Category Archives: Black History Month Program

“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, 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).


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



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, 

“Candice Marie Benbow’s ‘Red Lip Theology’ Is a Love Letter to Her Mother.” Shondaland, 18 Jan. 2022, 


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,
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,

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.

Dr. Derrick Brooms of Roy L. Brooks’ Distinguished Lecture Series

James Scott

Professor Miller

History 128

12 May 2023


Black History as USD

African American history is a history of people, places, and things. Taking the class of African American history is a stepping stone to realizing and understanding the day-to-day life and life and the history of an African American cannot fully be comprehended without experiencing it personally. Although the black experience cannot ever be summarized, in Roy L. Brooks’ distinguished lecture series Dr. Derrick Brooms touches base on topics such as the aspects of African American history he experienced in his life. He explained how black people and based on his personal experience black men and boys have a box they are put into on where they should be, what they should be and how they should be it, without the opportunity to start with a clean slate. He touches on topics such as youth as a black boy, the black college experience, and being subject to racial stereotypes ultimately showing why the theme of this subject is significant to the understanding of African American history.


The first topic Dr. Brooks touched on was the College experience as a black man or as he called it “the black college experience”. As a young man, he grew up in the south side of Chicago in a racially segregated neighborhood and was supposed to end up in many places, but college was not one of those places. He took pride in being able to be relatable, in his presentation he said “Many young black children hear stories of success from the mouths of those who were born into it”, he is not one of those people. Just like many other black youth, Dr. Brooks grew up playing sports what he emphasized was that he played football and ran track, with that being said he wasn’t a football player nor was he a track runner he was Derick Brooks saying “Sports are what I, not who I was”. This is one of many boxes that the black male population is put into by society, as the image of a well-paid black professional comes with the assumption that their success was obtained by running a ball or performing on a stage.  Despite his knowledge of self when he stepped foot on a college campus the question, he received from his white counterparts were of the origin such as what sport do you play and was instantly put into a category or a box. If he was not judged based on the assumption that he had to be an athlete he was judged about where he was from. He then used this to go into another point of the black college experience, he honed in on the comparison of black students and their white counterparts when it came to success in education. For example, according to College Dropout Rates 2023, 52% of black students drop out of a 4-year institution per year while only 42% of white students drop out of the 4-year institutions they attend. When this information is presented what isn’t presented is that of those 52% of black students 65% of those African American students are independent meaning, they are trying to maintain a full-time job and family responsibilities while pursuing a degree. Due to situations like these are the root of Dr. Brooms’ hypothesis that black educational success cannot be based on a comparison between black and white students. The reason for this is the uniqueness of the black educational journey as he called it. He faced problems as a black man his white comparable did not for example, people were more worried about how he dressed, how his hair looked and how he talked than they were with is intellectual ability.


The next key topic Dr. Brooks touched upon was the perception of black people. With confidence, he said, “I am at this point in my life because of the people before me, I’m here because I stand on their shoulders of them”. This very quote is significant when acknowledging how African Americans are perceived in America because the negative assumptions, views, and stereotypes date back to earlier than the 1930s. During this time black people were presented to the public eye through entertainment that painted them in a negative light. One example of this according to Freedom on My Mind is from the 1930s where Stepin Fetchit was the most popular black actor on page 741 the text says “The most popular black actor of the 1930s was Stepin Fetchit (Lincoln Perry), known as “the Laziest Man in the World.” Playing the slow-talking, dim-witted, shiftless sidekick to white costars”. This character showed black people as uneducated and inferior to white Americans thus creating a negative stereotype that would spiral for generations to come. Preconceived notions about African Americans come with assumptions backed up by no factual evidence. Dr. Brooks says assumptions get made off of circumstances such as you live in the hood then a hood rat is all you’ll ever be. His personal experience with this subject is how when he lived in a single-parent black household and was labeled as “at risk”, no one asked him about his life or they would’ve known his father lived down the street and his grandmother lived in the home with him and his mother. As he might’ve lived in what was labeled a single-parent household he was also subject to a multi-generational household.


The learning of African American history at the University of San Diego and the program presented by Dr. Brooks come full circle to make a deep connection. That connection is that the black experience is one that is different from any other. On one side you have the educational part of history being taught, explaining how America was built off the back of the enslaved and the progression black people made despite the obstacles and barriers that were placed on their road to success. Dr. Brook’s program for the most part dives into the explanation of the black experience through a general sense based on similar personal experiences felt by African Americans across the country. In class the material begins with where black people first come from, then how a system was built to decelerate their progression, and next what they did to get over those systems set in place. In comparison Dr. Brooks does the same, speaking about his upbringing as a black kid from a segregated neighborhood in the southside of Chicago, then how a system of stereotypes and preconceived notions prevented him to be on an equal playing field when going to college. Next how he had to go above and beyond the normal expectation of a black youth because according to him “as black men we allow ourselves to set low standards, because of the things we have to go through success for us is just making it out”.


