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A program Friday at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church marked the 200th anniversary of the AME church and explored challenges ahead for social justice.
During an opening ceremony, an actor portrayed church founder Richard Allen, the visionary Black leader in Colonial America who sued for a separate church from the controlling white Episcopal leadership. Contemporary themes of social justice were also explored during the event.
The keynote speakers included Dr. M. Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of history and African-American studies at Harvard University; Jamaal-Harrison Bryant, founder and pastor of Empowerment Temple AME Church; and Albert J. Raboteau, a professor of religion at Princeton University.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, associate director for the Center for Place, Culture and Politics, challenged the notion that lighter sentencing for drug offenses would reduce mass incarceration of Black people. She called for changes to sentencing guidelines and addressing conditions that contribute to recidivism, or odds of returning to prison for a repeat offense.
The panel speaker suggested a change in approach from believing “the way we solve a problem is by killing it.”
“The way we solve a problem is by loving it,” said Gilmore, who has researched revolution and reform, prison systems and the African diaspora as professor of geography in the doctoral program in earth and environmental sciences.
“You cannot let other folks set your agenda,” Elders said.
She called for more people to be “open and honest and take every opportunity we get to make a real difference.” She also wanted people to take more responsibility to improve their health and change personal habits, and education is the key.
In the panel discussion, common themes among comments touched on the need for honest communication, attitude of acceptance and love and a role for faith-based communities in addressing controversial topics from the dynamic of Black male leadership in the wake of mass incarceration and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender love. The title of the forum is “A General Conference of Freedom’s Prophets: AME’s Re-working Trails to Freedom.”
Panel speakers thanked the AME church leadership for organizing the event. Rev. Jennifer Leath, ordained to preach at Mother Bethel AME, introduced the afternoon panel, saying the program was an “opportunity to be sustained in spirit and mind” and turn attention to the “radical inclusive love of Christ Jesus.”
Jamal-Harrison Bryant, who spoke about justice during the panel discussion with Elders, said he found the forum “overwhelmingly intellectually stimulating.”
Bryant, who earned a high school equivalency credential, later earned a theological degree from Duke University, and served as national youth and college director for the NAACP, has engaged thousands of youth in international campaigns against violence.
Bishop Yvette Flunder, founder of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ, addressed same-gender love, saying many of the issues stem from a lack of understanding and challenge stereotypes, or traditional roles for men and women.
“We’ve got to do more work around human sexuality. We have not yet reconciled this issue among ourselves yet,” she said, adding that teachings in the church force same-sex partners to conceal their love and desire. “I want to tell you closets are for brooms.”
Below is the announcement from 215 Theatre Company.
Leonard Dozier has been cast as Reuben Tate in 215's production of Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign.
This gifted performer is a two -time regiona...l Broadway Best Actor Nominee and starred and narrated the landmark film Apostle Of Freedom,about the life of Richard Allen. Leonard also starred as Richard Allen in the Emmy -winning television episode "Fever :1793."
Was contacted today to be an adjudicator and panel member for the NJ State Teen Arts Festival. It is a tremendous honor and a very significant role that will have me play a role in how a couple of thousand arts students across the state are evaluated for their school performing arts programs while also serving on the panel which evaluates them. Additionally, I will be providing an acting workshop for them. Roughly 5,000 high school and middle school students from across the state will be invited to have their work showcased at the state level during a three-day run at Ocean County College. The event takes place June 1st, 2nd and 3rd of 2016. What an honor!
Leonard Dozier's Nothing Sweeter out now on iTunes and all other digital sites!
Listen to Leonard Dozier's Soulmate with Michael Tozzi on WJJZ.com and IHeart Radio!!
Great article by Barbara Trainin-Blank about the upcoming show A Raisin in the Sun at Open Stage, opening next weekend. https://theburgnews.com/culture/powerful-dreams-classic-play-explores-intersection-ambition-family-race