Panel Four: Mapping Terrains of Research: Black Liberation Theology in the Fields of Black Studies



The Center of African American Rhetoric and Public Address at the National Council of Black Studies



Day: Saturday, March 14, 2020

Place: Place: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Dahlonega

*To see the other panels, click here

Panel Four: 4:30pm to 5:45pm


Title: Mapping Terrains of Research: Black Liberation Theology in the Fields of Black Studies

Abstract: The field of Black Studies has grown exponentially over the last few decades. Scholarship in the field has emerged as being the visionary vanguard of the humanities and social sciences. Scholars have robust debates concerning intellectual histories and Black Power and the work in Digital Humanities seems promising. Yet, for all of its growth and innovation in Black Studies the most popular textbooks, classroom teaching, and the dominant narratives in these fields often exclude any or all discussion of Black Liberation Theology. 

For example, outside of the field of Religious Studies, James H. Cone and Black Liberation Theology are blatantly absent from secular scholarship discussing the history of the independent Black church and how it relates to the African American experience. Moreover, despite the generative work of Black Feminist historians, another strand of Black liberation theology, Womanist theology is also scant. Therefore, panelists on this roundtable will discuss this exclusion in hopes of sparking a larger discourse about the future of the fields. In addition, we will also discuss how we teach and construct Black Studies textbooks and create pedagogical methods for students in our classrooms.



Chair: Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis

Andre E. Johnson 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, Religion, and Interracial Communication. Dr. Johnson is the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (Lexington Books, 2012) and the co-author (with Amanda Nell Edgar, PhD.) of “The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter” (Lexington Books, 2018). He is also the author of the forthcoming “No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner with the University Press of Mississippi.

Le'Trice Donaldson, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Le'Trice Donaldson is an Assistant Professor of History in the Department of Arts, Communication, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is the author of "Duty beyond the Battlefield: African American Soldiers Fight for Racial Uplift, Citizenship, and Manhood, 1870–1920." 






Earle J. Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary

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.


Annette Madlock Gatison, Independent Scholar

Sister Circle Writers Founder Dr. A. Madlock Gatison is an independent scholar and university professor. Gatison completed her doctoral work in Rhetoric and Culture at Howard University. She is an award-winning author with over 40 publications and over 45 national and international professional presentations and workshops. Dr. Gatison’s notable books include Health Communication and Breast Cancer Among Black Women: Culture, Identity, Spirituality, and Strength (Lexington Books) and Communicating Women's Health: Social and Cultural Norms that Influence Health Decisions (Routledge). Her forthcoming work for 2020 includes Womanist Ethical Rhetoric: A Call for Liberation and Social Justice in Turbulent Times (Lexington Books), the Journal of Communication and Religion Special Issue: A Womanist Rhetorical Vision for Building the Beloved Community, where she serves as Guest Editor, and The Power of “RE”: An Inspirational Guide on How to REdo, REvise, and REsubmit for those Second Chances in Life (Creative Legacy Books). In her spare time, she loves to travel and spend time with family and friends.


Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University

Michelle E. Shaw is a fifth-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.


Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

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

Part Three: Black Rhetoric and Public Address


The Center of African American Rhetoric and Public Address at the National Council of Black Studies


Day: Saturday, March 14, 2020

Place: Place: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Dahlonega

*To see the other panels, click here

Panel Three: 3:00pm to 4:15pm

Title: Black Rhetoric and Public Address

Abstract: In this panel, presenters examine the history and relevance of the Black rhetorical tradition. Panelists will discuss teaching speech in the classroom, the womanist persona of Michelle Obama, Ida B. Wells and the rhetorical function of lynching and the rhetoric of the Black Church.



Chair: Nicole McDonald, Christian Theological Seminary

Dr. Nicole McDonald is a native of Hampton, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. After working as an engineering consultant for several years, Nicole answered her calling to ministry. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology and a Master of Science in Patient Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. Recently, Dr. McDonald completed a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. McDonald serves as an Associate Minister at New Calvary Baptist under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Marcus Small and a Bereavement Coordinator for Sentara Hospice.

