2022 Festival of Faiths
“Sacred Stories: Contemplation and Connection”
The 2022 Festival of Faiths, Sacred Stories: Contemplation and Connection, celebrated the power of narratives to inspire purpose, instill a sense of belonging and define our lives. The festival investigated old and new stories through the lens of faith and explore how our identities are shaped by associations with religion, culture, politics, heritage and more. Sessions engaged participants in the sacred work of sharing stories to illuminate both our complexity and our interdependence.
SPEAKERS & ARTISTS
Tara Anderson is a writer, podcast producer and storyteller from Louisville, Kentucky. She’s made too many podcasts to count, and she’s been the producer of the Louisville edition of The Moth StorySLAM since 2011. She’s currently the producer of A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment, a podcast about Buddhism and science, and she’s part of the team at Ten Percent Happier, which makes a podcast and an app focused on meditation and compassion. She has degrees in journalism and music performance from the University of Kentucky, a master’s in communications from Fordham University, and an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University.
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.
Richard Davidson is founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is best known for his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in psychology, psychopathology and psychophysiology with a minor focus in behavioral neurology and neuroanatomy; and a B.S. in psychology from New York University. A friend and colleague of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought-after expert and speaker, leading conversations on well-being in international stages such as the World Economic Forum, where he serves on the Global Council on Mental Health. In 2006, Time magazine included him as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices.
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 Most Rev. Shelton J. Fabre became the fifth archbishop of the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2022, becoming the city’s first Black archbishop and only the second in the U.S. Fabre attended St. Joseph Seminary College in his native Louisiana, graduating with a bachelor’s in history. After obtaining a master’s in religious studies at a Catholic research university in Belgium, Fabre was ordained a priest. He served as pastor at numerous churches and as chaplain at Louisiana State Penitentiary. As Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans, he helped rebuild the archdiocese in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He’s chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and serves on the board of Catholic Relief Services.
Rev. Matthew Fox, PhD, author, theologian and activist priest, has been calling people of spirit and conscience into the Creation Spirituality lineage for over 50 years. His 39 books, lectures, retreats and innovative education models have ignited a movement to awaken people to honor and defend the earth and work for justice. Seeking to establish a new pedagogy for learning spirituality that was grounded in an effort to reawaken the West to its own mystical traditions, as well as interacting with contemporary scientists who are also mystics, Fox founded the University of Creation Spirituality. Fox is recipient of the Abbey Courage of Conscience Peace Award, the Ghandi King Ikeda Award and the Tikkun National Ethics Award, among others. His most recent book is Matthew Fox: Essential Writings on Creation Spirituality.
John Gable is co-founder and CEO of AllSides, which provides balanced news, media bias ratings, diverse perspectives and civil conversation across divides to help people better understand the world and each other. Gable has nearly 30 years of technology entrepreneurship, management and executive experience. He served on the original teams for Microsoft Office, Mozilla at Netscape (browser now known as Firefox), among other tech companies. Previously, Gable was a political campaigner and executive director working for the Republican National Committee, George H.W. Bush, Mitch McConnell and others. He is a devoted Episcopalian whose work is an important part to his practice as a Christian.
Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. A Louisville native, he has spent most of his career in journalism. He previously served as executive editor of LPM, where he led a growing, multiplatform and collaborative newsroom. George has also been editor-in-chief of the Nashville City Paper and LEO Weekly. His writing has appeared in a variety of local, state and national media. He is also active in the nonprofit community, serving on the boards of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and the Young Authors Greenhouse.
Carla Goldstein, JD, is president of Omega Institute, a premier holistic learning center, and is co-founder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. Previously, Goldstein worked in city and state government and the nonprofit sector in public interest advocacy. In 2021, she received the Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant in recognition of her commitment to women’s rights. Career highlights include serving as vice president for public affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City; working for the speaker of the New York City Council; and teaching about law and social justice at CUNY Queens College. Today, she teaches leaders how to apply holistic principles at work, at home and in community.
Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and science journalist, was with the New York Times for 12 years. He is best known for his book Emotional Intelligence, which was recently republished for its 25th anniversary. Goleman first met the Dalai Lama in the 1980s, and organized a series of meetings with His Holiness and scientists, largely through the Mind and Life Institute. Goleman’s book Destructive Emotions narrates one of those meetings. He was asked to write A Force for Good, about the Dalai Lama’s vision for the world, to honor His Holiness’ 80th birthday. Goleman is co-founder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning; its mission centers on bringing evidence-based programs in emotional literacy to schools. With Richard Davidson, Goleman wrote Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Body, Mind and Brain, a review of the best studies of meditation. His book Why We Meditate, written with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, is forthcoming.
