Pulpit Oratory: Jesus and the Black Prophetic Tradition

In a fitting end to the African American Public Address preconference, Rev. Bowyer G. Freeman and the members of New Saint Mark Baptist Church have invited Dr. Andre E. Johnson to speak Wednesday evening November 13, 2019, at 7pm. The church is located at 3905 Springdale Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Johnson has titled the message that evening, "Jesus and the Black Prophetic Tradition." The event is free and all are welcomed!

Dr. Andre E. Johnson is the Founding Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries an inner-city church built upon the servant leadership philosophy. He is married to Lisa Jones Johnson, owner of 4 Peaceful Resolutions, a conflict mediation company. As a called-centered, mission group-oriented, servant leadership church, pastor Johnson leads a congregation that last year served over 8,000 meals, clothed over 250 persons, counseled over 70 individuals and families, and visited many sick and incarcerated people. He leads a congregation that focuses on the Word of God in the feeding of the hungry, healing and deliverance of the sick and oppressed, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prison-bound, educating the unlearned and loving the unloved. 

Dr. Johnson also leads a socially conscious and socially relevant ministry. He and G'Life have been at the forefront of much of the social justice activism in Memphis, Tennessee. Grounded in his faith and call to ministry, it is not uncommon to see Dr. Johnson leading, organizing, and participating in protests, vigils, marches, boycotts, and other direct social actions. His faith has led him to take part in efforts to reform our prison system, economic and poverty issues such as "Fight for 15" and living wage initiatives, voter suppression efforts, police misconduct, and brutality issues, and issues surrounding race. He was also one of the lead architects in #TakeEmDown901, the successful effort to remove confederate statues in the City of Memphis lead by Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer.

In addition to his work in the church and community, Dr. Johnson also serves as an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication & Film at the University of Memphis. He is also an affiliate faculty member of Christian Theology Seminary teaching in the areas of rhetoric, race, and homiletics. He formerly served as the Dr. James L. Netters Associate Professor of Rhetoric Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary and continues to serve as an adjunct professor teaching in the areas of Black Church studies, urban ministry, and rhetoric and religion. 

He is currently editing the works of AME Church Bishop Henry McNeal Turner under the title The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner (Edwin Mellen Press). He has already published the first six volumes. The seventh volume is set for publication in 2020. In addition to collecting the writings of Bishop Turner, Dr. Johnson is also the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition” (2012) that won the National Communication Association (NCA) 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of “Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hop Spirituality” (2013) both with Lexington Books. He co-authored (with Amanda Nell Edgar) “The Struggle over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter” (2018) that recently won the National Communication Association (NCA) 2019 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award.

Barack Obama's Eulogy of Elijah Cummings

We share with you the eulogy of Representative Elijah Cummings by President Barack Obama. The video and text are below.


From The Atlantic 

To the bishop, and the first lady, and the New Psalmist family, to the Cummings family, Maya, Mr. President, Madam Secretary, Madam Speaker, governor, friends, colleagues, staff. 

The seed on good soil, the parable of the sower tells us, stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. The seed on good soil. 

Elijah Cummings came from good soil. And in this sturdy frame, goodness took root. His parents were sharecroppers from the South. They picked tobacco and strawberries, and then sought something better in this city, South Baltimore. Robert worked shifts at a plant, and Ruth cleaned other people’s homes. They became parents of seven, preachers to a small flock. I remember I had the pleasure of meeting Elijah’s mother, Ruth, and she told me she prayed for me every day, and I knew it was true, and I felt better for it. Sometimes people say they are praying for you, and you don’t know. They might be praying about you, but you don’t know if they are praying for you. But I knew Miss Ruth was telling the truth. 

So they were the proverbial salt of the earth, and they passed on that strength and that grit, but also that kindness and that faith to their son. As a boy, Elijah's dad made him shine his shoes and tie his tie, and they’d go to the airport—not to board the airplanes, but to watch others do it. I remember Elijah telling me this story. Robert would say, “I have not flied. I may not fly, but you will fly one day. We can’t afford it right now, but you will fly.” 

His grandmother—as Elijah related—and as grandmothers do, was a little more impatient with her advice. Your daddy, she said, “he’s been waiting and waiting for a better day. Don’t you wait.” And Elijah did not wait. Against all odds, Elijah earned his degrees. He learned about the rights that all people in this country are supposed to possess, with a little help, apparently, from Perry Mason. Elijah became a lawyer to make sure that others had rights, and his people had their God-given rights, and from the statehouse to the House of Representatives, his commitment to justice and the rights of others would never, ever waver.

