The Black Madonna for Racial Liberation
Join the Medieval Institute, the Initiative on Race and Resilience, and the departments of Africana Studies, Program of Liberal Studies, and Theology for the final webinar in our series on Pilgrimage! Can the embodied practice of pilgrimage move us toward healing and racial liberation? Christena Cleveland, Ph.D., joins us to discuss her new book, God Is A Black Woman (2022), which chronicles her 400-mile walking pilgrimage across France to the ancient shrines of Black Madonnas. Cleveland tells of the spiritual transformation she experienced as she encountered a God who affirms the sacredness of all Black people.
Meet the Speaker: Christena Cleveland
Christena Cleveland, Ph.D. is a social psychologist, public theologian, author, and activist. She is the founder and director of the Center for Justice + Renewal which supports a more equitable world by nurturing skillful justice advocacy and the depth to act on it.
A weaver at heart, Dr. Cleveland integrates psychology, theology, storytelling, and art to help justice seekers sharpen their understanding of the social realities that maintain injustice while also stimulating the soul’s enormous capacity to resist and transform those realities.
Dr. Cleveland holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara, a B.A. from Dartmouth College where she double majored in Sociology and Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as an honorary doctorate from the Virginia Theological Seminary. An award-winning researcher and author, Christena is a Ford Foundation Fellow who has held faculty positions at several institutions of higher education — most recently at Duke University’s Divinity School, where she was the first African-American and first female director of the Duke Center for Reconciliation, and also led a research team investigating self-compassion as a buffer to racial stress. In 2022, she published her second full-length book, God is a Black Woman (HarperCollins), which details her 400-mile walking pilgrimage across central France in search of ancient Black Madonna statues, and examines the relationship among race, gender, and cultural perceptions of the Divine. Her work has been featured in a number of major media outlets including the History Channel, PBS, Essence Magazine, the Washington Post, NPR, and BBC Radio.
Though Dr. Cleveland loves scholarly inquiry, she is also an avid student of embodied wisdom. She recently completed the Art & Social Change intensive somatic training for millennial leaders, and is currently deepening her mind-body-spirit integration in a year-long embodied leadership cohort for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
A bona fide tea snob, lover of Black art, and Ólafur Arnalds superfan — Christena makes her home in Boston.
Meet the Moderator: LaRyssa Herrington
LaRyssa Herrington is a 4th year doctoral student in Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame from Tolono, Illinois. She holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and social work from Greenville College and is a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology where she completed her Master of Divinity concentrating in Catholic Studies. Her areas of research include the role of Mary in devotional and popular piety, womanist theology, eschatology as it relates to the historical and contemporary conditions of diasporic Africans, ritual studies, and sacramental theology.
Currently, her dissertation, titled “Theorizing Diaspora: Recovering the Fragments of the Black Madonna in the Americas,” is focused on the retrieval of the image of the Black Madonna as she has appeared throughout Christian history, exploring the cultural and religious significance of Mary/Marian embodiment and inculturation for diasporic Africans in the Americas.
Spiritual Pathways to Liberation with Dr. Christena Cleveland
View the Event
Friday, March 24, 2023 12:00 pm
Join the Medieval Institute, the Initiative on Race and Resilience, and the departments of Africana Studies, Program of Liberal Studies and Theology for the final webinar in our series on pilgrimage – Pilgrimage for Healing and Liberation! Can the embodied practice of pilgrimage move us toward healing and racial liberation?
Christena Cleveland, Ph.D., joins us to discuss her new book, God Is A Black Woman (2022), which chronicles her 400-mile walking pilgrimage across France to the ancient shrines of Black Madonnas. Cleveland tells of the spiritual transformation she experienced as she encountered a God who affirms the sacredness of all Black people.
Pilgrimage for Healing and Liberation is co-sponsored by the Department of Africana Studies, the Department of Theology, Program of Liberal Studies, Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, and the Notre Dame Initiative on Race and Resilience. This event was recorded on March 24, 2023.
- Christena Cleveland, founder of the Center for Justice and Renewal and its sister organization Sacred Folk, and the author of the book God Is a Black Woman.
To learn more about the Center for Justice + Renewal founded by Christena Cleveland, please click here.
Please click this link to access LaRyssa Herrington’s webinar series “Black Catholics and The Millennial Gap.”
Please click on the below links to access related articles by LaRyssa Herrington:
- “What Does It Mean To Be Black and Catholic? Reflecting on the Words of Thea Bowman 30 Years Later,” Aquinas Emory Thinks
- “A Conversion of the Heart: One Woman’s Journey into the Catholic Faith,” Aquinas Emory Thinks
- “Love is Not Possession: Lessons from Life’s Transitional Spaces,” Candler School of Theology blog
- “Lessons in Depending on God,” Candler School of Theology blog