Trombone Shorty, Mavis Staples close season with high spirits, heart

Illustration by Ruchi Ghare/Design Editor

Stacey Federoff
copy desk chief

Two powerhouse musicians are throwing a party Saturday night in the Amphitheater and all Chautauquans are invited.

Expect high energy from Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, setting the atmosphere through the music of the Crescent City, and from gospel icon Mavis Staples, pairing the passion of the pulpit with the funk of the dance floor when they take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday with the final popular entertainment performance of the season.

Both performers ignited their love of music at a young age. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, now 37, earned his nickname when his instrument was as big as he was when Bo Diddley invited him onstage at 4 years old to perform at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Staples, who turned 84 on July 10, began her singing career in 1948 at age 11 performing with her family’s band The Staple Singers.

“Staples has never limited herself to gospel,” according to a Financial Times review of a July performance in London. “Her rich voice has elements of rock, soul, R&B and funk in it, a world of music. But in true church style, her singing has always cried out for a response, the answering call from a congregation.”

Most of Trombone Shorty’s music is instrumental, but over the years, he has grown more confident in his voice, as he told The Washington Post in June.

“When we were coming up, I didn’t even want to introduce the band because I didn’t like the way my voice sounded, but over time, I’ve gotten a bit stronger,” he said. “I’m still working on it very hard.”

He certainly works with his voice on his latest album in 2022, Lifted, “blur(ring) the lines between funk, soul, R&B and psychedelic rock,” as it is described on his website.

“We always have that New Orleans thing underneath,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s not conscious. It’s just part of our DNA.”

Growing up in the Treme neighborhood of the city, Trombone Shorty has brought the joy and heart from jazz to collaborations across genres with artists from Pharrell and Zac Brown to Foo Fighters and Ringo Starr.

“I don’t try to mimic others, but I’m a sponge and the influence comes out naturally, which I think is the most wonderful thing in music,” he told The Washington Post.

However, through his music, he is never far from home.

“Without New Orleans I wouldn’t be here,” he told CBS News in February. “And I really mean that with my whole heart.”

Through the Trombone Shorty Foundation, he wants to allow other young people to experience the same freedom and community.

“The foundation is just about inspiring the next generation and letting them know that … through music, it could be your passport to do whatever you want to do,” he told CBS News.

As for Staples, her career started in Chicago-area churches when her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, taught her and her siblings Cleotha, Pervis and Yvonne gospel harmonies with Mavis singing the bass parts.

“I didn’t like to rehearse,” she told The New Yorker in June 2022. “Pops said, ‘Mavis, your voice is a gift that God gave you. If you don’t use it, he’ll take it back.’ I was the first one in rehearsal after that.”

Beginning with acoustic gospel-folk, the Staple Singers’ version of “Uncloudy Day” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” helped them gain popularity.

Later, the group became best known for “I’ll Take You There,” which spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972, and “Respect Yourself.” The group’s gospel styling in secular music came from their roots in the church and “message songs” of the early 1960s during the civil rights movement. 

Others may have first gotten to know the Staple Singers from the 1976 film by Martin Scorsese documenting The Band’s final concert, “The Last Waltz,” when they sang “The Weight.”

She has since been honored with a bevy of accolades — such as inductions into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame — and awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’ve kept my father’s legacy alive,” Staples said in The New Yorker. “Pops started this, and I’m not just going to squander it. I’m going to sing every time I get on the stage — I’m gonna sing with all my heart and all I can put out.”

Closing Sacred Song to focus on moments of farewell, tradition

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill closes the 2022 Chautauqua Assembly Season with this closing Three Taps of the Gavel address.

Mary Lee Talbot
Staff writer

Rebecca Richmond, a Chautauqua writer and one of the founders of the Sandwich Poets at Chautauqua — a precursor to the literary arts program of today — in her 1944 poem “To Chautauqua – Moment of Farewell,” wrote: “Sometimes I wish that I would love you less, For when the summer ends and I must go, Almost it is a rending of the soul – You are part of me and I of you.”