Martien Halvorson-Taylor is a scholar of the literature, religions and history of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the Second Temple period. She is particularly interested in how narratives (like the books of Esther and Genesis) and poetry (like the Song of Songs and the book of Job) were interpreted—and how they continue to articulate the major human questions and provide for existential reflection. Since 2004, she has taught at the University of Virginia, where she also co-directs the Religion, Race and Democracy Lab, which, with an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty and students, supports teaching, facilitates research, and produces stories in many forms on religion, race and democracy.
Sunder Iyer is a yoga Practitioner with the Hindu Temple of Kentucky, a local non-profit temple that has been bringing yoga to the Louisville area for over three decades. He immigrated to the United States twenty-five years ago, where he began to learn yoga. As a student of Guru Sam Rangaswamy, his yoga routine is a mixture of Prana and Kriya techniques. Sunder Iyer currently teaches weekly yoga classes at the Hindu Temple of Kentucky on Sunday mornings from 9 to 10 am and encourages anyone interested to come visit.
Neonu Jewell is committed to creating transformative results in the world and lives by the mantra “when one succeeds, we all succeed.” Her focus is on transformational leadership, personal empowerment, and promoting inclusive cultures where people can live and work together across differences. She is founder and CEO of the Christmas Jewell Corp., a consultancy that works to transform organizational cultures and individual lives. Neonu also serves as Executive and Spiritual Director of the Niyah Center, an interfaith empowerment and social justice community. In addition, the former practicing attorney is a faculty member for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s Pathfinder Program and Momentum Education’s Leadership.
Lyla June is an Indigenous musician, scholar and community organizer of Diné (Navajo), Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) and European lineages. Her dynamic, multi-genre presentation style has engaged audiences across the globe towards personal, collective and ecological healing. She blends studies in human ecology at Stanford, graduate work in indigenous pedagogy, and the traditional worldview she grew up with to inform her music, perspectives and solutions. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree, focusing on indigenous food systems revitalization.
Courtney Martin is an author and entrepreneur. Her latest book, Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School, explores White parents and the unfinished business of school integration through a mix of memoir and reportage. She is co-founder of The Solutions Journalism Network and FRESH Speakers Bureau, has a popular newsletter called Examined Family, and has two TED talks totaling nearly 6 million views. She earned the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, a residency from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre, and an honorary Ph.d. from Art Center of Design. She lives with her family in a co-housing community in Oakland, where she also co-leads the local chapter of Integrated Schools.
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.
storäe michele (they/them) is a black queer, shape-shifting, non-binary femme, afro-futurist performer + storäe-teller. Their creative practice builds a present and embodied archive of black femme futures + aliveness. their art is in dialogue with black feminist philosophers, activists and African disaporic folk + futurist writers, with whom they co-create blueprints for navigating black life and livelihood despite living in a state of perpetual and persistent precariousness, and yet, coping, surviving and thriving. storäe centers these subversive narratives as methods for divesting from flat images and caricatures, evoking rituals of self-love, cultivating accountability within community, and learning from black queer feminists who envision worlds beyond white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
Josh Moss has served as editor of Louisville Magazine since 2014, and he began working at the publication upon graduating from Ohio University in 2006. He’s written about Pappy Van Winkle mania, the city’s oldest Black-owned funeral home, Louisville’s last abortion clinic, the divide between east and west Louisville, and how the city has changed since March 2020. He spent a year working on a profile of rapper Jack Harlow. In 2013, he ate 38 burgers in 31 days on a quest to find the city’s best. In 2020, the magazine won a General Excellence award from the City and Regional Magazine Association.
Carrie Newcomer is a songwriter, recording artist, performer, educator and activist. Described as a “prairie mystic” by the Boston Globe and one who “asks all the right questions” by Rolling Stone, Newcomer has 19 nationally released albums and three books of poetry and essays. Her song “I Should’ve Known Better” appeared on Nickel Creek’s Grammy-winning album This Side, and she earned an Emmy for her PBS special An Evening with Carrie Newcomer. The American Embassy of India invited Newcomer to be a cultural ambassador, resulting in her interfaith benefit album Everything is Everywhere, and she’s traveled to Kenya and the Middle East, performing in schools, spiritual communities and hospitals assisting AIDS patients. She is known for her low and resonant voice, her musical depth, and the progressive spiritual content of her songs, poetry and workshops.
