COMMUNITY PROJECT TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK AND AFRICANA RELIGIONS
In 2020, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor cast international attention on police violence against Black people. Simultaneously, news coverage of discriminatory 911 calls highlighted the type of racial profiling that leads to the criminalization of Black people napping in a college dorm, birdwatching in Central Park, and otherwise simply existing. It may not seem, at first glance, that discrimination against Africana religions is directly related to contemporary anti-Black prejudice and violence. But our project takes a different point of view.
This project’s main goals are to show how Africana religions, especially African ancestral (sometimes called African traditional) religions and African American Islam, must be at the center of any analysis of anti-Black racism; that anti-Black racism cannot be reduced or eliminated if Africana religious practitioners are ignored; and that Africana religious practitioners themselves offer the necessary approaches to prevent anti-Black racism.
By working with and for our community partners, we hope to gain a better understanding of the types of discrimination that devotees of Africana religions and Black Muslims experience in the 21st century and to develop solutions to help combat that discrimination. To that end, our project participants (who were selected from a robust pool of international applicants) will be hosting conversations and events in fall 2022 to document, analyze, and develop solutions to the discrimination and violence that they and their communities face as practitioners of Africana religions. In 2023, the project leaders and participants will meet for a four-day workshop to discuss their findings and identify how they might work together to reduce violence against Africana religious practitioners and communities. During the workshop, the participants will develop several short-term goals to help combat discrimination against Africana religions. After the workshop, the group will organize into consortiums to implement those goals.
At this stage, the workshop participants include people from Camdomblé, Lukumi, Hoodoo, Vodou, Islam, Palo Monte, Ifá, Orisha, Ogboni, and Egbe. The project, which has been funded by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation, will give us the opportunity to work together for solidarity across the lines of religion, language, nation, class, and other forms of difference. The following individuals are the project leaders and participants who wished to be publicly identified.
THE PROJECT LEADERS
Danielle N. Boaz
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina (USA)
Area of interest: Religious Freedom in the African Diaspora, Religious Racism, Animal Sacrifice, Arson of Places of Worship
Bio: Danielle N. Boaz is an Associate Professor in the Africana Studies Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she offers courses on human rights, social justice, and the law. She has a Ph.D. in history, a J.D. with a concentration in International Law, and a LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Africana Religions. Dr. Boaz is also a licensed attorney in the State of Florida and the State of North Carolina.
Youssef J. Carter
Location: Durham, North Carolina (USA)
Area of interest: Islam the African Diaspora, Sufism, Race and Religion
Bio: Dr. Youssef Carter is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Kenan Rifai Fellow in Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research focuses on Black religious empowerment amongst Muslims in the American South and in Senegal.
Edward E. Curtis IV
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana (USA)
Area of interest: Islam in the African Diaspora, African American religious history
Bio: Edward E. Curtis IV is the William M. and Gail M. Plater Chair of the Liberal Arts and religion professor at Indiana University, Indianapolis. The author or editor of more than a dozen books about Black, Muslim, and Arab American history and life, Dr. Curtis co-founded the Journal of Africana Religions.
OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS
Religious Affiliation: Muslim
Location: New York City, New York (USA)
Area of interest: I’m interested in learning more about racial and religious discrimination in K-12 school spaces for the purpose of sharing opportunities for educators to better protect students and nurture cultural and religious pluralism
Bio: As Chief Innovation Officer of Highlander Institute, Malika is responsible for the Institute’s approaches to equitable school and district transformation as well as program implementation across state, district, and school systems. Through culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy, community-driven approaches to change management, and liberatory data practices, Malika and her team work to ensure that all children have access to, and can take advantage of, an empowering education. Through this project, Malika is interested in better understanding how Black Muslim students in K-12 spaces experience religious discrimination in schools for the purpose of developing guidance for educators and administrators to better support equitable teaching practices.
Religious Affiliation: Hoodoo practitioner with an AME Zion foundation and African American Ancestor Devotee
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Area of interest: Intra-ATR (African Traditional Religion) discrimination against Hoodoo; Generational discrimination against ATR reclamation practices
Bio: Growing up in a spiritually conservative Northeastern North Carolinian AME Zion family, Emanuel Basnight was aware of the gaps Christianity left in conversations about Black American spiritual identity from an early age. It wasn’t until the death of his mother in 2012 that Emanuel acknowledged his ancestral spirits, divination, spirits of nature, prophetic dreams, and other activities that led him to Hoodoo. As a 20-year marketing strategy professional, Emanuel combined his love for business, education, branding and spirituality into the creation of Brands by Basnight (2018), a handmade herbal skincare company and Bless the Roads (2021), a spiritual goods company devoted to Black spirituality.
Gustavo Melo Cerqueira
Religious Title: Babalorixá, Ilê Axé Omi Ogun siwajú
Location: São Félix, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: Territories of black traditional communities; antiblackness; the intersection between performance and politics.
Bio: Babalorixá of Ilê Axé Omi Ogun siwajú, Gustavo is also an actor, director, and playwright. Graduated in Law from the Federal University of Bahia, Master of Arts and PhD in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas (Austin, United States), he is the author of articles published in the areas of theater, performance, and studies of religion in national and international journals. Currently, Gustavo is working in partnership with national and international organizations to combat religious racism.
Aline J. Cruz
Religious Affiliation: Candomblé
Location: Salvador, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: The political articulation among terreiro communities to face religious racism
Bio: Master's student in the Multidisciplinary Postgraduate Program in Ethnic and African Studies at the Federal University of Bahia (POS-AFRO / UFBA).
Member of the Research Group ÍTAN – Poetics of the image: Other spellings, Insurgent narratives. Activist in the Makota Valdina National Front and candomblecist at the Caboclo Tupiniquim Center.
Dr. Charlene Desir
Religious Title: Manbo Vin Pou We in the Vodou Tradition - Member of Sosyete Nago - Jacmel, Haiti
Location: South Florida (USA) and Jacmel (Haiti)
Area of interest: Bias in education - I run summer youth programs grounded in Vodou epistemology to bridge this gap
Bio: I am a research professor in South Florida and a Manbo (Priestess) initiated in Sosyete Nago in Haiti. As a Haitian school psychologist, my work is focused on the cognitive, psychological, and spiritual liberation of people of African descent. I teach graduate students in education and facilitate psycho-social cultural literacy enrichment programs for youth of African descent.
Ana Emilia Martins Gualberto
Religious Title: Iya Ana D' Osun, Egbom Ilê Axé Ofá Omi Layo
Location: Salvador, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: I am interested in all aspects related to the maintenance of religiosity of African origin. I try to read and focus on several themes, but especially on the maintenance of territories, attacks on defenders, intensification of violence and attacks on temples, and the applicability of already established public policies.
Bio: Historian (UERJ) and Master in Culture and Society (UFBA). I focus on historical research and consulting with an emphasis on the history of the black population, working mainly on the themes: racial ethnic identity, human rights, black populations, remaining quilombo communities, traditional black communities, religious intolerance and racism, black women and Afro-Brazilian culture.
Manbo Dr. Kahdeidra Monét Martin
Religious Title: Manbo Asogwe (Haitian Vodou)
Location: Palo Alto, California (USA)
Area of interest: discrimination against youth, educators, and families in schools; discursive violence in children’s books and media; linguistic racism against African diasporic religious literacies
Bio: Manbo Dr. Kahdeidra Monét Martin is currently a postdoctoral scholar of education at Stanford University. Through the lenses of critical race theory, intersectionality, and translanguaging, Dr. Martin examines raciolinguistics and the co-naturalization of language, race, and spirituality in the lives of African descendant people globally. She uses her lived experience, qualitative, and community participatory methods to examine linguistic variation, discourses of deviance, and the intersectional experiences of underrepresented groups in P-12 education research—namely Black youth in elite, independent schools and Black youth who are members of African diasporic religions.
Arleth Marinho dos Santos Monteiro
Religious Title: Egbome do Terreiro do Cobre/ Religious Leader of Omiró e do Obá
Location: Jussari, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: Representation of African-based religions in popular councils, prejudice in education and public spaces.
