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An Auburn Conversation about Race, Justice, and Healing
Celebrated author, professor, and television personality Melissa Harris-Perry and transgender, poet, activist, and politician Andrea Jenkins shared reflections on racial justice, women’s leadership, and gender identity.
This event was the culmination of a day-long Auburn community celebration of the lives and leadership of the second cohort of the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle, specifically focused on the wholeness and wellness needs of Black transgender women activists of faith and moral courage.
About the Speakers
Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. She hosted the television show “Melissa Harris-Perry” from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC. She is also the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.
Andrea Jenkins has more than 25 years of public service experience as a Minneapolis City Council policy aide, nonprofit executive director, and consultant. She is also an award-winning poet, writer, and performer, having earned fellowships from the Bush Foundation, the Givens Foundation, and the Playwrights Center, among others. Andrea is a well-known public speaker and has delivered keynote addresses on college campuses and at conferences throughout the country. In 2015, she became the first Oral Historian for the Transgender Oral History Project of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota.
Carla is Healer-in- Residence for the second cohort of Auburn’s Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist, consultant and owner of Zelah LLC, which includes the private massage practice, Rooted Bodywork. Carla believes that “through caring for ourselves we are able to fully engage with our life, work and communities.” Using her years of experience working with non-profits and paring it with her skills as a practitioner Carla facilitates workshops and speaks to the mandate of self-care to a variety of audiences. Her work is focused on LGBTQ communities of color, yet it is open to all that see the importance of holistic wellness.
A committed Christian, Dr. Willie Parker didn’t perform abortions during the first 12 years of his ob-gyn medical practice. But after seeing the suffering of low-income women and meeting victims of incest and rape who were still forced to bear children, he became a full-time abortion provider. Not in spite of his faith, but because of it.
Dr. Parker spoke about his book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.
Meet one of the most sought-after organizing minds in the U.S. today — and the newest addition to the Auburn team as the vice president of movement leadership — as she shares what’s next in immigration reform, LGBTQ equality, and racial justice.
Caitlin Breedlove joins Auburn this Spring as the Vice-President of Movement Leadership. Since 2003, Caitlin has been organizing and building movements in red states, working across race, class, culture, gender, sexuality and faith. Caitlin is known across social justice movements as a leader, strategist, and writer.
She is the former Campaign Director of Standing on the Side of Love at the Unitarian Universalist Association where she served as a bridge between grassroots social movements and the denomination. She is also the former Co-Director of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), where for almost a decade she co-led innovative intersectional movement building work in the LGBTQ sector. Under Caitlin’s co-leadership, SONG led campaigns, trained hundreds of new LGBTQ organizers in the South, built a membership of over 3,000, and became the largest grassroots LGBTQ organization in the South. Caitlin began her work in the South doing popular education and organizer training at the historic Highlander Center in Tennessee.
Wajahat Ali is a journalist, writer, lawyer, an award-winning playwright, a TV host, and a consultant for the U.S. State Department, who is at the forefront of working to overcome Islamophobia and harmful stereotypes aimed at the Muslim community.
Wajahat also serves as Creative Director of Affinis Labs, where he works to create social entrepreneurship initiatives that have a positive impact for marginalized communities, and to empower social entrepreneurs, young leaders, creatives, and communities to come up with innovative solutions to tackle world problems.
He is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim Americans, post-9/11 and was also the lead author and researcher of “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the seminal report from the Center for American Progress.
2017 kicked off with a powerful spoken word performance by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie. Rabbi Amichai is an Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, performance artist, and founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NY. Rabbi Amichai’s Storahtelling extolled to parables of the torah and applied principles to life in the 21st century. Through music and dance, Rabbi Amichai curated a community spirit, outlining the road to progress through solidarity.
Watch our Facebook livestream of Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie here.
“If we get to change the stories we tell and how we tell them, we might change the values that we believe in and the actions we take… Acknowledge that we inherited this [Torah] teaching, but make it our own in a new way, that speaks to peace, and tolerance, and compassion. And says no to hatred in the name of God.”
– Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie
Lyla June, Standing Rock activist, anthropologist, musician, and poet, lead a powerful session, engaging with conversation, music, and movement to feed our souls. June related her own powerful story of personal healing through faith to inspire others to find a sanctuary within themselves. A descendant of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages, she is dedicated to healing intergenerational trauma and ethnic division though love and prayer.
Watch our Facebook livestream of Lyla June here.
Rev. angel Kyodo williams Sensei, is a Zen priest author, maverick spiritual teacher, master trainer and founder of Center for Transformative Change. She has been bridging the worlds of personal transformation and justice since the publication of her critically-acclaimed book, Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace. Her book was hailed as “an act of love” by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker and “a classic” by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Rev. angel discussed her new book, Radical Dharma, which explores racial injustice as a barrier to collective awakening.