It is that love of Chautauqua that feeds many people during the winter and fuels the excitement of arriving on the grounds as the season begins. The Chautauqua Assembly begins and ends with tradition. The Sunday evening Sacred Song service is part of the tradition. 

At 8 p.m. Sunday, the final Sacred Song Service will be held in the Amphitheater. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, senior pastor for Chautauqua, will preside. Melissa Spas, vice president for religion, will be the reader. 

The Chautauqua Choir will sing under the direction of Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, accompanied by Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar. Stafford creates each Sacred Song Service during the summer season.

Like the first Sacred Song of the season, the Sunday service will be based on the 1903 Chautauqua Hymnal and Liturgy. A prayer by Thomas A. Kempis will be read as a litany. A statement by Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua from the introduction to John Heyl Vincent’s book The Chautauqua Movement reminded readers that Chautauqua was founded to be all-denominational and universal as to creeds. A prayer from Jacosben, former Chautauqua organist, gives thanks for this place and extends a wish that all will return again.

The music in the service, from the opening “Day is Dying in the West,” to closing “Now the Day is Over,” and “Largo,” will also include the hymn “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” written by William F. Sherwin and Mary Lathbury for Chautauqua in 1877.

Immediately after “Largo,” Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution, will give the Three Taps of the Gavel address to close the 150th season of Chautauqua.

Eugene Sutton reflects on first season as pastor to all Chautauqua

2023 Sutton Photo in Collar

Mary Lee Talbot
Staff writer

“I love my title. I like that Chautauqua has a pastor, not just another vice president or director,” said the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton. “I wear my collar deliberately as a sign that religion has a place here.”

Sutton will preach at the final 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title is “What Are You Afraid Of?” Melissa Spas, vice president for religion at Chautauqua Institution, will preside and Michael E. Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution, will read the scripture.

Finishing his first full season at Chautauqua, Sutton described the experience as amazing, stimulating, humbling and thrilling. 

“It is also thought-provoking,” he said. “I am privileged to be in a place where the big questions facing the world are addressed from the perspectives of the humanities, arts, science and religion. I can’t think of any other residential community where you can think, pray and play together in any given week.”

Sutton and his wife, Sonya Subbayya Sutton, are grateful for the welcoming spirit they have found at Chautauqua. People approach Sutton to say hello, ask how things are going and to say something about how they appreciate the place or the ministry. 

“It is uplifting to hear words of appreciation. There are suggestions and some complaints, but 90% of the time people come up to say ‘thank you’ — not just for my work, but things I had nothing to do with but they want the thanks to get back to the right person,” he said.

This season has been a tough one for the staff, he said, and too many employees have been confronted not just with disagreement, but by “people just not being nice. Words of appreciation mean something, they mean so much to the staff.” 

While he is very optimistic and hopeful for Chautauqua’s future, he has one concern: that Chautauqua will become a playground for the rich. 

“That will be the death of the vision; then we will have failed,” he said. 

Being senior pastor does not mean Sutton is the only pastor. 

“There are other pastors, ordained or not, who are people who offer pastoral care to those in need. The denominational chaplains make a big difference,” he said. “I want to be a pastor to everyone, no matter what religion you practice, if you are nonaligned or atheist. I want people to say, ‘This is the pastor for me.’”

He continued, “I am a Christian, an Episcopal bishop and I am devoted to my faith. I want to help people know the face of Christianity that Jesus would want, not bigoted, exclusive, narrow-minded or conquering but compassionate, open-minded, welcoming, hospitable, serene, affirming and justice-doing.”

One of his ideas, implemented during the Sunday morning worship service, is to tithe part of the Sunday offering to organizations outside Chautauqua Institution. Working with Spas, the tithe is directed to nonprofit organizations serving Chautauqua County, including the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County, St. Susan Center in Jamestown, Chautauqua Lake Child Care, Jamestown Juneteenth, and Habitat for Humanity.

Sutton is excited when he walks around Chautauqua and can ask “How are you doing?” when he sees people on their porches.

“I can be a pastor here,” he said. “That is why I got ordained — to be a pastor.”