Dr. Derrick Brooks through personal experience shows why and how black people are put into a box of what they can and can’t accomplish. Preconceived notions prevent unbiased opportunities and systematic stereotypes create assumptions about the black life that are null and void. Thus, being the root of the black college experience and ultimately the black experience which is widely based on the image created by those who have never been a part of the black experience. In addition, forming the categories set aside to group African Americans such as lazy, hood rats, at risk, etc. which takes a toll on the life of a black American. Despite what is assumed the educational success of black people cannot be in comparison to any other simply based on its uniqueness due to what they have and still do go through in order t make it in not only school but life itself. The theme of this program is significant to the understanding of African American history because the box created to hold African Americans is a piece of the puzzle in the story of the black life.


Works Cited

College Dropout Rates [2023] – US Statistics and Data. 5 Mar. 2021,


Deborah Gray White, et al. Freedom on My Mind : A History of African Americans, with Documents, Boston New York Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.


“‘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).

“Uncovering the Legacy of Racism”-Bailey Campagna

The “Black Present & Presence” program illustrated how Black culture permeates all aspects of everyday life in America. The films, speakers, and audience members brought to light the diverse cultural customs and standards that have their roots in the Black community and have impacted American culture as a whole. The program’s goals were to increase understanding of the contributions Black culture has made to American culture and to offer a forum for discussion on topics pertaining to Black identity, history, and representation. During the event, eminent professors and authorities in Black studies discussed their personal stories, assessments, and research discoveries. A variety of authors and titles were cited by the speakers, including Deborah Gray White’s Freedom on My Mind, Mia Bay’s To Tell the Truth Freely, and Waldo E. Martin Jr. ‘s The Mind of Fredrick Douglass, among others. To further explain the numerous subjects covered during the seminar, they also used multimedia resources like movies, music, and visual arts. The panelists and audience members had a place to talk, ask questions, and share their thoughts during the presentation. The films, lecturers, and attendees urged the audience to acknowledge and cherish the contributions of Black culture while showcasing its width and complexity. The event emphasized the significance of creating spaces and recognizing Black cultural practices and knowledge while also raising significant issues regarding how Black people are treated in America.

One of the films shown during the program was Man, LaQuan McDonald, Sixteen Shots, a documentary that explores the police shooting of LaQuan McDonald in Chicago and the subsequent cover-up by the police department. The film highlights the systemic racism and brutality that Black people face in the United States and raises questions about the value of Black lives in American society. During the program, one of the speakers, Chauncey, shared his personal experiences and reflections on the impact of police violence on the Black community. He expressed his frustration and anger at the lack of justice for victims like LaQuan McDonald, Mike Brown, and Trayvon Martin. Chauncey’s comments resonated with the audience, many of whom had also experienced the trauma and pain of racism and police brutality.

The main question posed by the program was, “How do we recognize and value Black culture in America?” The speakers and participants explored this question by examining the different ways that Black culture has shaped American culture, such as the use of Black English in popular expressions and the influence of the “Ring Shout” in various musical genres. The program also highlighted the importance of community-building practices among enslaved Africans and their descendants, such as organized group activities within institutions like the military. Through the program, the speakers and participants emphasized the need to develop spaces and recognition for Black cultural practices and knowledge. They stressed that Black culture should not be viewed as a separate or marginalized entity but should be recognized as an integral part of American culture. The program challenged the audience to confront their biases and assumptions about Black people and their culture and to engage in a more nuanced and respectful dialogue about these issues. The events described in Chapter 7 of Freedom on My Mind by Deborah Gray White, “Confrontations in Bleeding Kansas and the Courts” bear similarities to the themes addressed in the book “Freedom on My Mind” in terms of systemic denial of resources of Black individuals. In both cases, the lack of access to necessary resources such as education and political power resulted in significant disparities and injustices. 

Another key concept addressed in the program was the idea of community building and its importance in Black culture and history. This was highlighted through discussions of the various ways in which enslaved Africans organized themselves and created community despite the oppressive conditions they were subjected to. One example was the development of secret societies, such as the Free African Society in Philadelphia, which served as a source of support, protection, and empowerment for Black people. Additionally, we explored the significance of group activities such as the “Ring Shout,” a religious dance performed by enslaved Africans in which participants formed a circle and moved in a counterclockwise direction while clapping and singing spirituals. The Ring Shout not only served as a form of worship but also as a means of community-building and resistance, allowing enslaved Africans to maintain their cultural traditions and connect with one another despite the obstacles they faced. 

Moreover, the program emphasized the importance of recognizing and preserving Black cultural practices and knowledge. This was particularly evident in the discussions of Black English, a linguistic practice that has been marginalized and stigmatized but is nevertheless a fundamental aspect of Black culture and identity. Panelists discussed the ways in which Black English has been appropriated by mainstream culture, with phrases like “woke” and “on fleek” becoming ubiquitous in popular discourse despite their origins in Black English. However, this appropriation often involves the erasure of the language’s Black roots, which can contribute to the erasure of Black culture more broadly. Thus, the program emphasized the importance of recognizing and valuing Black English as a legitimate linguistic practice and cultural artifact. Throughout the program, participants were encouraged to engage in dialogue and reflection on the issues discussed, and the panelists were responsive to audience questions and comments. One particularly poignant moment came during the screening of the film “Man, LaQuan McDonald, sixteen shots,” which explores the fatal shooting of LaQuan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The film features interviews with McDonald’s family and friends, as well as community activists and organizers, and highlights the systemic racism and police violence that disproportionately affect Black communities. Following the screening, audience members were invited to share their thoughts and feelings about the film, and many expressed sadness, anger, and frustration at the injustices depicted. The film sparked a powerful conversation about the need for systemic change and the ways in which Black communities have been targeted and mistreated by law enforcement.

Overall, the “Black Present & Presence” program was a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of Black culture and history. By highlighting the ubiquity of Black culture in everyday American life and the resilience and creativity of Black people in the face of oppression, the program challenged attendees to rethink their assumptions about race and identity. Through engaging with a diverse range of speakers, films, and discussions, participants were able to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and nuances of Black history and culture and to reflect on their own roles in promoting justice and equality. As the program emphasized, recognition and celebration of Black culture and history is not only important for the preservation of these practices and knowledge, but also for the building of a more just and equitable society.


In class source: White, Deborah G., et al Freedom On My Mind

External Source: “Physiological and Psychological Impact of Racism and Discrimination for African-Americans” American Psychological Association

A Reflection on Black Womanhood Throughout History – Megan Underbrink

A Reflection on Black Womanhood Throughout History

Red Lip Theology Author Candice Mary Benbow Engages, Inspires - University of San Diego

Throughout my time learning about African American History in America, I have had the opportunity to deeply explore the area surrounding the history of black women, specifically black women in Christianity. I was graciously able to attend a talk led by author Candice Marie Benbow about her book, Red Lip Theology, in which I learned on a personal level about black Christian womanhood in today’s society. In addition to this, I was able to learn about the history of this topic through our text, Freedom On My Mind, as well as the novels We are Your Sisters, written by Dorothy Sterling and The Cross and the Lynching Tree, written by James H. Cone. I have come to the conclusion through these resources that there is power in black Christian womanhood which extends back through history and has become a source of unwavering community, empathetic understanding, and compassionate love for black women today. 

To give a brief introduction to our speaker, Candice Marie Benbow is a multi-generational theologian whose main focuses include black beauty, faith, feminism, and culture. Benbow says that “faith can be a tool of liberation and transformation for women and girls.” She also shared with us a piece of advice that her mother gave her: “Have a library card and a voter registration card because then you can change your life and the lives of those around you.”

Women, especially black women, are often left out of conversations regarding faith and leadership in the church. They are seldom mentioned and even more seldom honored. This is quite surprising as black women are the most spiritual demographic in the United States. James Cone shares that “every black male minister knows that he would have no church without the women who make up more than 80 percent of the membership” (Cone, 143).

Christianity made its debut in the African American community during the time of slavery, in the early 1800’s. While slave owners encouraged their enslaved people to adopt the religion of Christianity, the black community decided to do so in their own way. They created Invisible Churches in which they “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” (Freedom On My Mind: “Slave Religion”, 369). As these churches developed into the later 1800’s,  “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.” (Freedom On My Mind: “Church and Community,” 529). 

