Event List

Columbia’s Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice awarded a $500,000 grant from Henry Luce Foundation to support ‘The Art, Politics and Publics of Black Faith' project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 11, 2020 New York, NY

How have appeals to faith figured in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately taken black lives? And what role has faith played in view of the invigorated wave of protests that have emerged in response to the ongoing onslaught of anti-black violence, captured on camera yet again.

Funded with a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and led by Josef Sorett, a professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies and chair of Columbia’s Department of Religion, the Art, Politics and Publics of Black Faith takes up such questions. In doing so, the project foregrounds the longstanding problem of how to go about studying African American religion and culture in a moment of protracted black death—a phenomenon that is pressingly current yet by no means novel.

The question of religion—and black faith, specifically—is something that has troubled the field of black studies for some time, according to Sorett. The language of faith has a long history in the study of black life. Scholars recognize the significance of black churches as a foundational institution, yet many are often reluctant to give the topic much air time—perhaps owing to the mixed history of religion in black life and the secular orthodoxies of the university. As Sorett notes, the idea of “faith” has functioned in both sacred and secular registers—most obviously in such contexts as gospel music and the Civil Rights movement. Yet various notions of faith have also been invoked by black activists, artists and thinkers who are typically identified as agnostic or...

CARSS  FIrst Occasional Newsletter, detailing our latest news and activities



Please Join CARSS, BRITE Divinity School and FRIENDSHIP-WEST Baptist Church for a Town Hall Conversation

Black Lives And The Fullness Thereof:  A Town-Hall Conversation on Poverty, Sexual Politics and the Surveillance of Black Bodies.

Please check back with us as the event will be Live Streamed.

Love Thyself: Black Bodies and Religious Space

Thank you for your support!  Event photos are in our gallery.

What a great team and a great Keynote Conversation Panel.

Click here for the video of the Keynote.

Again, a thank you to everyone involved!


Love Thyself: Black Bodies and Religious Space

(Click to be directed to website)


“And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.” –Ecclesiastes 2:10 (KJV)

A Convening for Clergy, Laypeople, Scholars, Activists, Healers and Community Organizers around Gender, Sexuality and Pleasure in the Black Church.

Co-sponsored by The Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Seminary and Columbia University’s Center for African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice. 

March 4-5, 2016

Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

To register for the convening, please click here to be redirected to the registration page.


CARSS Town Hall: Black Lives and the Fullness Thereof September 28, 2015 at 6:30pm, at Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia, PA

View Town Hall Conversation Below:

Black Lives and the Fullness Thereof: A Town Hall Conversation on Spirituality, Sexual Politics and Social Justice
Thank you for joining us on Monday, September 28, 2015 at 6:30pm for a public conversation that  explored the relationship between religion and activism, examining how spirituality, sexual politics and social justice both connect and diverge in the quotidian complexities of black life in the present moment.
Featured Panelists: 
Rev. Leslie D. Callahan, St. Paul Baptist Church
Cyree Jarelle Johnson, BlackLivesMatter, Philadelphia
Professor Nyasha Junior, Temple University
Professor Imani Perry, Princeton University
Hakim Pitts, BlackLivesMatter, Philadelphia
Bishop Duane Royster, Living Water United Church of Christ
Moderated by Barbara D. Savage, University of Pennsylvania
Hosted by Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (419 South 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147)
Sponsored by the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (Columbia University)
Co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies (University of Pennsylvania)...

Racial Justice, Religious Freedom, Renewed Visions:
A Town Hall Conversation on Black Churches, Sexual Politics and American Public Life
Saturday, August 1, 2015, 2-4pm

Watch the Video Below! 


Hosted by Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1518 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Sponsored by the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (Columbia University)
Co-sponsored by Howard University School of Divinity

In recent months we have witnessed the dismantling of Civil Rights legislation, the appeal to Religious Freedom as a means of exclusion, and the federal passage of Marriage Equality.  All of these developments have taken place across the backdrop of the persisting protests of a Black Lives Matter movement, which links police brutality, the slayings in Charleston, S.C., and the recent burning of black churches.  This Town Hall aims to foster a public conversation that explores the intersections of race, gender and sexuality in the context of the Black Church’s stated commitment to social justice work in service to all black lives in the current moment.

Participants include: Rev. Delman Coates (Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD/Black Church Center for Justice and Equality), Bishop Yvette Flunder (City of Refuge UCC/The Fellowship of Affirming Churches), Janisha R. Gabriel, (Black Lives Matter/Speak My Name Project), Michele Jawando (Center for American Progress), Rev. William Lamar (Metropolitan AME Church, Washington D.C.), Kendall Thomas (Columbia University), Rev. Dennis Wiley (Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ,...

Co-sponsored the by Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice at Columbia University (carss.columbia.edu)


•   Jason Collins, former NBA Basketball player and first openly gay active NBA athlete
•   Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice, Union Theological Seminary
•   Caroline Dessert, Executive Director, Immigration Equality
•   Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Associate Professor of Psychology, Columbia University (moderator)

An all-star panel will discuss how identities and institutions intersect in ways that limit our capacity to live fully as physical and spiritual beings.  Join Jason Collins, Caroline Dessert, and Dr. Cornel West, as we discuss how cultural norms around gender, sexuality, and faith play out specifically in the worlds of sports and society!

This event is oversubscribed but can be watched live today at 12:30pm at: https://utsnyc.edu/bodyandspirit-live/

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 ...
On October 23-24, 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.  In terms of the richness of the presentations, the level of attendance and engagement from attendees, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? was by all counts a great success!!!
We continue to receive positive feedback from colleagues, new and old, about how the panel’s were able to make meaningful contributions both to public conversations and academic debates. The conference effectively placed in conversation scholars, activists, and leaders from across the nation (and beyond) — working on a variety of issues, within a variety of fields, and in multiple contexts — in ways that panelists and attendees experienced as intellectually invigorating, politically engaging, and existentially rewarding.
In this regard, Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? carried on IRAAS’ tradition of scholarship in service to social change. It also helped to set the course for the research, education and public engagement that will be continue to be carried out through the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS).
A long list of hearty THANK YOUs are again to due to the following parties: