Category Archives: Black History Month Program

Red Lip Theology – Candice Marie Benbow

Nicole Escamilla

Dr. Channon Miller

HIST 128 

22 May 2023 

Candice Marie Benbow's 'Red Lip Theology' Explores What It Means to Be a  Black Woman of Faith Today | Glamour

Red Lip Theology 

Through the recorded event from the San Diego Central Library hosted about a month ago, I was able to listen to Candice Marie Benbow’s personal journey as a Theologian and what that entails for a woman of color in the religious field. She highlights her background as a seminary student and how this part of her identity shaped many of the outcomes of her interactions with uncomfortable situations. She described the construction of her book, titled Red Lip Theology, and the defining moments in her life that led to its production. The narratives and themes of this program are significant to our understanding of African American History because they shed light on the significance of Black womanhood within faith institutions, address the role scripture plays within the Black faith community, and provide a call to action from white people towards a safer future for the Black community to grow. 

Candice explained that one of the goals she had in mind when writing this book was to create a space for the recognition of the important accomplishments black women have contributed to female, Black, American, and global historical contexts. She voiced how, “Black women are never heralded as forerunners for religious history”. This is something that is not talked about enough and that carries a lot of damaging consequences for any young woman of faith. Growing up only hearing of male religious figures and the greatness they have achieved, consolidates the narrative that women have no place for leadership roles within a faith institution. A lot of Candice’s work within her book is grounded in an effort to navigate the identities she carries and how they interact within her faith. She mentions how both of her parents were significantly involved within the Church community. However, only her mother was expected to be publicly chastised for her sins while her absent father was celebrated throughout the community. One of the recurring questions Candice brings up revolves around what women, particularly Black women, are owed “for their commitment to religion despite the marginalization they experience within the church”. There are many Black female theologians who are not mentioned throughout history – one example Candice mentions is Dr. Prathia Hall. In our text, we read how “men dominated church leadership”, despite the fact that “women constituted most of the members” (White 529). Not only do they make up the majority of congregations, Black churches relied on the support of females disproportionately. Females were in charge of funding and speaking on behalf of the church while not receiving credit for their contributions. This became more apparent after “invisible” slave churches became institutional churches. As these African American churches became “visible political institutions, Black women receded in visibility” (Green 123). Although there were some feminists advocating for equality within the church, there were others who believed the fight for women’s equality was a distraction from the overall fight for Black equality. Still, there were others who charged the feminist movement as already solved (Green 117).

Another important factor Candice mentioned that impacts our understanding of African American History was the role of scriptures within the Black community and the way in which they affected their journey in America. Candice shared how many Black people refused to read any scriptures written by the apostle Paul. This was because of his sexist background and his advocacy for enslavement – which would later be used as a biblical reference to justify oppression throughout history. She explained that within Black faith communities, there is a level of “interrogation” that must be utilized in order to uphold the integrity of their beliefs. Exposing these practices to those outside of the black community is extremely imperative and beneficial because it serves as a method of decentering one’s self and shifting the focus towards basing your religious pursuits to be in line with your individual morals and values. This goes to show how different the religious experience is for the Black community because of the conflicting lessons being enforced by different authors of biblical texts. By cutting out certain authors from religious instruction, the Black community pays significance to their tortured history and refuses to blindly follow a narrative that does not apply to their identity. Candice mentioned how ignorant people will dismiss the Black faith experience with their microaggressions, suggesting that the correct way to participate in spiritual practices must be in line with how white people practice. Most of the criticism of not wanting to read every scriptural text comes from the idea that it is undermining the foundations of faith. However, taking in historical contexts and painful past experiences is necessary to understand why some of these biblical authors and works are not applicable to those who use spirituality as a source of safety and freedom. Tying this aspect back in regards to women’s role in religion also works to highlight the double standard within these systems. While it is common for many Black male ministers to reject Paul’s teachings of slaves obeying their masters, the same advocacy is not extended to women in regards to the sexist remarks Paul vocalized.

The final method in which this program is significant to understanding African American History is through its “charge” to white people. Candice effectively communicates the importance of white people taking the time to reflect on their role in faith systems and their role as people of faith in general within society. This charge asks that they “decenter” themselves from the narrative – this is where African American History is of utmost importance. Recognizing the atrocities of the past and making strides towards better understanding the Black experience makes it possible for white people to question the integrity of their beliefs. This is important because it not only makes their religious outlook more inclusive, it solidifies the strength of their religious identity. If one is able to understand the power behind Christianity in America and the role it plays in White supremacy, this makes it easier to make the changes necessary to align their Christian faith with a world that considers the African American narrative. Ultimately, the white community must make efforts to shift the balance of powers and develop a space for the Black community to grow and thrive. White members of faith communities are charged with reflecting on whether their beliefs are rooted in white supremacy and are called to evolve their faith systems to include Black people in their consideration towards making the world a safer place for all. This includes allowing others’ approaches to faith to differ from their own – the faith experience is not defined by white standards. One of the questions brought up by an audience member asked what a white person’s prayer for guidance on this topic may look like. Candice replied by tasking them with the accountability to extend the standard of safety they are accustomed to those outside the white community. By recognizing their privileges and ridding themselves of the belief that one should benefit from whiteness, they can allow themselves to be honest about the integrity of their faith.

Overall, Candice used the production of her book as an opportunity to understand the interactions of her identity as a Black Millennial woman with ties to the church and pop culture. With influences from faith and feminism, Candice brought awareness to wounds, questions, and issues within faith systems that must be addressed. By exposing the gender inequalities within the church, the difference in scriptural significance, and the necessity for white people to address their role in these faith systems, Candice reminds us of the importance of acknowledging and understanding African American History and considering its context as we strive for inclusivity. By examining the journey and exclusion Black women have undergone in the faith community, we are called to analyze the ways in which we commend their contributions and pay tribute to their efforts as we move forward. 