Anantanand Rambachan is a professor of religion at Saint Olaf College, Minnesota, and was a visiting professor at the Academy for the Study of World Religions at the University of Hamburg in Germany. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Rambachan’s early experiences with an interreligious community have inspired his involvement in interfaith relations. He is active in the dialogue programs of the World Council of Churches and was a Hindu guest and presenter in four of the organization’s General Assemblies. He’s written numerous books, and the BBC transmitted a series of his lectures around the world. Rambachan serves on numerous boards, including as president of the board at Arigatou International NY, a global organization advocating for the rights of children and mobilizing the resources of religions to overcome violence against children.
The Rev. Dr. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, holds the Clarence Louis and Helen Steber Professorship in Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. Publications include Dogmatics After Babel: Beyond the Theologies of Word and Culture and the T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology. His next book, Theological Fragments: Confessing What We Know and Cannot Know About an Infinite God, is scheduled for publication in April. Rosario engages issues of global migration and social justice as director of the Mev Puleo Program in Latin American Politics, Theology, and Culture at Saint Louis University, and through advocacy work with Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he serves as moderator for the Commission on Preparation for Ministry in the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy.
Judith Simmer-Brown is a distinguished professor of contemplative and religious studies at Naropa University, where she has taught for over 40 years. Simmer-Brown is founder of Naropa’s Center for the Advancement of Contemplative Education, and is a compassion trainer for the Compassion Initiative. She co-chairs the Contemplative Studies Steering Committee for the American Academy of Religion; is author of Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism; and co-editor of Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies. She is co-editor of a new contemplative studies book series and is guest co-editor of a forthcoming special issue on compassion for Mindfulness Journal. For the last year, she’s been co-team leader for the Buddhist team of Fetzer’s Shared Sacred Story project.
Najeeba Syeed is the inaugural El-Hibri endowed chair and executive director of Interfaith at Augsburg. She has been a professor, expert practitioner and public speaker for the last two decades in the fields of conflict resolution, interfaith studies, mediation, education, deliberative democracy, social, gender and racial equity. In 2021 she served as chief of staff for an elected official, and prior to that appointment was an associate professor of Interreligious Education for a decade at Claremont School of Theology. She is widely published in the area of interreligious studies, peace studies and theologies of religious communities.
Anam Thubten grew up in Tibet and at an early age began to practice in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the founder and spiritual advisor of Dharmata Foundation, teaching widely in the U.S, Europe and Asia. He is the author of several books, including Embracing Each Moment, No Self, No Problem, and The Citadel of Awareness. Through sharing his wisdom and personal experience on the spiritual path, Thubten brings alive the timeless teachings of Buddhism.
Mary Evelyn Tucker teaches at Yale University’s School of the Environment and at the Divinity School. She is co-director (with John Grim) of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and has co-organized 10 conferences on World Religions and Ecology. Tucker is the author and/or editor of close to 20 volumes and has published hundreds of articles. She is widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of religion and ecology. Tucker was a member of the Earth Charter Drafting committee and the International Earth Charter Council. She won the Inspiring Yale Teaching Award in 2015 and has been awarded five honorary degrees. With Grim, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.
Vivian Williams-Kurutz is a founder and executive director of Harlem Wellness Center, as well as a health activist, community organizer, yoga and meditation teacher, writer and business owner in Manhattan. Through two decades of work at the intersection of racial, health and environmental justice, she is committed to contributing to the vibrancy, health and stability of her community and the world. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for “beloved community,” she delights in bringing diverse groups together in ways that foster understanding, connection, healing and social change. Previously, she maintained an extensive career in the arts that encompassed performance, direction, producing, writing, music and teaching.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz has twice been named one of America’s Top Rabbis by Newsweek and has been named by The Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jews and one of The Most Inspiring Rabbis in America. Rabbi Yanklowitz is the author of 22 books on Jewish ethics, and his writings have appeared in outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Guardian and Atlantic, among many other publications. He has served as speaker at the World Economic Forum Switzerland and a Rothschild Fellow in Cambridge, UK. Shmuly received master’s degrees from Harvard University and Yeshiva University, and his doctoral from Columbia University. He was ordained as a rabbi by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, along with two private ordinations in Israel.