Bio: Egbomi of Terreiro do Cobre and religious leader of Omiró and Obá, Arleth Marinho dos Santos Monteiro has a degree in pedagogy (FAEM - Ibicaraí-BA) and a postgraduate degree in Educational Planning (UNIVERSO- RJ). She is a songwriter, singer, and poet.
Dr. Nisa Muhammad
Location: Howard University (USA)
Area of interest: Black Muslim students at HBCUs and PWIs, How African American Muslims Understand the Qur’an, Muslim Christian Relations, Islam and Black History, Islamic Chaplaincy, Islam and Women, and the History of Black Muslim Fashion Designers.
Bio: Dr. Nisa Muhammad is the Assistant Dean for Religious Life at Howard University. She is responsible for religious programming that serves the various needs of the campus, advocates for the religious needs of a diverse student population, teaches nonacademic personal enrichment classes on the Islamic tradition and works closely as part of the staff in the Office of the Dean of the Chapel where the guiding principles are Faith, Service and Justice. Her other responsibilities include organizing Muslim worship and devotion services, advising students, faculty, and staff. She also responds to a myriad of questions and challenges from race to religion to relationships. She is the advisor to the Juvenile Justice Advocates Organization, the Muslim Students Association, the Chess Club and the Nepalese Students Association. She also works closely with young Muslims striving to affirm their faith in the midst of challenging circumstances like being Black and Muslim, and how to become more religious in a world of temptations. Her door is open to all students who find their way to her chair with questions as well as concerns about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
Alashe Michael Oshoosi
Religious Title: Olorisha in the Yoruba Orisha-Ifa religion
Bio: My religious and popular name is Alashe Michael Oshoosi (Ph.D., J.D.) and I am a priest or “olorisha” in the Yoruba Orisha-Ifa religion (i.e., in the Afro-Cuban “Lucumi” variant of it). I entered this faith in 1983. And my “crown” or initiations are to the orishas Oshoosi and Oya. My website is called “Oshoosi.com” and my YouTube channel is entitled “Alashe Michael Oshoosi.” Based on my background (Ph.D. in clinical and social psychology from The Wright Institute, Berkeley, California, 1976, and a J.D. in law from the Boalt Hall School of Law, U.C. Berkeley, 1981), I work in the mental health field currently.
Dr. Kameelah Mu'Min Rashad
Religious Affiliation: Islam
Location: Chicago, IL (USA)
Area of interest: Black Muslim intersectional invisibility, Black Muslim psychology, Black Muslim emerging adults (identity formation)
Bio: Dr. Kameelah Mu'Min Rashad is the Founder and President of Muslim Wellness Foundation (MWF). Through MWF, Dr. Mu'Min Rashad has established the Omar ibn Said Institute for Black Muslim Studies & Research, the annual Black Muslim Psychology Conference and the Deeply Rooted Emerging Leaders Fellowship for Black Muslim young adults. Dr. Rashad is also an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Muslim Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary.
Religious Title: Ogan de Ewá e Ojuobá da Casa de Oxumarê - Ilê Oxumarê Axé Araká Ogodô
Location: Salvador, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: Violence against terreiro people, in a broad way, mainly in cases promoted by other religious denominations. Candomblé heritage.
Bio: Historian and instructor in the public education system in Bahia, Brazil. Writer, Master's degree in Management and Social Development from the School of Administration of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA). Researcher on intangible heritage of Candomblé.
Elisia Maria de Jesus Santos
Religious Title: Dangbesi do Humkpame Savalu Vodun Zo
Location: Salvador, Bahia (Brazil)
Area of interest: Human rights, education and health.
Bio: Sociologist, historian and Vodunssi.
George Raymond Turnage (Chief Mayegun Isese Agbaye, Gro Yatandé Novayon Andaïzol)
Religious Title: Am Pere Ayzan (Voodoo Ayzan)
Location: Gouldsboro and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)
Area of interest: Land Rights of Religious Temples, Animal Sacrifice, Discriminative Employment and Bias in Education
Bio: I am the President of the National African Religion Congress and The Head of the Spiritual House, LePeristyle Haitian Sanctuary.