Works Cited 

Green, TeResa. “A Gendered Spirit: Race, Class, and Sex in the African American Church.” Race, Gender & Class, vol. 10, no. 1, 2003, pp. 115–28. JSTOR, Accessed 17 May 2023. 

White, Deborah G., et al. “Chapter 9 Reconstruction: The Making and Unmaking of a Revolution.” Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents, Third ed., Bedford/St. Martins, Boston, 2021.  

Blog – Cory Killip

I will be writing my blog about the “Black Present and Presence – Ubiquitous Black Ideologies & Conceptions of Art” Lecture presented by Dr. Susie Bhaka (Department of Theology and Religious Studies at University of San Diego), and Dr. Corey Barnes (Department of Philosophy at University of San Diego). This lecture aimed to highlight historical African American communal traditions, ideologies, and arts practiced throughout recent history. Doctrines discussed in this lecture allow us to deeply analyze, empathize with, provide insight and detail to, and better understand African American History.

One of the Main topics from the lecture was the Black Aesthetic Experience. The Black Aesthetic Experience is a term used to describe the cultural and artistic expressions of black people throughout history. It encompasses a wide range of creative practices, including literature, music, visual art, theater, dance, and film, and is rooted in the historical experiences of black people. One example of the Black Aesthetic discussed in the lecture described in detail how black people on slave ships would cut each other’s hair in order to maintain a certain look. According to John Gabriel Stedman who was a white oppressionist aboard one of these slave ships, “All slaves are led upon deck, where they are examined by the purchasers, who are very attentive to their persons. Here they are also separated from their companions and relations, with whom they had been brought on board. The next step is to shave off all the hair from their heads…, their hair being made into different figures, such as stars, half-moons, etc. which they generally do one to the other, having no razors, by the help of a broken bottle, and without soap”. Even without the proper equipment and in extremely poor living conditions, the black people still made it a priority to cut their hair and preserve their cultural aesthetic. This dedication conveys how important cultural practices and expressing themselves was to them. A quote from The Birth of American-American Culture: An Anthropological Perspective by Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, summed this up perfectly. It reads, “It is hard to imagine a more impressive example of irrepressible cultural vitality than this image of slaves decorating one another’s hair in the midst of one of the most dehumanizing experiences in all of history”. This goes to show the resilience and creativity of enslaved people that showed through even in the face of extreme oppression.

Another main topic in the lecture was ubiquitous cultural vitality that was practiced in everyday life for African Americans. An important artistic part of this culture was song and dance. An example of the artistic practices highlighted in the video was something called the “Ring Shout”. The Ring shout involves a group of people moving in a circular motion while singing and dancing to music being played. The participants would frequently be dressed in all white and “moved counterclockwise while shuffling their feet, clapping, singing, calling out, or praying aloud.”(FOMM 370) Africans who practiced the ring shout were able to uphold their cultural customs and proclaim their religious beliefs. Though Ring Shout proves to be a good example of a specific artistic cultural practice, zooming out, The significance of singing and dancing as a whole was extremely important to black people. It served as an outlet for expression and a release of suppressed feelings. Slaves could express their pleasure, sadness, hope, and anguish through song and dance in a therapeutic and liberating way. Additionally, it contributed to the development of a sense of camaraderie and solidarity among slaves, who frequently felt alone and alienated throughout their captivity. It also served as a form of resistance against their masters. Many of the songs and dances included cryptic undertones and secret meanings that alluded to the longing for independence and the optimism for a brighter future that provided them with the hope they needed to keep going. Slaves may speak with one another without their masters hearing them by singing and dancing together. Not to mention, song and dance allowed African Americans to teach, practice, and preserve cultural traditions for generations to come. A quote included in the lecture that describes how powerful black music was states, “Black music is not artistic creation for its own sake, rather it tells us about the thinking and feeling of the African People, and the kinds of mental adjustments they had to make in order to survive in an alien land. The work songs were a means of heightening energy, converting labor into dances and games. Providing emotional excitement in an otherwise unbearable situation. The emphasis was on free continuous creative energy as produced in song.”(James Cone). 

The last main topic from the lecture was the contrast between black aesthetics and white aesthetics. In the last few hundred years in America, beauty and art have been looked upon using the “white yardstick of civilization”(Bell Hooks). Essentially, what was thought of as beautiful or valuable art was determined by white people and toward other white people. The black aesthetic valued the beauty of imperfections, the roughness of the unpolished, and the authenticity of raw emotion, whereas the white aesthetic frequently favored formal beauty and idealized portrayals of reality. The white aesthetic tended to be more independent and secular in character, whereas the black aesthetic was frequently deeply linked to social and spiritual experiences. This gap between what both races valued was large and resulted in the dominant white majority completely disregarding black art as a form of art, just because it was different than what the whites were used to. According to Cornel West, “The authority of science, undergirded by modern philosophical discourse, promotes and encourages activities of observing, comparing, measuring, and ordering the physical characteristics of human bodies. Forms of rationality and science prohibited the legitimacy of black equality and beauty culture and intellectual capacity to think about black and white equally was deemed irrational, barbaric or mad”. Another similar quote by Bell Hooks from the lecture reads, “art in black communities intrinsically serves a political function. Whatever African Americans in music, dance, poetry, painting, was regarded as a testimony bearing witness challenging racist thinking which suggested that black folks are not fully human, were uncivilized, and that the measure of this was our collective failure to create great art”. These quotes provide an idea of how oppressed black art and the black aesthetic was in society. Despite extreme oppression in pretty much all facets of life, black people continued to practice their artistic culture or aesthetic and didn’t let the attitude of the masses stop them. Ultimately the difference between the black aesthetic and white aesthetic is significant in understanding the historical context of how white supremacy shaped the dominant cultural narratives and aesthetics in America, while also recognizing the resilience and creativity of black people in the face of systemic oppression.

