Daily Archives: May 12, 2023

Black and Born Outside of the U.S. – Baylor Glenn


The blog I attended was called Black and Born Outside of the U.S., which included several USD speakers from Africa and the challenges and obstacles they faced when they first arrived in the U.S. The discussion contained many questions on how those students/teachers adapted to the social and political changes from Africa to the U.S. Some questions that were involved in the discussion were the cultural shocks, unexpected challenges before arriving, perception of racial identity in Africa versus the U.S., and in what ways the audience could support those that identify as Black who were born outside of the U.S. These themes and narratives of this program help understand how different the history and discrimination of African and African Americans went through, this is due to the country of origin, socioeconomic background, and personal circumstances and the different experiences that they both faced. 

One of the most significant issues African students/teachers faced was not being entirely accepted into the African American community, and moving to a different country, especially when cultural and social differences are very intimidating. Language was one of the issues that the African students faced because the vocabulary and use of words were much different between the African and African American communities. Even being the same skin color, there was a sense of isolation and physical differences between the African and African American. They were still seen as outsiders. According to author Ohimai Amaize, he says “For a very long time in the twentieth century, during Jim Crow years in particular, African-Americans were encouraged to shun the idea of a connection to Africa, to think poorly of Africa–to celebrate traits in themselves, which supposedly distanced themselves from Africa, in other words, to think of themselves as more cultured, more Christian, more White, more civilized than Africans and therefore to look at ‘Africanness’ as a matter of shame or a kind of taint that need to be avoided” (Amaize, 2021). This quote represents the harsh reality of how African Americans were sought to view Africans. However, they had little knowledge of how to judge Africans.

 In Africa, the students/teachers were more exploited by tribalism than racism. The perception of race was more common than ethnicity in America; when growing up in Africa, race was not something to consider. For example, living in Kenya was more about what tribe you came from rather than the color of your skin; however, African and African Americans, to some degree, had the same sense of tribalism, knowing what is most important and what to value in life. The black identity had to do a lot with the location you grew up in. Africans at first did not understand the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Africans had an uneducated belief that African Americans had much more resources and overall quality of life than Africans. African people had to undergo real-life problems such as tribal wars, food, water, shelter, etc. But when African people came to the United States, they understood the horrific history of racism and segregation that African Americans went through. They understood how discrimination affected every aspect of life, employment, education, and interactions with law enforcement. During the discussion, one of the African students included, “You’re the ones who sold us” meaning African Americans have that perception and assumption that African people were a big reason for bringing enslaved people to the United States. This created a boundary between African and African Americans because they didn’t believe that Africans had the same experiences toward slavery as much as African Americans did. These cultural differences and experiences between African and African Americans lead to misunderstanding and hesitation rather than embracing and understanding their differences and connecting from similar backgrounds.

Although there are many differences regarding historical background and ethnicity, Africans and Americans are more similar than different. African immigrants often experience discrimination in the United States. “Indeed, black Africans are at greater risk for indicators of discrimination such as skill devaluation, underemployment, and lower earnings despite high levels of human capital among this group” (Saasa p.198). An apparent similarity between African and African Americans is that they both have African heritage. While the experiences of slavery were different for African and African Americans, they both contain ancestral roots from Africa. African culture played a significant role in the influence of African American culture. From the beginning of slavery in the United States, African culture was crucial to slavery’s way of life. Dancing such as Ring Shout “Practiced in both the West Indies and North America, the ring shout combined West African – based music and dance traditions with the passionate Protestantism of the Second Great Awakening to create a powerful new ritual that offered emotional and physical release” (Freedom On My Mind p. 222). This quote explains the significant importance of cultural dancing and music because enslaved people could only find a few joys in the world. The Ring Shout was a substantial element in their culture. Another similarity between African and African Americans was family and community.

What Africans and African Americans care for and value most is their families. During the Black Power movement, all African Americans had was their community, it was them against the rest of the country. Staying close to family was vital for self-growth; families taught the values of preserving cultural traditions and the sense of core values of how to be a good person/citizen. These essential life lessons are necessary for people to make good choices and stay on the right path. One of the essential values of families and communities was the sense of belonging and the safeness and comfort of that feeling. Being a minority in a country is isolating and intimidating, but having a strong community/family can help overcome those fears and result in a more positive and happier life. It is imperative to understand that African Americans may have social and cultural differences in today’s world. Still, they will always have similarities no matter what, and to embrace the similarities, both African Americans and Africans need to understand the history of each other. By doing that, there will be a clearer mind on both sides. 

Although there are many differences between Africans and Americans, which may prevent the connection between the two, there are also many similarities. Coming from Africa to America is challenging because people of the same skin color see you as different and therefore don’t fully accept you. While that may seem complicated, undertaking their reasons for that and adapting to it is the only thing that can be done. Both African and African Americans need to understand that they are the minority race of the United States, and they should not divide themselves. Instead, they should embrace their cultural and social differences and come together. At the same time, their language and culture may be different today; in the past, dancing and music such as Ring Shout was part of the foundation of that culture. Family and community are vital elements in African and African American cultures; they need a solid community to self-grow and adapt to the cruelty and discrimination of the outside world. This issue with African and African American citizens in the United States is improving; dividing them is never the answer because isn’t that what they are trying to fight? It is crucial to understand the Black history for this situation because then both African and African Americans will have a much better understanding of each other, leading to embracement rather than separation. 


Works Cited: 

Sassa, K Saasa. “Discrimination, Coping and Social Exclusion Among African Immigrants in the United States: A Modern Analysis” Google Scholar, Oxford Academic Social Work 12 June, 2019 p. 198


Ohimai, Amaize. “The Social Distance between Africa and African-Americans” JSTOR DAILY

14 July, 2021. 



White Deborah Gray, Bay Mia, Martin Jr. E Waldo. “Freedom On My Mind” New York City, Bedford/ St. Martins, 2021


“Red Lip Theology” – Sam Jorgenson


Sam Jorgenson

Dr. Channon S. Miller


12 May 2023

Red Lip Theology Blog

On February 27th, 2023, I traveled to the Copley Library to hear author and theologian Candice Marie Benbow speak about her book, Red Lip Theology. In this collection of essays, Candice explores topics such as faith, identity, and authenticity. Her goal is to give black women who feel unsupported or isolated from the Church a voice by sharing her experiences growing up in the Black Church and how that has shaped the women she is today. She articulates her message using stories from her childhood, Black Church culture, and her journey beyond; to become a theologian. Her central statement is that the impact and influence of African American women in the Black Church have been underappreciated.

Candice was raised by her single mother with a strong emphasis on faith and femininity. She describes her mother’s situation, recalling that “as a single mother raising a Black girl during the height of the crack epidemic and the rise of gang violence, Mama believed the church would keep me safe” (Benbow, 2023). Her mother was a college professor, and she raised Candice with the same beliefs as herself. She always urged herself and Candice to push back against the norm of sexism that Black women experience throughout life, but especially in the Church. Her mother had very limited options, as many criticized her for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Her mother was forced to stand in front of the Church and apologize for being pregnant, but refused as she felt no shame or regret for her pregnancy. However, the father, who was in the choir, was not expected to apologize or acknowledge the situation. This shows the disparity that existed between Black men and women in the Church, which plays an extremely influential role in Candice’s life. She remembers how the church and her family would make bets that she would “go off to college, become ‘buck-wild,’ get pregnant, and be forced to drop out. It would be years before I could see the projection behind their doubts about me, but as a child, I didn’t understand how people could be so mean” (Benbow, 9). Candice and so many young black children are exposed to racism in many different forms and at a much younger age than many realize. In Candice’s mothers’ case, even in the Black Church. The same Black Church that was built because previous invisible churches, or secret institutions where black people could practice faith and Christianity freely, stood strong and preserved by black women. Even now, black women are still living in spaces where they are taught to be inferior because of slight differences in family structures. In the introduction to her book, Candice recalls how the Black Church was planning a ceremony called “Hoody Sunday” to commemorate the murder of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin. Three days before “Hoody Sunday,” Rekia Boyd was murdered in Chicago by an off-duty police officer. Candice was told there was no mention of Rekia because she was a woman, and the pastors were “leaving it up to their respective youth and women’s ministries to honor her…The omission of Rekia from any institutionalized movement reinforced Black churches’ refusal to see the conditions and experiences of Black girls and women as the same as those of Black boys and men” (Benbow, XXIII). This frustration that Candice felt has the same roots of so many African Americans who struggled to understand why they were living in a country that didn’t support them. Why should Black men be drafted to fight in Vietnam when the country they’re fighting for doesn’t support them back? Why have Black women put so much effort in faith and the Black Church when they don’t receive that same effort back? The Church was all many Black girls had; a place where no mask had to be worn, and no racism was experienced. Most importantly, Candice’s mother never scorched the fire in Candice to ask questions about faith, no matter what the question was. She often asked her mother, “Do we owe the churches to change and push themselves to be the best they can be? How do we acknowledge the wrongs the Church has committed?” (Candice, 2023). She’s seen how the Black Church has treated her mother but doesn’t yet understand why.

