Legacies Civil Rights Recognition Award. In 2014, she was inducted into the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers and became a recipient of the Beautiful Are Their Feet Award from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. Sales was honored with the national Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Award from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) at their centennial celebration in 2015.
An oral history of Sales is housed at the Library of Congress, and she was selected as one of fifty African Americans from the Civil Rights Movement to be spotlighted in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Sales was also one of the honorees of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) spotlighted at the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, Alabama. In February 2019, TED.com released Sales’ TED Talk entitled, “How we can start to heal the pain of racial division.”
Sales has made the struggle for racial justice one of the centerpieces of her work through the SpiritHouse Project. Since 2007, she has worked to expose the state sanctioned deaths of African Americans by White police, security guards and vigilantes by compiling a national database on these events; offering spiritual, financial and organizational support to families; and by exposing these activities through church and community meetings, forums, and press conferences around the nation.
Recognizing a need to nurture the hope that still resides in young people as well as to revive an intergenerational community and human compassion, in 2016 the SpiritHouse Project introduced Hope Zones,™ sanctuary sites of learning, intergenerational connection and community formation which offer diverse communities an opportunity to work toward the common goal of advancing democracy and non-violence.
Funded by the Duke Endowment, she is currently creating Racial Justice Cafes in North and South Carolina. Sales
Tank and The Bangas don’t go anywhere quietly. Sitting around a dimly lit room in London’s neighborhood of Camden Town, vocalist Tank Ball, bassist Norman Spence, drummer Joshua Johnson and saxophonist Albert Allenback can’t go mere minutes without bursting into play fights, or talking over one another, or laughing from their deepest guts. They are a beacon of life. And it’s that life that you hear in their music. That’s what makes this fivepiece one of the most thrilling, unpredictable and sonically diverse bands on the planet; a unit where jazz meets hip-hop, soul meets rock, and funk is the beating heart of everything they do. Their new album Green Balloon is on the horizon, and it’s their first release now they’re signed to major label Verve Forecast – a deal that came after they won NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2017, beating out hundreds of other acts. They admit that it was a moment that has entirely changed their lives. This resulting record is set to prove their pizazz and their staying power. It’s everything they’ve worked so hard for so far.
"Praised for its “authentic, soulful, and orchestral sound”, The String Queens (TSQ) is a dynamic trio that creates stimulating musical experiences that inspire diverse audiences to love, hope, feel, and imagine!
With an array of repertoire spanning from the Baroque era to the Jazz Age to today’s Billboard Hot 100 Chart, TSQ performs versatile programs that transport audiences through time and a multitude of musical genres.
Based in Washington, D.C., TSQ members have been featured in famed performance venues across four continents including: Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Howard Theatre, Royal Festival Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Shanghai Grand Theatre, The Moscow Conservatory, and Blues Alley, to name a few.
TSQ members have collaborated with artists throughout the music industry, including Ledisi, Solange, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Common, Andra Day, and the late Aretha Franklin, among others. As chamber and orchestral musicians, TSQ members have performed under the batons of legendary musical directors Ray Chew, Adam Blackstone, and many more.
Recognized by D.C.’s leading news network WUSA9 as “school teachers by day and concert performers by night”, they have been honored as the 2020 Aspire Awardees by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They also collaborated with Washington Performing Arts to launch a series of concerts and education outreach programs with the organization as their 2019-2020 Ensemble-in-Residence for their signature community engagement initiative titled “Mars Arts D.C.”.
In late 2019, TSQ premiered their debut album at legendary jazz venue Blues Alley. The album is now available for purchase on the TSQ website and all major digital outlets. They premiered their second album, “Our Favorite Things”, in late November 2020.
In January of 2021, the group performed during the We Are One celebration as a part of the official Presidential Inauguration, in a special tribute dedicated to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Assistant Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology | Wake Forest University School of Divinity
Melva L. Sampson is Assistant Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She is a digital hush harbor curator, ritualist and preacher. Her research interests include Black preaching women’s embodiment, African heritage spiritual traditions, Black girls’ ritual performance, and the relationship between digital proclamation and spiritual formation. She has published articles like, “The Making of Digital Griots and Cyber Assemblies,” and “Digital Hush Harbors: Black Preaching Women and Black Digital Religious Networks,” each address the politics of location and challenge traditional Black Church pulpit authority. She is the creator of Pink Robe Chronicles ™ a digital hush harbor that centers faith and spirituality using the womanist and Afrocentric values of self-determination, serious engagement, and liberating self-love to highlight the importance of collective work and responsibility in healing and sustaining marginalized communities. She is currently working on her first book length project entitled Going Live: Black Women Preaching in the Digital Age.