In conclusion, the lecture on “Black Present and Presence – Ubiquitous Black Ideologies & Conceptions of Art” presented by Dr. Susie Bhaka and Dr. Corey Barnes sheds light on the historical and cultural significance of the Black Aesthetic Experience, the ubiquitous cultural vitality of everyday life for African Americans, and the contrast between black aesthetics and white aesthetics. By examining these topics, we can gain a better understanding of the resilience, creativity, and cultural vitality of black people, who were able to preserve their cultural traditions and express their feelings through art, despite facing systemic oppression which ultimately gives us a better opportunity to understand and empathize with African American history as a whole. It is essential to acknowledge the value of the black aesthetic as a unique and significant artistic expression that deserves recognition and respect in its own right. Furthermore, we must continue to learn about and appreciate the cultural contributions of black people, as we strive towards a more equitable and just society.

“‘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, 

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).

“A Luminary’s Journey: Mae C. Jemison’s Inspiring Story and its Significance in African American History”- Alaon Saulet

Alaon Saulet

Professor Miller 

African American History 

May 12, 2023 


On Wednesday, March 29th, I had the privilege of attending a Women’s History Month conference in the KIPJ Theater featuring Mae C Jemison, the first African American woman to enter space, as she was interviewed by USD professor Dr. Dominguez. As Jemison spoke, it was clear that she is a true trailblazer, having broken barriers throughout her career as a scientist and astronaut. During the conference, Jemison shared her journey, discussing her upbringing and the challenges she faced as a woman of color. Her insights and experiences were both thought-provoking and inspiring, and I found myself completely engrossed in her story. As Jemison spoke, she answered questions from Dr. Dominguez and the audience, providing even more insight into her rise to success. Not only was Jemison’s words inspiring as she recounted her story and accomplishments but it was also clear that her story is significant to our understanding of African American history, in several ways.

Breaking Boundaries: Dr. Mae Jemison’s Journey of Perseverance and Passion in African American History

First of all, Mae C Jemison is a Luminary in every sense of the word. As she shared her success story, she inspired the audience to pursue their passions and never let societal expectations limit their potential. Jemison recounted her journey of starting young, joining Harvard University at the age of 16, and paving the way for many young women of color to pursue higher education. Here Jemison’s story demonstrates the importance of education and the pursuit of knowledge in African American history. Her early admission to Harvard University at the age of 16 highlights the power of education in overcoming systemic barriers and providing opportunities for upward mobility. 

     Dr. Jemison also shared how she maintained her passion for science and exploration, which led her to join the Peace Corps and go overseas. Her experiences in the Peace Corps showed her that there was more to life than just science, and she developed a passion for the arts and culture. She encouraged young women to explore their interests and not limit themselves to one field of study. Jemison’s work with the Peace Corps and her passion for the arts and culture highlight the multidimensional nature of African American experiences. African Americans have made significant contributions to various fields, including the arts, education, politics, and science. Jemison’s accomplishments and diverse interests serve as a reminder of the complexity and richness of African American history. 

When Dr. Jemison decided to pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut, she faced significant opposition from society and a fear of heights. However, she refused to let fear and societal expectations sway her judgment. As she stated, “What do we do with fear, we have to put it in context.” She encouraged women to challenge themselves and take risks regardless of the fear that is present. Instead of letting fear win, she put her fear in context and used it as a tool to propel herself forward. This mindset allowed her to achieve her goal of becoming the first African American woman to travel to space.

Here Dr. Jemison’s message was clear – pursue what you ultimately want to do and don’t let anyone take you off that path. She articulated how she made some of her life choices by taking the next step, leaving where she was, and/or starting something new. She emphasized the importance of taking risks and following your passion, even when it is not the most conventional path. Dr. Jemison’s words serve as a powerful reminder that success and fulfillment come from fulfilling and following one’s passions. Jemison’s message of pursuing one’s passions and staying true to oneself is also a significant part of African American history. Throughout history, African Americans have had to overcome obstacles and societal constraints to pursue their dreams and passions. Jemison’s determination and conviction in pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut exemplify this spirit of perseverance and self-determination.

The Power of Breaking Down Stereotypes and Challenging Societal Limitations

One example that effectively conveyed Jemison’s message is when she told a story she remembers when she was young and she recalls a time in school when a teacher asked what she wanted to be. Jemison had said she wanted to be a scientist, to which the teacher replied “don’t you mean a nurse.” Jemison explained how she knew that the teacher was just trying to guide her to her best career as African American woman, but then encourages the audience not to fall into a category that people put you in, but to instead know that you have the choice to do whatever you want. In this statement, Jemison is acknowledging the good intentions of her teacher who tried to guide her towards a career that was suitable for African American women. However, she also emphasizes the importance of not limiting oneself to a particular category or stereotype that people may try to put them in. Jemison’s message is that individuals should have the freedom and agency to pursue their dreams and aspirations, regardless of their race, gender, or any other societal label. She believes that everyone should be encouraged to explore their interests and talents, without being confined to preconceived notions of what they should or shouldn’t do. Jemison’s own life and career serve as a testament to this message. As the first African American woman to travel to space, she broke down barriers and defied expectations, demonstrating that anyone can achieve their goals with hard work and determination. Jemison’s statement encourages individuals to recognize and challenge societal limitations and stereotypes, and to pursue their passions with the confidence that they have the power to shape their destiny. 