Patti LaBelle, godmother of soul, still striving to ‘climb higher’ even after decades in the spotlight

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Julia Weber
Staff writer

Even with several lifetime achievement awards, Grammy Awards, acting credits and hit songs to her name, Patti LaBelle considers herself to still be on the journey to stardom.

“As far as me being that real super, super, super superstar woman, I’m not there yet,” she said in a 2022 interview with CBS News.

LaBelle will take the stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater to help round out this season’s popular entertainment programming.

Though LaBelle may not consider herself to be at that “super” level, many others do. Her wide-spanning career and many accomplishments tell the story of a talented musician who has earned the affectionate title of “godmother of soul.”

Tonight, LaBelle will perform an array of her widely recognized songs.
She is best known for songs like “If Only You Knew,” “Love, Need and Want You,” “You Are My Friend” and “New Attitude.”

LaBelle originally paved her way in the music industry as the lead vocalist of the R&B group Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles in the early 1960s. The group later rebranded as Labelle with a more disco-funk influenced sound, showcased in 1974’s No. 1 hit, “Lady Marmalade.”

After the group split in 1977, she launched a successful and long-standing solo career, including 1986’s Winner In You featuring the No. 1 hit, “On My Own,” and her latest record, 2017’s Bel Hommage, a vocal jazz album.

The Grammy Award-winner has received countless accolades throughout her career. While best known for her accomplishments in music, LaBelle also boasts an impressive acting resume. She has acted in films and television series including “Greenleaf,” “Empire” and “American Horror Story.”

LaBelle’s accomplishments are lengthy, and, six decades into her career at age 79, she shows no signs of wanting to slow down.

“A lot of people, when they meet me, they say ‘Are you still working? Are you still touring?’ I said, ‘Google me, boo,’ ” Labelle said in the interview with CBS News. “I’m always on the run. I’m booked, and busy and blessed.”

Chautauquans can expect to enjoy a selection of LaBelle’s hits spanning her career, her impressive vocal range, and an arrangement of her well-known hits from throughout her long-lasting career.

“I’m ecstatic,” LaBelle said in the CBS News interview. “I love the Patti LaBelle that’s here now, and she’s going to climb higher.”

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta to close week, season with talk on work in Global South


Since he joined CNN in 2001, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has traveled the country and the world to cover some of the most important health stories of the century.

In 2010 alone, the network’s chief medical correspondent reported on the devastating earthquake in Haiti, for which he was awarded two Emmy awards; covered unprecedented flooding in Pakistan; and contributed to the network’s 2010 Peabody Award-winning coverage of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“For so many of us, Dr. Gupta is the face we see and know — he is a broker of truth. He’s on the frontlines of the health crises that follow natural disasters or human conflict, and the voice of reason, assurance, and authority,” in public health emergencies, said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer, who strongly advocated for Gupta to be part of Week Nine because of his work in, and work drawing attention to, the Global South.

Gupta, who is a practicing neurosurgeon, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning broadcast journalist and associate professor at Emory University Hospital, will close Week Nine for the Chautauqua Lecture Series, and the 2023 Summer Assembly Season, at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater by discussing “Reporting and Practicing Medicine in the Global South.” 

On March 9, 2020, two days before the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, Gupta took to CNN to outline why he and the network were shifting their language in regards to COVID-19.

“Starting today, you will notice that CNN is using the term ‘pandemic’ to describe the current coronavirus outbreak,” he said. “It is not a decision we take lightly.”

Gupta outlined criteria for what makes a pandemic, a pandemic, and highlighted the work of public health leaders, epidemiologists and clinicians he’d spent the previous days interviewing. 

He outlined what may come in the days ahead, and closed with a reminder: Humanity has overcome pandemics before. 

“In this globally connected world, we may be asked to add more social distance between each other, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still collectively come together as a nation and as a world,” he said. “This is a crisis we can overcome if we can work together.”

Gupta has continued covering the COVID-19 pandemic, from the development of vaccines and their rollout, as well as new variants — his most recent report on that front was just last week. It’s one of many topics he reports on regularly — lately, his focus has been on longevity science, teen health in the digital age, and cannabis use among older adults. 

