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From Selma to St. Louis: Theology of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Pursuit of Justice 50 Years Later

April 17-18, 2018

Join us for a public symposium on the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in celebration of Saint Louis University's bicentennial.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at SLU in 1964.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, April 17

Performance and Opening Keynote

Time: 7:30 to 9 p.m
Location: Sinquefield State Room, Dubourg Hall Room 409

Featuring Jeffrey McCune, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, and J. Kameron Carter, Ph.D., Duke Divinity School.

The evening will begin with Jeffrey McCune, Ph.D., who will offer up excerpts of rarely orated selections from King's Saint Louis University speech, accompanied by music which addresses liberation and justice. McCune will be followed by J. Kameron Carter, Ph.D., who will offer a reflection on King’s 1964 Saint Louis University speech, attending to the question, ‘what’s at stake in our current context given King’s SLU speech?’

Wednesday, April 18

King as Public Intellectual

Time: 12 to 1:30 p.m. (Lunch will be provided)
Location: Boileau Hall
A panel featuring Dwight N. Hopkins, Ph.D., University of Chicago Divinity School, and M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D., Boston College.

Dwight N. Hopkins, Ph.D., and M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D., will concentrate on King as public intellectual and social activist. They will take up questions of race, economic relations, and on-going civil rights campaigns in the modern world in light of King’s legacy, 50 years after his assassination.

King and Activism

Time: 4-5:30 p.m.
Location: Center for Global Citizenship, Seminar Room 124A
An Open Dialogue with the Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation; Tef Poe, co-founder of Hands Up United; and Kayla Reed, organizer and civil rights activist. 

This panel and workshop, featuring Rev. Starsky Wilson, Tef Poe, and Kayla Reed, will discuss how contemporary movements for racial justice, especially within the region and at SLU, draw from, question and advance King's thought and practice.

Evening Chapel Service

Time: 7:30—8:30 p.m.
Location: St. Francis Xavier College Church, Saint Louis University
Join us for worship and preaching with the the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D., Dean, Episcopal Divinity School, Union Theological Seminary, and Dan White, S.J., pastor of St. Francis Xavier College Church. 

This concluding service will return to the place where King found his voice and perfected his craft: the pulpit. Dan White, S.J., will offer welcoming remarks to set the tone for the evening, followed by choir selections in the Black Church tradition. In a culminating sermon, the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D., will offer a homily in the Kingian Tradition of justice and love.

Keynote Speakers 

J. Kameron Carter, Ph.D.

J. Kameron Carter
J. Kameron Carter

J. Kameron Carter is an associate professor of theology, English and Africana studies at Duke University Divinity School with appointments in the English, and the gender, sexuality and feminist studies departments. He works in African diaspora studies, using theological and religious studies concepts, philosophy and aesthetics, and literatures and poetries of the black diaspora. Driving his work are questions pertaining to the theory of blackness as entailing an alternative practice of the sacred, what might be understood as “parahuman” modes of life in the interspecies blur where the human, the animal and the earth come into view in their an-original togetherness; the sociality of life (together) is Carter’s concern. Which is to say, he pursues black study as esoteric practice, a fleshly mystics of communion.

Carter’s book Race: A Theological Account appeared in 2008 (New York: Oxford UP). Having lectured widely both nationally and internationally, he’s the editor of Religion and the Future of Blackness (2013) and the author of numerous essays, the latest being his forthcoming essay “Black Malpractice (An Ante-American Poetics).” His next book, Black Rapture: A Poetics of the Sacred, is in its final stages of preparation and is the first volume of a trilogy on blackness and the sacred that goes under the general name Fugitive Faith.

Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D.

Kelly Brown Douglas
Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D.

The Very Reverend Kelly Brown Douglas, Ph.D., was named Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Theology at Union in September 2017. She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral. 

Prior to Union, Dean Douglas served as Professor of Religion at Goucher College where she held the Susan D. Morgan Professorship of Religion and is now Professor Emeritus. Before that, she was Associate Professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity and Assistant Professor of Religion at Edward Waters College. 

Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1983, Dean Douglas holds a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Union. She is the author of many articles and five books, including Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Her academic work has focused on womanist theology, sexuality and the black church.

Performers and Panelists

Jeffrey McCune, Ph.D.
Jeffery McCune
Jeffery Q. McCune Jr., Ph.D.

Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr. is an associate professor of African and African-American studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a scholar, public speaker and performer. He is the former director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

McCune is the author of the award-winning book Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing. He is presently working on two book projects. The first, a full-length manuscript, Read!:An Experiment in Seeing Black, and the other titled On Kanye: A Philosophy of Black Genius. McCune has received international recognition for a course related to the latter. In addition to these works, McCune is also in the process of collecting ethnographic and archival material to complete a play, AFTERLIFE: An Archive of Violence, which explores the day-to-day impact of state-sanctioned violence on individuals within black and brown communities. McCune has been featured on Left of Black, SiriusXM's Joe Madison ShowHuffPost Live and a guest expert on Bill Nye Saves The World

Dwight Hopkins, Ph.D.
Dwight Hopkins
Dwight N. Hopkins, Ph.D.
Dwight N. Hopkins is the Alexander Campbell Professor at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of Black Theology: Essays on Global Perspectives (2017) and Black Theology: Essays on Gender Perspectives (2017). Hopkins initiated and managed a 14-country network to think about the practices of building healthy communities and healthy individuals in communities. With representatives from Hawaii, Fiji, Australia, Japan, India, England, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Cuba, Jamaica, Brazil and the United States, the network forged learning about neighbors through neighbors sharing their cultures. Indeed, in international transactions of business, politics and religions, one of the greatest challenges is lack of cultural understanding. Restated, cultures facilitate harmony and balance for the purpose of another world is possible in emerging markets. A higher vision and transcendent values glue the global together spiritually with wealth management.
M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.
M. Shawn Copeland
M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

M. Shawn Copeland is a professor of systematic theology at Boston College, where she teaches graduate students preparing for the doctorate in theology, as well as undergraduate students in the interdisciplinary program in African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) and in the PULSE Program. An award-winning writer, Copeland is the author or editor of six books including Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being, The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille, and more than 125 articles, book chapters, reviews and blog entries on spirituality, theological anthropology, political theology, social suffering gender and race.