 The Resonating Messages of Mae C. Jemison and the Struggles of Black Women and Men in Overcoming Societal Norms and Achieving Success

As Mae C. Jemison spoke and answered questions, she constantly focused on the theme of breaking free from societal categories and pursuing one’s passions and dreams, regardless of what others may say or think. She emphasized that people should not let others define them or limit their potential based on their gender, race, or any other category they may belong to. This message aligns with the struggles and triumphs of the black women highlighted in Chapter 16 of Freedom on My Mind, who fought against similar societal expectations and restrictions.

In Chapter 16, the authors highlight the experiences of black women who fought against the intersectional oppression they faced as both black and female in American society. These women fought for their rights and recognition as individuals with agency and the ability to determine their paths, despite facing significant obstacles and opposition. For example, Ida B. Wells fought against the lynching of black men and women and worked to expose the injustice and violence of the practice, while Mary Church Terrell fought for women’s suffrage and equal access to education and job opportunities.

Jemison’s message of individual agency and self-determination resonates with the struggles of these black women, who refused to be confined to societal categories and expectations. Their examples inspire us to break free from these constraints and pursue our passions and dreams with determination and courage as Jemison did. 

As I analyze Jemison’s experience and speech another exemplary figure of black resistance from the documentary, A Choice of Weapons; Inspired by Gordan Parks, comes to mind. This exemplary figure is Gordon Parks, a photographer working during the Harlem Renaissance. Parks was the first black man to work for LIFE Magazine as well as have his work published on the front cover. Park’s photography captured the black experience and narratives, a perspective that fought to reject the white imaginary that perpetuated stereotypes, violence, and discrimination. Overall Parks broke societal barriers as he challenged systemic prejudices in his field. 

Gordon Parks and Mae C Jemison both show that barriers can be broken as African Americans defy societal norms and achieve success by pursuing their passions, breaking down barriers, and overcoming systemic and institutional challenges. Both Parks and Jemison defied societal norms and challenged systemic and institutional barriers to achieve success in their respective fields. They serve as role models for future generations and demonstrate that with hard work, dedication, and a willingness to challenge the status quo, barriers can be broken and dreams can be achieved regardless of race, gender, or social background. 

Overall Impact of Mae C Jemison’s Life and Career on African American History

In conclusion, attending the Women’s History Month conference featuring Mae C Jemison was a truly inspiring and thought-provoking experience. Hearing Dr. Jemison answers questions about her life and success truly inspires her, making her the luminary that she is. Dr. Jemison’s life and career serve as a reminder of the importance of education and the pursuit of knowledge, as well as the multidimensional nature of African American experiences and accomplishments. Her message of perseverance, determination, and self-determination was clear throughout the conference and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of pursuing one’s passions and staying true to oneself. As the first African American woman to travel to space, Jemison broke down barriers and defied expectations, demonstrating that anyone can achieve their goals with hard work and determination. Her story and insights are significant to our understanding of African American history, and her legacy serves as a source of inspiration for generations to come.

Works Cited 


Maggio, J, (Producer). (2021). A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks [Documentary]. HBO Documentary Films 

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


Rationalizing Religion and Modernity-Christian Mattei

Rationalizing Religion and Modernity


Out of the many black history events held this year at USD, I eventually decided the program I would like to attend would be Candice Marie Benbow’s Red Lip Theology Seminar sponsored by the USD Copley Library and San Diego Public Library.  Through the course of the speech, Candice Benbow narrates her experience growing up in a feminist Christian family. Candice demonstrates through the narration of her experiences the lack of understanding the church often had for her and her family. She shares her disillusionment with the church over the years but details how she has not lost her faith and remains a Christian. She encourages the audience to think critically and make sure to question all beliefs. One should understand why it is they believe something before fully subscribing to any idea.  Benbow ultimately expresses that the modern black church is losing modern black women and that it must adapt to become a more welcoming and inclusive environment. The program’s message of taking action to make real change in the world resonates with the “Black Freedom Struggle” and expands one’s understanding of African American History. This is because African Americans have always been the ones to take control of their fate and fight against the shackles of oppression.

The first thing I would like to talk about is the role of the black church in early African American history. Even with all the negative aspects of the church Candice brought to light it is important to acknowledge that the church was one of the first outlets African Americans had for expressing any form of freedom. It was the church that originally brought African Americans a community that they could feel accepted in. The abolitionist movement, which aimed to abolish slavery and protect African Americans’ freedom and rights, was fundamentally influenced by the Black Church. African American activists and leaders like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman were given a platform to inspire their people and rally support for the battle against slavery. The Church acted as a hub for protest planning, literature distribution, and gatherings to discuss and advance the abolitionist cause.

African Americans benefited from the Black Church’s cultural and spiritual empowerment in addition to its political and social activism. African customs have been preserved, and they have been combined with Christian teachings to produce a distinctive and vivacious religious experience. The Black Church gave birth to gospel music, which is known for its beautiful melodies and impassioned sentiments. This strong form of cultural expression gives people suffering hardships courage, hope, and inspiration. Freedom on My Mind Chapter 9 even brings to light the fact that “Joining a church was an act of physical and spiritual emancipation, and black churches united black communities.” This appreciation for the church is shared by Candice Benbow herself as she believes that even in the present day the church should be a place black people can feel accepted and free in. She states “Give us room to live, and be, and thrive, and grow, and flourish.” Candice believes that when African Americans are given room to flourish the world will flourish along with them. Candice calls out the church’s mistakes not because she wants it to burn but because she wants it to be better. She wants it to serve the same purpose it served long ago for those who needed it the most.

