On January 29th and 30th, over one-hundred people gathered at Rice University in Houston, Texas for the first biannual Secular Social Justice conference featuring atheists, humanists and freethinkers of color. Participants came from across the nation to brainstorm, coalition-build and discuss issues of importance to communities of color in an era of intense backlash against racial and gender justice. The event was organized by Black Skeptics Los Angeles, Houston Black Non-Believers and the Center for Engaged Research at Rice University.
The first conference session kicked off with the “Feminisms of Color in the Secular Movement” panel, which was moderated by Sikivu Hutchinson and featured Deanna Adams of the Musings on a Limb blog, Maggie Ardiente of the AHA, Heina Dadabhoy of Freethought Blogs and AJ Word from Secular Sistahs. Panelists discussed navigating issues of intersectionality, white racism in the secular movement and hyper-religiosity in communities of color. Dr. Anthony Pinn moderated the Humanism and Hip Hop panel featuring Monica Miller from Lehigh University, Jason Jeffries from Rice University and Xandelyn Wright of the Houston Black Non-Believers group.
The afternoon sessions focused on economic justice, queer atheists of color resistance and pushing back on the politics of colorblindness in the mainstream atheist/humanist movement. A The first panel discussion, entitled “Finding Justice in an Economic System that Proclaims Justice for All” the panel was moderated by Donald Wright and featured James T. Jones, Prairie View University, Darrin Johnson of Black Skeptics Los Angeles, Richard Peacock of Orlando Black Non-Believers, Twaunette Sharp of the Houston Black Non-Believers group and Cleve Tinsley, IV of Rice University. “LGBTQ/Queer Atheists of Color and Social Justice” featured Diane Burkholder of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color, Brandon Mack of Rice University, and Ashton Woods of Houston Black Non-Believers. It was moderated by Debbie Goddard, director of African Americans for Humanism. Panelists discussed social justice activism and multiple identities in the white mainstream LGBTQ context, as well as fighting against institutional racism, white privilege and ghettoization.
The final panel focused on racism and racial politics in atheism/secularism and was moderated by Daniel Myatt of BSLA. The panel featured lively commentary from Frank Anderson, Black Skeptics Chicago, Georgina Capetillo of Secular Common Ground, Alix Jules of the Dallas Coalition of Reason, Sincere Kirabo of American Atheists, Jimmie Luthuli of Secular Sistahs, Juhem Navarro-Rivera of the University of Connecticut and Vic Wang of the Humanists of Houston.
The panel concluded with a debut screening of Daniel Myatt’s feature film “Walter Walk With God”.