Past Event

The Question of Faith in Contemporary Black Life

February 18, 2021
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
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The Question of Faith in Contemporary Black Life | Register Here

Hosted by The Forum and Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS), The Question of Faith in Contemporary Black Life is a virtual event coinciding with the release of a new Pew Research Center study, Faith Among Black Americans. The study, which will be published on February 16th, is the Center’s most comprehensive, in-depth attempt to explore religion among Black Americans. Its centerpiece is a first-of-its-kind nationally representative survey of 8,660 Black adults featuring questions designed to examine a range of Black religious experiences.

The February 18th launch event, which will be livestreamed by The Forum, will be the first public review of this important work. Two of the study’s lead researchers, Besheer Mohamed and Kiana Cox, will open the event with a presentation of their key findings. They will be joined by a panel of speakers for a roundtable discussion moderated by Professor Josef Sorett of Columbia University. The conversation will examine the significance of the study for understanding the current landscape of religion in Black life and in the nation as a whole. An audience Q&A session will conclude the evening’s program. Questions may be submitted into consideration via Slido

Notably, the Pew study will be published on the same day that a new PBS seriesThe Black Church: This Is Our Story, This is Our Song, will also debut. The two-part series from renowned scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will serve as a timely complement to this roundtable discussion of the new Pew study.

Featured guests:

  • Dr. Besheer Mohamed, Senior Researcher, Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Kiana Cox, Research Associate, Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C.
  • Rev. Dr. Leslie D. Callahan, Pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA
  • Dr. Marla F. Frederick, Professor, Candler School of Theology, Emory University; President, American Academy of Religion
  • Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor and Chair, African and African American Studies, Duke University
  • Dr. Josef Sorett, Professor, Departments of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies; Director, Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS), Columbia University

This event is made possible through generous support from The Henry Luce Foundation. In addition to the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, this event is co-sponsored by Columbia’s Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies; the Institute for Research in African-American Studies; the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life; the Department of Religion; and Union Theological Seminary.

Dr. Besheer Mohamed is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center. He is an expert on the views, demographic profile and size of U.S. Muslim communities. He also has extensive experience with computational science, as well as developing best practices for quantitative data collection on small populations. Mohamed has appeared in numerous media outlets and regularly briefs policymakers, academics and other important stakeholders. He has also published in traditional academic publications through Oxford University Press and NYU Press, along with the American Sociological Association’s magazine, Contexts. He received his doctorate in sociology and master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Cornell University.

Dr. Kiana Cox is a research associate at Pew Research Center, where she works on the Center’s domestic polling about religion. She predominantly contributes to the Center’s work on race and religion, with particular attention to African American communities. Cox earned her doctorate in sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to joining the Center, Kiana was an assistant professor and Associate Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She is a contributing author to reports such as Race in America 2019 and Americans Have Positive Views About Religion’s Role in Society, but Want It Out of Politics, as well as other shorter pieces exploring race and religion in the United States.

Since 2009, the Reverend Dr. Leslie D. Callahan has served as the first female pastor of the historic St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia. Dr. Callahan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Harvard University/Radcliffe, a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religion from Princeton University. A gifted professor, Dr. Callahan has served on the faculties of New York Theological Seminary (NYTS) and the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include religious history in the United States, particularly independent African American Christianity and Pentecostal studies.

Dr. Marla F. Frederick is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. A leading ethnographer, she employs an interdisciplinary approach to examine the overlapping spheres of religion, race, gender, media, politics, and economics. She is the author of four books and several articles. Most recently, she co-authored Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment (NYU Press, 2016), which examines how Black Christians, Muslims, and Hebrew Israelites use media for the “redemption” of the race. She currently serves as the president of the American Academy of Religion, the world’s largest association of scholars in religious studies and related fields.

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal is James B. Duke Professor of African & African-American Studies and Professor of English, and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. Neal is the author of six books including What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Public CultureSoul Babies: Black Popular Culture, the Post-Soul Aesthetic and Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities, and the forthcoming Black Ephemera: The Crisis and Challenge of the Black Musical Archive. Neal also directs the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship (CADCE) which produces original digital content, including the weekly video podcast Left of Black, (now in its 11th season), produced in collaboration with the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Dr. Josef Sorett is Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, where he is also chair of the Department of Religion and directs the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice. His first book, Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics (Oxford University Press, 2016) illumines how religion has figured in debates about black art and culture across the 20th century. A second book, The Holy Holy Black: The Ironies of an American Secular, is forthcoming with Oxford UP. Additionally, Josef is editing an anthology, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches, which will be published by Columbia University Press.