The Black Freedom Struggle is a concept that has existed since the beginning of black enslavement. Throughout the course of African American History, black people have always been fighting against their oppressors. It was understood from very early on that the only way black people would ever be able to attain freedom is if they fought for it. This struggle can be seen in many ways depending on what era of history is being examined. It was seen when African Americans decided to fight in the War of Independence in hopes of achieving emancipation. It can be seen in the various slave revolts during the 18th and 19th centuries. It can even be seen in the modern day with many African Americans today still striving for true equality in all aspects of life. This struggle is often overlooked, and many believe it was the “white savior” who truly freed African Americans. This viewpoint fails to take into account all the hard work and sacrifices that have had to be made by black people to get as far as they have come. The Civil Rights Movement made progress, but the fight for racial equality is ongoing. The Black Freedom Struggle is still evolving, tackling new challenges, and pushing for social and economic justice. The Black Lives Matter movement, sparked by the deaths of unarmed black individuals at the hands of law enforcement, is renewing the fight against systemic racism and police brutality.

The article “Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle by Rebecca Tuuri” brings to light the efforts of The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and how this group helped fight against injustice during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s and 1970s. This group was one of the first organizations to strive for an end to both racism and sexism in the United States. The NCNW understood the value of encouraging women to speak up for themselves and effect change by amplifying their voices. They encouraged African American women to participate in politics, leadership positions, and public service through its Women in Public Life program. Conferences, workshops, and training sessions were conducted by the NCNW to provide women with the knowledge and abilities they needed to be effective leaders and champions in their communities. The NCNW has survived and evolved in the face of changing socioeconomic problems.

Racial and gender inequality is still a problem, so they continue to confront it by promoting laws that support and empower African American women and their families. The organization’s programs now cover topics like systematic racism eradication, criminal justice reform, and health inequalities. This organization has made tremendous contributions to the civil rights movement. The movement in and of itself is a demonstration of African American perseverance and strength. The movement represents what Candice preaches in her speech very well. If you want to see change then you must take action. Sometimes the only way to achieve this is to go against authority and rebel against the status quo. This defiance is similar to the defiance Benbow displays against the Baptist church. In order to improve something sometimes you must take that something apart and rebuild it with new pieces. If the institution itself is flawed, then it must be deconstructed and changed intrinsically.

The Church should be an outlet for black expression and should never serve to shame or make its congregation uncomfortable. Candice Benbow emphasizes that the black freedom struggle should be valued above all else and that one should always be analytical regarding their most important beliefs. She preaches against indoctrination and encourages one to cultivate the individual. She calls the audience to ask themselves who they truly are and who they want to be in the future. The black freedom struggle is integral to understanding African American History as it is the main force that has propelled it forward. It is thanks to the centuries of struggle and battle brought upon by black people in the United States that a more equal society has been reached. This struggle will rage on and will continue until true equality has been reached.

Works Cited


CHAPTER 9 Reconstruction: The Making and Unmaking of a Revolution, Freedom on My Mind, Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr.

Strategic Sisterhood: The National Council of Negro Women in the Black Freedom Struggle by Rebecca Tuuri (review) Sariah Orocu Alabama Review, Volume 74, Number 3, July 2021

“The inaugural Roy L. Brooks distinguished lecture series” – German Gandara

The University of San Diego hosted the inaugural Roy L. Brooks distinguished lecture series for the first time ever. Honoring a scholar whose work has profoundly impacted the field and emphasized the importance of community involvement in promoting educational equity and racial justice. The USD community wanted to show their appreciation for Professor Roy L. Brooks for his innovative research, excellent teaching, and unyielding commitment to improving the world. Hence, they created a lecture series in his honour. Professor Brooks has made significant contributions to law and society, which several publications and books have recognized. He delivered the inaugural lecture at the American Society as a professor at USD.

Well-known sociologist and researcher Dr Derrick R. Brooms talked about the educational goals and experiences of Black males who work in Hispanic social organizations. Dr Brooms argued that the Black community must have community support and investment to achieve educational equity and racial justice. In addition, he stressed the significance of people’s efforts in making a difference and encouraged his listeners to shoot for the stars in their quest to impact the world positively.

Dr Brooms was moved to give this talk after reading a poem Professor Brooks’ late wife had written about him in which she praised his dedication to bettering the world. Dr Brooms used the poem to stress the value of having a lasting, positive effect and making progress. He also emphasized the need to counter stereotypes about Black males and their pursuit of higher education.

Significantly, Dr Brooms’ talk highlighted the necessity for community support and investment in the Black community to achieve educational equality and racial justice, shedding attention on Black males’ difficulties in accessing higher education institutions. His talk was important because it encouraged his listeners to think big and make a difference in the world via their efforts.

The problems Black males experience in higher education institutions, the significance of community support and investment in the Black community, and the need for individual acts were the central storylines and topics of the presentation (Nobles, 1976). Dr Brooms used a statement by James Baldwin, “You were not expected to aspire to excellence, you were expected to make peace,” to highlight the bias against Black men’s academic aspirations (Baldwin, 1965). He suggested that these stereotypes do more damage than good by lowering Black men’s expectations for themselves and maintaining racial inequity in educational opportunities.

Dr Brooms’s research objective is to understand better what Black males need to succeed in college. He contends that helping the Black community financially and morally is essential to achieving educational equality and racial justice. He stresses the need for genuine connections and cares for pupils to create an atmosphere encouraging achievement and belonging.

The importance of Dr Brooms’ lecture to our understanding of African American history stems from his emphasis on the difficulties Black men face when attempting to enroll in and succeed at universities, as well as the necessity of community support and investment in the Black community to advance educational equity and racial justice (Brooms, 2021). His talk encouraged his listeners to think big and make a difference in the world, stressing the significance of personal initiative.

