Teaching Philosophy & Multicultural Approaches
During my educational journey, I often felt isolated and disregarded in the classroom. As a future educator, it is important that my teaching is radically transformative and transgressive. I believe that the educative process comes from a positionality of vulnerability and reflexivity. I acknowledge that as an educator, my experiences cannot be divorced from my interpretative lens, but it can be expanded as I encounter and grow in community. Therefore, my belief is that the classroom is a co-creative space, where we co-create spaces of construction and deconstruction in epistemologies.
As bell hooks highlights in her book Teaching to Transgress, “To fulfill that mission, my teachers made sure they “knew” us. They knew our parents, our economic status, where we worshipped, what our homes were like, and how we were treated in the family” (hooks, 1994, 3). The power of being seen and known within community can foster spaces of agitation and grace to provoke change and growth. Therefore, I see the classroom as a dynamic space where challenge and compassion are paramount to the learning opportunities. My role is to honor and lift up often marginalized experiences to disrupt oppressive systems and traditions for social justice and equity. In order to achieve this learning environment, I believe that there has to be multiple teaching modalities and tools utilized in order to be responsive to needs. Some of these tools are interactive lectures and dialogue, multimedia and art-based projects, collaborative projects, and community rooted educational engagements, including site visits and guest lectures.
At the core of my desired learning community and my research focus s multicultural responsiveness. As someone with multiple marginalized identities, it is vital that the perspectives and vantage points can be heard and included in instructional design and in scholarship. As a trained queer womanist social worker and theologian, I find that my role as a researcher and educator is to constantly check to whose perspective, experiences, and voice is not being heard or valued. Engaging in multicultural responsiveness allows me to invite and privilege non-traditional forms of wisdoms and experiences as teachers and shapers of knowledge.
For me, the call for multicultural responsiveness starts at highlighting and privileging the experiences and challenges of the most marginalized in society. It means challenging the inherent racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism that is embedded in the educational system and encourage students and researchers to engage in translatable work that speaks back to the communities that we engage for research. For me, this perspective allows us as scholars and educators to build collaborative spaces with communities to create safer spaces across various populations and organizations.
"Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future."
Statement of Scholarship
Rationale and Positionality
As a Queer African American woman, I contribute many experiences to the formation of my identity as a clinician and scholar. From navigating religious spaces to experiencing racial and gender oppression, all these experiences have vastly shaped my understanding of how the world works. As I look at many of my friends who have come to me for advice, I see how their experience with gender, religion, sexual orientation, and behavior, etc. has influenced how they perceive the world and engage socially and politically. However, there are limited resources for individuals and practitioners to properly address the impact of toxic religious systems on a person’s identity formation and social functioning, especially among African Americans. While there are memoirs and other trade books about religious-based trauma that have recently emerged, the sociocultural significance of Black Church spaces within the African American experience is ignored. It is clear that the Church within the African American community is considered a site of regulation for the community. It extends beyond just a place for individuals to be spiritually enriched.
In my previous studies, I noticed the lack of literature that explores the relationship between African Americans who may occupy marginalized spaces (single women, queer folks, etc.) and theologies and faith communities that espouse violent theologies or polities. As an MDiv and MSW graduate, I explored how the intersectionality of religion, gender, race, and socioeconomic status influences how the interpersonal conflict in relationships is perceived and negotiated in minority populations. After three years of coursework in the worlds of social work and divinity, I have acknowledged that fixing spiritual abuse goes deeper than fixing behaviors or creating programs. In order to begin to really address spiritual abuse, we have to take a look at the systematic knowledge of our faith, theology. As I completed my degree programs at Duke and UNC, I did my capstone project on the theological implications of spiritual abuse in faith communities, conducting ethnographic interviews with individuals who experienced identity-based spiritual trauma to define the church and explore how churches can be sites of harm or healing.
Area of Inquiry and Goals of Research
My point of inquiry continues to be around how particular theological positions around gender and sex within conservative Black Church spaces were trauma negotiations of racialized and gendered violence with American Christianity. This desire to see how faith expressions within certain Black Church spaces create collective traumatic memories that were crystalized within certain Christian theological frameworks deeply drew me to deepen my study of trauma, theology, and the role of social work.
Currently, my preliminary research project seeks to examine the impact of religious violence and trauma on perceptions of Black faith institutions among African Americans. As I continue this program, I hope to continue to connect with fellow researchers within my content area and within this program to strengthen and sharpen my project. My hope is that this work will not only assist individuals who has been impacted by religious and theological violence, but also assist community organization and faith institutions develop harm reductive strategies and spaces to assist marginalized populations.
As I have settled into the program, I have been fortunate to develop relationships within and outside of the department to sharpen my area of inquiry and focus. Currently, I am engaging in the following projects in hope to adequately explore my research area:
A university funded quantitative study exploring the impact of religious institutions on informal mentoring networks among Black LGBTQ youth.
Developing and sharpening a concept paper for CSWE: A Needs Assessment to address Spiritual Trauma in Black Church spaces
Researching and Cataloguing existing literature surrounding religious violence and trauma across multiple disciplines to find the gaps in the literature.