Elijah’s example: a son of parents who rose from nothing to carve out just a little something, a public servant who toiled to guarantee the least of us have the same opportunities that he had earned. A leader who once said he would die for his people, even as he lived every minute for them—his life validates the things we tell ourselves about what’s possible in this country. Not guaranteed, but possible. The possibility that our destinies are not preordained. But rather, through our works, and our dedication, and our willingness to open our hearts to God’s message of love for all people, we can live a purposeful life. That we can reap a bountiful harvest. That we are neither sentenced to wither among the rocks nor assured a bounty, but we have a capacity, the chance, as individuals and as a nation, to root ourselves in good soil. 

Elijah understood that. That’s why he fought for justice. That’s why he embraced his beloved community of Baltimore. That’s why he went on to fight for the rights and opportunities of forgotten people all across America, not just in his district. He was never complacent, for he knew that without clarity of purpose and a steadfast faith, and the dogged determination demanded by our liberty, the promise of this nation can wither. Complacency, he knew, was not only corrosive for our collective lives, but for our individual lives.

It has been remarked that Elijah was a kind man. I tell my daughters—and I have to say, listening to Elijah’s daughters speak, that got me choked up. I am sure those of you who have sons feel the same way, but there is something about daughters and their fathers. And I was thinking, I would want my daughters to know how much I love them, but I would also want them to know that being a strong man includes being kind. That there is nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There is nothing weak about looking out for others. There is nothing weak about being honorable. You are not a sucker to have integrity and to treat others with respect. I was sitting here and I was just noticing the honorable Elijah e. Cummings and, you know, this is a title that we confer on all kinds of people who get elected to public office. We’re supposed to introduce them as honorable. 

But Elijah Cummings was honorable before he was elected to office. There’s a difference. There is a difference if you are honorable and treated others honorably outside the limelight. On the side of a road; in a quiet moment, counseling somebody you work with; letting your daughters know you love them. As president, I knew I could always count on Elijah being honorable and doing the right thing. And people have talked about his voice. There is something about his voice. It just made you feel better. There’s some people, they have that deep baritone, a prophetic voice. And when it was good times and we achieved victories together, that voice and that laugh was a gift. But you needed it more during the tough times, when the path ahead looked crooked, when obstacles abounded. When I entertained doubts, or I saw those who were in the fight start to waver, that’s when Elijah’s voice mattered most. 

More than once during my presidency, when the economy still looked like it might plunge into depression, when the health-care bill was pronounced dead in Congress, I would watch Elijah rally his colleagues. “The cost of doing nothing isn’t nothing,” he would say, and folks would remember why they entered into public service. “Our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see,” he would say, and he would remind all of us that our time is too short not to fight for what’s good and what is true and what is best in America. 

Two hundred years to 300 years from now, he would say, people will look back at this moment and they will ask the question “What did you do?” And hearing him, we would be reminded that it falls upon each of us to give voice to the voiceless, and comfort to the sick, and opportunity to those not born to it, and to preserve and nurture our democracy. 

Elijah Cummings was a man of noble and good heart. His parents and his faith planted the seeds of hope, and love, and compassion, and righteousness in that good soil of his. He has harvested all the crops that he could, for the Lord has now called Elijah home, to give his humble, faithful servant rest. And it now falls on us to continue his work, so that other young boys and girls from Baltimore, across Maryland, across the United States, and around the world might too have a chance to grow and to flourish. That’s how we will honor him. That’s how we will remember him. That’s what he would hope for. May God bless the memory of the very honorable Elijah Cummings. And may God bless this city, and this state, and this nation that he loved. God bless you.

Christian Paz. Read Barack Obama's Eulogy for Elijah Cummings. The Atlantic Magazine. October 25, 2019. <https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/10/barack-obamas-eulogy-elijah-cummings/600697/>

R3 Podcast: Religious Rhetoric and Oratory

In this episode, I share about the upcoming African American Public Address Preconference that will convene on November 13, 2019, from 8am-4pm. Specifically, Dr. Andre E. Johnson talks about the Religious Rhetoric and Oratory panel that will start at 10am that day and consist of the following people: 

Chair: Melissa Renee Harris, Howard University 

Earle Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary 

Nicole McDonald, Christian Theological Seminary 

Scott Varda, Baylor University 

Matt Farmer, University of Georgia 

Respondent: David G. Holmes, Pepperdine University

Listen to the podcast below. 


Special Roundtable: Understanding the Intersection of Rhetoric Race and Religion

African American Public Address Pre-Conference 
at the 
National Communication Association Conference in Baltimore, Maryland

Day: Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Place: Sheraton Inner Harbor
Room: TBD

**The conference is free, but you must register. If you are interested in attending the conference, when you register for NCA, please sign up for the conference as well. If you are not attending NCA but would like to attend the pre-conference, sign up here.

