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 

DamariyƩ 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.