Dismayed by the current dearth of Black scholarship present within HDS, Harambee: Students of African Descent decided to organize a Black religions conference at HDS—the first in the school's 200 years of existence. Harambee: Students of African Descent was established in 1978 as an affinity group for Black students at Harvard Divinity to build intentional community and celebrate Black cultural and historical matters.
The Black Religion, Spirituality and Culture Conference is the result of a passionate vision of students of African descent. In the Spring of 2016, a group of Black students met with Dean David Hempton to share their experiences at HDS, their commitment to their communities and vocations, and their desire to strengthen already existing efforts, and work towards a more robust and diverse curriculum and representation of Black religious scholars within the faculty. Following this dinner, students began to envision a conference that highlighted Black religious scholarship and practice, especially given that this exposure was not currently present within HDS. Thus, the Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference was born.
Our conference seeks to advance the exploration of Black religion, spirituality, and culture across the Diaspora. We look to interdisciplinary scholarship and engagement for training in ethical leadership to address the world's most pressing issues.
Specifically, the Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference aims to
(1) ask and explore questions of religion, spirituality, and culture from a Black perspective;
(2) provide a gathering space for Black scholars, students, faith and civic leaders;
(3) nurture interdisciplinary dialogue and collaborative scholarship;
(4) explore linkages between scholarship and activism as transformative sites.
Watch the video below with President of Harambee, Kayla J. Smith and fellow Harvard Divinity Scholars discussing the origins of the Black Religion, Spirituality & Culture Conference.