The idea was that Symposium would bring together all of our community… As long as we live in these bodies, as long as we are on this earth, as long as we do this work, we cannot live in separation, because we don’t live separated lives.”
–Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé
Starr King Symposium
January 12, 2019
First Unitarian Church of Oakland
685 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
What is Symposium?
A tradition founded by former SKSM Provost Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé (1952-2016), Symposium is an annual gathering of our entire student body, faculty, staff, trustees, and community members. This “urban retreat” serves as a day of study, dialogue, food, art, music, community-building, service, and celebration of the Spirit of Life, as we cultivate multi-religious, counter-oppressive, just and sustainable communities.
Starr King’s 7th Annual Symposium will be held January 12th, 2019. This Symposium is convened by Dean Gabriella Lettini in collaboration with other SKSM faculty and community leaders.
Please note: This event will not be live streamed. Some short videos will be available after the event.
This year we are thrilled to have the Rev. Dr. Melanie L. Harris!
Dr. Harris is American Council of Education Fellow at the University of Denver and Founding Director of African American and Africana Studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. She is the first African American woman to earn the rank of Full Professor at TCU. Dr. Harris is the author of several books and numerous scholarly articles, including Gifts of Virtue: Alice Walker and Womanist Ethics and Ecowomanism: Earth Honoring Faiths. She teaches in the areas of Christian Social Ethics, Womanist Theology, Inclusive Excellence, and Environmental Justice.
SKSM will be conferring the honorary Sacrae Theologiae Doctorate on the Rev. Dr. Melanie Harris at Symposium 2019!
Draft Schedule (subject to change):
9:30 am – Registration and Continental Breakfast (Wendte Hall)
10:30 am – Greetings and Opening Ingathering (Hamilton Hall)
11:00 am – Keynote Address: Rev. Dr. Melanie Harris
11:45 am – Q & A Session
12:30 pm – Community Lunch (Wendte Hall)
1:30 pm – Panel Discussion (Hamilton Hall)
Moderator: Rev. Dr. Gabriella Lettini, Dean of Faculty
Rev. Sofia Betancourt
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda
Rev. Dr. Liza Rankow
3:00 pm – Workshops (Descriptions Below)
4:30 pm – Closing Program
5:00 pm – Reception (Wendte Hall)
Pandora Thomas – “Sankofa”
Pandora Thomas is a passionate global citizen who works as a caregiver, designer, teacher, and speaker. Her work emphasizes the benefits of applying ecological principles to social design. Her recent projects include facilitating community driven climate resiliency planning with and in the most vulnerable bay area communities as part of the Urban Permaculture Institute, co-founding the Black Permaculture Network; co-designing, teaching with, and directing Pathways to Resilience – a permaculture and social entrepreneur training program working with men and women returning home after incarceration.
“I believe we are all called to bring our full selves to the work we do in this world.”
Workshop Description: Inspired by a call from our ancestors, human and nonhuman, the time is now to listen to the principles and patterns of Earth wisdom to reconnect each other and our planet. In this interactive workshop, you will learn an intro to Social Permaculture design and it’s principles, and how those principles can support more collaborative design process for your own life and working more collaboratively with others.
Ariel Aaronson-Eves – “Grounding in Place: At the Intersection of 14th & Castro”
Ariel Aaronson-Eves is a 3rd year MDiv student with a passion for food, land, and place. She spent six years working as a farmer before coming to Starr King to prepare for UU ministry, and will be combining her interests and skills by teaching “Counter-Oppressive Agrarian Theologies” as a Hilda Mason fellow this year. Her work explores the power of co-creation experienced through agriculture and the way our techniques of life and farming can either connect us to or alienate us from our habitat and community.
Workshop Description: How do we connect with the earth, and the little slivers of earth upon which we live, minister, move? In this embodied practice, a “walk to the park,” we will get outside the church and pay attention to the space around us. We will observe both the world around us and the responses of our own bodies to this space as we move through it and digest the day’s teachings. We will gather in a nearby park to discuss what we have observed and how this practice may be transferrable to ministries anywhere, and we will ground ourselves in ritual that reminds us of our connection to the earth.
