Noted author, religious historian Judith Weisenfeld to discuss ‘Race and Religion’ as part of URI Diversity Week, Honors Colloquium

URI Diversity Week, Nov. 4-8, explores issues of race and religion

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 23, 2019 – Noted author and religious scholar Judith Weisenfeld will speak on race and religion when she is featured as the keynote speaker as part of the University of Rhode Island’s 23rd annual Diversity Week. Weisenfeld is the Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion at Princeton University where she is also Chair of the Department of Religion and Associate Faculty in the Department of African American Studies and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies.

An expert in early 20th century African American religious history, Weisenfeld’s talk is also part of URI’s Honors Colloquium “Religion in America.” The talk, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in Edwards Hall, 64 Upper College Road, on the Kingston Campus. The event will also be live streamed at:

Diversity Week, Nov. 4 through 8, celebrates the importance of diversity and identity in higher education, in the workplace, in the community, and in the global arena. Hosted by the Multicultural Student Services Center, this year’s Diversity Week will focus on issues of race and religion in America and will feature a variety of events, presentations and facilitated discussions designed to provoke thought and increase understanding across different cultures.

“The Multicultural Student Services Center is honored to host Dr. Weisenfeld as part of URI’s Diversity Week in conjunction with the Honors Colloquium,” said Center Director George Gallien. “Dr. Weisenfeld is renowned in her field. The focus of her work on religion and constructions of race dovetails nicely with this year’s theme of ‘Religion in America.’”

Weisenfeld is the author of several books including, most recently, New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration (NYU, 2016), which won the 2017 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions. Her research interest in African American women’s religious history and religion in film and popular culture also led her to author Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949 (California, 2007), and African American Women and Christian Activism: New York’s Black YWCA, 1905-1945 (Harvard 1997).

Her current research explores the intersections of psychiatry, race, and African American religions in the late 19th and early 20th century United States. Weisenfeld’s work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Academy of Religion. She is an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer and an elected fellow of the Society of American Historians, “in recognition of the literary and scholarly distinction” of her historical writing.

“We are very excited about the programming for this year’s Diversity Week. This is an opportunity for all members of our community to come together and learn from one another,” said Gallien. “We really hope that these sessions and events will serve to empower and spark the type of thought-provoking discussions that will last all year long.”

In addition to Weisenfeld’s talk on Nov. 5, Diversity Week will also include:

Monday, Nov. 4

10 – 10:50 a.m., Refugees: Raising Awareness about Diversity

Facilitated by Rabia Hos, assistant professor, Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, and Alia Hadid, Ph.D. candidate, University of South Florida College of Education

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center estimate, approximately 3.45 million Muslims reside in the United States. While America is a hub for those of different religions from around the world, the relatively small number of Muslims in the United States explains why many Americans are not familiar with and often have misconceptions of Islam. This workshop will highlight such misconceptions and provide different scenarios for the audience in order to raise awareness about Muslim refugees and allow for greater understanding while differentiating between Islamic practices and Islamic culture as well as myth and fact.

Tuesday, Nov. 5

9:30 – 10:45 a.m., Identity Crisis: Reconnecting with Allies and Advocates in the Current Political Atmosphere of the U.S.

Facilitated by Alison Jackson Frasier, coordinator, URI Center for Student Leadership Development

In the current U.S. political climate, many of those committed to working toward social justice are finding themselves renewed in their work but also deeply concerned. This workshop showcases a series of activities designed to create opportunity for dialogue around issues of identity for both experienced participants and those new to the conversation. Participants will be asked to analyze their experiences and identities through their individual lenses in an effort to build empathy and understanding with others’ experiences.

