Building Publics 2022: Speaking of Spirituality
Building Publics showcases how our Public Humanities Graduate Fellows bridge humanistic thinking with civic engagement and social justice, scholarly research with public building and communication in order to unleash new, more critical modes of scholarly imaginations.
Aya Labanieh, Zip Code Memory Project Fellow and PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
Milan Terlunen, Public Humanities Fellow and PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
Rev. Derrick McQueen, Associate Director, Center for African American Religion, Sexual Politics & Social Justice
Speaking of Spirituality is a community art project that hopes to engage members of the LGBTQ+ community of New York City, particularly queer people of color, in dialogue with three churches in the Harlem area. The purpose of this project is to create a forum for collective reflection on each participant’s deeply personal and complex relationship to spirituality, ritual, and houses of worship, and to weave together stories of faith, marginalization, acceptance, solidarity, loss, and desire. The end-product will be a podcast, walking-tour, and sound-art installation that incorporate these queer voices along with the stories of church-goers and church-leaders (queer or otherwise), to weave our intimate experiences into the local histories of antiracist, feminist, and queer-affirming activism in Harlem.
Join us for a participatory workshop that will help us fine-tune this unfolding project and prepare it for its public launch in June. Public Humanities Fellows Aya Labanieh and Milan Terlunen will present to attendees the first of the three podcast-tour episodes that our team has recorded with Rev. McQueen at St. James Presbyterian. After listening to the episode, attendees will be prompted to respond to questions about their lived experiences—these questions will also be a feature of the final product, and touch upon themes of queer identity, race, local activism, the marginalized individual’s complex relationship to faith, temples, grace, and sin. We want to hear from attendees what is/isn’t working, and share our broader vision of the project as a way to connect queer people inside/outside churches and create communities that blur the boundaries between secular and religious spaces as well as virtual and in-person modalities.