In her seminal work, Katie’s Canon, Dr. Cannon wrote “Black women are the most vulnerable and the most exploited members of the American society. The structure of the capitalist political economy in which Black people are commodities, combined with patriarchal contempt for women, has caused the Black woman to experience oppression that knows no ethical or physical bounds.”
Cannon’s clear-eyed and uncompromising position on the status of Black women sets the tone for the work of the Center for Womanist Leadership. In 2019, Union Presbyterian Seminary Trustees named the Center in memory of Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon.
In its mission statement, the Center is described as “committed to convening Black women around common issues for wisdom sharing, networking, problem solving, and mobilization, and to giving Black women thinkers, activists and artists opportunities to expand existing efforts and connect them for sustainable collaboration.”
The Center is organized around three core values:
- It is rooted in sisterhood, recognizing that the experience of Black womanhood is an isolating experience of overwhelming responsibility and persistent oppression.
- It is unapologetically committed to the wholeness, liberation, justice, and self-sustainability of Black and marginalized communities.
- It is in tune with the Spirit and the Folk, not isolated in academia, but anchored and grounded in the priorities and desires of those it serves and in the work of the Spirit that inspires these women.
In July 2019, Rev. Melanie C. Jones joined the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership as its newest director and next visionary leader. Jones maintains, “Building on an enduring legacy of womanism in theological education with Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon as its leading trailblazer and foremother, The Future is Womanist. The compounding moral assaults facing Black women and marginalized populations in a contemporary world require a wisdom-bearing platform that cultivates freedom and flourishing and a justice-seeking program that enlivens the liberating reign of God in word and deed. This is the future of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, the premier center for womanist theory and practice in the nation.”
Union Presbyterian Seminary President Blount affirmed the prophetic leadership of Rev. Jones. Blount asserts, “In her teaching, scholarship and direction of the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership, she brings sharp theological insight and an engaging ethical perspective. She will be a great resource for our seminary as we strive to be a witness to and for the Church and the world.”
In 2019/2020, the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership is broadening awareness of its purpose and identifying individuals and institutions that can support its work financially.
In her own words, Katie Geneva Cannon captured the spirit of the Center. She wrote:
“What we need to be free is right here in this religion. It just hasn’t been unleashed, and that’s our job.”