The Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS) was founded in the Spring of 2013, building upon five years of research, analysis, network development and strategic planning, to address major shifts within society at large—and black communities, in particular—that have taken place during the same period of time.
The earliest stage of this work began with an Arcus Foundation-funded study of black churches— which polled over 100 members of black churches, clergy and lay, women and men, across the nation—in the wake of the 2008 passage of Proposition 8 in California. Following this study, an interdisciplinary group of scholars convened in New York City in June of 2010 for a public forum at Columbia University and a day-long roundtable dialogue. Both of these conversations, along with the 2008 study, now form the core of an edited volume in the works, The Sexual Politics of Black Churches, edited by CARSS Director, Josef Sorett.
In the years since, a series of subsequent convenings (known as “Roundtable on the Sexual Politics of Black Churches”) were organized with a group of twenty activists, scholars, and community and religious leaders from around the nation. Over the course of these gatherings a comprehensive review of “the field” (including both organizational/activist work and academic/popular literatures) was produced, and recommendations were put forward regarding how best to advance more progressive conversations around sexuality within black communities, as well as concerning how to enliven and enrich public academic and debates taking place at the intersection of religion, race and sexuality.
You can find a bit more about this story by clicking on this link to CARSS’s history.
Since the spring of 2013, CARSS’ has been engaged in its work of advancing research, education and public engagement at the nexus of religion, race and sexuality, in general, but with a particular focus on black communities, both in the United States and the wider African Diaspora. Please take moment to check out CARSS mission and vision.
Most recently, in the Fall of 2014 Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies hosted a major conference, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? Religion and the Burdens of Black Sexual Politics. This conference brought together a group of scholars spanning the humanities and social sciences, as well as activists and religious leaders from around the nation. Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? also served as the public launch of CARSS. You can now view all of the conference proceedings online at: Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? playlist on IRAAS' youtube channel
While CARSS continues its work on campus and in local communities, we are excited to pause at this moment launch the center’s website. Clearly, the website and the work that it presents, is the product of a long list of individual investments, collaborative partnerships, and collective efforts. So, as we launch the site we also want to again thank a number of individuals and organizations that have invested time, energy, insights, and resources over the span of the past five years, as well as those who continue to collaborate with us to make this work possible:
The following individuals have each played an especially significant role in setting the preliminary groundwork and in helping to establish CARSS as a new center at Columbia University:
- Jennifer Leath and Derrick McQueen, CARSS Core Team
- IRAAS’ Administrative Staff, Shawn Mendoza and Sharon Harris
- CARSS’ Senior Advisors: Barbara Savage and Brad Braxton
- CARSSr Community and Faculty Advisory Groups
- The amazing strategic planning team of Melinda Weekes-Laidlow and Curtis Ogden
- All of the members of the Roundtable on the Sexual Politics of Black Churches
CARSS has been fortunate to receive generous funding from the Arcus Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; as well as the Ford Foundation, which supported the center’s public launch with a generous travel grant.
Not the least, we are also appreciative of the great work of our website designers: Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez and Kyung Jeon at Somos Arte.
If you are impressed or intrigued by CARSS’ history and vision, or interested in partnering with or supporting our work, please follow us on twitter and facebook, subscribe to our blog below, or reach out to us directly via email or phone.