After her mother died, Candice’s world fell apart. The connection she shared with her mother was deep and had profound effects on multiple aspects of her life. She began to struggle in college and with the Church, as praying and attending mass brought her too much pain. Her idea of faith had been so intertwined with her mother that when she died, her vision of faith felt much too hollow and inauthentic. As a result, she took a year and a half break from the Church to focus on grief and self-love. She describes how her college refused to give her a leave of absence three times because the death of her mother and her encounter with sexual assault wasn’t a valid enough excuse. She felt embarrassed and angry, as she felt they wanted her “to be like her ancestors who watched their loved ones die, be killed, or be sold off, and had no choice but to keep working in the fields while they mourned” (Benbow 68). She uses this comparison of her experience to her ancestors forced into slavery to reinforce the idea that Black women are disproportionately discriminated against in multiple areas of life. Even throughout the study of African American History, most of the famous names we hear, and study are Black men, even though Black women have had just as important of an impact on the Black Freedom struggle and in the Black Church. Throughout history, black women have “understood that their race, class, and gender intersected and reinforced one another. They were poor not just because they were female or because they were black but because they were both female and black” (Freedom on My Mind Chapter 16). This “double battle” has largely prevented black female voices from being heard or remembered, which is a shame because those voices are how we study the past and how those events have led to the present. The history of African Americans have been used to justify the racism and mistreatment they have encountered since the beginning of slavery, so it’s extremely important that Black women are heard too in order to create an accurate representation of African American History.

In this time away from the Church, she attended weekly Buddhist talks that explored topics of self-love and acceptance. These meetings created a shift in Candice’s mindset where she began to strengthen her relationship with herself. She realized that “removing the expectations and labels of God restored the faith and strengthened the relationship…God can take many forms, even ones that the Church may not consider “normal” or acceptable” (Benbow, 2023). She describes that, at the very core, Red Lip Theology is rooted in truth. It’s dedicated to giving women who are deeply faithful, but also different from the “norm” a connection where they feel related to, accepted, and strengthened by Candice’s story. She shares that she hopes the book will encourage other women to refuse to stand down against the racist and sexist ideas and beliefs that can control the Church in order to cultivate a space where everyone is welcome. She’s working for a future in which black women play a much larger role in the Black Church and have more influence in the world to come.


Sources :

Benbow, Candice Marie (2023, February 27). Red Lip Theology With Candice Marie Benbow [Speech & Book Signing]. Copley Library, Mother Hill Reading Room, University of San Diego, California.

White, D.G., Bay, M., & Martin, W.E. (2021). Freedom on My Mind, Third Edition: A History of African Americans, with Documents (Third Edition). Bedford/St. Martins. Gilkes, Cheryl Townsend (2023, November 1), If It Wasn’t For Women: Black Women’s Experience And Womanist Culture In Church and Community. First Edition. Orbis Books.

“My Sisters Country” – Oliver Jenkins

About a year ago in April 2022, the Humanities Center at USD held an online presentation featuring Alexis V. Jackson and her poetry collection, My Sister’s Country. Along with Jackson, Dr. Channon Miller and Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffi joined for the discussion of her poetry collection. This presentation allowed the audience to examine the personal experiences of African-Americans, both past and present, that others outside of the African-American community could not understand. Jackson’s poetry collection not only includes her own profound work but also possesses Zuihitsus, a type of poetry that collages pieces of other’s work to create a poem in response to one’s own surroundings. Her pieces of Zuihitsu include fragmented pieces of the voices of other African-American women, creating a platform to elevate the voice of Black women to show their collective experience and not just hers.

Jackson’s presentation of her poetry work “My Sister’s Country” is significant to our understanding of African American history because her poems demonstrate the enduring impact of past experiences, revealing how they continue to reverberate in the present and shape the lived realities of Black individuals in America. In art and cultural movements, we see throughout history that poetry became a way to express the complexities of Black identity, explore racial pride, challenge stereotypes, preserve African culture, and critique social and political issues. Poetry provides an outlet for African-Americans to share their lived experiences, perspectives, and emotions in their own words. 

When tracing the origins of African-American poetry, we find its roots deeply intertwined with Africa’s ancient oral traditions that predate the era of slavery. This consisted of storytelling, proverbs, folklore, legends, and many other forms. These are “…kept alive by being passed on by word of the mouth from one generation to the next” (Hamlet, 74). Oral communication and the use of language have always been one of the dominating features of African culture. It is said that “The people’s cultural mores, values, histories and religions were transmitted from generation to generation by elderly individuals… who were known to be excellent storytellers” (Hamlet, 74).  However, when the slave trade began in the fifteenth century, African culture underwent significant transformations as enslaved individuals were forcibly separated from one another by slave traders. This restricted all forms of communication among enslaved people. While the purpose of this isolation was to suppress rebellions, its additional consequence stifled African and African-American voices, thereby preventing the passing down of traditional culture across generations. By incorporating elements of African storytelling into their poetry, both past and modern-day African-American poets maintain a connection to their ancestral traditions and convey the richness of African and African-American cultures. It provided an opportunity for African Americans to reclaim elements of their culture that had been appropriated or eroded by the dominant white society, while also preserving the remaining aspects of their heritage that could be passed down to future generations.

African-American poetry started to form rapidly during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that used art to express African-Americans politically and socially. While many forms of art emerged from this movement, poetry was one of the most pivotal components, especially with the importance of oral tradition within many African cultures. Most of the poetry during the Harlem Renaissance had the intention of reaching out to the white audience. By  seeking the attention of white audiences, poets aimed to challenge the prevailing stereotypes, prejudices, and marginalization that African-Americans faced in society. White readers were invited to empathize with these experiences, fostering a greater understanding and promoting dialogue and solidarity across racial lines. However, some viewed that poetry and other art should only be used for political advantage. For example, “Du Bois had insisted that ‘all Art is propaganda,’ by which he meant that art should deal with subjects that would advance the black freedom struggle” (White et al., p. 1173). Others thought that poetry should be directed at a more integrationist approach rather than separatist. Regardless, poetry emanating from both perspectives exerted a significant influence. Additionally, Fire!!, an African-American magazine dedicated to the cultural art movement, “…would embrace the lower classes and the gritty realities confronting blacks, not just genteel, middle-class concerns” (White et al., p. 1173). Poetry provided African-Americans with a powerful medium through which they could authentically express their raw, unfiltered, and often harrowing experiences.

One of the most notable poets of the Harlem Renaissance was Langston Hughes. Hughes played a crucial role in popularizing African-American poetry and making it accessible to a broader audience. His poems were published in mainstream magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, reaching readers beyond the confines of the Harlem Renaissance. By bringing African-American poetry into the mainstream, Hughes helped to challenge the notion that African-American literature was only of interest to a niche audience, paving the way for future generations of African-American poets to gain recognition and acclaim. It also defeated the stereotype that African-Americans were intelligently inferior. 