Wednesday, Nov. 6

11 – 11:50 a.m., “Lifting the Veil”: Hijab Fashion in Post 9/11 World

Presented by Erika Holshoe, M.S. candidate, Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

In the socio-political climate of the post 9/11 world, veiled Muslim women have become a visual identifier of their religion in the U.S. and Europe. In non-Muslim majority countries, many face negative stereotyping based on the way in which they abide by their religion’s dress code. This presentation will unpack stereotypes surrounding Islamic religious dress to understand why and how Muslim women dress and explore how, through social media, Muslim women have been able to build supportive communities, expand ideas of modest dress and promote acceptance and understanding of modesty practices and their religion, while also exploring how their personal identities are often split between cultures.

3 – 3:50 p.m., Zumba Party  

Facilitated by Val Trainor, academic advisor, College of Health Sciences

Zumba Fitness is one of the fastest growing fitness formats in the world. Rhythms include beats from Latin America, Caribbean Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Enjoy great music, let loose and have some fun, while getting in a great workout.

Thursday, Nov. 7

9:30 – 10:45 a.m., “That Wasn’t My Intention”: Having Courageous Conversations

Facilitated by Katherine Fernandez, programming specialist/assistant house manager, and Penny Rosenthal, director, URI Women’s Center

Despite our best intentions we have all found ourselves having conversations or overhearing others say something that seems inappropriate, offensive or rude. Often the person whose remark it was didn’t intend for their statements to be taken in such a way. Confronting these types of remarks and having these conversations can many times lead to one or both parties feeling as though they are being attacked. Using ideas from “Dumb Things Well Intended People Say” (Cullen, 2008) and other literary examples, the presenters will provide helpful tools and hints to navigate these kinds of conversations. During the program, attendees will be given the opportunity to practice those tough conversations, leaving with the appropriate tools to have these courageous conversations themselves.

11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., Strongest Self: Navigating the Interview

Presented by Caitlin Broccoli, career education specialist, and Audra Lavoie, alumni career advisor, URI Center for Career and Experiential Education

Interviewing is nerve racking for even the most seasoned professional. For anyone, interviewing can leave them feeling anxious, unprepared, and confused. This workshop will enable attendees to learn how their personal identity and intersectionality impacts the interview experience. Those participating will assess what is most important to them, what employers are looking for, learn to identify resources that will help them, and employ strategies to be their strongest selves.

2 – 3:15 p.m., Spiritual Activism: Seeking to Understand

Facilitated by Robert Vincent, coordinator, URI Center for Student Leadership Development; Amy Olson, executive director, URI Hillel; Beth Sherman, vicar and chaplain to URI, St. Augustine’s Church and Episcopal Center

This workshop will focus on the spirituality of listening and how people of diverse religious, political, and cultural backgrounds can find commonalities and gain appreciation of each other. In the words of Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen: “Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.”

Friday, Nov. 8

10 – 10:50 a.m., Let there be LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Depictions of a High Power in TV and Movies

Presented by Michael Schreiber, director of Jewish student life, URI Hillel

From Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty to Alanis Morissette in Dogma, the idea and image of God has been depicted in many unique ways in TV and movies. In this program participants will be looking at some examples of depictions of God in popular media and discuss what about these images resonate and challenges them in their own views and values of a higher being.

1 – 1:50 p.m., 100 Years of (White) Women’s Suffrage: Who was Present, but Omitted from History?

Facilitated by Meaghan Szilagyi, assistant house manager; Katherine Fernandez, programming specialist/assistant house manager; and Penny Rosenthal, director, URI Women’s Center

We must know our historical truths in order to avoid repeating our mistakes. While the United States will celebrate nearly 100 years of women’s suffrage next year, women of color continued to be disenfranchised well after the nineteenth amendment granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920. This program, importantly, moves beyond celebration and into reflection of how the Suffrage Movement became a white women’s movement. Women of Color continued to be disenfranchised after the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920. Please join us for the untold story of the US Women’s Suffrage Movement.

With the exception of the Weisenfeld lecture, all events will be held at the Multicultural Student Services Center, 74 Lower College Road, Hardge Forum (Room 101), on the Kingston campus. All events are free and open to the public.

For more information or questions on Diversity Week, contact George Gallien at