These practices hold true into modern times. People don’t know black women of faith and they have often been pushed out of the discourse of what it means to create spiritually thriving communities. Black women are resilient: Sterling shares that her “white neighbors, caught up in the feminine mystique, were decorating cakes and hooking rugs to conceal their longing for meaningful occupations, while these black women were juggling work, family, and community responsibilities with extraordinary grace and self-possession.” Black women have been faced with immense responsibility, yet have handled it with elegance. In the church, “women formed organizations where they were leaders.” In the public, “While men talked, women walked and got things done. Although the civil rights movement was headed primarily by male leaders…, there never would have been a black freedom movement without the courageous work of  women” (Cone, 173-174).

Beginning by giving a background into her childhood, Benbow told us all how she was raised in the church by a mother who gave birth to her out of wedlock. Her mother was expected to go up in front of the church and apologize for this sin, but she refused to do so. Her mother believed that it was necessary to push against sexist notions to apologize because her sin was visible. The father was not expected to apologize although he committed the same sin.  For centuries, black women have been seen as “belonging to the ‘inferior’ sex of an ‘inferior’ race” (Sterling, xiii). As a black woman, Benbow’s mom showed her that she can push against the social norms and did not have to live as an inferior group although characterized that way. 

Another of the sexist notions imposed upon black Christian women is that they are expected to be prim and proper. However, Benbow loved the “hip hop” type culture and enjoyed listening and dancing to this music. In antislavery societies during the slavery times, “no one’s curtains were as starched, gloves as white, or behavior as correct as black women’s” (Sterling, xvii). To be a black woman in the church is similar. These women are expected to be perfect representations of “what a woman should be,” when they are really just humans with interests and hobbies and imperfections. 

Benbow had a fire behind her and a curiosity to learn everything, but often the questions that she wanted to ask did not fit into this proper standard that was placed on black women by the church. However, her mother did not want the church to restrain her from exploring and learning all that she had questions about. Rather than placing a restriction on her daughter, her mother would make her write her questions down before asking them in public and if they were not appropriate for the situation, she would answer it later in private. The way that Benbow’s mother encouraged exploration rather than forcing her daughter to conform to the expectations of black women in the church seems to be one of the things that created confidence and high spirit in her daughter. Benbow reveals that she came to this work of being an author and sharing her stories because of a mother who gave her the space to ask questions. 

“There is something powerful about black womanhood,” Benbow says. For many years, black women have bore a heavy weight in society and have had to wear a mask. Benbow says that Red Lip Theology is about the moment when the mask came off for her and she realized that she had a community of women who loved her and could really feel her. The book is Benbow’s truth about women who deeply love God and are deeply faithful. Sterling reflects on her relationship with black women in her life when she says: “I had always accepted the liberal shibboleth of the day: black women were just like whites, except that their skins were darker. Later I realized that this was untrue. The strengths and skills that black women were forced to develop had been transmitted to their descendants. My black friends were different because their history and culture were different” (Sterling, xix). Black women have a strong faith because of their history and culture. 

Benbow addresses those who are non-black and consider themselves to be allies. She encourages people to seriously interrogate their faith systems and to reflect on what they believe and why. What people believe for themselves should leave room for others to be their freest selves, not restrict them to fitting into a mold made by those who have oppressed them. “While white women were hampered by the bonds of ‘true womanhood’ and told that their sphere was the home, the black woman was enslaved” (Sterling, xiv). This is true in a literal and metaphorical sense. During the times of slavery, white women were working in the home while black women were enslaved. Now, white women have their place in society whether it is in their homes or in the workplace, but black women still have a stigma that enslaves them. 

To end her talk, Benbow says that we owe it to the future generations to keep making demands of our faith and our god and our church, to keep asking questions, and to keep journeying to hard answers.

One question that really stood out to me after Benbow finished her talk was about when she prays and how she addresses God. Benbow said that she removes pronouns for God for restored faith because “he/him” or “she/her” is too common for God. This to me is a profound display of faith because it shows that Benbow’s conception of God is greater than the human sphere. She says that tears are prayers and a laugh is the most beautiful form of prayer in a moment. This has stuck with me since the talk. Benbow’s display of faith has affirmed to me the claim that she made earlier, that black women are amongst the most faithful demographic in America.

This program is significant to our understanding of African American History because it shows the amazing faith of the black community and helped us to dive deep into the struggles and successes of black women. Through this talk, I learned about the extensive sense of community that resides between black women that resulted from their history and their roots. As Benbow preaches: “Quest for knowledge is its own reward.”


Works Cited

Benbow, Candice Marie. Lecture on her book, Red Lip Theology. February 27, 2023.

Cone, James H. The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Orbis Books, 2022. 

Sterling, Dorothy. “Introduction.” We Are Your Sisters, W.W. Norton, New York, New York, 1984, pp. ix-xix. 

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