Currently, Dr. McDonald is a Ph.D. student in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric at Christian Theological Seminary. Her research interests focus on the intersection of preaching, rhetoric, and pastoral care. Her recent projects have focused on Black preaching and cultural trauma in Benjamin E. Mays' eulogy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Damariye L. Smith, University of Memphis 


Damariyé L. Smith was born and raised in the Bay Area (northern California). His research interests are primarily focused on the rhetorical tradition, specifically in the context of African American studies, Higher Education and Education policy in the United States. Other research areas of interest include film criticism, leadership, organizational communication, and communication theory. He is an active member of the National Communication Association, Western States Communication Association as well as Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. His personal interests include working with disadvantaged and first-generation college students, mentoring, leadership development, cooking, spending time with my daughter, and our family, and playing as well as officiating basketball. His current research focuses on the commencement speeches of President Barack Obama.

Title: "Reflexive teaching: An auto-ethnography on an Afrocentric approach to Public Speaking pedagogy"

Abstract: The purpose of this autoethnography is to reflect on my experiences, as a Graduate Instructor, of incorporating an Afrocentric curriculum in the Public Speaking course, a required general education course at the University of Memphis. After several semesters of allowing students to choose their own topics for speeches, I quite frankly, got exhausted of students choosing irrelevant topics that often disregarded the educational function of deliberative, judicial, or epideictic rhetorical situations. What I found most troubling was students’ topics often lacked Identification not only to their audience but also to their audience’s lived experiences. Consequently, I decided to present my students with topics related to African American history, specifically key moments, events, figures, philosophies, and perspectives. Implications of this pedagogy move proved to be overall successful, as many students in their evaluations of me, affirmed this pedagogical strategy. To make sense of my experiences, I respond to John T. Warren’s (2011) call for a reflexive-pedagogy, one that looks at our own autoethnographic pedagogical histories, the crafting of critical ethnographies, and pedagogical visions through performance in the public sphere. I do this while also juxtaposing this call with an Afrocentric approach to pedagogy.



Annette Madlock Gatison, Independent Scholar

Sister Circle Writers Founder Dr. A. Madlock Gatison is an independent scholar and university professor. Gatison completed her doctoral work in Rhetoric and Culture at Howard University. She is an award-winning author with over 40 publications and over 45 national and international professional presentations and workshops. Dr. Gatison’s notable books include Health Communication and Breast Cancer Among Black Women: Culture, Identity, Spirituality, and Strength (Lexington Books) and Communicating Women's Health: Social and Cultural Norms that Influence Health Decisions (Routledge). Her forthcoming work for 2020 includes Womanist Ethical Rhetoric: A Call for Liberation and Social Justice in Turbulent Times (Lexington Books), the Journal of Communication and Religion Special Issue: A Womanist Rhetorical Vision for Building the Beloved Community, where she serves as Guest Editor, and The Power of “RE”: An Inspirational Guide on How to REdo, REvise, and REsubmit for those Second Chances in Life (Creative Legacy Books). In her spare time, she loves to travel and spend time with family and friends.

Title: The Womanist Persona of Michelle Obama 

Abstract: African American women now stand in a historic moment that gives the appearance of having a voice socially and politically, what Patricia Hill Collins calls “symbolic inclusion.” A type of inclusion in spaces where our words are welcome, but our physical presence at times is not. From community activists, journalists, politicians, pundits and a Black woman who once occupied the White House Black women have made their way into a variety of sociopolitical spaces once off-limits yet still hostile. The question is, how does one make room for the total presence of the Black woman. The former First Lady Michelle Obama has been the subject of various studies that examine her identity, personhood, and crafted image through an intersectional lens of race, class, gender, and socioeconomic status that test and contest her presence in closed and public spaces. This essay examines the former FLOTUS as a womanist rhetorician in those spaces and her ability to craft narratives that motivate and engage her audiences. Nvivo is the data analysis tool used to code Michelle Obama’s speeches, interviews, and social media messages for themes that provide a voice and affirmation to the lived experience of Black women. Words that reject oppression and are committed to social justice (Katie Geneva Cannon, 1988).


Sophia Muriel Flemming, University of Georgia

Sophia Muriel Flemming is a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia in the Department of Communication Studies.








Title: Eliminating the Competition: Examining Lynching in Ida B. Wells’ Southern Horrors

Abstract: Lynching is a horrible act that continues to affect Americans in the 21st century. Living survivors of lynching suffer long term traumatic effects. The present-day effects of lynching are tied with our turbulent and violent history of the past. No one knew this better than Ida B. Wells. Ida B. Wells documented lynching as a crisis that blacks faced in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Wells explores in Southern Horrors how lynching was about white men wanting to continue to have all access to financial gains and economic opportunities. However, I argue that Wells’s Southern Horrors illustrates how lynching is a competitive activity that contributes to the elimination of black bodies in a U.S. capitalist system. I define what race ideology is by focusing on how Barbara Jean Fields and Paul Lawrie theorize race. Fields discuss race as not only being a social construct, but race is a biological and historical construct. Lawrie explores how race ideology is used in the Progressive Era—the same era that Wells wrote about lynching. I use Southern Horrors to illustrate my argument in how lynching acted as a competitive means to eliminate black people from participating in economic wealth. I write that Wells reveals that the killing of black men was not about black men raping white women; lynching black men was about black men not having the opportunity to build wealth.


Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University

Michelle E. Shaw is a fifth-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.


Title: Different Decade, Same Response: The Rejection of Gay Black Men by Cultures Within Black Churches 

Abstract: This paper will examine the relationship between gay black men and the cultures within black churches over the past 85 years through media. Specifically, I aim to closely examine various forms of media in order to bring into sharper focus the ways in which newspapers, magazines, and the Internet participate in black religiosity’s ostracization of gay black men. Engaging the religious philosophies of the Rev. Dr. A. Clayton Powell and the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. as agents of black church culture, this paper will examine one example of how each man used media to disseminate his thoughts on gay black men in black churches. This examination will also consider the response from representatives of black religiosity through those same media outlets. This paper will contextualize the recorded/broadcasted experiences of Andrew Caldwell at the Church of God in Christ’s 107th Holy Convocation, by identifying black churches as historically problematic spaces for gay black men. The conclusion of this study will argue for an improved, holistic response that respects the human condition, that cannot be manipulated by media, and that honors Jesus’ second great commandment.


Panel Two: Critical Studies in Race



The Center of African American Rhetoric and Public Address at the National Council of Black Studies


Day: Friday, March 13, 2020

Place: Place: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Heritage C

*To see the other panels, click here


Panel Two: 5:00pm to 6:15pm



Title: Critical Studies in Race

Abstract: In this panel, presenters examine the role and function of Blackness and Whiteness. By examining the role race plays in church, politics, and the construction of language and identity, panelists seek to, not only expose the fallacy of a post racial construction, but also offer suggestions on having better conversations centered around race.


Chair: Damariye Smith 

Damariyé L. Smith was born and raised in the Bay Area (northern California). His research interests are primarily focused on the rhetorical tradition, specifically in the context of African American studies, Higher Education and Education policy in the United States. Other research areas of interest include film criticism, leadership, organizational communication, and communication theory. He is an active member of the National Communication Association, Western States Communication Association as well as Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. His personal interests include working with disadvantaged and first-generation college students, mentoring, leadership development, cooking, spending time with my daughter, and our family, and playing as well as officiating basketball. His current research focuses on the commencement speeches of President Barack Obama.


Kami Anderson, CEO Bilingual Brown Babies

Dr. Kami (pronounced kah-MEE) Anderson, CEO, and director at Bilingual Brown Babies, is an interculturalist, scholar and language advocate. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisc., she has spent the past two decades immersed in languages and cultures. From working overseas in relief and development to teaching language in the classroom to molding future intercultural scholars in the lecture hall, Kami has always kept a tight grip on her passion and compassion for others and difference through language. Her primary focus is family empowerment through language with an emphasis on application and confidence.
Kami holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Spelman College, a master’s degree in international affairs, interdisciplinary studies in international communication and anthropology from American University, and a Ph.D. in communication and culture from Howard University.


Title: Our Black is Noir and Negro 

Abstract: Language and identity have been intrinsically linked because of the relationship both have with experience. We use language to be able to describe our experiences and these experiences help with providing us the way in which we see ourselves. Historically, African Americans have manipulated language in a way that allows for creativity of expression that serves a functional purpose. Beginning with the historical notions of Black identity and the use of language in identity in order to set the foundation for expanding beyond traditional limits, first, this paper will address how identity has been discussed within the discipline of communication and how an identity biography enhances this discussion within the discipline. This will be followed by the communication benefits of foreign language knowledge as a means of expanding linguistic styles in order to more accurately depict a sense of self. This portion of the discussion is reflective of personal experiences as well as previous research with African American sojourners.

Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis

Andre E. Johnson 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, Religion, and Interracial Communication. Dr. Johnson is the author of “The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (Lexington Books, 2012) and the co-author (with Amanda Nell Edgar, PhD.) of “The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter” (Lexington Books, 2018). He is also the author of the forthcoming “No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner with the University Press of Mississippi.