Since 2003, Copeland has taught at Boston College, where she earned her doctoral degree; she has taught at Marquette University and at Yale University Divinity School, and she has held visiting positions at Harvard Divinity School. Copeland has lectured internationally and widely in the United States in parish settings, seminaries, colleges and universities.

Copeland is a former Convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS), an interdisciplinary learned association of Black Catholic scholars, and she is recognized as one of the most important influences in North America in drawing attention to issues surrounding African-American Catholics. She was first the African-American and first African-American woman to serve as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA). In November 2017, the University of Dayton conferred upon her their Marianist Award, which is presented “to a Catholic scholar, author and theologian who has made an outstanding contribution to the intellectual life.” 

Rev. Starsky Wilson
Rev. Starsky Wilson
Rev. Starsky D. Wilson

Rev. Starsky D. Wilson is a pastor, philanthropist and activist pursuing God's vision of community marked by justice, peace and love. He is president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation and pastor of Saint John's Church (The Beloved Community). Through Saint John's, Wilson has led congregational activism on myriad issues, including youth violence prevention, Medicaid expansion, public school accreditation, voter mobilization, capping payday lending and raising the minimum wage. In 2014, former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Wilson co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, a group of 16 citizens empowered to study the underlying conditions and make public policy recommendations to help the region progress through issues exposed by the tragic death of Michael Brown Jr. On Sept. 14, 2015, they released the ground-breaking Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility. 

Tef Poe
Poe Tef
Tef Poe

Tef Poe is an American rapper, musician and activist from St.Louis. He is one of the co-founders of the Hands Up United movement in Ferguson. Tef has consistently advocated for grass-roots movements in racial justice within and outside the United States. In his art and activism, he insists on the value of local people taking charge of conversations about their own communities rather than relying on national organizations.

As an activist he has traveled to Geneva and testified at the United Nations on behalf of the Ferguson Protesters. In 2015, he traveled to Palestine as a member of the historic Dream Defenders delegation. He was also invited to the White House by President Barack Obama to discuss strategy pertaining to demilitarizing the police during the Ferguson unrest.

In 2016-2017, he was a fellow at Harvard University at the Charles Warren Center for Americans Studies. He is currently the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellow at Harvard University’s prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center. He also teaches a course on “God and Tupac” at Denver’s Iliff School of theology with co-instructor Jennifer Leath, Ph.D.

As an artist Tef Poe has performed on-stages with the likes of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Big Krit, Lupe Fiasco, Dead Prez and many more. He is also 2014’s undefeated and retired BET 106th & Park freestyle champion. His most recent album “Black Julian 2” narrated by Cornel West was released on Christmas Day.

Kayla Reed
Kayla Reed
Kayla Reed

Kayla Reed (she/her) is a 28-year-old Black queer activist and organizer from St. Louis. After the killing of Michael Brown Jr. in August 2014, Reed was catapulted into organizing around issues of racial justice, economic justice and policing. She has worked on campaigns in partnerships with organizations such as Advancement Project, Color of Change, Organization for Black Struggle and ArchCity Defenders, where she now serves as a member of the Board of Directors.

She currently serves as co-chair of St. Louis Action Council, a Millennial Black-led collective working to build political power in the city of St. Louis through civic engagement and strategic political action. The collective worked to get Kimberly Gardner elected as the city's first Black circuit attorney and also supported Tishaura Jones' campaign for mayor in 2017. Reed is also co-founder and lead organizer of the Electoral Justice Project (EJP), a national campaign of the Movement for Black Lives, that seeks to expand and mobilize the Black electorate to achieve victories on the ballot in 2018.

Reed has been published in the Washington Post and Huffington Post and was recognized as one of CNN's Disruptors and by Delux Magazine in their inaugural Power 100 List. She is featured in the critically acclaimed documentary Whose Streets?, directed by Damon Davis and Sabaah Folayan. In her spare time, she is also a full-time undergraduate student at Washington University, studying sociology and African/African-American Studies.

Dan White, S.J.
Dan White, SJ
Dan White, S.J.

Dan White, S.J., a native of Wisconsin, is pastor at St. Francis Xavier College Church. He was an associate pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City and pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Belize City, Belize.

White was assistant to the novice master at the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Couteau, La., before coming to St. Francis Xavier College Church.

White is also a member of the Board of Trustees of De Smet Jesuit High School.


Jonathan Smith, Ph.D.
Jonathan Smith
Jonathan Smith, Ph.D.

Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., is a member of the faculty of the African-American Studies Department and the vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at Saint Louis University. 

Smith has been a fierce advocate for programming that promotes cultural competency, literacy and fluency; racial, gender and cultural support; and connecting SLU to the greater St. Louis community. He maintains regular engagement with students and with faculty — in groups and one-on-one meetings.

In 2015, Smith was appointed as the first special assistant to the president for diversity and community engagement, which was renamed chief diversity officer last fall.