In 2014, Gupta was the first Western reporter who traveled to Conakry, Guinea, to investigate the deadly Ebola outbreak that would soon find its way to the United States, and in 2017 he reported from the frontlines of a breakdown in Puerto Rico’s medical infrastructure after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. In 2004, he was sent to Sri Lanka to cover the tsunami that claimed more than 155,000 lives in Southeast Asia, contributing to the 2005 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for CNN. 

Before he was a broadcast journalist, Gupta was, and is, a doctor. His interest in health policy led him to a position as one of 15 White House Fellows for a year in 1997, where he primarily served as an adviser to First Lady Hillary Clinton. 

“I think whether you’re a physician or whatever facet of society you’re involved with, understanding how that works and having a voice is really important. I got interested in health policy at a pretty young age when I was in medical school, and it sort of morphed from there. I started doing more and more writing in that area, advising people,” Gupta told the Elon News Network in advance of delivering the college’s Baird Lecture in March, and said his time in the White House “was the first time I realized that the way you communicate big topics is really important. Understanding (them) is important, but how you then communicate them is also really important.” 

Deepak Sarma to teach, advocate for entheogenic mystical experiences


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

In an exploration of a no-longer-taboo topic, Deepak Sarma will dive into the benefits of psychedelics used to create a mystical and spiritual experience with their Interfaith lecture.

Sarma — a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Case Western Reserve University — will deliver their lecture at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy to close the Week Nine Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Realizing Our One World: Strengthening Interconnection.”

They said they will speak on the very first dichotomy between the Global South and North allopathic community, and how it was a taboo topic before it was “recolonized,” in a sense.

“The allopathic community of the Global North are embracing substances that come out of the Global South, (such as) psilocybin, ayahuasca or ibogaine in the African context,” Sarma said. “Peyote, of course, is part of that but it’s not being deployed by Global North allopathic communities.”

Psychedelics, they said, are having an interesting moment, particularly in the relationship between the Global North and South. In precolonial times, psychedelics were prohibited due to the power seen in them and their respective continents of origin, but the tides are turning, and now some of these substances are being embraced.

The tension between the different ways psychedelics are used in the Global North and South can be compared to cultural appropriation of clothing, they said. It’s not until a substance or item is made popular in Western culture that it gets taken seriously.

“When Caucasians in America appropriate, or take on, clothing styles of African Americans — which were considered poorly when African Americans wear them — but when Caucasians wear them, they have cultural capital,” Sarma said. 

This sense of irony, they said, is why the audience should question whether or not the use of entheogens — a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is ingested to produce a non-ordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes — is an empty agenda, or if it can produce a real spiritual or mystical experience.

Sarma said listening to Grateful Dead was a formative experience, because the concerts they attended in California allowed them to express themselves culturally. After Sarma’s family left India, they tried to steer away from Indian culture to fit in, but found white people adorned in Indian and Hindu fashion.

“It piqued my curiosity,” Sarma said. “In a funny way, you can say that my reluctance on being Indian was changed or altered by giving a peculiar kind of validation by the dominant paradigm.”

Because children of immigrants are often torn between embracing their parents’ culture and a new one, it’s hard to embrace one or the other, they said.
Not fitting into the mainstream can then end up as a source of shame.

In their work, Sarma’s goal is to ask questions alongside others, not simply teach them. They have served as a cultural consultant for Hinduism with Netflix on a variety of shows, such as “Cocomelon” and “Thomas the Train,” as well as consulting with Mattel, Moonbug and American Greetings. This was a transformative experience, they said, especially when paired with the curation work they do at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

“The audience for these programs are in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions,” Sarma said. “It’s a completely different satisfaction and weight for my academic curiosities and interests that have an effect on the world.”

Whether real or not, Sarma said in the context of Indian philosophy, hallucinations are a facet of psychedelic use.

Through the centuries, explanations of entheogenic experiences have been sought out by various theologians and philosophers for a variety of reasons, but Sarma wants the audience to consider the possibility of using entheogens for a spiritual or mystical experience.

