AAH Conference: New Directions for African American Humanists

Sunday, May 16th 2010 at 12:00 pm
Sunday, May 16th 2010 at 6:00 pm
621 Pennsylvania Ave, SE (Eastern Market Metro), Washington, DC 20003

Scheduled Speakers:

  • Norm Allen, Executive Director of African Americans for Humanism
  • Johnny Barnes, Executive Director of ACLU National Capital Area
  • Christopher Bell, Author of The Black Clergy's Misguided Worship Leadership
  • Jamila Bey, Journalist
  • Debbie Goddard, CFI On Campus Field Organizer
  • Sikivu Hutchinson, Editor of blackfemlens.org

Abstracts of Scheduled Talks:

Why it is Time for African American Humanists to Come Out of the Closet
Presenter: Norm Allen

Although an increasing number of humanists are emerging within the African American community, too many of them are choosing to keep their new views secret. Norm Allan argues that it is time for this hidden community to come out of the closet, and join the growing worldwide community of fellow humanists. He will discuss the presence and success of humanist ideas and freethought on the internet, and how the internet is affecting this growing movement. He will discuss his success in getting closet humanists to come out in Africa, New Atheism, and how religion is having a harmful impact on the social, political and economic future of African Americans across the nation. Mr. Allan calls for African American humanists to come out of the closet, comparing its necessity to the history and successes of the LGBT movement.

Separation of Church and State and the African American Community
Presenter: Johnny Barnes

Coming soon...

Mission for the Black Clergy and Community Uplift Organizations: The Making of a “New” Christianity
Presenter: Christopher Bell

Although black academics and political leaders often allege white racism and white privilege as the main underlying cause of the high incarceration rates of black American men, another more subtle and potent underlying cause is being explored by Dr. Christopher Bell. Dr. Bell explores how the glorification of Jesus Christ in Christianity reinforces “white male worship”, and how this worship has a detrimental effect, especially on black American men. This white male worship encourages white superiority, circumvents racial equality, and emotionally emasculates young black males who then react in ways that lead to recalcitrance, violence, and incarceration. Dr. Bell calls for an end to the black community’s “Jesus worship”, which he calls a form of self-inflicted psychological oppression. With the help of the NAACP, he hopes that a “New Christianity” may emerge that leads to less racial fears and improved race relations.

Spare the Rod, Save Your Child
Presenter: Jamila Bey

“Spare the rod, spoil the child,” is a witticism many people have heard- often from a parent just before being “whipped” for some childhood misdeed. Yet this phrase never actually appears in the bible. This talk examines the biblical justifications for corporal punishment inflicted upon African American children with an examination of this misquoted and harmful sentiment. This talk first considers what the Bible actually says about punishing and correcting one’s offspring. Then, an historical assessment of how the bible has been used to justify abusing children. We discuss what modern science says about the effects of corporal punishment and how such treatment affects children’s development neurologically, emotionally, and socially. Finally, we talk about the societal implications of dealing with abused children ranging and talk about ways to encourage alternative discipline and corrective techniques toward Black children.

Diversity in the Humanist Community: Where do we go from here?
Presenter: Debbie Goddard

Some self-identified humanists believe that we should turn a blind eye to the general lack of diversity in our movement; after all, they might say, a real humanist shouldn't be concerned with such divisive subcategories such as an individual’s race or gender. However, when it comes to building community and bringing more people into the movement, a quick look around tells us that humanism doesn’t tend to resonate with certain demographics. It’s time to take a hard look at the message we’re sending and reconsider how we do outreach.

