Religion, Race, and Culture Seminar Series: Religion, Race, and Justice

Religion, Race, and Culture Seminar Series: Religion, Race, and Justice

On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice partnered with Butler University’s Center for Faith and Vocation to bring the fourth and final installment in the Seminar on Religion and World Civilization Series. The seminar was held at 7:00 PM at the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University. The keynote speaker, Reverend Dr. David A. Hampton, is Senior Pastor at Light of the World Christian Church, Deputy Mayor of Community Engagement for the city Indianapolis, and a Presidential Call to Service Award winner (which was recognized by President Barack Obama). The respondents included Dr. Terri Jett, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity at Butler University; and Reverend Anastassia Zinke, Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis. Dr. Brent Hege, Religion Professor at Butler University and Director of the series, served as the event moderator for the program.

DAP_1298Dr. Hampton began his discussion with the question, “Who am I?” He went on to answer it with some characteristics, among them being a product of a single-parent mother. Then he responded from the lens of an African American man, to see himself in all African-American men, “I, too, am Trayvon Martin; I, too, am Eric Garner; I, too, am Tamir Rice.”

Dr. Hampton built his discussion around the call to social justice, passion, and heart for all human rights. He said, “Just because something isn’t happening in our neighborhood or community, does not mean we are not affected by it.” He shared a quote from Matthew Robinson, that social justice exists when all people share a common humanity, are given a right to equitable treatment, have support for human rights, and share a fair allocation of community resources. Dr. Hampton reminded the audience to recall that Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and many other prominent religious leaders all stood up for what was right and just.

Another subject upon which Dr. Hampton elaborated was the critical state of the education system. He quoted it as being “perhaps the most critical civil rights issue of the 21st century.” Much of the failure of the system today comes from what he called the “school to prison pipeline.” He challenged the audience to ask “Are we educating our kids? Or are we preparing them for the prison population?”

In trying to get to the root of national injustice problems, Dr. Hampton talked about the misconception of privilege. He stated, “Flint, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri should never have happened; both cities have a predominantly black population, yet the offices are held by predominantly white leaders.” He challenged us to imagine how these narratives would be if we interchanged the races.

Dr. Hampton also expressed the importance of challenging sexism, male privilege, the immigration issue, and the injustice of ecological abuse and gentrification. “We must develop without displacement,” he said.  In closing, Dr. Hampton stressed his love for European history, but asked that the teaching of history not exclude the black kings and queens of Egypt. He further stressed that we see the historical figures of Black History month not just as contributors, but as innovators and inventors. Dr. Hampton believes that it is our responsibility to engage when we see social injustice and to challenged our own faith perspectives; he reminded the audience: “We are more united by humanity than divided by our theology.”

Following  Dr. Hampton’s provocative presentation, Dr. Terri Jett and Reverend Anastassia Zinke DAP_1311reverberated Dr. Hampton’s calls for acknowledging social injustices. Specifically, Dr. Jett pointed out that “hope focuses on making us refuse present inequities,” and that in order to liberate each other “you must free your own mind first.” Dr. Jett also touched upon the #blacklivesmatter movement and reminded the audience to “love black” and “live black.” Next, she presented a list of the most violent intersections in Indianapolis, and posed a series of questions as to why violence may be higher in those areas. She asked, how many liquor stores, grocery stores, schools, and churches in those areas? How many streetlights, gas stations, or quality parks? She closed by provoking the audience to find  answers to these questions as they provide a deeper understanding of structural factors that influence violence and inequality.

DAP_1353Reverend Zinke took to the power of storytelling to help build a deeper sense of knowing and as a tool for trust and understanding. She acknowledged that some powers will resist justice making, and mentioned that in order to do this kind of work it, “requires the development of moral courage.” She closed with a powerful message to the audience: “If we can offer our love to one another, we can build a community in which we all belong.”

Following the three speakers, Dr. Hege invited the audience to continue the conversation and welcomed any questions. Many of the questions and responses in the audience came from a deeper curiosity on how we can contribute to education, and how we can participate and positively interact with the community around us. In response to a student’s question on what an upper-class, white, suburban student can do to understand the complex issues in Indianapolis, the three speakers underlined the importance of immersing yourself in experiences with which you are not familiar, and participating in global activities. Dr. Hampton simply said, “be intentional.” In response to a question about the miseducation of students, Dr. Hampton shared the root of the problem starts much earlier than the teachers and school, it starts at home; he mentions that parents are first and foremost teachers. Towards the end of the discussion, all three speakers invited the audience to get involved in the community and start by joining something that already has momentum.

Desmond Tutu Center Managing Director, Waseema Ali, concluded the program with some closing remarks. She thanked the audience for showing care for our community by showing up to have the conversation. She spoke to the enjoyment of creating these series as a means to drive  us to a more peaceful future. She concluded with a favorite quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good wherever you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Full video can be viewed here.

Written by Anna Krukover

Sponsored by Butler University’s Center for Faith and Vocation and The Desmond Tutu Center.

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