Title: The Absence of Race: A Rhetorical Analysis of Christianity Today’s Editorial, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.”

Abstract: In this presentation, I offer a rhetorical analysis on Mark Galli's editorial published in Christianity Today titled, "Trump Should Be Removed from Office." The editorial received praise from many evangelicals and some even argued that Trump's evangelical base has started to crack. However, instead of cracking, the base rallied behind Trump and that support remains. Drawing from Philip Wander's notion of the third persona, I suggest that the editorial left out the many evangelicals of color who shared many of the concerns that the Galli addressed but also highlighted Trump's racist rhetoric from the beginning of his campaign and how it continues throughout his presidency. 

Panel One: The Art of Black Preaching


The Center of African American Rhetoric and Public Address at the National Council of Black Studies


Day: Friday, March 13, 2020

Place: Place: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Heritage C

*To see the other panels, click here


Panel One: 3:30 to 4:45pm


Title: The Art of Black Preaching 

Abstract: In this panel, panelists examine the role of Black preaching and the rhetorical effects of the Black sermon/eulogy. Grounded in an Afrocentric understanding of communication, panelists seek to disrupt the Black Preaching Tradition.



Chair: Michelle E. Shaw

Michelle E. Shaw is a fifth-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.



Earle J. Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary/University of Memphis 

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. 

Title: The African American Jeremiad and the Marginalization of Black Rhetorical Militancy 

ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to disrupt the sacred conventions of the African American Jeremiad with hopes to reclaim a necessary appreciation of (and search for) a more militant (black) prophetic rhetoric. I aim to affirm the legitimacy of the traditional African American Jeremiad while simultaneously detailing its inability to validate the necessity and potency of radical, revolutionary, and militant prophetic rhetoric. In other words, I desire to decentralize the Jeremiad as the litmus test for prophetic rhetoric and demarginalize militant rhetoric within the context of the black prophetic tradition. I intend to achieve this by engaging two provocative works that are steeped within the Jeremiadic tradition: Robert E. Terrill’s Malcolm X: Inventing Radical Judgement, and an essay by Bernard Bell entitled, President Barack Obama, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, and the African American Jeremiadic Tradition. Each of these texts expresses the vast reach of the Jeremiadic tradition and exude the mesmerizing predilection rhetorical scholars have regarding the Jeremiad, especially when seeking to analyze and interpret black prophetic rhetoric. These texts also exemplify the tragedy of superimposing the Jeremiadic framework on texts, contexts, and figures that do not support it.

Matthew Farmer, University of Georgia

Matt Farmer is a M.A. student in Rhetorical Studies. Prior to enrolling at the University of Georgia, Matt earned a B.A. in both Economics and Communication Studies from the University of Memphis. His research interests include the rhetoric of social movements specifically relating to economic empowerment and criminal justice reform. He also studies critical race scholarship and hegemonic effects in public spaces.

Title: R-E-S-P-E-C-T-ability Rhetoric: Jasper Williams’ Eulogy for Aretha Franklin vs. Black Lives Matter’s Womanist Ethic

Abstract: On August 31, 2018, the nation celebrated the life of Aretha Franklin via a nationally televised broadcast of her homegoing service. The event featured a keynote eulogy from the pastor of Salem Bible Church in Atlanta, the Reverend Jasper Williams, who had been a longtime friend of the Franklin family even delivering the eulogy for Ms. Franklin's father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, 24 years earlier. In this paper, I compare and contrast the rhetoric of Rev. Jasper Williams’ eulogy with the rhetoric coming from the Black Lives Matter movement. Each suggests a certain way of enacting blackness. Williams posits a world that denies access and respect to certain lifestyles. He privileges those that align with his conservative respectability rhetoric. The leaders of Black Lives Matter are intentional in taking the opposite approach. They embrace and endorse all lifestyles. They find value in all lives and seek to empower their audience through very deliberate rhetorical choices. I rely on a number of sources to inform my perspective including the work of Amanda Nell Edgar and Andre E. Johnson, Geneva Smitherman, Vincent Lloyd, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Bryan McCann, Shirley Tate, Karma Chavez, Rev. William Barber, Kirt Wilson, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.


Nicole McDonald, Christian Theological Seminary

Dr. Nicole McDonald is a native of Hampton, Virginia. She attended the University of Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. After working as an engineering consultant for several years, Nicole answered her calling to ministry. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology and a Master of Science in Patient Counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University. Recently, Dr. McDonald completed a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. McDonald serves as an Associate Minister at New Calvary Baptist under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Marcus Small and a Bereavement Coordinator for Sentara Hospice.