Associate Professor of Ethics and Society | Vanderbilt Divinity School
Stacey Floyd-Thomas, Dr. Cannon’s first graduate student, is an extension of the expansive KGCCWL community where she serves as a member of its advisory board. She is a Texas native, Nashville-based scholar, author, public speaker, EDI trainer, management consultant, religious leader, and executive coach. Dr. Floyd-Thomas is currently the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair and Associate Professor of Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University. As the womanist methods generator and award winning teacher, she is a nationally recognized scholar and leading voice in social ethics who provides leadership to several national and international organizations that educate, advocate, support and shape the strategic work of individuals, initiatives, and institutions in their organizing efforts of championing and cultivating equity, diversity, and inclusion via organizations such as the Black Religious Scholars Group (BRSG), Society for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Religion (SRER), Strategic Effective Ethical Solutions (SEES), Society of Christian Ethics (SCE) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR). She holds a PhD in Ethics, a MBA in organizational behavior and two Masters in Comparative religion and Theological Studies with certification in women’s studies, cultural studies, and counseling. Not only has she published eight books and numerous articles including Mining the Motherlode: Methods in Womanist Ethics and Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society, she is also as an expert in leadership development and organizational behavior who educates clergy and religious organizations in financial literacy and not-for-profit business ethics. As a result, Dr. Floyd-Thomas has been a lead architect in helping corporations, colleges, universities, religious congregations, and community organizations with their audit, assessment, and action plans in accordance with evolving both the mission and strategic plans. Without question, she is one of the nation’s leading voices in ethical leadership in the United States and is globally recognized for her scholarly specializations in liberation theology and ethics, critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and postcolonial studies. Additionally, leaving the podium and pulpit and living her womanist ways out loud, Dr. Floyd-Thomas co-hosts her own podcast to popularize and make her profession and vocation intergenerationally and intracommunally accessible through The Womanist Podcast.
Owner | Sankofa Center for Strategic Planning and Evaluation LLC
Itihari Toure EdD. currently works with the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia as faculty in the Master of Arts Religion and Education degree program and Director of the Sankofa Center for Data Evaluation and Quality Enhancement (QEP). As Director of the Sankofa Center, Dr. Toure is the institutional effectiveness and accreditation liaison officer for the ITC. She is owner and lead consultant of the Sankofa Center for Strategic Planning and Evaluation currently developing curricula and evaluation for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) Inc. based in Chicago. Itihari Y. Toure has worked in the field of education, the Black church, and with Black women in ministry since 1975. As an African centered educator, Itihari Toure served as the program coordinator for Black Women Ministerial Leadership program (BWML) for the Office of Black Women in Church and Society founded by Dr. Jacquelyn Grant, a grants writer for several funded programs including: the Womanist Scholars program at the ITC. Her tenure as religious education director at First African Presbyterian church in Lithonia, Georgia, resulted in the CFABS curriculum which included Ancestral Walks, Per Ankh House of Life Series, and the CARE Youth Apprenticeship. Her recent efforts launched “The Souls of Black Girls” an education and action platform for netweaving existing advocates, agencies and organizations addressing the intersecting realities facing Black girls and Women.
Dean | Vanderbilt Divinity School
Dr. Emilie M. Townes, an American Baptist clergywoman, is a native of Durham, North Carolina. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. Dr. Townes is the Dean and Distinguished Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, becoming the first African American to serve as Dean of the Divinity School in 2013. She is the former Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale University Divinity School and in the fall of 2005, she was the first African American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and served as president in 2008. She was the first African American and first woman to serve as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Yale Divinity School. She is the former Carolyn Williams Beaird Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Social Ethics at Saint Paul School of Theology. Editor of two collection of essays, A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering and Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation; she has also authored Womanist Ethics, Womanist Hope, In a Blaze of Glory: Womanist Spirituality as Social Witness, Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care, and her groundbreaking book, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. She is co-editor with Stephanie Y. Mitchem of the Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life. Her most recent co-editorship is Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader done with the late Katie Geneva Cannon and Angela Sims was published in November 2011. Townes was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She served a four-year term as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion from 2012 to 2016.
Assistant Professor of Theology and African American Religion | Yale University
"The Reverend Eboni Marshall Turman, Ph.D. teaches theology, ethics, and African American religion at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT. A first-career concert dancer and ordained National Baptist preacher, her research interests span the varieties of 20th century US theological liberalisms, most especially Black and womanist theological, social ethical, and theo-aesthetic traditions.
She co-chairs the Black Theology unit of the American Academy of Religion; is treasurer of the Society for the Study of Black Religion; a board member of the Society of Christian Ethics; and a founding member of the Black Church Collective for which she served as lead author of the recent “On Black Lives Matter: A Theological Statement from the Black Churches.”
