2021 Festival of Faiths
“Sacred Change: Essential Conversations on Faith and Race”

The 2021 Festival of Faiths examines issues of systemic racism in America and the role of spirituality in healing from the trauma of oppression. Sacred Change: Essential Conversations on Faith and Race celebrated the unique beauty, power and strength of Black faith experiences while facing the profoundly brutal outcomes of genocide, slavery and “profit at any cost.” Renowned speakers and artists helped us challenge prevailing narratives and explore pathways to truth, repair and hope in framing a future defined by justice.

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SPEAKERS & ARTISTS

Dr. Lewis Brogdon serves as associate professor of Preaching and Black Church Studies and director of the Institute for Black Church Studies at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He has served in numerous positions in undergraduate and graduate institutions like Simmons College of Kentucky, Claflin University, Bluefield College and Louisville Seminary. Brogdon is the author of books such as A Companion to Philemon; The Spirituality of Black Preaching; Hope on the Brink and No Longer a Slave but a Brother. Brogdon delivers lectures on Martin Luther King Jr., the debate about reparations, and recent protests about the death of George Floyd. He has developed academic courses on the study of Martin Luther King Jr. for educational institutions in Virginia and Kentucky.

Stachelle Bussey began serving in the church at age 7. The self-taught musician became a minister of music at age 22, then returned to her alma mater, Central High School, as assistant band director. In 2015, she was named worship director for One Church Louisville, and in 2017, she answered the call to minister from the pulpit. Stachelle founded Hope Buss, a nonprofit that has provided rides to the polls, hosted conversations on mental health, and — following the murders of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee — provided free food and gospel music in the community. Stachelle earned her Master of Divinity from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and serves on Vanderbilt’s Racial Justice Collaborative Cohort.

For more than 40 years, Rev. Dr. Kevin W. Cosby has served as senior pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church, Kentucky’s largest African American church. He is the 13th president of Simmons College of Kentucky, where he led the college to reclaim its original campus and expand. Cosby uncovered the rich history of Simmons, which was established by former slaves, and in 2014, Simmons was recognized as a Historically Black College & University. Cosby convened The Angela Project, named after the first enslaved person to step off the slave ship in Jamestown. He was inducted into the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians at the state capitol, and at the request of Muhammad Ali, he served as a eulogist at his funeral.

The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, where in 2019 she was named the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology. She also serves as Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street. Her academic work has focused on womanist theology, sexuality and the Black church, and social justice. Previously she taught at Goucher College, Howard University and Edward Waters College. Douglas is the author of books including Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective and Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. Her latest book, Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter, is dated for publication in winter 2021. 

Hannah Drake is a blogger, activist, public speaker, poet and author. She writes commentary on politics, feminism and race. The Muhammad Ali Center named her a Daughter of Greatness, which features prominent women engaged in social philanthropy and activism. Hannah was selected as a “Best of the Best” in Louisville for her poem Spaces and recently was honored as a Kentucky Colonel, the highest honor bestowed by the Kentucky Governor recognizing an individual’s accomplishments and service. Hannah’s message is thought-provoking and at times challenging, but she believes change takes place in the uncomfortable spaces. “My sole purpose in writing and speaking is not that I entertain you. I am trying to shake a nation.” 

The Rev. Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson is senior pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Louisville, where she leads the church’s vision to cultivate seeds of necessity through spiritual guidance and community partnerships. In her 2016 book, Urban Ministry: Revitalizing a Church and Impacting a Community, Ferguson outlines her program that helps ease re-entry using Christian principles, intentional nurturing, accountability and mentoring. Under Ferguson’s leadership, the MOLO Village Community Development Corporation was established to engage Russell residents in holistic approaches to community development. Ferguson earned a Master of Education from the University of Louisville, and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, where she is now an adjunct professor.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a Queer Black Feminist Love Evangelist and an aspirational cousin to all life. She is/they are the author of several books, most recently Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, and is co-founder of the Mobile Homecoming Trust, an intergenerational experiential living library of Black LBGTQ brilliance. Alexis founded Brilliance Remastered, an online network and series of retreats serving community-accountable intellectuals and artists. Alexis’s work is grounded in a community-building ethic and would not be possible without her communities of accountability in Durham, N.C., the broader U.S. southeast and the global south. She brings a passion for the issues that impact oppressed communities.

Dr. Johnny Bernard Hill is founder and president of the World House Forum in Raleigh, N.C., and senior pastor of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church. He previously served as dean of the Divinity School at Shaw University, where he founded the Center for Racial and Social Justice. With support of the Lilly Endowment, he established the Black Church Leadership Academy and led the Awakening Campaign initiative for transformative engagement. Hill is the author of Prophetic Rage: A Postcolonial Theology of Liberation and The First Black President: Barack Obama, Race, Politics, and the American Dream. He completed his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology at Duke Divinity School; and his PhD in philosophical theology from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University.

