The Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative Summer institute


NASHVILLE, Tennessee – “Reclaiming Our Time: Public Theology, Racial Justice and the Fight for Democracy” is the theme for the inaugural Summer Institute presented by the Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative June 4-8. The opening plenary session, June 4th at 1:00, pm features Congressman Jim Cooper for the keynote address. The closing plenary session, June 8th at 1:15 pm, features Judge Wendell L. Griffen, Circuit Judge for the 5th Division in the Sixth Judicial District of Arkansas for the keynote address. Both plenaries will be held at Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema and are free and open to the public.

Registered participants can attend one of two teaching tracks daily: Social Trauma, Social Death or The Power of Truth-Telling: Stories and Practices from the Frontlines.

On June 5th, in honor of the 25th anniversary of Emilie M. Townes’ seminal publication, Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope, the Institute will feature a book talk at Sarratt Cinema with the author and two of her colleagues, Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman, Assistant Professor, Yale Divinity School and Dr. Jennifer S. Leath, Assistant Professor, Iliff School of Theology, former students of the Dean. Townes is Dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. On June 6th, “An Evening with Melissa Harris-Perry” at Langford Auditorium spotlights the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center, Editor-at-Large, and author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. The prominent journalist, scholar and activist will be in a conversation with Tracey Meares, the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale Law School. On June 7th, in Collaboration with Public Square Media, Inc., the Institute will show the documentary film Rikers: An American Jail at Sarratt Cinema followed by a panel discussion of former Rikers inmates, moderated by Janet Wolf of the Children’s Defense Fund. Public Square Media, Inc. will host dinner for this discussion. All three evening events will begin at 5:45 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

“America is in a kairos moment,” said Teresa Smallwood, associate director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative. “It is a time of immense reflection, equipping and mobilization. The Summer Institute is designed to be the gathering place for those who discern the time. We are calling all scholars, students, clergy, community activists, community organizers, politicians, concerned citizens, artists and strategists to Nashville for the convening of the first cohort of what we envision to be a think tank of leaders invested in the soul of our democracy.”

Smallwood explained that public theology is the lens through which participants will explore current issues with scholastic vigor, intense debate, sound reasoning and measured, thoughtful engagement. “The Summer Institute is designed as an immersion experience where you will experience the life of the University, its unique landscape, its technology, and its multiple venues for learning while sharing best practices from a wide variety of racial justice proponents. Our aim this year is to equip participants to engage a wide public on the issues presented to racial minorities in the midterm elections.”