My Sister’s Country is a great modern-day example of how African-American poetry has developed over time to become a significant cultural influence in America. Poems from Jackson’s collection include both past and present-day components of African-American culture: lyrics from modern-day black singers, references to proverbs and religion, and references to how the slave trade and oppression against African-Americans have shaped the lives of the African-American community today. Her poems specifically depict a deep level of emotion that allows others to humanize African and African-American experiences. Unless you are African-American yourself, people can’t fully comprehend the severity of how the slave trade and racism affected African-Americans and their families, even to this day. Poetry serves as a channel for evoking and eliciting emotional responses from readers, endeavoring to communicate personal experiences with the intention of creating a rapport grounded in connection and understanding. My Sister’s Country also promotes intersectionality and makes mention of the stereotypes that African culture has also conducted, such as in the poem “My Sister’s Country” when Jackson mentions small details such as saying “Here, it is criminal for men to make breakfast” (Jackson, 23). African-Americans were once largely viewed as one-dimensional, but Jackson’s poetry illuminates the multifaceted nature inherent within the African-American experience. It highlights that African Americans do not have a singular or homogeneous experience but face a range of intersecting social, economic, and political factors that shape their lives. It recognizes the complexity of individual identities and experiences, debunking the notion that all African Americans share identical perspectives, struggles, or achievements. This helps eliminate stereotypes that all African-Americans are inherently the same and contributes to the elimination of stereotypes that preserve the idea of homogeneity of African-Americans,  recognizing the great amount of diversity within the community. In the poem “Therapy Session Number 19”, there are also mentions of the additional challenges of being an African-American woman such as “…trying to normalize the word vagina. And the habit of blaming systems over individuals” and “…only [drinking] coffee when dieting” and “I hate having a body” (Jackson, p.60). These are just very few of the multiple references she makes throughout her poetry collection of being not only the experiences of being African-American but a woman as well. African-American poetry is a great way to promote intersectionality not only for themselves, but for other minorities around the world too.

The narratives and themes of African-American poetry are significant as they provide authentic voices, humanize the African-American experience, challenge stereotypes, inspire resistance, and offer cultural and historical context. They contribute to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of African-American history by centering African-Americans’ perspectives, struggles, and triumphs. Jackson’s “My Sister’s Country” exemplifies the evolution of African-American poetry, incorporating elements of contemporary black culture, religious references, and reflections on the lasting impact of the slave trade and oppression. Ultimately, African-American poetry, as exemplified by Jackson’s work, serves as a channel for evoking emotional responses, bridging gaps of understanding, and challenging societal narratives. It allows African-Americans to share their lived experiences, perspectives, and emotions in their own words, reclaiming their voices and preserving cultural heritage. By engaging with African-American poetry, we gain valuable insights into African-Americans’ historical and contemporary struggles, triumphs, and complexities, contributing to a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of American history and culture.

Works Cited

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom On My Mind: A History of African Americans With Documents. Bedford/St. Martins Macmillan Learning, 2021.

Hamlet, Janice D. “Word! The African American Oral Tradition and Its Rhetorical Impact on American Popular Culture.” Black History Bulletin, vol. 74, no. 1, 2011, pp. 27–31. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24759732. Accessed 11 May 2023.

Jackson, Alexis V. My Sisters’ Country. Kore Press, 2022.

Blog Final – Abigail Desiatnikov

The program of my choosing is a USD Humanities Center series coined “Baked In: Systemic Racism Around and Within Us.” I specifically chose the episode on “Perspectives on Racism and Health,” which I did because I wanted to better understand the Black experience throughout the social sector of healthcare. This program goes into the trials and tribulations many that are a part of the Black community have had to face in the past and still have to face, concerning healthcare and the receiving of fair and right medical treatment. Whether it be to the extent of daily health needs, or to the institutional level, the Black community has had a far harsher experience when it comes to basic health support and needs compared to other groups living and residing in the U.S.

Mistreatment in the sphere of healthcare has been a present obstacle for the Black community since the beginning of America. Most recently, the 2020 pandemic showed just how prevalent systemic racism is in the American healthcare system and how the Black experience having to do with the fair receiving of healthcare is seriously compromised on a daily basis. Studies have shown that “the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the Black/African American population” (Okoro, Vosen, etc, 2022). The program lead speaker, Jullian Tullis, speaks to the disparities in health and the consequences of racism. She speaks to the recent uptake in disparities for the Black community with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and how this too became a part of the Black Lives Matter movement which effectively forced the Black community and allies to keep rallying and protesting through the pandemic. They persisted with the protests through the time of COVID-19 because they felt that their lives once again were being overlooked and undermined compared to other communities in America concerning the healthcare system during the 2020 pandemic. Due to the extent to which the Black community felt ignored and neglected throughout the pandemic, Tullis says that a number of politicians had sworn to take action against active systemic racism and to make that a top priority going forward. For example, on January 12th, 2021 the San Diego County Board of Supervisors had officially decided on categorizing racism as a public health crisis – the point to which systemic racism around and within us had gotten to was quite clear and critically disturbing. The reality of the situation was that individuals of the Black community – on top of having the anxiety of catching a potentially fatal disease – had to battle the persistent anxiety of being treated fair and right by the healthcare system if they contracted the disease, or even for prevention purposes. The Covid-19 pandemic is, in my opinion, one of the clearest forms of systemic racism being present throughout our society in America’s history. During a health crisis – a full on pandemic where you feared losing your life on a daily basis – people of the Black community felt less confidence and had less trust in institutional health spaces and organizations. “Pre-existing structural inequities are implicated in the mental health impact, as well as the under-utilization of and limited access to healthcare services in the Black/African American population” (Okoro,Vosen, etc, 2022). Speaker Kristopher Hall bridges the gap between psychological factors such as having chronically strong anxiety about the high possibility of being mistreated on any given day due to the color of one’s own skin, and how this can impact health in a dangerous way even before contracting a potentially fatal virus like that of COVID-19. This to me is blatantly a different experience than most other groups that occupy America. Moreover, the program speaks to how for certain communities having to do with everyday life needs, if there is disparity present to a certain extent, then health for that community would be impacted and compromised to a damaging extent. A dynamic connection is made between systemic racism present in the U.S. causing parts of the Black community to be majorly economically disadvantaged. Along with the reality of lacking resources to sustain even somewhat healthy survival, then there would most likely be a great deal of struggle for the most essential entity in life – which is health. The program gives the example of how struggles for the Black community in America concerning sectors of life such as high crime rates or low educational levels, can impact the way healthcare is given and taken by individuals of the Black community. A major reason why health is impacted living around high crime and/or low educational levels Speaker Dr. Martha Fuller says, is because “wealth” is usually seen to be associated with low crime rates and higher educational levels. Speaker Dr. Martha Fuller drives the point that social factors gravely impact the way one would receive healthcare, and further highlights the point that the long and on-going systemic racism present in America has set up the Black community for poor health outcomes on top of battling a fatal virus like that of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Looking further into the history of this subject, the mistreatment of the Black community having to do with healthcare dates far back and has come a long way. Still, significant advancements still need to be made when talking about systemic racism, the Black community and healthcare. Many carry trauma for what relatives and ancestors had to go through when it came to something as vulnerable as healthcare. The trauma for the Black community in America having to do with the healthcare system dates far back and can be viewed as disturbing and quite horrific. One example of a truly terrifying instance of grave mistreatment to the Black community – because American society permitted such heinous levels of racism at the time – was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study which was performed in Macon County, Alabama in 1932. This study aimed to understand syphilis more and conducted experiments on living bodies that contracted the disease and were left untreated. The participants were only Black males. It started off as just a study where Black men who were “desperately poor, uneducated male sharecroppers scattered throughout rural Macon County” were recruited to help in a medical study, and which many did because they never really received true medical treatment before and didn’t know any better (Freedom On My Mind, 2021). cheapest Montblanc penAt first the study was not supposed to be directed at better understanding syphilis and its fatality, but “the study took a turn in 1933 when a decision was made to follow the men until death because only an autopsy could determine the true effect of syphilis” (Freedom On My Mind, 2021). Though there are many other instances, this is a heavy example of just one instance of racism against the Black community concerning healthcare where generational trauma has carried on and caused severe distrust from the Black community towards the American healthcare system.

