Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference 2019

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

*Attendance information at the bottom.*

The Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference will be taking place from October 4 to 6, 2019, in Chicago at the Marriott Midway Hotel. The conference is presented by Black Nonbelievers, Black Skeptics Group, and the Women’s Leadership Project. Its tagline, and represented by central figures per trait in the tagline, is “Envision. Execution. Exuberance.”

“Envision” is Sikivu Hutchison. Mandisa Thomas is the “Execution” of it. Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield is “Exuberance.” All three important to the increased recognition and visibility of women of colour within the secular communities among others.

As there has been an increasing platform for women in secular communities and for people of colour too, there has a been a concomitant rise in the individuals who represent facets of communities less represented – simply less present to the public – in prior generations.

Also, there has been the furtherance of events and organizations devoted to more representation and more dignity to communities with less prominence than before, i.e., women and people of colour.

There is the Women in Secularism conference (a recurrent conference), Secular Women Work, Secularism is a Women’s Issue, Black Nonbelievers, Black Skeptics Group, the Women’s Leadership Project, Kansas City Freethinkers of Color, Secular Sistahs, Ebony Exodus Project, Institute of Science and Human Values, BSLA First in the Family Humanist Scholarship Fund, Black Skeptics Los Angeles, and, now, the Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference, and, presumably, others.

In The Humanist or the flagship publication of the American Humanist Association, five women of color – Mandisa Thomas, Bria Crutchfield, Liz Ross, Candace Gorham and Sikivu Hutchinson – were featured, which was in the July/August 2018 issue of the publication entitled “Five Fierce Humanists” for a feature story.

Hutchinson describes this as the “first of its kind in the secular world, underscoring the need to create collective spaces for Black secular women’s resistance.”

Black women simply have not been recognized or represented within the secular communities as much as others. Hence, the salience of a conference with a specific emphasis on it.

The Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference is a place of “secular feminist activism and organizing,” according to Hutchinson. In this conference, there is a filling of a need for Black and Latinx women who reject or question the fundamental tenets and tenability of organized religion.

This is echoed by others around the world. Granted, often, the commentary exists only within the context of the more secular countries of the world. For example, even with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain or the CEMB, we can see the difficulties for women without extensive commentary on women in the less secularized nations.

Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), stated, “Having supported both open and closeted apostates at the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain for the last few years, I am acutely aware of the additional restrictions women face when accessing support, let alone when they attempt to speak out. This conference is vital, as it empowers those that are still imprisoned in the closets their families have created for them. For many unable to speak, it will be a ray of hope for them.”

Often, as comes out in the reportage of women within the secular news and opinion pieces, there was a need for a space for secular women of colour from a variety of backgrounds. The questions of inclusion and dignity for those who may not have had as much in the past becomes a critical and, indeed, crucial or indispensable question for the secular women in the non-religious communities around the world.

Liz Ross, a member of Black Skeptics Los Angeles, said, “Where I live in the South, it is still taboo in Black and Latinx/Hispanic spaces to be an ‘out’ secular humanist. It’s also rare to meet secular humanist women of color, even in progressive spaces, and this experience is very alienating. The Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference would provide a much-needed space for us to celebrate, network, and share a common purpose that intersects social justice with secular humanism.”  

Mandisa Thomas, i.e., “Execution,” the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., stated, “This collaboration between us and our organizations is overdue, yet right on time. When Sikivu said that she wanted to put together a conference featuring all women of color, I said ‘Let’s DO IT!’ Over the past seven years , we have developed not only great respect for each other, but also for each other’s work. There are also other women of color in this community who are invaluable, and they need to be more widely heard.”

Crutchfield – or “Exuberance” – found this as an important part of the conversations and dialogues within the secular world. Her main point in commenting on the conference coming in October to create opportunities rather than wait for them to be handed from the external communities. She wants the disregard for secular women of color to come to an end.

Deanna Adams, author of the blog entitled Musings on a Limb, said, “We live in a world where Black women are one of the most fervently religious groups, yet consistently come up short in measures of health, wealth and well-being. It is extremely important to our futures to show solidarity with others who have left religion, as well as an alternative to religious practices for those still questioning.”

Over the weekend of October 4th to 6th, there will be several events for the conference including the tour of Black historic sites in the Chicago, a reception and viewing of “White Nights, Black Paradise”, as well as a Red-Carpet Diva’s Ball. Don’t miss it!

Other speakers, not mentioned already, will include Cecilia Pagan, Ingrid Mitchell, Lilandra Ra, Marquita Tucker, Mashariki Lawson-Cook, Rajani Gudlavaletti, and Sonjiah Davis.

Sponsors of the conference include the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, Foundation Beyond Belief, Secular Women, Recovering From Religion, and Atheists United.

*For those with an interest in attending the conference, please make sure to reserve a room at the Marriott Midway Hotel here. For registration, please see here. If unable to pay everything in the registration at once, please see here. If you have childcare needs, please see here.*

Further information:

Black Nonbelievers is a 501c3 nonprofit fellowship headquartered in the Atlanta area that is dedicated to providing an informative, caring, festive and friendly community. The organization connects with other Blacks (and allies) who are living free of religion and might otherwise be shunned by family and friends. Instead of accepting dogma, Black Nonbelievers seeks to determine truth and morality through reason and evidence.

Black Skeptics Group is a 501c3 community-based organization that provides social justice resources, educational initiatives and scholarships for non-believers, humanists and secularists of color.

The Women’s Leadership Project is a Black feminist mentoring, civic engagement and advocacy program for girls of color based in South Los Angeles, focusing on sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention education, women of color social history, reproductive justice, LGBTQI youth rights and college readiness.

Contact: Sikivu Hutchinson, shutch2396@aol.com, 213-703-6982

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.

Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.

Image Credit: Women of Color Beyond Belief Conference/Sikivu Hutchinson.

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