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Ancestral Witnesses: Literature and the African American Religious Imagination – honoring James Baldwin and Audre Lorde

December 4, 2014 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Ancestral Witnesses: Literature and the African American Religious Imagination
James Baldwin and Audre Lorde: A Revolutionary Hope

As a series, Ancestral Witnesses will explore the intersections of religion and African American literature produced during the social upheavals of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements and their aftermath. The panels will feature discussions that examine how black writers engaged religion in their efforts to imagine black liberation and human freedom, as well as how black religions have shaped African American literary visions. We define “religion” broadly to include not only Islam and Christianity, but also African-derived practices (i.e. voodoo or hoodoo) and “new” belief systems (i.e. Rastafarianism and the International Peace Movement Mission).

Our capacious understanding of religion is reflected in the writings and life experiences of literary figures themselves: James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.

While James Baldwin and Audre Lorde will be the focal points for this event (with their 1984 interview in Essence magazine serving as a key, shared document), the series will explore how religion and spirituality figured in the life and work of a range of other black writers. Alongside the roundtable conversation, there will be choreographed readings from selected texts and musical performances, given music’s centrality to both African American literary and religious traditions alike.

Panelists at the event include:
Rich Blint, Columbia University
Alexis De Veaux, Author & Activist
Imani Perry, Princeton University
Josef Sorett, Columbia University

Musical performances by:
Marti Newland, Singer, Core Lecturer in Music Humanities, Columbia University
Brandee Younger, Harpist

This event is free and open to all.  A ticket is required.  
Reserve your tickets now at Harlem Stage
A valid ID will be required to pick up your ticket at Will Call.  Only street parking is available.

Harlem Stage Gatehouse
150 Convent Avenue (at W. 135th Street)
New York, NY 10031

This event is sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public LifeColumbia University School of the Arts; and Harlem Stage.

This conversation is a part of the year-long, city-wide celebration The Year of James Baldwin on the occasion of what would have been the author’s 90th year, presented in partnership with Harlem StageColumbia University School of the ArtsNew York Live Arts, with collaborators: The New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the School of Media Studies and School of Writing, the National Black Theater, the Harlem Book Fair, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

During the Spring semester, the two-part Ancestral Witness series will continue with an in-depth look at Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka.


December 4, 2014
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


Harlem Stage
150 Covent Ave
New York, NY United States
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