***To see the rest of the panels, click here

Social media hashtag:

Special Roundtable: 4:00pm-5:15pm 

Title: In the Beginning Was the Word: Understanding the Intersection of Rhetoric Race and Religion


In this roundtable, participants engaged in research that examines the intersection of rhetoric race and religion broadly. In short, we want to understand how one uses rhetoric as a method or how rhetorical approaches to religion can contribute to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of both religion and race. We use rhetoric here as language and other forms of symbolic activity that motivate and/or guide people in matters of belief. We also see rhetoric as what communicators invite their audiences to do. Therefore, this roundtable seeks to address rhetoric race and religion from both a historical or contemporary perspective and examine those explicit and implicit warrants that function in religious discourse that better help us to theorize ways in which religion(s) and race operate. 

Chair: Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis 


Twitter: @aejohnsonphd

Instagram: aejohnsonphd

Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. He teaches classes in African American Public Address, Rhetoric Race and Religion, Media Studies, Interracial Communication, Rhetoric, and Popular Culture, and Hip Hop Studies. Additionally, along with his academic titles, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries an inner-city church built upon the servant leadership philosophy in Memphis, Tennessee.

In addition to collecting the writings of Bishop Turner, Dr. Johnson is the co-author (with Amanda Nell Edgar) of The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. He is also the author of The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (2012) that won the National Communication Association (NCA) 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hop Spirituality (2013) and he is also finishing No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner which the University Press of Mississippi plans to release in 2020. He is also the curator and director of the Henry McNeal Turner Project (#HMTProject); a digital archive dedicated to the writings and study of Bishop Turner.

Chair: Dianna Watkins-Dickerson, University of Memphis


Twitter: @diannanik86

Dianna's scholarship begins at the intersections of rhetoric, race, religion, and gender. While she is trained as a rhetorician, the heart of her work deals with Black Christian women reclaiming their bodies and voices, not as acceptable sacrifices, but as beautifully, wonderfully made carriers of hope, power, vision, and tenacity living in the abundant life promised to them. Dianna is also the co-author (with Andre E. Johnson) of the recently published book chapter "Fighting to be Heard: Shirley Chisholm and the Makings of a Womanist Rhetorical Framework" in Gender, Race, and Social Identity in American Politics edited by Lori L. Montalbano.


Kimberly P. Johnson, Tennessee State University


Twitter: @KimberlyPJohns2

Dr. Kimberly P. Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Communication Studies concentration area at Tennessee State University. She brings to the Department of Communication, her areas of specialization; Political, Religious, and African American Rhetoric, Rhetorical Criticism, Cultural Criticism and Womanism. Dr. Johnson has presented her research at professional communication associations such as the National Communication Association, Rhetoric Society of America, Southern States Communication Association, and the Tennessee Communication Association. She is the author of The Womanist Preacher: Proclaiming Womanist Rhetoric from the Pulpit (Lexington Books, 2017) and currently working on a womanist reader.

Christopher House, Ithaca College

Twitter: @drchrishouse

Instagram: @drchrishouse

Dr. Christopher A. House (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) is an associate professor of Communication Studies and affiliate faculty in Culture and Communication and Martin Luther King Scholar program. His research interests are in black Pentecostal rhetoric & social action, rhetorical theology, critical media & digital studies, difference/diversity & inclusion, Black church studies, African American rhetoric, rhetorical theory/criticism.

As a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Syracuse University Fellow, and K. Leroy Irvis Fellow, he has received several national awards and honors. His scholarship has been published in Journal of Communication and Religion (2018), Southern Journal of Communication (2018), Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric (2017), International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods (2016), Journal of Race & Public Policy (2014), International Journal of Communication (2013) and Memphis Theological Seminary Journal (2012). His current manuscript, Touch Your Neighbor and Say, “Black Lives Matter!”: Rhetoric, Race & Religion in the Age of #BLACKLIVESMATTER is expected to be published late in 2020.

Beyond the classroom, Dr. House is also a man of faith and currently serves as the pastor of Christian Community Church Ithaca and he is an accomplished motivational & inspirational speaker, and lecturer for several religious, non-profit and community organizations in the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, and in several African countries. In addition to his academic, professional, and ecclesiastical responsibilities, he enjoys spending time with family and friends.