“My baseline goal is to have people recognize the question, their presuppositions and perhaps change them, or at least wonder about their authenticity,” Sarma said.

Broadway star Renée Elise Goldsberry to make Amp debut with evening of classic standards, original works

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Sara Toth

It’s been more than a year since Renée Elise Goldsberry was set to make her Amphitheater debut, and in that time, Chautauquans have been willing to … wait for it.

Goldsberry, the award-winning, multi-hyphenate Broadway star — perhaps best known as Angelica Schuyler in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Hamilton — will take the stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amp, with a performance sure to leave the audience “Satisfied.” 

For originating the role of Angelica Schuyler, Goldsberry took home a Tony Award, Grammy Award, and Drama Desk Award; when the musical was filmed for the Disney+ streaming service, she added an Emmy nomination to that list.

“While we know her name from her remarkable role as Angelica in Hamilton, Chautauquans should know that she continues to do bold work in so many areas,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer, noting in particular Goldsberry’s recent turn in Shakespeare in the Park’s production of The Tempest. “She plays Prospera as a mother — with her children in the cast. She’s a creator and thought leader I can’t wait to hear from.”

In addition to her work on stage, Goldsberry has also portrayed the titular character in HBO’s adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and stars in Tina Fey’s Peacock sitcom “Girls5Eva,” which is moving to Netflix this year, and Marvel’s “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.” Also forthcoming this year is her debut album of original songs.

“It’s a great honor to perform music that other great songwriters have written,” Goldsberry told the Daily in an interview previewing her canceled performance last summer. “But I’m also a songwriter, so it’s really satisfying to speak my own thoughts and share sentiments musically that are very organic to who I am.”

Moore has been anticipating Goldsberry’s performance, as “she was meant to be a star of our 2022 season.” Goldsberry had to cancel last-minute due to illness, but is now ready to deliver her concert of Broadway hits and American songbook classics.

“I just love coming together with people and singing these songs that we all love,” Goldsberry told the Daily. “It’s fun to host that kind of party.” 

On stage, on screen, or in the studio, Goldsberry said last year that there was a particularly electrifying aspect of performing live.

“I think playing for live audiences is probably the most thrilling and sometimes the most daunting,” Goldsberry said. “But the more I’ve done it, the more I feel it is the most authentic expression of who I am as a performer and as a person.”

Nikolas Gvosdev to examine week through lens of national interests


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

The Global South is often underrepresented or not seen as a player in the global game, said Nikolas K. Gvosdev, professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. To truly engage in a partnered society, the Global North needs to take the Global South seriously.

Gvosdev, senior fellow for the U.S. Global Engagement Initiative at Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, will deliver his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater for Week Nine’s theme, “The Global South: Expanding the Scope of Geopolitical Understanding.” This is his second time speaking at Chautauqua; with Geoffrey C. Kemp, Gvosdev gave 2022’s Middle East Update.

“We really need to change our mental map regarding the Global South,” he said. “For too long, we’ve seen it as a part of the world that we engage in charitable activity (and) try to help it develop, but we don’t really believe this part of the world has a major impact on U.S. national and economic security.”

As the United States goes through 21st-century changes, Gvosdev — who  also serves as director of National Security at the Foreign Research Policy Institute — said there’s 8 billion-plus people aspiring to a middle-class lifestyle. At the same time, these people are trying to avoid further damage to the environment in the regions referred to as the Global South. 

There’s a “trilemma,” as he calls it, in regard to the energy, food and water crisis. The Global South is home to a lot of the raw material the United States needs for new technologies, which makes it integral to U.S. security and prosperity.

“In the 20th century, we could perhaps get away with that,” Gvosdev said. “In the 21st century, we’re not going to be able to do that. It’s the mental shift that is needed.”

The corresponding mental shift, he said, has to produce structural changes. Right now, U.S. foreign policy remains anchored in a horizontal axis East to West, not as much North and South.

“When we talk about trans-Atlantic relations, we think (of the) United States and Canada to Europe,” Gvosdev said. “We don’t think that the Caribbean, Eastern Africa, Latin America (and) Western Africa are also part of that Atlantic community.”

