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Notes from the Quad

Townes and AttridgeOn three days at the beginning of April, scholars mingled on the Yale campus with musicians, artists, pastors, poets and students to discuss the contours of contemporary black religion—half a millennia after slaves from Africa began arriving in the New World.  Some 300 persons took part in the gathering, an interdisciplinary conference entitled the Middle Passage Conversations on Black Religion in the African Diaspora.  The result was a dramatic outpouring of discussion on a number of controversial subjects, intertwined with the sharing of personal stories, many very poignant.  >Go to story



Throughout the three-day Middle Passage Conversations conference, panelists were asked to come to the various discussions without any notes in hand. The result was often a spontaneous, lively interplay between the panelists themselves and the audience.

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On the second day of the Middle Passage Conversations conference, at the African American Alumni Reunion Dinner, Yale Divinity School announced the completion of funding for five endowed scholarships honoring the African American heritage at YDS.  In announcing the infusion of some $186,000 to complete funding of the scholarships, Dean Attridge said the action was in keeping with a commitment he made five years ago to press ahead with YDS diversity efforts.  >Go to story


The question was pretty straightforward: “What are the effective strategies for eradicating the misogyny, heterosexism, and homophobia in Black communities in the African diaspora?” But the responses to the question put to panelists for “conversation number five” of the Middle Passage Conversations conference were every bit as straightforward.  It was a time of truth-telling, straight talk and self-examination for the Black church community.  >Go to story



The April 5 performance of Living Water, a play written and directed by Meredith Coleman-Tobias ’09 M.Div., concluded the Middle Passage Conversations conference.  The play tells the story of a young black woman’s journey home after the hospitalization of her father and the family’s battle with his HIV.  In the process, the young woman recovers the story of her family’s slave heritage, leading her to new heights of self-awareness.

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Meredith Coleman-Tobias ’09 M.Div., Anthony Reddie’s mother, who left Jamaica for England following the Second World War, kept a chest full of relics and personal treasures that she called her “life spare” chest.  It contained everything she hoped to remember about Jamaica and the family’s history there. This was just one of many stories delivered at a panel entitled “How does history and memory shape us as a diasporic people?” during the Middle Passage Conversations conference. >Go to story



Not just words, but art as well, is a critical component in elucidating Black religion in the African diaspora.  That became apparent during several highlighted events associated with the Middle Passage Conversations conference, including the opening plenary featuring painter, writer, speaker, sculptor, and performance artist Faith Ringgold and the ongoing exhibit in the Institute of Sacred Music gallery, Visual Exegesis: Religious Images by African American Artists from the Jean and Robert E. Steele Art Collection.  >Go to story


A panel on music and the “sounds of freedom” that fuel a musician’s work was the concluding session at the Middle Passage Conversations conference.  Panelists included a variety of theorists and practitioners—a jazz flutist, a saxophonist, an ethnomusicologist, a singer, a writer of hymns, and a musician-composer-arranger. Among the inspirations cited:  “unintelligible sounds of human voice” and “the sounds of nature.”  >Go to story



To remember Martin Luther King as a “chocolate saint” is to do a disservice to his role as prophetic leader and the fierce totality of his anti-poverty message.  But pure imitation of King and his powerful message falls short of the larger task of building on his voice and commitment with individual integrity and authenticity of self.  And to have authentic dialogue there must be acknowledgement of the common humanity among all parties.  These were some of the themes that resonated during two of the panel presentations at the Middle Passage Conversations conference. >Go to story



Rahiel Tesfamariam ’09 M.Div. composed a poem entitled Our Sacred Space on the occasion of the Middle Passage Conversations conference that was read at the end of the last panel session.  The poem begins, “Honor the sacred space/Embrace this silent place/Loose our souls and cry out to the heaves in this place.”  >Read the entire poem



The registration deadline for Summer Term 2008 (June 2-6, 9-13, 16-20) at Sterling Divinity Quadrangle has been extended to May 26.  Summer Term offers a series of short courses in subject areas ranging from history and biblical scholarship, to hymnody and liturgical music, to topics in pastoral care. Among the new courses this year is a special two-day workshop on engaging churches in prophetic, faith-filled public witness.  Summer Term is a joint program of Yale Divinity School, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.  >Go to web site


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Notes from the Quad, Middle Passages Edition, May 2008

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