Erica Fernandez – “Water is Life: Hope, Courage and Persistence”
Erica Fernandez Zamora is the Director of Organizing of the Community Water Center, a non-profit environmental justice organization based in California’s San Joaquin Valley, whose mission is to act as a catalyst for community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy. Erica is a seasoned community organizer and community advocate. Erica’s experience includes organizing, investigating, and advocating positions at the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights; the Agricultural Labor Relations Board; SEIU Local 2007; and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
Workshop Description: Inspired by a commitment to future generations, and empowered by front line communities of color, the environmental justice movement to realize the human right to water in California is poised for a significant breakthrough in 2019. We will share stories and strategies, times of struggle and success from the journey to access safe, affordable water for all. When confronted with very powerful interests, what sustains hope for the long haul?
Rev. Sofia Betancourt is a Ph.D. Candidate at Yale University in the departments of Religious Ethics and African American Studies. Her work focuses on environmental ethics of liberation in a womanist and Latina feminist frame. She served for four years as the Director of Racial and Ethnic Concerns of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and her ministry centers on work that is empowering and counter-oppressive. Betancourt holds a B.S. from Cornell University with a concentration in ethnobotany, an M.A. and M.Phil from Yale University in religious ethics and African American studies, and an M.Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry.
Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda has lectured or consulted in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and many parts of North America in theological ethics addressing matters of economic globalization, moral agency and hope, public church, faith-based resistance to systemic injustice, ethical implications of resurrection and incarnation, the Bible and ethics, theo-ethical method, and climate justice as related to race and class. Her ethical approach weds Earth ethics to liberation theologies including eco-feminist theology. She is author or co-author of five volumes, a forth-coming book, and numerous chapters and articles. (Bio from Church Divinity School of the Pacific)
Dr. Liza Rankow is an interfaith minister and the founding director of OneLife Institute, an Oakland, CA-based nonprofit organization working at the intersection of spirituality and social transformation. She has provided counseling and offered classes and workshops in spiritual development for over 20 years, in both community and academic settings. As a scholar and activist, her main interest is exploring the powerful synergy between spirituality and social change.
Arisika Razak, RN, MPH is Professor Emerita, and the former Chair of the Women’s Spirituality Program, at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). She has also served as CIIS Director of Diversity, and currently is a core teacher at the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland. She is a former President of the American Academy of Religion – Western Region, and she co-chaired the Womanist-Pan African Section for five years. A regular contributor to books and journals, she is also a dancer who has performed nationally and internationally. Her film credits include Fire Eyes, the first full length feature film by an African woman on female genital cutting; and Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth where she is interviewed on Alice Walker’s womanism.
Starr King students are requested to enroll to fulfill degree requirements. 0.5 units of credit will be given to students who are currently enrolled in a degree program. Students please note: This is a two (2) step process: (1) Enroll for the Symposium as a course through Populi to ensure course credit AND (2) Complete a separate online registration form. In order to obtain credit, students must read all required readings before Symposium, actively participate, and submit a brief reflection paper to their advisor afterwards. For further information, please contact Shannon Eizenga, Coordinator of Academic Programs (email@example.com) and Chris Schelin, Dean of Students, (firstname.lastname@example.org) [200 max enrollment]
The suggested further reading consists of the remainder of Ecowomanism as well as Harris, ed., Ecowomanism, Religion and Ecology (Brill, 2017). The latter is fully available online via the Graduate Theological Union Library. Visit gtu.edu/library and enter the title in the “Summon” search engine. Use your library card login to access the text remotely wherever you are.
Only water or water bottles are allowed in the sanctuary. We also ask that we all attend the entire day completely free of fragranced hair, skin, and clothing, including ‘natural’ or aromatherapy personal products. A list of fragrance-free products, including those that are especially good for people of color is given here: eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/scentfree.html. Parts of this event will be photographed/filmed. If you have any concerns about being on camera please contact email@example.com.