The way the world is integrated, he said, connects two “doorstep issues,” particularly true for resource-rich Africa. 

“This may sound very cold-blooded and mercenary, but we have to think about the bottom line,” Gvosdev said. “These parts of the world are going to be intrinsic to the maintenance of the lifestyle that most Americans have become accustomed to.”

American industry can make real contributions to the Global South, he said. However, it needs to be done as a partnership. In the last 20 years, Gvosdev said Chinese companies have viewed the Global South as a profit, not a pity — while most Americans don’t think of Africa, Latin America or South Asia as places for mutually beneficial profits.

“The government needs to encourage, prime the pump, help with the export licenses (and) really forge ahead with some of these technological trade partnerships that can really bring these benefits in the future,” he said.

The second doorstep issue is climate geopolitics, which Gvosdev said is contributing to fundamental changes of where and how the U.S. engages with the world. Meanwhile, Russia — which isn’t seen as much of a player in the Global South — has made clear to their own companies the benefits of working with those countries. 

“They encourage the development of their expert communities, speaking the local languages, functioning and understanding,” Gvosdev said. “Whereas in the U.S., it often seems people see this backwards.”

The Chinese government has more tools at its disposal to encourage companies doing business with the Global South, but they understand that they can’t sell those technologies back at the same market-rate as America.

“One of the drawbacks that the United States has had for so long after the Cold War, was we were essentially the only game in town,” Gvosdev said. “We didn’t have to sell ourselves (and) we didn’t have to compromise or bargain.”

The Global South he said, needs to be prioritized. Traditionally, interest groups for the region have been celebrity-led or backed by religious, charitable or human rights organizations. A guiding principle for engagement is understanding and making the case, he said, that foreign policy isn’t an abstract concept exclusive to Washington; it impacts daily life.

“The climate changes, geography changes, therefore the politics change,” Gvosdev said. “Countries that mattered to the United States 30 years ago, may not matter as much to the United States 30 years from now.”

For ILS, Vignarajah to advocate for safety of asylum seekers, refugees

O’Mara Vignarajah_Krish_interfaith_photo_8-24-23

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

The American Dream is sought after by many, but achieved by few. In an act of service, born of personal experience, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah works to support refugees and asylum seekers in Baltimore.

Vignarajah — president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service — will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy for Week Nine’s Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “Realizing Our One World: Strengthening Interconnection.”

“(Vignarajah) leads a large nonprofit organization … and she has particular expertise on climate migration,” said Melissa Spas, vice president of religion at Chautauqua Institution. “Her work in welcoming people around the world to the United States is significant in itself.”

Her parents, Elyathamby and Anandasothy, left behind a Sri Lanka on the brink of a civil war in the 1980s when she was an infant and her brother was 3 years old.

“I realized that we were lucky for the few that got out, that had a chance to start a new life,” Vignarajah told The Baltimore Sun. “That meant we were blessed, but needed to earn it. So, I think that’s just motivated me to pursue a career in public service.”

Both she and her brother, Thiruvendran, have served in political roles. He was the former deputy attorney general of Maryland, and she was in the White House as policy director for Michelle Obama, leading the signature Let Girls Learn initiative. 

Since 2019, her work at LIRS has made her an action-oriented advocate who seeks humane solutions to the U.S. immigration system.

“I am confident that (Vignarajah) will lend a valuable perspective on global migration, and the gifts and strengths of refugees and asylum seekers around the world,” Spas said. 

“I also hope that Chautauquans will be encouraged and inspired to act in support of immigrants and refugees, globally and here at home.”

LIRS opened a welcome center June 13 in Otterbein, a neighborhood in Baltimore, for refugees and asylum seekers. The center provides social services, legal assistance and workforce development, among other resources.

A report by the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative ranked the city as second-best in the nation for immigrants. The 2020 U.S. Census recorded 292,100 immigrants in Baltimore, accounting for 10% of the city’s total population.

“I hope that (with) these new waves of immigrants that we can make it easier, we can make it possible for them to realize the American dream,” she told the Sun. “Because I count my blessings every day, knowing that for my family, we feel like we achieved ours.”

The theme, Spas said is “an angle of vision” of the Chautauqua Lecture Series theme, “The Global South: Expanding the Scope of Geopolitical Understanding.”

“It is our intention to have speakers who are able to address the topic of global interconnectedness with a perspective of knowledge and priority that is located outside of the Global North,” Spas said.

Grammy winner Angélique Kidjo to bring globe-spanning mix of influences to Amp performance

A KIDJO 5 – Fabrice Mabillot

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

Five-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo has released 16 albums since she first started singing at 6 years old. After first performing virtually for Chautauqua as part of CHQ Assembly in 2020, now she will share her musical prowess in person at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. 

“My father said I started singing before I started talking because I grew up surrounded by music,” Kidjo said. 

Kidjo considers her performances to be a community engagement, and she never takes her audience for granted. 

“My concert is not just with me on stage singing or playing music — it’s with the public,” she said. 

Originally from Bénin, Kidjo’s musical journey has spanned several borders. She moved from Bénin to Paris in the 1980s due to political conflict. 

“When I left my country, I was able to catch up with the music that had been banned for more than 10 years under the dictatorship, which banned every type of music,” Kidjo said. “It was through the traditional music of my ancestors that I was able to open myself to different types of music.”

Her music has West African elements alongside European, Latin American and American influences. 

Her 15th and most recent album, 2021’s Mother Nature, features collaborations with several young African producers and singers. Prior to that, in 2019, she released Celia, a tribute album to “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz. In 2018, she worked with producer Jeff Bhasker on Remain in Light, a track-by-track reimagining of the smash 1980 album by the Talking Heads.

“No (type of) music has been impossible for me to do because I always find my roots in it,” she said. 

Kidjo considers Africa to be the cradle of humanity and believes all people, no matter their skin color, are born from that continent. 

“That’s why I say all music comes from Africa because it is in our DNA,” she said. “Music has no color, has no discrimination. It is in our DNA — wherever we go on this planet, whichever instrument we play or sing — Africa is at the center of it.”

Kidjo originally planned to study human rights law, but she ended up studying music. Now, she balances both activism and artistry as a musician focused on advocacy.

As a UNICEF and OXFAM Goodwill Ambassador, Kidjo travels the world to champion human rights. She also founded Batonga, a charitable foundation dedicated to supporting the education of young girls in Africa. She will discuss her advocacy work during her morning lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amp. 

In May, she accepted the Polar Music Prize in Sweden. Considered the “Nobel Prize of Music,” the award recognizes “significant achievements in music,” with past recipients including Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Miriam Makeba, Gilberto Gil and Yo-Yo Ma.

“Music is a powerful tool because it doesn’t have a master. Music is about freedom,” Kidjo said. “Music is in the home of every single human being on the planet. Leaders come and go, but music stays.”

Daily staffer Kaitlyn Finchler contributed to this report.

In morning lecture, Angélique Kidjo to share work of Batonga, inspire supportive action

A KIDJO 3 – Fabrice Mabillot

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

Influencing the world with more than her Grammy Award-winning music, activist Angélique Kidjo aspires to give back to the young entrepreneurial girls in her native continent of Africa. 

Kidjo — five-time Grammy Award winner, spokesperson for Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa and founder of Batonga, a charitable foundation dedicated to support young girls’ education in sub-Saharan Africa — will give her lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

She said her morning lecture will focus on Batonga and the impact of empowering young women. 

“If you see the potential of someone and you’re in a position to help that person unleash her or his own potential, you got to do it,” Kidjo said. “It’s beautiful to see what comes out of giving respect and seeing the other person that needs just your attention.”

To see the transformation in a person, she said, is humbling and scary but joyful. In May, Batonga opened its second office in Senegal after the first one in Bénin — Kidjo’s native country.

“Step by step, we’re trying to cover the whole continent,” she said. “Every country in Africa is different, even if the problems are the same, the responses might be different.”

