On Wednesday, September 6, 2023, the Episcopal Divinity School kicked off its second year of “Religion and Racial Justice: Expanding the Moral Imaginary Through Film” with a day-long gathering in New York City. The two-year program, which began in 2022 and now continues into its second year, brings together a cohort of scholars, faith leaders, activists, and artists of color to reflect on films that engage topics of religion and race. The program is made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
This year’s inaugural event, which was held in a meeting space of Auburn Seminary, began with a workshop with Liz Kineke, former Executive Producer, writer, and documentarian at CBS whose work has spanned a wide-range of topics including religion, white supremacy, and climate change. In this workshop cohort members used her half-hour documentary Faith on the Frontlines, which examines the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville through the lens of clergy, as a springboard for an interactive discussion on white supremacy, white Christian America, and racism. The cohort explored questions including: What kinds of editorial choices were made in the making of this documentary? How did the story of what happened that fateful night in 2017 evolve into a deeper conversation about the need to fully reckon with Christianity’s role in perpetuating racism in America? What is the role of the media in helping us understand and preserve history? “We had a powerful discussion about the role of film in telling the truth of our nation’s history, which is particularly important in this moment where historical truth telling is being challenged,” shared cohort leader and EDS Interim President the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas.
After a rich conversation in the morning, the cohort spent the afternoon screening and discussing the 2021 film Donkeyhead by Agam Darshi, which follows the story of a Sikh family navigating the complex realities of their dying father. The film, as the Rev. Dr. Douglas shared, “helped us to once again recognize the significance of engaging in stories of cultures and religions that aren’t our own. Donkeyhead gave us a glimpse into the Sikh experience and how this tradition can shape a family.”
Cohort member, author, and Executive Director of the Aspen Institute for Religion & Society Dr. Simran Jeet Singh said of the day, “It’s so special to be a part of this group and spend time imagining what’s possible through our storytelling. It’s even more special to supplement that exploration with practical skills and insights from one of the most accomplished religion journalists in the country. I learned so much in our time with Liz, and I’m energized to begin incorporating some of my learnings into my work going forward.”
The “Religion and Racial Justice: Expanding the Moral Imaginary Through Film” cohort convenes monthly, providing members opportunities to build connections, support one another’s ongoing work, and to broaden understanding of the complex realities of social and racial injustices. The program provides a select number of microgrants to the cohort in order to support further collaborative work within the group. Members of the 2023-2024 cohort are Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, Samah Choudhury, Ashon Crawley, Jeremy V. Cruz, Mihee Kim-Kort, Minjung Noh, Hussein Rashid, Gabby Rivera, Simran Jeet Singh, John J. Thatamanil, Rima Vesely-Flad, and Starsky Wilson.
For more information about EDS’ Religion and Racial Justice: Expanding the Moral Imaginary Through Film cohort, please visit: https://www.eds.edu/programs/expanding-the-moral-imaginary-through-film