Dr Brooms’ talk and the readings from Freedom on My Mind and “Racism and White Denial in the American Criminal Justice System” by Cheryl Harris are harmonious in their ideas and storylines. Both novels highlight how preconceived notions about African Americans stifle their potential and contribute to the upkeep of injustice in various settings. They also stress the significance of financial and social investments in advancing social justice and equality.

The part of Dr Brooms’ presentation when he read the poem his late colleague Professor Brooks’ wife had written about him stuck out the most. Professor Brooks’ wife wrote a beautiful poem about how much she adored him because he worked to make the world a better place for everyone. This event encapsulated the spirit of the first Roy L. Brooks Distinguished Lecture Series by highlighting the power of one person to change the world.

Professor Brooks’ enormous publishing record—more than 100 papers and 20 books—attests to his dedication to academic rigor and originality. As a result of his prominence as an expert in his profession, he was the first professor at USD to be asked to lecture at the American Society. Professor Brooks’s unique selling point is his capacity to engage and motivate his pupils. His pupils like him because of his boundless enthusiasm for teaching and his knack for simplifying seemingly intractable concepts.

The presentation by Dr Brooms focused on the idea of global excellence and transformative influence. He spoke on the significance of equal education and racial equality for black males and their societal place. He stressed the importance of true connections and cared for pupils in creating an atmosphere where black males may flourish.

Dr Brooms plans to study black male college students to learn more about their perspectives and identify strategies to help them succeed in school. He discussed the outcomes of his research on the needs and expectations of black males when they engage with organizations that primarily serve the Hispanic community. He talks about the value of engaging in and dedicating oneself to the black community and studying with them rather than just conducting research on them.

During his talk, Dr Brooms was often asked, “How do we get from problems to possibilities?” He claimed that we need to think that our actions may make a difference and that it is necessary to confront and disprove unfavorable views. He also tells us about the need for a setting that encourages and facilitates students’ intellectual and personal growth.

The lecture’s key storylines and themes were important for our comprehension of African American history because they shed light on the never-ending fight for racial justice and educational fairness. They also stress the significance of people’s efforts and determination to effect change. Professor Brooks inspires us all because of his commitment to scholarly and educational quality and his transformative influence on the globe via his work as an educator, researcher, and mentor (Gurin et al., 2002).

Using material like Freedom on My Mind from an African American history class might help put what you’re teaching in perspective and help students connect the lecture and their studies. The Black Power movement and the turn to a more radical, militant approach to attaining racial justice are discussed in Chapter 10, one of the most relevant chapters. Similar to Dr Brooms’ lecture, this section emphasizes the power of the person to effect change via grassroots engagement.

It is essential to use academic, secondary sources to back up our analysis, in addition to primary literature used in the course. Robert T. Palmer and J. Luke Wood’s “Navigating the Ivory Tower: The Experiences of Black Men in Graduate and Professional Education” is one such piece. This essay delves into the realities of higher education for black males, examining their obstacles and how they overcome them. This article’s ideas and tales are pertinent to Dr Brooms’ presentation and may enrich our knowledge of the difficulties he raised.

In conclusion, Roy L. Brooks Distinguished Lecture Series was enlightening because it brought light on the obstacles. Black males face higher education and the need to provide spaces that encourage and facilitate their success in the classroom. Dr Brooms’s talk focused on shifting focus from issues to opportunities and developing nurturing classroom communities that put students first. His findings highlight the need to provide Black male college students with tools and assistance to help them succeed in their studies. Dr Brooks’s talk praised the achievements of a legendary educator and researcher while also stressing the need to set lofty goals for one’s professional and educational future (Wenger, 1998). The lectures were thought-provoking and educational overall, shedding light on vital topics relevant to the world of higher learning and society at large.


Baldwin, J. (1965). The American Dream and the American Negro. New York: New York Times.

Brooms, D. R. (2021, February 25). What’s Going On? Black Men’s Educational Desires and Navigating Hispanic Serving Institutions [Lecture]. Inaugural Roy L. Brooks Distinguished Lecture Series, University of San Diego, San Diego, CA.

Gurin, P., Dey, E. L., Hurtado, S., & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72(3), 330-366.

Nobles, W. W. (1976). African Philosophy: Foundations for Black Psychology. Journal of Social Issues, 32(3), 119-127.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Pr


“We are The People” – Jack Morrison

Jack Morrison

Dr. Channon Miller

African American Studies

12 May 2023

We are The People

We as beings of spirit living the human experience often find labels to be an efficient way of navigating the strange world we live in. It certainly makes sense that creating words to ascribe a potentially very dynamic dimension of our being can make communication with other individuals much easier. In particular, labels may provide us with a sense of safety and security, especially if a label identifies one’s self with a larger group of other individuals. Labels can be fun and can fill us with a sense of pride. Many feel a deep and profound attachment to the words that they feel construct their sense of self, so much so that they may even experience suffering if they feel their identity becomes challenged. In my experience, I have come to understand this phenomenon of attachment to identity as unsustainable behavior.