In conclusion, the program speaks to the point that awareness of systemic racism is good but meaningful action needs to be taken against it and most importantly in the realm of healthcare. Hall gives the example of how the healthcare system could utilize ways to combat the systemic racism that leaves individuals from the Black community feeling neglected and that it’s just a part of the norm for them to have to feel that way because that’s the society and reality that they live in. Hall strongly rejects this and gives an example of an individual who is a part of the Black community who needs to see a Black woman therapist. And how then that should be a readily available option for that individual. Additionally to this point, it’s important to note that due to income inequalities put forth by unattended systemic racism throughout the U.S. (which usually impacts the type of schooling you receive growing up as well as for higher education), the number of Black physicians isn’t  climbing at the same rate as the rate for the need of Black physicians. These types of social complexities make the Black community’s experiences with healthcare significantly difficult on a daily basis.



Work Cited


Okoro, O., Vosen, E. C., Allen, K., Kennedy, J., Roberts, R., & Aremu, T. (2022). ssssCovid-19 impact on mental health, healthcare access and social wellbeing – a black sssscommunity needs assessment. International Journal for Equity in Health, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-022-01743-z


White, D. G., Bay, M., & Martin, W. E. (2021). Freedom on my mind: A history of African Americans, with documents. Bedford/St. Martins.



Program Link




“Ghostly Ideals and the Hauntology of Race and Religion” -Brooke Harris

Intending to share information and knowledge on Black History, Dr. Brooks, at the University of San Diego, presented on ghostly ideals and the hauntology of race and religion. This event was a meeting in which viewers discussed with Dr. Brooks and asked questions when they had arisen. Not only did the presentation allow for an understanding of race and religion, but it also discussed the hauntings of gender inequality. He talked about the idea of hauntology and how it related to religion, while Professor Babka, from the theology department at USD, offered her insight on the topic. Black male clerical power has plagued the genealogy of black religious leadership in socio-political life. As they relate to social issues, sexism, and challenges within the church, these themes are entwined with society and African American history while showing through in the criminal justice system. While introducing this topic, Brooks notes that the term hauntology comes from social violence that makes itself known. This interconnection between social issues can be shown and presented through hauntology. This idea is built upon by a social ghost where something is barely visible but makes itself known in less prevalent ways. Like a ghost, it haunts and draws effectively. These ideas and forces that one usually tries to ignore but never leaves them alone. But, by investigating these ghosts, we can turn destructive hauntings into something more empowering. As we dive deeper into African American history, it is crucial to note the hauntology that has occurred in the past and how it has affected issues in our society today. 

Black feminist hauntology is an analysis of time that captures the continual nature of structural violence, not just symbolic or theorized violence that is racial colonialism. This haunting has taken over Black freedom. As these ideas present themselves through interconnection, we can see it prominently through history as people of color and women were at a point where they faced discrimination. These ideas are discussed in Freedom on My Mind as we can see that Black oppression ties itself to multiple layers of problems and “While black men searched for more satisfying ways to express their manhood, black women formed new organizations to fight racism and sexism” (White, 996). Many women of color became exposed to the negative impact of being a Black female in a society where neither was accepted. As people looked down upon Black women, they refused to accept this fate and continued to work at changing this societal norm. Furthermore, “Other black feminist groups were established in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The National Black Feminist Organization, the National Alliance of Black Feminists, the Combahee River Collective, and Black Women Organized for Action all emerged in response to the black freedom movement, which they felt excluded them, and the new women’s rights movement, which likewise neglected their particular issues. Over and over, they reiterated the concept of double jeopardy — “the phenomenon of being Black and female, in a country that is both racist and sexist.” (White, 970). They contended that all Black people must fight on several fronts at the same time, and they challenged white feminists to make racism and classism women’s problems. Black females fought against white supremacy and challenged racial oppression. As the Great Depression furthered Black marginality, visions of freedom expanded. As they worked to change patterns of oppression, this lies evident. The presentation allows students to understand how male supremacy tormented females in society. 

Further, society has misunderstood the idea of religion and churches, which leaves people with a preconceived notion about Black religious people. In order to better understand, we can connect these ghostly ideas to “Black Theology in American Religion” and  “Race, Religion, and Beliefs about Racial Inequality” which talk about the importance that religion has had on the Black community. Because religion is so deeply segregated along racial lines, most white Americans are unfamiliar that “The church has long been a central institution in the lives of Black Americans, serving as an important social, economic, cultural, and political resource” (Taylor). One often understands Christian theology, but Babka speaks about Black religious thoughts differing from the Christian theology of white Americans, nor does it directly relate to traditional African beliefs. One must note that it is both, but adapted to the situation of Black people. They resorted to Black religious ideas as they sought justice in a country ruled by a white ideology in its social, political, and economic systems. African Americans were enabled to look through distortions of the gospel and realize the actual meaning of God’s deliverance of the oppressed. It is through these ideas that we can understand the importance of religious aspects in African American history. As people leaned toward religion, they were not welcome in a traditional white church and in turn, were able to make Black communities. These communities and churches brought people together, and “Five themes in particular defined the character of black religious thought during slavery and its subsequent development: justice, liberation, hope, love, and suffering” (Cone, 756). Black people depended on their community and found hope in following God. Even though white people were preaching that the church was unavailable to them, they pushed beyond these hauntings and followed God anyway. 

Furthermore, “Black Feminist Hauntology” states that we must also realize the attack that the criminal justice system places on Black people. People understand the longing to, “abolish the criminal justice system because it is rooted in state sponsored violence and revenge” (Hanna, 55). But, fail to acknowledge it on the basis that in order abolish the system, they must accept racism as the fuel that keeps the criminal justice system moving. It is clear that the racializing and colonial roots of the criminal justice system cannot be addressed just by deconstructing crime and delegitimizing the use of state violence in the system. When these individuals are highlighted by the committed crime, it allows for segregation. By doing so, it reinforces the idea that they are the result of personal dysfunction rather than a system. According to hauntology, this violence has only been out of control since it was taken and warped to involve this kind of violence. Thus, “The relationships between colonial slavery and criminal justice violence are inevitable and unavoidable” (Hanna, 60). Our perceptions of this dangerous few are plagued and caught in an endless cycle of racist absurdity. Because the justice system was effectively closed as an avenue to reinstate affirmative action or challenge the mass incarceration of African Americans, we see that the incarceration rates for Black people compared to white people were dramatically different, most being Black males. These issues are still prevalent today. The judicial system was essentially closed as a means of reintroducing affirmative action or challenging the widespread imprisonment of African Americans. As one can learn more about each aspect of change that was occurring, it can become easier to understand how everything was connected and how every act against Black people led to a nation where racial segregation was present. 

The necessity to eliminate white supremacist hetero-patriarchy is at the core of all battles since, without the demise of these pillars, colonialism would continue to exist in manifestations and progressively poor apparitions. Black hauntology brings back into view the chains that link racial colonialism and slavery to the lives and deaths that involve Black people. This lingering idea prompts the understanding of African American History by bringing light to how racism and sexism are present throughout history and how they apply to issues revolving around the church and criminal justice system. The presentation commemorates Black history as Brooks explains the ideology of hauntology while also addressing the means of what must be done to further clarify and add to these ideas. As we question what is next, it is clear that Black Americans have problems that must address this double reality. In an act to get rid of racism and segregation, we must notice that racial colonialism reemerges in hauntology as an oppressive system of power and control. A system that is based on white supremacist ideas about humanity and conquest must continually return in different forms to maintain its lies. To move forward, one must fully understand that these cases of anti-Black oppression can be tied to hauntology. In the past, hauntology was hidden, but now it shapes the present and Black future by recognizing these realities and using this knowledge to prompt a world that is not haunted by white people’s actions. In doing so, it gives Black people back their freedom and empowers people to use strength rather than weakness to combat oppressive patterns.  