R. Janae Pitts-Murdock, Christian Theological Seminary


Twitter: @rjanaepitts

Rev. R. Janae Pitts-Murdock currently serves as the Interim Pastor of Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rev. Janae is a graduate of the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies, Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Science degree in Public Policy & Management, United Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree, and the University of Memphis with a Master of Business Administration. She is also a doctoral student in the African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric program at Christian Theological Seminary. Rev. Janae's research interests lie at the intersection of rhetoric, race, and religion; particularly the pulpit oratory of Rev. C.L. Franklin. 

Earle Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary


Twitter: @Pastor_Earle

Instagram: pastor_earle

Rev. Dr. Earle J. Fisher is a native of Benton Harbor, Michigan. This preacher, professor, writer, and social advocate graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1996, earned an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts in 1999 from Lake Michigan College, a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Computer Science in 2003 from LeMoyne-Owen College and a Masters of Divinity Degree in 2008 from Memphis Theological Seminary. Rev. Fisher is a dually ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Missionary Baptist Church denominations.

Dr. Fisher received his Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Memphis in 2018. Professor Fisher serves as an Adjunct Instructor of Religion and Humanities at several local colleges and universities. Pastor Earle is also the Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, and founder of #UPTheVote901 – a nonpartisan initiative that gives more political power to more people and pushes to increase voter turnout in Memphis and Shelby County. Most of Dr. Fisher’s research focuses on the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion with an emphasis on prophetic rhetoric and the personality Albert Cleage, Jr.

Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University

Twitter: @michelleeshaw

Instagram: shellyeshaw

Michelle E. Shaw is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Public Culture. She earned her BA in Mass Media Arts from Clark Atlanta University, and while working as a full-time journalist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center. She later earned a Master of Theology degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Before returning to the classroom to pursue her graduate education, she wrote for several newspapers in the South and Southeast over the course of 15 years. She is currently interested in how rhetoric factors into the preaching moment, specifically when the orator is a woman, within predominately Black churches.

Monique Moultrie, Georgia State University


Dr. Monique Moultrie is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University. She is also currently a Visiting Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and African American Religions at Harvard University. 

Dr. Moultrie's scholarly pursuits include projects in sexual ethics, African American religions, and gender and sexuality studies. Her research has been supported by a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Grant, a GSU Dean’s Early Career Award, and an American Academy of Religion Individual Research Grant. Duke University Press published her first book, Passionate and Pious: Religious Media and Black Women’s Sexuality in 2017. The Religious Communication Association awarded it their Book of the Year award in 2018. Her forthcoming research is a book-length study of black lesbian religious leadership and faith activism. 

Her recent publications include a co-edited volume A Guide for Women in Religion: Making Your Way from A to Z, 2nd edition (Palgrave Macmillan 2014); an article, “Putting a Ring on It: Black Women, Black Churches and Coerced Monogamy” in the Black Theology (2018) journal; a book chapter “Black Female Sexual Agency and Racialized Holy Sex in Black Christian Reality TV Shows” edited by Mara Einstein, Katherine Madden, and Diane Winston (Routledge 2018); an article “#BlackBabiesMatter: Analyzing Black Religious Media in Conservative and Progressive Evangelical Communities” in the Religions (2017) journal; a book chapter “Critical Race Theory,” in Religion: Embodied Religion edited by Kent Brintnall (Palgrave Macmillan 2016): 341-358; and an article “After the Thrill is Gone: Married to the Holy Spirit but Still Sleeping Alone,” in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 33 (2011): 237-253.

Outside of the university, Dr. Moultrie was a consultant for the National Institutes of Health and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender-Religious Archives Network. She is a Content Development working group member for Columbia University’s Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice’s Scholars Group, a group of religious scholars collaborating at the intersection of religion and reproductive justice. Within the larger American Academy of Religion guild, Dr. Moultrie is the Status of Women in the Profession Chair and a former co-chair of the Religion and Sexuality unit.

Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

Dr. Kyle Brooks is a Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow currently serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Black Church and African Diaspora Studies at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. 

Algernon Williams, Independent Scholar


C. L. Dangerfield, University of Memphis

C.L. Dangerfield is an award-winning educator with nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom. Her research aligns at the intersection of race, identity, and rhetoric–with an occasional homage to hip-hop culture. Expanding her scholarship to include more prominent considerations of gender, faith, and digital media, she seeks to interrogate spaces of oppression to offer “voice,” visibility, and a renewed sense of authority to those that might otherwise be dismissed.

Dangerfield has earned degrees in Speech Communication from Clark Atlanta University and Penn State, as well as a graduate certificate in Writing and Digital Communication from Agnes Scott College. She is now in the Ph.D. program in Communication Studies at the University of Memphis.