On February 28, 2023, I received the privilege of attending the “Black and Female Identifying” discussion panel sponsored by the Black Student Resource Center. During this panel, I found myself on multiple occasions mesmerized by the passion that 6 humans felt for their journey of navigating this world in the body of a black female. Observing their discussion, I felt internally a deep reverence for the subtle ways they expressed themselves as individuals cultured as one. From the subtle shifts in intonation in their voices to the electric body language, their shared experience, especially facing adversity navigating a culture on a wider scale providing them an uphill battle in order to maintain empowerment, joyfully reminded me of the resilience of the human spirit, and the way we manage to still have fun preserving it. I felt that during their showcase I understood the meaning of something they collectively referred to as “black girl magic”. One instance strung a dissonant chord in this story’s song, however. Upon being faced with the question of how they all managed to remain strong the consensus between them was that they found sanctity in their collective womanhood, and more specifically their “blackness”. They continued to describe the various ways in which they were “forced” to construct walls within their minds separating themselves from those who did not fit the archetype of their identities whether that be because of “whiteness” or manhood as to shield themselves from the onslaught of those who desire to degrade them because of their identities as black females. Hearing this disappointed me. I understood that if I were to walk by these women on the street whom, thanks to the facilitation of the event, I was able to experience more or less the full reality of, they would treat me differently as a white man. If i were to walk by these women on the street, I would never have experienced this black girl magic.

The quality of this adversity that I face at first may appear to be different in nature than the kind that these women experienced facing racial and sexual discrimination from other humans, however, the only real difference is the level of shared consciousness that is being limited by a resistance to the expression of love. One case requires the foremost attention as in order to experience life at its highest consciousness (a world where everybody is enlightened and practicing whatever form of magic they see as enjoyable) you must refine its qualities that manifest at a lower level (maintaining things like safety and rudimentary standards of living). In other words, it is not reasonable for me to ask that any marginalized ego allow itself to remain that way, and it is also reasonable for me as a human being to dream of a world where not a single drop of white, black, boy, or girl magic is wasted. If one is to consider the ego and separation as material and love and connectedness as divine, I see the upbringing of this world the way Martin Luther King Jr. does when he suggests that we must fight “physical force with soul force” (White 1466 of pdf version).

This lack of consciousness that arises comes from the illusion experienced by the self of separation from the rest of reality. This separation is perpetuated by the attachment to identity as if you internally associate yourself with the concept of any thing, there is a disconnection to whatever proportion of reality is not conceptualized as included in that thing. For example, if one identifies themselves as a black person, they conceptualize themselves as something other than things they don’t consider to coexist with their idea of “black person-ness”. It is for this reason that many individuals withhold their innermost magical selves. If one draws into consciousness that they are existing as a part of the universe and also that they consider that the universe is only made of one thing (the universe) a beautiful understanding unfolds that all is one. As understood by a vast variety of spiritual scholars this reality of one-ness manifests as the center point for most major religions and theologies. This understanding however is not yet fully realized by many individuals and so in this world, we have people who still value their separation. People are always going to do what feels right to them and many are content with remaining in conceptual boxes they construct for themselves. 

An individual who hasn’t fully grasped the concept of one-ness, what ceremonial magic practitioners call the “knowledge of the waters”, or what some are content conceptualizing as simply “OM” is not doing any wrong in the same way that a blue whale exploring the ocean is entirely free to do as they please. The skill of remaining in touch with this one-ness requires much meditation and practice for most people. To those who are unsure whether they believe this practice will be worth their valuable time on this planet, I shall recall the story of Matthieu Ricard. Matthieu lived his life pursuing the expansion of what he understood was knowledge and material success by working diligently and attaining his doctorate in cellular genetics. After realizing that material abundance and expansion of the collective ego did not fulfill him, he abandoned his life at the prestigious Pasteur Institute in France to find peace at a monastery in Darjeeling, India. There he studied with masters of meditation and has since dedicated his life to it. A study performed by the University of Wisconsin aimed to measure the varying levels of happiness in people who live varying lifestyles and Mattheiu was one of them. The strata for measuring happiness consisted of measuring the concentration of neurotransmitters that are associated with happiness and well being such as serotonin and oxytocin, as well as brain waves which are associated with maximizing overall brain function. Matthieu’s scores were “unprecedented” (Dell’Amore). “Sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude gamma-band oscillations” and “phase-synchrony” were essentially supercharged in his brain while engaging in meditation;  “attention, working memory, learning, or conscious perception” are all impacted “crucially” by these phenomena (Lutz et al.). Resulting from the measurements, the University of Wisconsin dubbed him “the happiest man alive” (Dell’Amore). Matthieu is now a published author and photographer and continues to engage in meditation daily. Ricard’s story is what inspired me personally to enter the path of enlightenment, and I physically could not be more at peace in this present moment.

No matter what, we as the human race will be okay. I have seen more than enough magic from every sing human I have encountered to remain trusting in that belief. And still, I will always ask why we should be okay with being okay when we can be so much more. This world we live in has far too much potential for us to sit idle in our boxes of race, class, sex, religion, or anything else when we could all dance together to this one big beautiful song that is our strange universe. 


We Are the people

By Jack Morrison


Your body and mine see there might be a difference

Your shape your color your face, but be-

tween your loving and mine oh there is no distance

When it comes to people there’s only one


The apes, the silly primates

They call us the dancers or the human race

So if life gets tricky just remember one thing

Monkeys never stress no monkeys only swing


They play, they eat fruit, and they party

Up in the trees see they never ever let anybody

Tell them they’re anything less than magical

If you don’t know what I mean now listen here I’ll spill it all


There’s not a single human out here living knowing what they’re doing

We just go with the flow and live life the way we choose and

Some things work and some things don’t and you see that’s the beauty

At the end of the day it all keeps on moving


So beware the belief of stagnation

Down to the atoms you are made of vibrations

No matter how you see it everything changes

Including the bad times so lets have patience


Graciously accept the energy and stay in

The headspace that your and my meditation

Saves us from suffering and pain and

Together as a nation, we can be elation



Works Cited:

Dell’Amore, Christine. “The World’s Happiest Man is a Tibetan Monk.” Smithsonian Magazine: SmartNews, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Nov. 2012,


Lutz, Antoine, et al. “Long-Term Meditators Self-Induce High-Amplitude Gamma Synchrony … – PNAS.” PNAS, 8 Nov. 2004,


