We have coordinated several symposia focused on issues of social justice, spirituality and healing. These were organized in Denver, Colorado and co-sponsored with a variety of local educational, cultural and religious groups. Below are descriptions of some of our major public gatherings since our founding.
Spirituality in the Japanese American Internment
In collaboration with the Simpson United Methodist Church and theTri-State Buddhist Fellowship, we organized a two-day symposium on Spirituality in the Japanese American Internment. On the first day of the symposium, held at the Buddhist temple in downtown Denver, older Japanese-Americans who had been imprisoned in the camps during World War II talked about their experiences and the religious and cultural resources they drew on to help themselves survive. The events of the second day, at the Methodist church, featured younger people — children and grandchildren of those who had been interned — who interpreted the meaning of the camps through the lens of their own experience, artistry and convictions.
Eco-Theology in Religions of the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora
In 2000, during the first visit of Makota Valdina Pinto, an environmental rights activist and Candomblé priestess from Bahia, Brazil, we organized a symposium on Eco-Theology in Religions of the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora. This gathering featured Ms. Pinto, Maaraidzo Mutambara (then an Iliff student and Project staff member who studies concepts of land preservation from the perspective of traditional African religions) and Dr. Chirevo Kwenda, a South African theologian and specialist in traditional African religions who was visiting professor at the W.E.B. DuBois center for Afro-American studies at Harvard University. The panelists discussed perspectives of environmental justice and human rights in Afro-Latin American and African religions.
Healing Communities: Models of Personal and Societal Healing from Indigenous Traditions
During Ms. Pinto’s second visit to the Project, we hosted another symposium — this one co-sponsored by several local organizations — called Healing Communities: Models of Personal and Societal Healing from Indigenous Traditions. The day-long gathering included Grupo Tlaloc, a local Aztec Dance group; a curandera, Diana Velasquez; Yvonne Lee, a Methodist pastor and student of Korean Shamanism; Maaraidzo Mutambara, who spoke about Shona traditions of ancestral connection to land; Ramon del Castillo, poet and scholar of Curanderismo; Valnizia Pereira, Candomblé ritual leader and healer, and Ms. Pinto, also a leader and healer in the Candomblé tradition. The panelists were asked to address ways that indigenous healing models might address societal illnesses and injustices. The event was facilitated by Dr. Edward Antonio, an Iliff professor from Zimbabwe whose work includes the area of African theology. The symposium was held at the Iliff School of Theology and catered with delicious Kenyan food by Anne Gatobu, an Iliff doctoral student.
The Welcome Table
In 2008, we organized a three-day, intergenerational symposium celebrating the culinary and cultural traditions of social justice movements. The Welcome Table brought together scholars, activists, religious leaders, artists, culinary specialists and members of the public to explore the links among food, culture and spirituality in national and international social justice organizing. The gathering featured workshops on movement history, community-building, visual arts, dance and cooking led by local and national activists and cultural workers – including Dolores Huerta, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Gilbert and Kathy Wan Povi Sanchez, Daniel Minter, Leticia Tanguma and dancers from Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. The workshops focused particularly on cultural and culinary traditions developed by African Americans, Native peoples from Northern New Mexico, Mexican Americans/Chicanos and Afro Brazilians. The highlight of the event was a workshop and lunch prepared by the Afro-Brazilian activists/chefs who shred their reflections on the importance of food and a resource for community-building in Afro-Brazilian religion and discussed the concept of intergenerational education as cultural, social and spiritual “nutrition” in the context of the ritual community.
In 2009 we hosted the Parent University, an initiative featuring workshops and lectures designed to help train parents to advocate for their children’s educations. Chicago-based education activists, Phillip and Catherine Jackson; the late Pensal McCray, founder of the Ethnic College Counseling Center; actor Danny Glover and scholar Eliane Cavalheiro, were honored guest speakers and workshop leaders.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
While not formally a symposium, in 2011 we organized a four-day series of events held in various locations around the city of Denver, through which legal scholar, Michelle Alexander, engaged a wide variety of community members in discussions about her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Our gatherings were held at the Iliff School of Theology, the University of Denver Law School, the Park Hill United Methodist Church and Manual High School (the historically black public high school in Denver Colorado).
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” Sermon
Currently, we’re collaborating with the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, and Riverside Church in NYC to commemorate in 2017 the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” sermon. Widely recognized as one of King’s most important addresses, this speech was delivered on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before King’s assassination. The speech marks a key moment when King speaks forthrightly (and in the face of great resistance both inside and outside of the Civil Rights Movement) against the war in Vietnam. He calls for a profound revolution of values in the USA, identifying racism, militarism and materialism as a triumvirate of evils that must be healed for the wellbeing of our nation and for a transformation in the relationship of the US to the rest of the world. Vincent Harding drafted the speech that King delivered. Details about the events of the commemoration are forthcoming shortly.