Faith and Spirituality in Enslaved Landscapes
Speaker Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Speaker Whitney Battle-Baptiste
Speaker Jada Benn Torres
Speaker Joycelyn Davis and respondent Robert Turner
Speakers Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Jada Benn Torres, respondent Robert Turner, and moderator Rob O’Malley
This session was hosted as part of the 2021 AAAS Annual Meeting, “Understanding Dynamic Ecosystems.”
Modern scholars recognize that the past is not static, and that advancing historical knowledge is a process of searching out the marginalized, forgotten and unknown. This process provides opportunities for contemporary scholars to give voice and agency to people and communities whose stories have long been ignored or deliberately silenced.
This session highlighted Black scientists, historians, community representatives, and others. It explored how tools of science, including new technologies, techniques and collaborations in genetics, linguistics, archaeology, and archival research, have supported the reclamation and revitalization of culture, heritage, and identity – including dimensions of faith and spirituality – for communities of African descent. The session concludes with reflections and dialogue with attendees about the role of community engagement, including planning, assessment of risks and potential rewards, and the need for equitable and just decision-making around the impact of scientific research.
Whitney Battle-Baptiste is a Professor of Anthropology and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Battle-Baptiste is a scholar and activist who sees the classroom and the campus as a space to engage contemporary issues with a sensibility of the past. Her academic training is in history and historical archaeology. Her research is primarily focused on how the connections of race, gender, sexuality, and class through an archaeological lens. Her research includes archaeological investigations in Nashville, Boston, Great Barrington, and the Bahamas.
Jada Benn Torres, is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Genetic Anthropology and Biocultural Studies Laboratory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her primary research area is the Anglophone and Hispanic Caribbean where she explores population genetics of African and Indigenous Caribbean peoples. She also she publishes on the impacts of genetic technologies on contemporary populations with specific regard to issues of race and identity. A second emerging area her research combines the tools and theories of genetic epidemiology with anthropology in order to holistically consider women’s health disparities.
Joycelyn Davis is the Community Engagement Officer for Africatown – CHESS, co-founder of the Clotilda Descendants Association, and a sixth-generation descendant of Charlie Lewis, one of the Africans who arrived on the Clotilda. She, along with other descendants, organize an annual festival to remember the survivors of the Clotilda, honor their families, and educate the public about the community built by the survivors when they were freed.
Rev. Dr. Robert Richard Allen Turner is the pastor of Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which has the only edifice which survived the 1921 Race Massacre on Greenwood. He is is fighting in Tulsa for justice for the victims of the 1921 Race Massacre, getting burial sites excavated, and seeking reparations.
Additionally, Dr. Turner is now the Academic Dean for Jackson Theological Seminary, in Little Rock Arkansas. He also sits on many commissions, task forces, and advisory boards.