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The FIRST Annual Conference

Theme: Black Religion, Spirituality & Culture

The first ever Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference was held on November 4th, 2016. The conference was a result of the passionate vision of several students of African descent, endeavoring to find new ways to increase the representation of scholarship present at HDS. It was spearheaded by chair of the Conference Planning Committee Taylor Stewart. The day began with a spirited morning keynote address delivered in an overfull Andover Chapel where soon academic scholars, faith leaders, and social justices and non-profit leaders from around the country to campus would engage in dialogue in four panels.

It was reported that, "The evening ended with a seated dinner in the Braun Room, full of rich soul food, jazz music, and buzzing conversation. Every seat was filled. After receiving a powerful keynote address, we awarded our first Harambee Sankofa Award to Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton. We left the inaugural Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference feeling motivated, rejuvenated, lifted, encouraged, and challenged. The richness of wisdom and intellectual acumen exhibited by the scholars, activists, and religious leaders who presented throughout the day’s entirety was truly inspirational.”

Sankofa Awardee: Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton

Panel Overview



This panel addressed the meaning of “Black religion,” and the ways in which religious inquiry and spiritual life are transformed when wedded to Black worldviews and lived-realities, and how being a religious scholar and/or practitioner of African descent affect one’s work and vocation.


This panel examined the various ways ethical thought and practice are enriched, changed, and constrained through dialogue with Black religious traditions, and how the arts and aesthetics of Black communities define, reflect, and challenge prevailing notions of what constitutes Black religious life and Black culture.


This panel looked at the ways in which Black religions, spirituality, and cultural practices relate with embodying and making justice in the world, and the unique contributions of Black life and struggles to the transformation of social relationships and structures for a better humanity.


Addressed the various forms of Black spirituality, such as how the social forces of racism and colonization inform Black spirituality and how Black spirituality addresses these forces. Following these panels, there was a dialogue on the current role of Black Christian church within politics, community, social justice activism, and socio-cultural transformation within the U.S. and globally.

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