About the presentation: Our sociological imagination is deeply connected to our spiritual imagination and vice versa. When we have been conditioned by a society that elevates and centers whiteness and maleness, we tend to elevate and center whiteness and maleness in our spiritual lives as well. But the Sacred Black Feminine — a Black-and-female iteration of the divine that is deeply rooted in ancient Christianity’s Black Madonna — calls us onto a more liberating path that affirms and honors the sacredness of Black people, women, and non-binary people, and indeed ALL people. Join social psychologist and public theologian Dr. Christena Cleveland as she vividly describes her transformative, 400-mile walking pilgrimage across central France in search of centuries-old Black Madonna icons, and discover how the Sacred Black Feminine longs to transform you as well. Hybrid
About the speaker: Christena Cleveland, Ph.D. is a social psychologist, public theologian, author, and activist. She is the founder and director of the Center for Justice + Renewal which supports a more equitable world by nurturing skillful justice advocacy and the depth to act on it. A weaver at heart, Dr. Cleveland integrates psychology, theology, storytelling, and art to help justice seekers sharpen their understanding of the social realities that maintain injustice while also stimulating the soul’s enormous capacity to resist and transform those realities.
Dr. Cleveland holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of California Santa Barbara, a B.A. from Dartmouth College where she double majored in Sociology and Psychological and Brain Sciences, as well as an honorary doctorate from the Virginia Theological Seminary. An award-winning researcher and author, Christena is a Ford Foundation Fellow who has held faculty positions at several institutions of higher education — most recently at Duke University’s Divinity School, where she was the first African-American and first female director of the Duke Center for Reconciliation, and also led a research team investigating self-compassion as a buffer to racial stress. In 2022, she published her second full-length book, God is a Black Woman (HarperCollins), which details her 400-mile walking pilgrimage across central France in search of ancient Black Madonna statues and examines the relationship among race, gender, and cultural perceptions of the Divine. Her work has been featured in a number of major media outlets including the History Channel, PBS, Essence Magazine, the Washington Post, NPR, and BBC Radio.
Though Dr. Cleveland loves scholarly inquiry, she is also an avid student of embodied wisdom. She recently completed the Art & Social Change intensive somatic training for millennial leaders and is currently deepening her mind-body-spirit integration in a year-long embodied leadership cohort for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. A bona fide tea snob, lover of Black art, and Ólafur Arnalds superfan — Christena makes her home in Boston.