Works Cited

Cone, James H. “Black Theology in American Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 53, no. 4, 1985, pp. 755–71. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1464274. Accessed 9 May 2023.

Saleh-Hanna, Viviane. “Black Feminist Hauntology.” Champ Pénal/Penal Field, 23 Mar. 2015, journals.openedition.org/champpenal/9168. 

TAYLOR, MARYLEE C., and STEPHEN M. MERINO. “Race, Religion, and Beliefs about Racial Inequality.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 634, 2011, pp. 60–77. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29779395. Accessed 9 May 2023.

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.

Red Lip Theology Discussion – Aleksa Caballero

Red Lip Theology

Aleksa Caballero 


Dr. Channon S. Miller 

May 11, 2023

Red Lip Theology By Candice Marie Benbow

Candice Marie Benbow is an author, theologian, and cultural critic known for her work on black women’s spirituality, self-care, and self-love. She is the founder of Red Lip Theology, a movement that seeks to empower women to embrace their authentic selves and live fully in their purpose. She wanted to influence women to celebrate their identities, embrace their sexuality, and reject societal norms that may limit their full potential. Black women in faith are not known because their efforts are constantly pushed away or ignored, “Black women are never heralded as the forerunners of religious history ” (Benbow, 2023).  This is important to acknowledge in African American History because as Benbow stated during the program, “Black women remain the most religious demographic in this country.” Black women in faith are yet another example of a group of African Americans who are and have been overlooked.

Along with her message, Benbow is able to explain her own story and share her personal experiences as a black woman who was active in African American church culture in the 1990’s. In Benbow’s writing and speeches, she has discussed how her mother’s strict religious beliefs and harsh parenting style influenced her own spiritual journey. She described her mother as a deeply religious woman who had strong beliefs from a young age. Benbow has also spoken about how her mother’s rigid interpretation of religious doctrine often left her feeling suffocated and trapped. She stated that her mother’s emphasis on obedience and fear of punishment made her feel like she was always walking on eggshells and never got to express herself or explore some of her own beliefs. Despite these challenges, Benbow has also credited her mother for giving her a strong foundation for her faith that has ultimately helped her in navigating her life. Benbow has stated that her mother’s influence had taught her the importance of having a personal relationship with God and seeking guidance from prayer and scripture. Overall, it is clear and important to note that Benbow’s relationship with her mother had a significant effect on her faith journey. While Benbow may have felt restricted at times, her mother’s beliefs helped her shape her understanding of  spirituality and encouraged her to seek a deeper connection with God.


Women's History Month Keynote: 'Red Lip Theology' with Candice Benbow,  March 22 | Penn State UniversityRed Lip Theology is a call to action for Black women to use their voices and take up space in their religion and culture. The name “Red Lip Theology” Is inspired by the symbol of red lipstick, which represents both femininity and boldness. “Men dominated church leadership, but women constituted most of the members and regular attendees and did most of what was called church work. Women gave and raised money, taught Sunday school, ran women’s auxiliaries, welcomed visitors, and led social welfare programs for the needy, sick, and elderly. They were also prominent in domestic and foreign missionary activities. One grateful minister consistently offered “great praise” to the church sisters for all their hard work” (White, Bay & Martin, 2021). Benbow asks herself the question,“What is owed to black women for that level of religiosity, what is owed to black women for that level of commitment?” where she answers, “Red Lip Theology was and is my way of trying to make sense of that.”

“Something is fundamentally broken with our faith systems, and it requires us to think critically about the world that we are in, and the world that we want to see.” (Benbow, 2023). The faith systems in many societies have been broken for black women due to the pervasive and intersecting oppressions of racism, sexism and classism. Black women’s experiences with faith are often shaped by historical traumas and systemic injustices that have impacted their lives for centuries. Within many faith systems, patriarchal norms and practices have led to the exclusion and marginalization of black women. Many religious institutions have failed to recognize or address the unique experience of black women, leading to a feeling of invisibility and erasure. “Christian nationalism is white supremacy.” (Benbow, 2023). White supremacy is an ideology that has influenced many aspects of society, including religious institutions. White supremacy in faith comes in different forms, including the privileging of white voices and experiences over those of people of color, the perpetuation of racist beliefs and practices, and the exclusion of people of color from leadership roles and decision making processes. White supremacy in faith can also manifest as violence against people of color, either through hate crimes committed by individuals or through institutional violence, such as the role of the Christian church in perpetuating colonialism and the slave trade.  “Rooted in a belief that their duty to spread Christianity justified their actions, religious organizations did not only embrace human trafficking and the enslavement of millions of Africans—they actively participated.” (Bryan Stevenson, 2022).  We have to acknowledge that the privilege that white people have had in religion have had a tremendous impact on black people, especially black women in faith. Throughout history, black women have been subjected to various forms of trauma including slavery, colonization and systemic oppression. These traumas have had a profound impact on their spiritual and emotional wellbeing and have created barriers to accessing and participating in faith communities. Black women are often disproportionately affected by poverty and other forms of economic inequality. This can create barriers to accessing faith-based resources and support, as many religious institutions require financial contributions or have limited resources for marginalized communities. “Black women have been the most mistreated and scandalized in U.S. society and culture as they wrestle both individually and collectively with the triple jeopardy of racism, sexism and classism,” said Stacey Floyd-Thomas, an associate professor of ethics and society at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. “If that is the case — and I believe it is — it is no wonder that black women, due to their experience of sexism, would seek out their faith as a way of finding relief, reprieve, resolution and redemption.”

In addition to providing emotional and spiritual support, faith has also been a tool for social and political activism among Black women. Many prominent Black women throughout history, including Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Lou Hamer, were deeply committed to their faith and used it as a foundation for their advocacy work. Benbow does a beautiful job of explaining what it means to be a black woman who is deeply connected to their faith, and why black women in religion should be acknowledged. 

Works Cited

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021. 

“The Role of the Christian Church.” Equal Justice Initiative Reports, 7 Nov. 2022, eji.org/report/transatlantic-slave-trade/origins/sidebar/the-role-of-the-christian-church/. 

“Candice Marie Benbow’s ‘Red Lip Theology’ Is a Love Letter to Her Mother.” Shondaland, 18 Jan. 2022, www.shondaland.com/inspire/a38773165/candice-marie-benbow-red-lip-theology/. 


Candice Marie Benbow’s “Red Lip Theology” and how it relates to African American Faith.- Ethan Petrie