Minister Chandra Goforth Irvin is executive director of the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal at Spalding University, where she spearheads the development and application of restorative and spiritual practices that promote racial equity and healing. As a minister, facilitator, strategist, and master consultant in Polarity Management, she cultivates understanding and respect for shared humanity, deep listening, and collective action toward peace and justice. For over 20 years, Chandra has served as president of Irvin, Goforth & Irvin LLC, helping individuals and organizations clarify their purpose; surmount chronic difficulties; resolve conflicts; and build meaningful relations. As a Fielding Lewis Walker fellow, her life and work frequently draw on the transformative and timeless wisdom of mystic, theologian, prophet and community builder Howard Thurman.

New Orleans native Sunni Patterson is an acclaimed poet, performer, workshop facilitator, spiritual life coach, and initiated priestess and minister. She began her career as a high school teacher, and much of her life since has been devoted to serving as a cultural worker and activist. Sunni uses art, poetry and praise to encourage dialogue, connectivity, spiritual awareness and healing. Whether speaking at TEDWomen, appearing on Grammy-winning hip-hop albums, officiating a wedding, or cooking breakfast in the community, Sunni brings people to a place of recollection, remembrance and hope. Sunni is a John O’Neal Cultural Arts Fellow and a resident artist for the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Initiative and Junebug Productions. She also co-founded the environmental arts and public health organization Breath is Lyfe.

Rhonda Magee is a law professor at University of San Francisco and a leading practitioner of the integration of mindfulness, multicultural education and social justice advocacy. She has spent more than 20 years exploring, writing and innovating at the intersections of anti-racist education, intersectional social justice and contemplative practices. She is a sought-after presenter, mindfulness teacher, storyteller and thought leader on integrating mindfulness into higher education, law and social justice. A student of a range of Buddhist traditions and fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, she’s served as an advisor to a range of leading mindfulness-based professional development organizations. She is the author of the award-winning book The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness.

Dr. Michael Brandon McCormack is associate professor of Pan-African Studies and Comparative Humanities and director of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research at the University of Louisville. He earned his Ph.D. in religion from Vanderbilt University. His research explores intersections between Black religion, popular culture, the arts and activism. He teaches courses in African American religion, religions of the African diaspora, and religion and hip-hop culture. He is an inaugural Ascending Stars Fellow at UofL and a research fellow at the University of Memphis. He is also a member of the Black Interfaith Project, a network of academics, artists, and activists engaged in research and action around the role of Black religious practices in social justice movements.

The Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III is the 10th president of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. A scholar, author, consultant and speaker on the subject of African American and U.S. religion and culture, Pollard was previously dean of the School of Divinity and professor of religion and culture at Howard University. Pollard also served as director of Black church studies and chair of American religious cultures at Emory University, and he taught at Wake Forest and St. Olaf College. He is the author of numerous works, including Mysticism and Social Change: The Social Witness of Howard Thurman. He earned his doctorate from Duke University, a Master of Divinity from Harvard, and Bachelor of Arts from Fisk University.

Sheila Wise Rowe holds a master’s degree in counseling, hails from Boston, has lived in Paris, and for a decade lived in Johannesburg, South Africa. For over 25 years, she’s been a counselor, spiritual director, author, and speaker. Sheila is a truth-teller who writes passionately about matters of faith and emotional healing. She advocates for the dignity, rights, and healing of abuse survivors, those carrying racial trauma, and racial (re)conciliation. Sheila has taught trauma healing and psychology at several colleges and the Africa Peace Institute in South Africa. She is the author of the award-winning book Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience. Her newest book, Young, Gifted, and Black: A Journey of Lament and Celebration, will be released in February, 2022.

Imam Zaid Shakir, born in Berkeley, California, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1976 until 1981, during which time he accepted Islam. He obtained a BA in international relations at American University and earned his MA in political science from Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he led a campaign that culminated in the university divesting from South Africa. Zaid co-founded Zaytuna College, the first accredited Islamic liberal arts college. He is a signatory of a declaration in support of the Paris Climate Agreement, and he authored the Muslim response to Pope Francis’ Encyclical on Climate Change. Zaid had the honor of leading the funeral prayer for Muhammad Ali. CNN has listed him among 25 influential American Muslims.

Renee Shaw is KET’s Director of Public Affairs. She serves as host of Kentucky Tonight, Connections with Renee Shaw and Legislative Update as well as KET’s Election Night coverage and other public affairs specials. She is an adjunct professor of media writing at Georgetown College and has trained journalists in Cambodia on reporting in an open democracy. For several years, Shaw was a reporter and associate producer with WKYU-TV and WKYU-FM, where she earned state and national awards for her radio reporting.

The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, pursuing the vision of a nation where marginalized children flourish. Wilson is board chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and vice chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration. He is past president of Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based philanthropy for child well-being and racial justice, and he previously pastored Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community). After the police killing of Michael Brown Jr., Wilson and the church hosted the #BlackLivesMatter Freedom Ride to Ferguson. Wilson co-chaired the Ferguson Commission, which in 2015 released the “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity” report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility.