Womanist Conference Addresses Emancipation Proclamation’s Unfinished Agenda

In 1963, a hundred years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, artist and activist Dr. Margaret Taylor Burroughs penned the poem, What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black? Burroughs’ piece reflected the struggle of the Civil Rights movement – of a people who had been freed on paper but were still enduring segregation in many southern states and discrimination nationwide. In 2013, 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation’s signing, while discrimination continues towards African-Americans, its agenda remains unfinished.

The free conference event, Emancipation’s Unfinished Agenda: What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?, will take place on April 11 and 12 at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church. Keynote speaker Dr. Mercy Amba Ewudziwa Oduyoye, the former deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (1987-1994) and initiator of the Circle of African Women Theologians, is considered to be the premier theologian on African Women’s theology, missiology and culture. The preacher for the community-wide reception, book signing, and opening service on Thursday evening is the Rev. Dr. Suzan “Sujay” Johnson Cook, founder and CEO of Woman’s Wisdom Worldwide. Rev. Dr. Sujay is known as the “pastor of Wall Street.” Oduyoye and Johnson, along with Drs. Emilie M. Townes, Kelly Brown Douglas, Rosetta E. Ross, Gay Byron, Eboni Marshall-Turman, and the Reverend Michelle Watkins-Branch, will address effective ways to demystify prevailing socio-cultural amnesia in relations to the emancipation of all peoples, including religious freedom, human rights, and liberation from subjugation.

The event is the second installment from the Squaring the Womanist Circle project – the launching pad for the Institute of Womanist Studies at Union Presbyterian. Project directors are Katie Geneva Cannon, professor of Christian ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary; Angela D. Sims, assistant professor of ethics and Black church studies at Saint Paul School of Theology (Kansas City, MO); and Erica E. Kierulf, Ph.D. candidate at Union Presbyterian Seminary. The inaugural event, Prophetically Moving Toward Womanist Possibilities, took place in November 2012, at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union with Cannon as the keynote speaker and workshop facilitator.

Over a period of three years, Squaring the Womanist Circle will provide women an opportunity to gather and give voice to women working for justice from a religious framework and will send an important and timely signal to the broader community that women of faith are committed to discerning new ways to focus on the well-being of women and girls of African descent in a mutli-religious world. Squaring the Womanist Circle will bring together activists who are academics, religious practitioners, healthcare providers, artists, researchers, policymakers, and students from a variety of disciplines. They will share life lessons learned from embodied mediated knowledge, so that the generations coming after them can, as Burroughs expressed in 1963, “…survive for the good of all humanity…”

The initiative has been awarded a three-year $150,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.