V. Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, Darren Walker to converse on importance of social justice issues

Personal relationships are at the forefront of America’s future, determining whether it crumbles or prospers. Relationships and friendships across faith, professions and politics, allow people to grow and arrive at conclusions of where they think America should go.

The V. Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, in conversation with Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and curating partner for Week Eight, will give their lecture, titled “New Profiles in Courage,” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 in the Hall of Philosophy. Their lecture title coincides with the Chautauqua Lecture Series and Interfaith Lecture Series themes.

Douglas is canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral, an ordained minister and dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, and is chaplain-in-residence this week at Chautauqua.

“I think we are fortunate that many of the speakers coming in this week have had a relationship with Darren himself as a person,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “In those instances where you see conversations, versus direct lectures, it was our shared belief that we would get to even deeper substance on these topics.”

Douglas and Walker plan to talk about the time of crisis the nation is currently in, and what decisions need to be made for the sake of progress. Douglas explores some of these topics, like anti-Blackness in American culture, in her book Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.

“Not only in terms of who we think we are, or growing into our vision of a democracy — but as we do that, going into our vision for justice, I always say to proclaim ourselves as a democracy is aspirational, as it is to proclaim ourselves as a church,” Douglas said.

Walker said he has always admired Douglas,  and wants to use this as an opportunity to talk about her work that addresses homophobia in the Black church, as well as other challenging issues.

“As an African American Christian, this is something that I have experienced, and it’s something that I think remains a challenge in our faith community,” Walker said. 

This is their second time in public conversation together, and Douglas said she enjoys talking to Walker and believes their discussion will reflect the current climate of America.

“Certainly one of the things that we have to engage and not avoid in this country and in these conversations, and that the faith community cannot avoid, is a recognition of this dangerous emerging reality of white Christian nationalism,” Douglas said.

Walker previously gave a virtual presentation for the Chautauqua Lecture Series in 2020. At the Ford Foundation, he steers the organization’s mission that includes, in part, reducing poverty and injustice, strengthening democratic values and advancing human achievement. Hill said this is one of the reasons the Institution partnered with Walker and combined the lecture platforms with the same theme of “New Profiles in Courage.”

“Much of (Walker’s) personal work has been on lifting up issues of justice, justice in philanthropy (and) justice in communities,” Hill said. “He’s really devoted his own life and has helped to steer the foundation to ask these very, very large questions.”

America is currently at an inflection point, and Douglas said people need to seriously consider where the country is going and how faith plays a role.

“One of the roles of religious institutions, and faith and religious leaders, is to call us forward to an expanded notion of justice,” Douglas said. “Our job is to expand our moral imagination of what’s possible. When this has occurred, when religious leaders have been on the forefront of social justice work, transformation has happened.”

While the morning and afternoon lecture platforms have shared themes in the past, Hill said this is the first time a 10-lecture platform has been linked so tightly.

“I would encourage Chautauquans, to the extent they can, to really try to follow all 10 of these expressions,” Hill said. “It’s a really exciting week. It’s one that I’ve been looking forward to for a couple of years, and I think it’s going to be pretty thrilling.”

Walker said he is looking forward to discussing the divide of politics, class and race in America with Douglas. 

“I hope the talk leaves one inspired, hopeful, resolute, (with the) belief that faith matters and that we all have a common humanity,” Walker said. “We must be committed to the pursuit of justice for all.”

Tags : Homepageinterfaith lectureinterfaith lecture preview

The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.