Dr. Turman is currently completing her second monograph tentatively titled, Black Women’s Burden: Male Power, Gender Violence, and the Scandal of African American Social Christianity, and she has recently begun preliminary research for her third monograph titled, In My Flesh Shall I See God: Black Womanist Theological Aesthetics. Through her research and scholarship, Dr. Turman is transforming the way we frame the Black experience, the contemporary movement for Black lives, and the moral significance of the Black community specifically the 21st century black church.
A trailblazer in the church and academy, she is the youngest woman to be named Assistant Minister of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City (2002-2012), and the second woman to preside over the ordinances in its 212-year history. She formerly served as Director of Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School (2013-2016).
She is the only womanist theological ethicist on faculty at Yale Divinity School; the recipient of the 2018 Yale University Bouchet Faculty Excellence award for research and teaching; the 2018 Inspiring Yale award; a 2017-18 Yale Public Voices fellow; one of Ebony Magazine’s Young Faith Leaders in the Black Community; included on the Network Journal’s prestigious 40 Under 40 List; named as one of the “Top 5 Young Preachers in America” by ROHO; and Auburn Theological Seminary’s 2017 “Lives of Commitment” honoree.
She lives in New York City with her wonderful spouse, Rossie E. Turman III, Esq., and their two beautiful daughters, Haarlem and Kroux."
Co-Founder of Center of the Heart & Founder of Audre: Spiritual Care for Women with Cancer.
Pamela Ayo Yetunde, J.D., Th.D. is the co-editor of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom (Shambhala Publications, 2020), Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology for Transgender Spiritual Care (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and Object Relations, Buddhism, and Relationality in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and "Black Lesbians to the Rescue! A Brief Correction with Implications for Womanist Christian Theology and Womanist Buddhology" (religions, 2017). Ayo, a Community Dharma Leader, is the co-founder of Center of the Heart (www.centeroftheheart.org) and founder of Audre: Spiritual Care for Women with Cancer. Ayo also works as a pastoral counselor and chaplain.
Associate Provost for Equity and Inclusive Excellence & Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Religion | Bucknell University
President | New York Theological Seminary
"Educator, visionary leader, sought after speaker, and consummate change agent, Dr. LaKeesha Walrond is a force faithfully encouraging those she encounters to embody their infinite possibilities. In June of 2019, she became the first woman and first African American woman President of New York Theological Seminary, she is committed to preparing faith and thought leaders to engage relevant, restorative, and revolutionary ministry.
A native Texan, Dr. Walrond earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., a Master of Education, Master in School Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY. Dr. Walrond has a passion for children and education. She worked in the public-school system in North Carolina for eleven years as a teacher, a coordinator for special education programs, an assistant principal, and as a principal.
Dr. Walrond is a dynamic speaker who has addressed a number of national and international
audiences. She has received numerous recognitions including honors by the New York Liberty WNBA Basketball Association, the National Action Network, the MC Donald’s GospelFest, NCNW, NAACP, her alma mater, Spelman College and Union Theological Seminary. She served on the board of trustees at Union Theological Seminary for three years. Mayor Bill DeBlasio of NYC named October 26, 2019, “Rev. LaKeesha Walrond Day” in the city of New York.
Dr. Walrond answered her call to the ministry in December of 1995 and has fully embraced the
calling that God has placed on her life. She began her journey in ministry serving as an Associate
Minister at Zion Temple United Church of Christ in North Carolina for six years. She served as the Executive Pastor and Chief of Staff of First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, NY for thirteen years. As Chief of Staff, she used educational and organizational strategies to maximize FCBC’s capacity and influence in the community and abroad. As Executive Pastor, she implemented strategies to create a culture of learning which evolved into a community of learners.
In an effort to authentically reach the hearts of women, Dr. Walrond launched the Getting to
Greatness Women’s Conference (G2G) in 2013. G2G holds conferences, retreats, workshops, and panel discussions promoting women’s empowerment, leadership development, spiritual, mental and psychological wellness. Reaching thousands of women nationwide, the G2G conferences have been held in New York, Florida, South Carolina, Canada, the Bahamas, Arizona and Washington, DC. She is the author of two books. My Body is Special (2017) is the first of her six-part “Let’s Talk About It” (LTAI) children’s book series. Written to help end sexual violence against children, this book provides parents, children, and child advocates with problem solving tools to prevent unhealthy touching. Her first e-book, Stronger Than Your Worst Pain: A Spiritual Guide to Activating Your Inner Power (2018), empowers women to recognize their passion, power and potential to overcome life’s most difficult challenges.
Dr. Walrond is happily married to The Reverend Michael A. Walrond Jr. and they
Professor of Theology and Religious Studies | Villanova University
"Naomi Washington-Leapheart, a daughter of Detroit, is an adjunct faculty member in the Theology and Religious Studies department at Villanova University.
