Wakanda to NOLA: In the Wake of Black Panther, Upcoming Symposium to Highlight African American Contributions to the Spiritual Heritage of the African Diaspora

“Nina Simone” from the WOODEN QUILTS® collection by Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, the Symposium’s featured artist. The WOODEN QUILTS® collection was created using wood from St. Jaques’ Katrina-damaged home in the Treme neigborhood of New Orleans. Pieces from the collection will be on display during the symposium.

NEW ORLEANS, LA—The African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association (ADRSA) is pleased to announce Roots, Rocks & Ring Shouts: A Symposium on African American Spirituality, a day-long gathering in honor of the association’s 6th anniversary. Scholars, activists, practitioners, and community members—including keynotes Yeye Luisah Teish and Dr. Teresa N. Washington, and featured artist Jean-Marcel St. Jacques—will gather at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) to highlight the contributions African Americans have made to the development and spread of traditions like Hoodoo, Lukumi, Spiritualism, Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, Ifa, and others. In the wake of curiosity about African cultures and spirituality spurred by the release of Black Panther, the conference has one message: 

“We descendants of Africa are all beautifully connected,” says ADRSA founding director, Dr. Funlayo E. Wood. “That’s the first and most important message of both the Association and the Symposium and I’m thrilled that the vision of Wakanda has more people thinking about those connections. It is also important that we honor each unique thread in the beautiful tapestry that is our heritage as African descendants worldwide. During this tricentennial year of New Orleans, we honor the African American ancestors and their work here.”

Dr. Wood founded the Association during her graduate studies at Harvard University to address the need for more support for scholarship on the indigenous spiritual systems of the African continent and their related traditions in the diaspora. While research and dialogue on these rich traditions has increased exponentially in recent years, much of this dialogue centers the African continent, the Caribbean, and South America as the loci of Africana spiritual production, with US-born African descendants often seen primarily as consumers of this knowledge. Roots, Rocks & Ring Shouts aims to center the African American experience and examine the impact African Americans have had on the religious heritage of the diaspora, while also honoring the spiritual connection between all people of African descent on the continent and throughout the Americas. 

“This is important work that I’m delighted to be a part of,” says Luisah Teish, known most famously for her ground-breaking book, Jambalaya, who will deliver the Symposium’s morning keynote. “We are the ancestors of tomorrow; what we do now has an impact, and I am sure the impact from this event will be all positive.”

Roots, Rocks & Ring Shouts kicks off on Friday April 20, 2018 at 9 am and is created in conjunction with the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) at SUNO, WaWaWa Diaspora Centre, New Orleans Voices of Congo Square, Congo Square Preservation Society, the National Police Accountability Project, and other local groups. Panels include From Wakanda to Where: Fiction and Forward Motion; (Re)Present: The Spirit of the Artist; and Juju Justice: Policing & Black Religions. Accompanying the Symposium, the weekend will play host to a number of associated events including a festival for the Yoruba river goddess Osun, a post-symposium celebration and drum circle, and a custom tour of New Orleans culminating in Congo Square.  “It’s a holistic celebration of us!” says Wood. “And New Orleans is the perfect place for it.”

Media Contact Information:
Funlayo E. Wood, PhD, African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association
(215) 995-0029