Currently, Dr. McDonald is a Ph.D. student in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric at Christian Theological Seminary. Her research interests focus on the intersection of preaching, rhetoric, and pastoral care. Her recent projects have focused on Black preaching and cultural trauma in Benjamin E. Mays' eulogy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Title: The Prophetic Rhetoric and Preaching of Julia A.J. Foote

Abstract: In the African American church, the call narratives of African American women are prophetic voices that resist the patriarchy and sexism in church and society. Often, these prophetic voices challenge their own views on God and the ideology of the role of women in the church. In this essay, I examine the prophetic rhetoric of Julia A.J. Foote’s call narrative and discuss the ways in which that prophetic call embodies a womanist ethos in her life and ministry.




Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio

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






Title: “Divine Speech, Dubious Aesthetics: Contemporary Problems in the Black Preaching Traditions” 

Abstract: This paper interrogates the problems posed by an aesthetic fixation in the assessment of the contemporary efficacy and significance of Black preaching traditions. Drawing upon the work of Jacob Carruthers (Mdw Ntr – Divine Speech) and Molefi K. Asante (The Afrocentric Idea), I make a case for how ancient notions of word-force inform the construction of a discourse reality which both produces and is extended by Black preaching and its practitioners. Be that as it may, I argue that the contemporary discourse reality of Black preaching is overdetermined by aesthetic fixations. Namely, the discourse on Black preaching is beset by the problem of categorical distinction - that is, the desire to define its practices and participants through relationships to visual, sonic, and choreographic forms. As Ashon Crawley (Blackpentecostal Breath) writes, Blackness constitutes “a destabilizing force against the project of racial purity, of aesthetic distinction” (12). To subscribe to an imagined pure aesthetics imposes a limiting, normative script of performance that is antithetical to the improvisational multiplicity of Black expressive practices. I contend that Black preaching’s ongoing efficacy and significance lie not in the reproduction of aesthetic markers, but in how they extend a discourse reality that resists the (theo)logics of empire.

Conference Panels at #NCBS2020

The National Council of Black Studies (NCBS) will host its 44th annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia March 11-14, 2020 at the Atlanta Marriot Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center. The National Council for Black Studies was established in 1975 when African American scholars came together to formalize the study of the African World experience, as well as expand and strengthen academic units and community programs devoted to this endeavor.


NCBS was formed out of the substantial need for a national stabilizing force in the developing discipline of Africana/Black Studies. Today, the purpose of the NCBS is multidimensional and the scope of its functioning is quite broad. As an organization created and sustained primarily by students and their teachers, NCBS is committed to academic excellence and social responsibility.

As part of the conference and building upon our successful pre-conference at the National Communication Association, the Center of African American Public Address and Rhetoric will sponsor four panels at the NCBS conference. Two Panels are on Friday, March 13, 2020, and two panels are on Saturday, March 14, 2020. If you are attending the conference, we hope to see you in one of our sponsored panels.

Friday, March 13, 2020


Time: 3:30 to 4:45pm 

Place: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Heritage C

Panelists: 

Chair: Michelle E. Shaw

Earle J. Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary

Matthew Farmer, University of Georgia

Nicole McDonald, Christian Theological Seminary

Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio



Time: 5:00pm to 6:15pm

Room: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Buckhead A

Panelists:

Chair: Damariye Smith, University of Memphis

Kami Anderson, Independent Scholar, Founder of Billingual Brown Babies

Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis




Saturday, March 14, 2020 


Panel Three: Black Rhetoric and Public Address 

Time: 3:00 to 4:15pm

Room: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Dahlonega

Panelists:

Chair: Nicole McDonald, Christian Theological Seminary

Damariye L. Smith, University of Memphis

Annette Madlock Gatison, Independent Scholar

Sophia Muriel Flemming, University of Georgia

Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University




Panel Four: Mapping Terrains of Research: Black Liberation Theology in the Fields of Black Studies (A Roundtable)

Time: 4:30 to 5:45pm

Room: Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center, Floor: Atrium Level, Dahlonega 

Panelists:

Chair: Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis

Letrice Donaldson, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Earle J. Fisher, Memphis Theological Seminary

Annette Madlock Gatison, Independent Scholar

Michelle E. Shaw, Northwestern University

Kyle Brooks, Methodist Theological School in Ohio