Most recently, Naomi was the Faith Outreach Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Prior to working at the Task Force, she was the suburban community organizer for POWER, a multi-faith, multi-racial network of congregations in Metro Philadelphia. She also served as Co-Pastor and Minister of Music at the Wisdom's Table at St. Peter's United Church of Christ. She is affiliated with the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and the United Church of Christ, and earned the Master of Divinity degree from Lancaster Theological Seminary in 2016.
Naomi delights in singing with the Philly Threshold Choir, a group whose mission is to bring audible comfort and kindness to people in hospice care. She is a board member of Roots of Justice, a collective of anti-racism trainers and organizers. In 2016, Naomi was invited to serve as a member of the Faith and Spiritual Affairs Advisory Board of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Disability Services, and in 2017, she was appointed by Mayor John Kenney to the Philadelphia Commission on LGBT Affairs.
Naomi's work is included in the volume,""From Generation to Generation: A Commemorative Collection of African American Millennial Sermons from the Festival of Preachers 2010-2015, a rare and unique compilation of what the nation's most promising young African-American ministers are thinking and proclaiming about the Christian faith (Chalice Press, 2015).
Naomi shares her life with her wife, Kentina, a chaplain and religious educator. Together, they are raising a curious, energetic, future Oscar-winning 5th grader, Sophia."
Writer. Clergy. Independent Scholar. Memorist. Educator. Creator. Tinkerer.
"Reverend Dr. Renita J. Weems is a biblical scholar, a minister, and an author whose scholarly insights into
modern faith, biblical texts, and the role of spirituality in everyday lives has made her a highly sought-after writer
and speaker for more than four decades. She has numerous books, commentaries and articles on the Bible and
prophetic religion to her credit. Among these are “Just A Sister Away” and her award winning, “Listening for God:
A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt” (Simon & Schuster), which won the Religious Communicators'
Council's prestigious Wilbur Award for “excellence in communicating spiritual values to the
After earning her M.Div. from Princeton Seminary in 1983 and a year later being ordained an elder in the African
Methodist Episcopal Church, she earned a Ph.D. degree at Princeton Seminary in 1989 making her the first
African American woman to earn a doctorate in Old Testament Studies. Her distinguished career as professor,
administrator, clergywoman, and author continues to offer encouragement and empowerment to women and
men of all backgrounds, but especially to women of color.
Dr. Weems’s dissertation was a trailblazing effort. Writing in an era when women doctoral students hesitated to
take on “women’s issue” topics, and when most male faculty still felt uncertain, if not uncomfortable, advising
such topics, Dr. Weems chose to study marriage imagery in the Hebrew prophets. Her work offered careful,
challenging, and often painful insights into use of this metaphor; moving beyond traditional scholarship, which
had all too easily looked only at the “love” side of the marriage metaphor. Weems was among the first to point
to the violence associated with this biblical imagery, violence acceptable within the prophets’ cultural
assumptions about marriage and all too often considered acceptable even in twentieth-century America. Her
1995 volume Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets brought this important work
to a wide audience, with powerful hermeneutical reflection on implications for contemporary understandings of
God and of marriage. Just A Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women’s Relationships in the Bible, published
in 1989 along with a host of other articles and books highlighting the ways black women read the bible has
sealed her legacy as trailblazer in the field of womanist biblical scholar.
Dr. Weems taught in the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University from 1987-2004. She has served as the William
and Camille Cosby Visiting Professor of Humanities at Spelman College, and Vice President of Academic Affairs
at American Baptist College in Nashville. In 2008, Dr. Weems became the first African American woman to
deliver the Yale University Lyman Beecher Lecture.
These days Dr. Weems is enjoying semi-retirement. Even though semi-retirement often doesn’t feel semi nor, to
any degree, like a retirement when one considers that her time is divided between assisting her husband, Rev.
Martin Espinosa, in ministry at the Ray of Hope Community Church in Nashville, and juggling various writing
projects, such as a memoir, a commentary, blogging for online publications, writing bible study lessons for
James W. Pearsall Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies | Drew University Theological School
Rev. Dr. Traci C. West is the James W. Pearsall Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University Theological School (NJ). Her teaching, research, and activism have focused on gender, racial, and sexuality justice, particularly related to gender violence. Her major publications include Solidarity and Defiant Spirituality: Africana Lessons on Religion, Racism, and Ending Gender Violence (2019), Disruptive Christian Ethics: When Racism and Women's Lives Matter (2006), and Wounds of the Spirit: Black Women, Violence, and Resistance Ethics (1999), and editor, Our Family Values: Same-sex Marriage and Religion (2006).