This Far by Faith? Race Traitors, Gender Apostates and the Atheism Question
Presenter: Sikivu Hutchinson

Every Sunday, a familiar scene emerges in black communities across the nation. Black women dutifully shuttle to churches where, although the majority, they still serve as second class citizens in male dominated institutions. Despite the Black Churches pivotal role in the civil rights movement, it has continually enforced gender hierarchy and heterosexism throughout its institutions. In this talk, Sikivu Hutchinson will examine the gender politics of the American Black Church, in relation to black feminist atheism. Given the sexist and racist notions that have placed black femininity outside its white American counterpart, how has slavery and Jim Crow segregation influenced black women's obedience to Christianity as a means of defining their femininity and in becoming American? How does black feminist atheism radically challenge these paradigms of femininity, and what alternatives does it offer today’s African American communities?

Speaker Bios:

Norm Allen is Executive Director of African Americans for Humanism, an educational organization primarily concerned with fostering critical thinking, ethical conduct, church-state separation, and skepticism toward untested claims to knowledge among African Americans. He is the editor of the ground-breaking book African-American Humanism: An Anthology, AAH Examiner, and Deputy Editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He has traveled and lectured widely throughout North America, Europe, and Africa and his writings have been published in scores of newspapers throughout the U.S. He has spoken on numerous radio and television programs and his writings have appeared in such books as Culture Wars and the National Center for Science Education’s Voices for Evolution.

Johnny Barnes is Executive Director of ACLU National Capital Area branch, an organization advocating individual rights, by litigating, legislating, and educating the public on a broad array of issues affecting individual freedom in the United States. He was a Distinguished Military Graduate before he received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. He spent more than twenty-one years in various Congressional staff positions in the United States House of Representatives, including Chief of Staff, and Senior Counsel. In these capacities, he worked on a wide range of issues including D.C. Voting Rights and broadening judicial access for African American farmers. He also taught at several D.C. area law schools, including the Georgetown Law Center and Potomac School of Law. At the ACLU, Johnny has worked on many of its core issues, and has been called to testify before Congress. He is also a member of numerous civil rights organizations, including the D.C. Commission for Women, and the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

Christopher Bell spent twenty years in the army and retired in November 1974 as a major, having also earned a Master of Education Degree in Education Administration from Fitchburg State College.

After retiring from the military, Chris earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education (1975) and a Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Organizational Development from Boston University’s Graduate School of Education (1978).

Dr. Bell worked as a Manpower Developer in the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., and as a Program Coordinator with the District of Columbia Publics Schools. He also served as the Job Training Program Administrator for Southern Maryland. Dr. Bell retired from public service as a Management Analyst with the U.S. Department of Education in the year 2000.

He now writes and lectures on subjects that have captured his interest or sense of concern.

Jamila Bey has been a journalist for 15 years and it's not a good day if she hasn't made a pitch. She was an editor at National Public Radio's Morning Edition on the front lines of pitch fielding for four years before becoming a full-time freelance journalist. Jamila is the creator and chair of the National Press Club's Freelance Committee and is dedicated to eradicating the scourge that is fear of pitching among journalists and PR folks alike.

Debbie Goddard has a background in volunteering and campus and community organizing. Before coming to work for CFI as a field organizer, she volunteered for years with CFI’s campus outreach initiative on the local and national level. She has been involved with church-state separation and secular activism, as well as with GLBT and progressive issues, for many years.

Sikivu Hutchinson is a writer and intergroup specialist for the L.A. County Human Relations Commission. She received a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University and has taught women’s studies, cultural studies, urban studies and education at UCLA, the California Institute of the Arts and Western Washington University. She is the author of Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (Lang, 2003) and has published fiction, essays and critical theory in Social Text, California English, Black Agenda Report and is a contributor to atheist/humanist publications like the New Humanism Blog and Richard Dawkins.net. She is a co-founder of the Women of Color Media Justice Initiative, the editor of blackfemlens.org, and a commentator for KPFK Los Angeles and WBAI NY. She is currently working on a book on the race/gender politics and the “New Atheism” entitled Moral Combat.

Registration: $45 Public, $35 for Friends of the Center and AAH Members, $15 for Students

Register today here .

An African Americans for Humanism Happy Hour will take place on May 15 th 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at Mr Henry's 601 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Washington, D.C.