White, Deborah Gray. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 


“Dr. Mae Jemison: 1st African American Woman in Space” – Joseph Barewin



     The African American story takes students through an immersive experience of pain and struggle, that both celebrates its impressive accomplishments as well as calls us all towards a continuous fight for equality. Mae Jemison, astronaut, author, and renowned scientist, blessed our university with a speech about her own story in becoming a trailblazer for both women and African Americans alike. Along with becoming the first African American woman to go to space, she has earned countless awards such as joining the 1993 Women’s Hall of Fame, written several novels, and is the current principal and founder of the DARPA 100 Year Starship, a program designed to develop a sustainable journey for humans to nearby stars.  The story of Mae Jemison provides knowledgeable lessons on the importance of inclusivity that mimic key themes throughout African American history such as  lasting sustainability, self empowerment, and undeniable pride.


     The Earth is a marvelous place of life and beauty. Yet, as Mae Jemison reminds us, humankind is dependent on the Earth to survive. The Earth, in turn, is not necessarily dependent on human survival. Thus, she chose to pursue an education in sustainability in order to carry out her vision of inclusivity. Sustainability is a key factor in all forms of science that often gets overlooked. It requires a way of thinking that maximizes benefit, while at the same time minimizing impact. Jemison was passionate about not only creating a lasting impact on the world, but also in finding her own personal sense of success. While she enjoyed her time as an astronaut, Jemison spoke of her lack of satisfaction from such a career, even with NASA pushing her to continue, saying “People want you to behave in the model that they want, rather than what you as an individual want. How do you stay true to yourself, and use your platform so people truly hear you?” This quote illustrates her understanding that being sustainable requires a passion combined with a powerful voice. The Montgomery Bus Boycott mimics this narrative with its use of Rosa Parks. Many know the story of Rosa Parks as a strong woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus to her white counterpart. Yet, what is often overlooked is the thousands of other men and women who contributed to the same movement, and agreed to have Rosa Parks stand as their representative for such an important protest. This decision was made using the same logic as Mae Jemison, choosing a representative to maximize the impact of a voice so as to be truly heard, and have a lasting impact that is as inclusive as possible. 

     What does it mean to be empowered? Mae Jemison attempts to answer this question with a statement from her own experiences in self-empowerment, saying “You have to take your power, you have to own it. To be empowered, you must believe that you have the right to participate . . . You must also believe you have the right to contribute something, and that you have something to contribute. You then have to risk making that contribution.” This quote directly relates to the same narratives of black power and self-help during the fight for civil rights. Just as Jemison had to take her own power, black people had to find their own strength, separate from a government that had abandoned them. This was accomplished by using concepts like self-help, being fully inclusive of black communities through supporting black business and black leaders (White 625). What began as self-help, would eventually grow into a larger black power movement. This movement included strategies to more specifically target methods to regain empowerment for all African Americans. These tactics ranged from obtaining political relevance to supporting the safety of black people from lynching or police brutality. In each case, it was absolutely necessary for the involvement of all black people nationwide in order to empower each individual. 


     During the closing statements of her speech, Jamison was asked a question to provide one piece of advice that she has learned from her struggles as an African American woman. She responded with a powerful quote, saying “you must be able to get dirty”. This remark goes beyond her youthful upbringing of playing in the mud, and instead speaks to the resilience required to be successful as a minority in this country. This resilience mimics the struggles faced by fellow African American women fighting for feminist rights during the civil rights movement. Freedom on My Mind states, “the phenomenon of being black and female, in a country that is both racist and sexist” (White 970). To combat these struggles, it was necessary that women of color prioritized inclusivity. An individual black woman stood little chance of triumphing her oppression alone. Thus, many turned to organizations such as the National Black Feminist Organization (Barnes). Mae Jemison was no different. She spoke of the discrimination she faced as a black woman in a field dominated by white men. Yet, she drew power knowing that she could be an inspiration for many to come. If she were able to continue to stand proud, she would be able to empower many more like her and increase inclusivity in the scientific community. Even at a young age, Jemison was able to recall her Kindergarten teacher doubting her goals of one day becoming a scientist. When revealing her dream, the teacher responded “Don’t you mean you want to be a nurse.” Tragically, it was not uncommon for educators in predominantly black areas to look down upon the capabilities of black students. Chapter Sixteen of Freedom on My Mind reminds us that as gang violenced increased during the late twentieth century, even more so were innocent black people grouped into the stereotype that all Black people were violent criminals. These stereotypes existed everywhere from poverty-ridden cities to middle-class school systems, never were black people safe from prejudice. Yet, Mae Jemison reminds us that with pride in your desires and dreams, black people are capable of superimposing the systemic racism that has plagued the nation for so many centuries, and move toward an inclusive community. 


     Mae Jemison is one of many African Americans with a story of struggle, perseverance, and eventual success. Her remarkable achievements as a scientist inspire women and African Americans alike in the growth towards a fully inclusive world. With her story, powerful parallels can be drawn to the rich tapestry of history through key themes of sustainability, self-empowerment, and pride. Each of these themes directly correlate to lessons that can be viewed as growth in our march towards equality, but also as a constant reminder to continue fighting. 




Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Mae Jemison.” National Women’s History Museum, 2019.

Accessed: 1 May 2023.


Barnes, Sharon L. “Black Feminism.” The American Mosaic: The African American 

Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2023, Accessed 8 May 2023.


U.S. Department of the Interior. (2021, August 6). Women in the Civil Rights Movement 

Historic Context Statement and AACRN listing guidance (African American Civil Rights Network) . National Parks Service. Accessed 10 May 2023. 


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).

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.