Ethan Petrie African American History

A huge and important part of African American history is faith. Candice Marie Benbow discussed this in her presentation for her book “Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough” This book is a collection of essays that she wrote. Her essays discuss many themes and how they revolve around church culture for African American women. The book is deeply personal to her and it goes through a lot of Benbow’s own personal relationships. Benbow said that “My book examines my relationship with Christianity” This is an important relationship in her life and it is an important relationship in African American history as a whole. African Americans have had a rocky path when it comes to being involved in Christianity so it is important to remember the importance of their role in the church and how it came to be.
The church and Christianity have been linked to African Americans since the end of the 16th century. Although white Catholics largely tried to convert African Americans in this time period due to the evangelical nature of Christianity they still hide some parts of the religion for fear of rebellion. In an interview, a former slave named Wes Brady had this to say about African American involvement in churches with white ministers, “You ought to have heard that
‘Hellish’ preaching…. ‘Obey your Master and Mistress, don’t steal chickens, don’t steal eggs and meat,’ and nary word ’bout having a soul to save.” These “preachings” from white ministers are less of preachings and more of commands from them on how to act. This led to many African Americans becoming disheartened with the church. They turned to their own practice of Christianity by forming invisible churches. This is where African American slaves would meet in secret to have their own kind of Christian service with their own ministers and preachers. The book “Freedom on My Mind” discusses the African American experience in America and it touches on the kind of preaching which went on at these invisible churches, “Slave Christianity stressed the equality of all men under God, drawing on the Bible as inspiration for spirituals that expressed slaves’ own humanity, capacity for freedom, and hope of justice for an oppressed people. Slaves also embraced scriptural stories that held out the promise of liberation under a just God” (pg 651, White, Bay, Martin Jr.). These invisible churches focused on uplifting enslaved peoples, they highlighted their humanity, and the preachings held hope for freedom. Over time this religious freedom that grew in these invisible churches superseded Christianity. During the Great Migration in the late 19th century, many African American Churches emerged spreading the word of ancient Israelites. This church preached that the original Israelites were Black. As an original Hebrew Israelite, Asiel Ben-Israel said, “It isn’t a religion, as such, that I follow. It’s the belief that I am a descendant—and that Black people in America are descendants—of the biblical Israelites. We adhere to the laws written in the Bible” (Dorman). This is still relevant today as Kendrick Lamar said in his song ‘“YAH” released in 2017, “I’m not ’bout a religion I’m a Israelite, don’t call me Black no mo’ That word is only a color, it ain’t facts no mo’” Both the early days of Black “Invisible” Churches and the modern-day references to Black started religions speaks to what Candice Marie Benbow was talking about in regards to faith in her presentation. Although Benbow herself is a Christian and talks a lot about her own Christian faith it is relevant to see how African American faith has evolved to the modern day.
Candice Marie Benbow in her presentation discussed how she wanted African American women to embrace their faith and know it is okay to struggle with and come into their own version of faith. Benbow talked a lot about how you are your own person and how your faith is your concern. This speaks a lot about how enslaved African Americans rejected the teachings of white ministers who were trying to oppress them. Instead of living with this and continuing to listen to these false preachings, they made started their own services with their own preachers who did the opposite of oppressing them. These preachers uplifted and inspired them. They gave hope to those who attended their services. This is exactly what Benbow means when she talks about making your faith your faith. In an article for Glamour Benbow said, “I want them to know that it’s possible to bring their entire self—their whole self—into the faith and that they are worthy of fruitful, deep, abundant, thriving spiritual health. We are worthy of that, created on our own terms and not what everybody else tells us” (McDuffie). Benbow discusses when it comes to faith one should do things on our own terms and not listen to what others are saying. This is incredibly relevant to the formation of Black Israelite churches which challenges normal thought and expresses that they are the descendants of early Israelites. This also speaks to Kendrick Lamar rejecting the title of “Black” and rather seeing himself as an Israelite. He is using his faith to express himself and not letting what others traditionally think hold him back. Benbow’s thoughts and discussions on faith are a great inspiration for many to see how they can embrace their faith and not let it constrain them. Instead, their faith can inspire, motivate, and propel them in a direction that they wouldn’t have otherwise gone in.
Candice Marie Benbow went over a variety of topics relating to her life, her faith, and her relationships. However, a big part of African American history is tied to Christianity and other faiths. The relevance of Benbow’s statements made during her presentation of owning your faith and creating your own ideals that mean something to you was relevant throughout African American history. You can see these seeds cemented in the early formation of Invisible Churches and the role these played in African American faith. These churches helped African Americans express their faith in ways that they want to and not in ways that they were forced to. They gained hope and inspiration from the meetings they had in Invisible Churches. They were free to practice their faith in ways that they saw fit. Benbow’s comments on defining your own faith were relevant to the early formation of Black Israelite churches. These words stay true to this day as an inspiration for people to not let titles constrain them. Rather than being assigned titles and social norms, Benbow highlights that you should make your own titles and do what is true to you and your own individual faith. We can see the influence of a message like this by looking at how Kendrick Lamar identifies himself and his own faith, he is breaking out of the social norm and doing what is true to himself. Although Benbow is a big advocate for African American Women in the Christian faith by looking back to the origins of African American faith we can see how this message can be applied to all African American communities of any faith. This is because Benbow pushes the message that faith is ever-changing and ever-personal. It is ever-personal in the sense that one’s denomination shouldn’t be controlled by standards they see as unfit. That is why invisible churches were made and why the Black Israelite religion is ever rising. They didn’t let themselves fall into what the norm was at the time. Candice Marie Benbow pushes for this creation of one’s own faith as they see fit and by looking back in history we can see how this message was relevant back then and how it still continues to be relevant today.

Work Cited
Dorman, Jacob S. “Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions.” Academic.Oup.Com, Oxford Academic, Jan. 2013, academic.oup.com/book/10736/chapter/158813464.
White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.
McDuffie, Candace. “Candice Marie Benbow’s ‘Red Lip Theology’ Explores What It Means to Be a Black Woman of Faith Today.” Glamour, 19 Jan. 2022, www.glamour.com/story/candice-marie-benbow-red-lip-theology

Black History at USD Project – Victoria Zepeda

The Center for Inclusion and Diversity presents The Inaugural, Roy L. Brooks, Distinguished Lecture Series. The program included Vice Provost Regina Dixon-Reeves, PhD and Senior Vice President and Provost, Gail F. Baker, PhD who gave a welcoming tribute to Professor Brooks. Then the keynote speaker, Regina Dixon-Reeve, PhD introduced the keynote speaker Derrick R. Brooms, PhD. Dr. Brooms serves as a Professor of Africana Studies and Sociology and Fellow in the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His work is committed to research, teaching, and service through collaborative methods on education equity, inclusion, and racial justice. Dr. Brooms presented his research that investigates Black men’s college experiences, with a particular focus on their experiences at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). His presentation examines how being Black and male matters in Black men’s college experiences and account for their educational desires and sense of self, while focusing on their agency, resistance, and the need to transform educational praxis and institutional cultures. The narratives and themes of the program are significant to our understanding of African American History because it provides context and experiences through another perspective to allow for deeper understanding that leads to positive solutions.

The Black Panther Party launched more than 35 Survival Programs and provided community help, such as education, tuberculosis testing, legal aid, and transportation assistance. In addition to fighting for political and economic equality, they provided access to medical clinics and free breakfast for children. The Black Panther Party is Revolution Black Nationalism, “during the period of Contemporary Black Nationalism, four major groupings of black nationalism seemed to have emerged. They include educational nationalism, religious nationalism, cultural nationalism, and revolutionary nationalism” (Harris 410). Harris later on explains what each group of nationalists do for their concentration, but what stood out to me was the importance of religion in black life in the United States, not only does this represent black nationalism, but religious nationalism as well giving special significance. The Black Panthers Ten-Point Program focused on armed Black self-defense against police brutality and community social programs to provide medical care, food, and education for all Black people, each point being direct and clear. In order to truly understand African American History, we begin to learn from the beginning all the way to current times. The Black Panther Party stood out to me because of its significance and the change it brought to helping the Black Community. Understanding Black history allows for those to learn and strive for a better world, the Black Panther Party became the leading revolutionary nationalist organization. One question that came to mind when focusing on the Black Panther Party was why this specific animal, “The Black Panther Party chose the name because the panther is known to be an animal that never makes an unprovoked attack, but will defend itself vehemently when attacked, and this was symbolic of what the Black Panther party for Self-Defense stood for” (Harris 412). The symbolism behind their movement is what brings empowerment to those around, even learning about this from the present. Understanding African American History is not only important for those who come from African American descent, but those of different cultural backgrounds that teaches cultural appreciation and respect for these differences. My point stands for people from the past to people of the future, The Black Panther Party was created to advocate against brutality towards civil rights protestors, organizing a revolutionary party.

Barack Hussein Obama II, the 44th president of the United States, along with being the first African-American president of the United States. His nomination for presidency in 2008 symbolized change on many levels, “for the first time in history, a black man would run on a major party ticket for the highest office in the land on a platform that made ‘change’ its signature slogan. Obama was a self-identified African American who had no black ancestor born on American soil and who in previous centuries might have been advantaged by his biracial heritage but would have never been perceived as transcending race” (White et al. 1042). Obama was not the first black presidential candidate to be taken seriously, Congressperson Shirley Chisholm launched her campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1972. After Chisholm, many black Americans ran for president on different tickets including Jesse Jackson who made serious runs in the late 1980s. When Barack Obama because the first black president of the United States, he not only influenced and empowered those to follow their dreams, but empowered children everywhere due to representation. Representation is power, important for young children who are learning about African American History to know what the future holds, building self-esteem and positive self-image. Obama took the opportunity to speak publicly about race during his campaigning, “in his speech at the National Constitution Center in March 2008, Obama put the issue front and center. He explained how the history of slavery contradicted the principles outlined in the Us Constitution and noted that slavery’s end, and the end of Jim Crow, was made possible by the Constitution, which promised liberty and justice for all. He lauded Americas question for a ‘more perfect union’ and pledged to continue to bring the nation’s promise closer to reality. But he challenged all races to focus on mutual understanding and a path to unity” (White et al. 1044). Obama proves my point, how important it is for everyone to learn about the history of this nation, because not only does it shape who we are, but how we as people got to where we are. As I mentioned previously, representation is important for everyone, specifically children of color who are growing up. All children should learn about African American History, two biggest reasons being, avoid repeating history and empowering these children. It is crucial for children to learn about equity and social justice, including the harmful effects of racism because silence and ignorance leads to racisms repeating and becoming normalized within a family or community. Teaching children early on helps them to understand, respect, and appreciate the differences between people while empowering them to be their own person with aspirations and dreams.

Dr. Derrick Brooms grew up in South Side Chicago, where his neighborhood was racially segregated. Growing up he struggled to understand his own life leading him to study Africana studies in school. During the program, he shares mostly his own experiences of being a black man in a Hispanic Serving Institution alongside the experiences of other young black men. He began with the basics of black boys being criminalized or stereotyped at a young age, an example being sports being a primary identity to a young black male, either track or football. He explains how much he despised being known only for his sport, not his own person. Going back to his studies, his goal is to learn from all these different perspectives, he shares, “you don’t research on people, you do research with people” (Brooms’). This is a quote that I hold closely to my heart because in order to truly understand where someone is coming from, you need to be able to understand and learn alongside them. Black education is always being compared to white students, it should not be because black education is unique and the white standard skews black education. During his time at school, he could not pay for one of his credits for class which resulted in him being dropped from the class and kicked out of the library. He expresses how he felt that no one truly believed in him, even his own professors. The only people who would ever check up on Brooms were non-academics workers. Mike, a custodian, who Brooms became close with during his time at school, built a close bond with each other that inspired Brooms to never stop. He mentions one last person who believed in him, shaping who he is as a person, “Andre Phillips was the only black administration office worker at the University of Wisconsin, this office was my safe place. I would eat in here, do my homework, study, and just talk with him” (Brooms’). Brooms explains how if he never met these people, he did not think he would finish school, the most simple interactions could change the life of someone. After a few years, in his masters programs he has this one professor who would question Brooms character. His professor once asked if he ‘actually’ wrote his paper because it was simply ‘too good’. Then during his PhD program, his paper that had received an A was later scratched out to be replaced with the letter B. The most memorable interaction with that same professor, was when there was on other black male in Brooms’ class. The professor mixed up there names and justified this action due to not being able to tell them apart, suggesting that they should not sit next to each other. Brooms’ says that to this day, that was the most disrespectful professor he had ever met. He made it his goal to advocate for young black men all over the world who are experiencing this, he mentions, “I am not just doing this for me, but setting examples and breaking stereotypes” (Brooms’). A different perspective is crucial for learning African American History, due to people believing only what is in front of them. Brooms’ is advocating for institutions to change the way they treat young black men and if sharing his story and experiences is what it takes, as well as writing multiple books, he will not stop. All these experiences that he shared are to prove that even in modern times, people will continue to be ignorant.

The Black Panther Program and Obama becoming the first African-American president are milestones and accomplishments made by the Black community, slowly overcoming institutionalized racism. Dr. Brooms sharing his own experiences to advocate for millions of young black men who deal with normalized microaggressions on the daily. Learning African American History from different perspectives or events no matter what time period is essential for empowering and connecting different and unique people to create change. These are all steps closer to creating change for the better, since then, equality has improved, but there is always space for improvement in our current society. The program that I attended taught me that there are still professors and institutions who allow the mistreatment of others, but Brooms’ proves that he overcame these struggles ending up on top, a successful author with four daughters. Hopefully inspiring young people to continue to fight for what is right, never giving up on their dreams.

Program Photo

Red Lip Theology and Religion Towards Equality- Katelyn Smith

Katelyn Smith 

Professor Miller

African American History 

12 May 2023

Red Lip Theology and Religion Towards Equality

I attended the event Red Lip Theology which explored Candice Marie Benbow’s experience being a black woman in America and her involvement with religion as a form of liberation. This event, alongside her novel Red Lip Theology, highlights the importance of religion as a form of empowerment. Throughout our course, we have seen how the church functions in black America and how it adapts and changes with society through the text Freedom on My Mind written by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr. Black American women’s experiences and cultural practices within the church help shape our understanding of African American history and the community. This transformation stems from religion as well as the interconnectedness of historical and modern-day religion. African American women have used religion as a tool for personal and communal liberation throughout history, such as the ways in which Black women have reclaimed their power through feminism and feminity, and utilized religion as a form of strength in their struggles for equality.

Religion is a paramount practice when it comes to African American women’s experiences with self-identity. The Black Lip Theology event, as well as the novel, depict Benbow’s experience with faith and how it has shaped her relationships and sense of self.  The novel starts off with the backstory of her upbringing with having a single mother in the 1980s. It depicts the struggles her mother faced being unwed and pregnant and the criticism she endured from the church. The church leaders expected her to come before the church and apologize for being pregnant however, her mom was unable to do so, for Benbow said, “She couldn’t stand in front of people and call me a mistake. I wasn’t a sin” (Benbow 7) This event demonstrates the hardships and oppression black women endured as opposed to their male counterparts who didn’t have to face the same expectations. Her mother used this moment as a beginning of feminism and self-empowerment during the 80s by dismantling church doctrines suggesting that she wasn’t worthy because she wasn’t married. Benbow declared to her mother that the church was a sexist organization that hated black women and her mother responded that the black church could be “whatever you needed it to be.” Despite the challenges or judgment she faced, her mother used her religion as a means of liberation which in turn set into motion Benbow’s own spirituality. “Black people have always been a spiritual people, but no one is more spiritual than black women” (Benbow 5) Benbow connects her spirituality through her femininity and her ties to her ancestors and black womanhood. She explores the ways in which beauty rituals intersect with spirituality and religious traditions. During the event, she mentions that “there’s something sacred about black womanhood, something spiritual about getting your hair done”. By incorporating beauty rituals into their religious practices black women are able to connect to their spirituality on a deeper level and reclaim it for themselves. This is used as a measure of empowerment and liberation from previous restraints and hardships endured. 

Furthermore, religion has been a source of strength during the freedom struggle. Religion is represented from the beginning of their journey as a sense of hope for a better life. “Antebellum slave communities sustained their hopes for freedom by embracing an egalitarian form of Christianity that assured them that all people were equal under God.” (White, Bay, Martin Jr. 380) Religion was one of the sole reasons to stay optimistic during the tragic times of slavery and acted as a unifying experience. It was a sense of hope for equality and a better life.  During the 1800s women began to gain some authority as they became “church mothers” and held positions that dealt with church affairs such as the selection of preachers and the allocation of church funds. African American women have also played a crucial role in shaping religious practices and beliefs. “Black women were also leaders in and practitioners of African-derived forms of popular, or folk, religion — such as conjure and voodoo, or hoodoo — which had evolved during slavery and continued after emancipation.” (White, Bay, Martin Jr. 529) These practices focused on magic and the supernatural which included healing and harming beliefs and practices. By applying religious practices derived from Africa, black women were able to reclaim their cultural heritage and use their spirituality as a form of strength. However, there was some backlash amongst folk religions as some said that it was an “idolatrous relic of slavery.” Despite this, these rituals were still prominent in rural towns and cities. These rituals acted as a source of community and formed solidarity amongst black women. It was a way for them to express themselves which wasn’t available in other aspects of life. For this reason, the church was a central part of their lives and aided black women with community building and self-expression. Spirituality was an individual as well as communal practice that allowed women to connect to their ancestors and reclaim rituals that descended from Africa. 

Lastly, the event hosted by Benbow coincides with the texts as it challenges black women with how they see god, themselves, and the world. Freedom on My Mind encapsulates the broader historical context of religion and how that influenced feminism and the fight against resistance. It depicts years of struggle and hardships toward the goal of freedom. While Red Lip Theology is a more personal account of the ways black women use religion as a tool of empowerment. At the event, Benbow mentioned that “Black women are often left out when it comes to talking about faith leaders yet they are the most religious demographic in America.” This is shown throughout our course as black women are often cast aside when it came to holding prominent positions in the church and when they are they are referred to as “church mothers.” Yet these same women take part in or often lead religious rituals such as voodoo and are highly spiritual. However, despite these challenges, Benbow offers commentary as to how over the years progress has been made as african american women in the past were silenced while today they are increasingly more able to use their voice. She mentioned an encounter she had with a 90-year-old black woman from her church that encapsulates the progress that has been made in America “I never thought I would see a time where black women could freely say what they want.” This quote is thought-provoking as it highlights the transformations that have occurred in the past decade regarding black women’s freedom and or independence. As seen in the course book we can notice that for many years african american women were marginalized but through perseverance, they have paved the way for black women today to more freely express themselves in society. This progress is due to every black woman that came before and used religion as a means of resilience in the fight towards freedom.

To conclude, the experiences African American women had with their spirituality take form in different ways such as reclaiming their power through feminism and turning to religion as a source of strength in their struggles for freedom and equality. This is shown through the event and novel Red Lip Theology written by Candice Marie Benbow as well as through the text Freedom on my Mind written by White, Bay, and Martin Jr.. These sources provide insight into the importance of religion as a form of empowerment for African American women. Religion stems back decades to the beginning of slavery and we can notice how it progresses and evolves over time as a way for black women to express themselves. Spirituality had been a form of self-empowerment for African American women and has acted as a voice for the voiceless. It is a form of self-expression and a community experience that has served as a tool for liberation.

“‘Red Lip Theology’ & Black womanhood in Contemporary Christianity” -Lauren Forsterer

On February 27th, my fellow peers and I gathered into our very own Copley Library to hear Candice Marie Benbow discuss her latest book. Her novel,“Red Lip Theology”, discusses the blurring boundary of irreverent and righteous, and her experience in Christian faith as a Black woman. The book dives deep into the cross-section between Theology, feminism, sexuality, and activism. She gracefully discussed her experience and beliefs regarding her Faith, as well as what steps we can all take to help benefit minorities, especially Black women. She dives into her background of how being a Black millennial woman who is of Faith has shaped her understanding of the world. She also discusses the power of religious institutes, and the importance of decolonizing Faith in order to create a more understanding and accepting space. 

Benbow starts off her talk explaining her experience as a Black woman trying to navigate the Christian faith. Her speech takes place between the cusp of February and March, which she explains is an interesting time for her community. February is Black History Month where Black women are not represented, and figures like Malcom X and Dr. Martin Luther King are at the forefront of the movement. Then, in March, Women’s History Month is celebrated which fails to highlight the hardwork and dedication of Black women in the Women’s Rights Movement. In her talk, the author also highlights how Black women are never heralded as the forerunner of religious history, even though they are extremely influential. For example, Prathia Hall created the famous “I have a Dream” phrase that Dr. King showcased in 1963, and is still taught and commended around the globe. If it were not for Reverend Prathia Hall’s work, the speech’s central message would have never made it to the public and affected the Civil Rights Movement. Benbow also mentions a few other influential women that are forgotten in our History, such as Jarena Lee and Julia A. J. Foote. Both of these women, and many more, do not get the recognition they deserve for their trailblazing work over their lifetimes. This is a prime example of how Black women are left out of African American history and do not receive the recognition they deserve. Before listening to Benbow’s talk, I also did not recognize these powerful women’s names and did not understand their impact on our world. This also illustrates how Black women are also not as recognized for their accomplishments, and therefore is significant to our understanding of African American History in seeing a more equal and inclusive narrative of the influential scholars who fought to create a better world for future generations. 

Another aspect that Benbow highlights in her talk is the complexity of modern day religious institutions. The operation of Church spaces are important to understand African American History because religion is a huge component in the past and present of uniting and establishing Black communities. Our textbook, Freedom on My Mind,  states in Chapter Nine that, “Next to the family, the black church provided the most important institutional support in the transition from slavery to freedom. Joining a church was an act of physical and spiritual emancipation and.. also empowered blacks because they operated outside white control. In addition, black churches anchored collective black identification — a sense of peoplehood, of nationhood” (White, 2020). This quote highlights the importance of religious institutions in Black history, and how closely tied they are to culture and community. However, Benbow suggests that some modern religious establishments are not as inviting and empowering as they are promised to be. The author explains how faith spaces have the power to build you up, as well as tear you down with shame and guilt. This evaluates how religious institutes are operating today, and how they can sometimes feel isolating and distressing. 

Benbow posed a provocative question during her talk regarding whether or not we owe it to sacred spaces to push them to be better for future generations, or if we should choose to all together disconnect from the establishment. Her question illustrates the importance of religion in African American culture, and how it should evolve with modern times, rather than not accepting new courses of actions. For example, the author mentions in her talk an experience her Mother had with the Church that changed the trajectory of both her and her daughter’s life. Benbow describes that her Mother was unmarried when she was conceived, and the Church obligated her Mother to stand in front of the congregation and apologize for her sins. Benbow’s Father was also involved in the Church, and did not have to ask for forgiveness for his part of the sin.

Her Mother then refused to beg for forgiveness because she didn’t want her daughter to grow up in a church that was shameful and unfair towards women. Benbow reminds the audience that although her Mother did not apologize for her sin, many other women before and after her have to take on the opposition. This personal experience from the author helps highlight the relationship between Black women and the Church, and how it has not always had their best interest in mind. It is important to evaluate the mandates enforced by religious institutions over African American history in order to see the progress of accepting and recognizing Black women. 

Benbow also discusses her view on deconstructing Faith in order to create the space for herself and many other Black women to be acknowledged for their devotion within their denomination. The author explains how Black women are the most religious demographic, yet they are the least significant group rendered in most religious establishments. She aims to embody a Faith that loves and accepts Black women. Religion is essential in understanding African American history because its roots run deep into Black culture. For example, “the sense that devotion and faith in God more strongly connect black men and women to their slave ancestors, who leaned on religious faith to help maintain their dignity in the face of discrimination and harsh and unjust treatment” (Labbé-DeBose, 2012). This quote demonstrates the importance of Faith within the daily lives of African American individuals throughout the generations, and how it intertwines their experience and livelihood. The author emphasizes the need for a more inclusive Faith in order to keep her community united and satisfied. 

For hundreds of years, Black women have strongly influenced religion and culture in and outside of their community, with little to no recognition of their hard work. Candice Marie Benbow’s talk at our University enlightened myself, and many other students on her journey of modern Black womanhood, and the challenges she and her community experience within their daily lives as well as their Faith. The author shared with the audience that she got inspired to write her book to further examine the question of what is owed to Black women for their devoted religiosity, and how her community can shine. She also explains how deconstructing Faith and identifying the issues within her religion can help her community thrive.Her novel emphasizes the current relationship between Black womanhood and Christianity, and looks ahead to a turning point where her community is recognized and appreciated for their generations of dedication and diligence. 


Sources Cited

Labbé-DeBose, Theola. “Black Women Are among Country’s Most Religious Groups.” The Washington Post, 6 July 2012, www.washingtonpost.com/local/black-women-are-among-countrys-most-religious-groups/2012/07/06/gJQA0BksSW_story.html. 

White, Deborah Gray, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans with Documents, Third Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, (2020).