The young girls Batonga helps are from the poorest areas with “no hope of a future whatsoever,” she said. There’s no agenda, she said, so the foundation is willing to trust someone and give them what they need to be successful.

“I can’t even tell you how afraid (in a good way) I am to see the power I am unleashing (by) helping those girls unleash and changing the communities,” Kidjo said. “During the pandemic, they were up to the forefront of the fight, manufacturing soap (and) masks day in and day out.”

People who aren’t in Kidjo’s position can still help, she said, by supporting organizations like Batonga. The girls in Bénin and Senegal are savvy and can start a business with $20 and make $200 in six months.

“(The girls will say), ‘We tell our kids to wash our hands and we don’t have soap,’” Kidjo said. “So that, we can provide. … I say to them, ‘Amen, go for it.’ ”

From her lecture, Kidjo said she wants people to understand how crucial critical thinking is. To live in a world where people acknowledge each other, it can’t be taken at face value. 

“We question, ‘If I was given a chance to change the world, what will I do?’ ” Kidjo said. “You cannot change the world if you’re not free and if you don’t respect other people’s freedom.”

Born and raised in Bénin — formerly Ouidah, French Dahomey — Kidjo had to move to Paris in the 1980s due to political conflict. She intended to be a human rights lawyer, but ended up studying music — yet still became an activist in a different way.

“I’m glad I am in a position where I can give and instill hope in the young adolescent girls in my country,” she said. 

If people can face challenges and offer support in America, she said, there’s no reason not to help abroad.

“We have lived up to the challenge of being an American,” Kidjo said, “which is being above everything and seeing people as who they are, not their skin color or financial means, but just human beings in America who live in the same country.”

People share the same ecosystem, she said, but not the same reality. The Global South is underestimated, and Kidjo believes it’s one of richest regions on the planet.

“(America) tells a negative story about the Global South to justify all the wrongdoing that was done there,” she said. “We (need to) take into account what is at the core of the Global South failure — slavery and … synchronization over resources.”

Daily staffer Alyssa Bump contributed to this report.

Researcher, writer Siddhartha Mukherjee to be celebrated for ‘The Song of the Cell,’ winner of 2023 Chautauqua Prize

The 2023 Chautauqua Prize, created by Jamestown artist Angela Caley, will be presented to Siddhartha Mukherjee for The Song Of The Cell at 5 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy. Dave Munch/Photo Editor

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

For its deep, accessible dive into scientific knowledge, the 2023 Chautauqua Prize has been awarded to The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human, by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

The Chautauqua Prize has been annually awarded for 12 years to a book of fiction or literary nonfiction, and honors the author — this year, the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author Mukherjee — for creating a significant contribution to the literary arts. Throughout the years, the winning books have been noteworthy for opening inquiry and creating spaces for conversation among different kinds of readers.

Mukherjee will receive a $7,500 prize and participate in a ceremony and reading at 5 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.


“I was amazed and surprised and absolutely delighted,” Mukherjee said. “The Chautauqua Prize is one of the most important literary prizes that anyone can aspire to win in their career as a writer. I feel incredibly honored and humbled in receiving this prize.”

Since appearing on shelves in October 2022, The Song of the Cell has been a New York Times Notable book, winner of the 2023 PROSE Award for Excellence in Biological and Life Science as well as “Best Book of the Year” from The Economist, Oprah Daily, Book Riot, the New York Public Library, and more.

Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts, said he’s never seen an author combine science, knowledge and prose as well as Mukherjee.

“Siddhartha Mukherjee has made centuries of serious scientific knowledge accessible to everyone through lively and masterful prose. This makes The Song of the Cell the perfect book to win the Prize this year, ” he said in an Institution press release announcing the winner in June.

The book begins in the late 1600s, when Mukherjee introduces readers to English polymath Robert Hooke and Dutch merchant Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.

It’s the first Prize winner to cover hard science so extensively.

“(Winning the Prize) inspires me to be a more thoughtful writer,” said Mukherjee, an associate professor at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. “My writing sits in an interdisciplinary arena between science, history, memoir and medicine.”

In recognizing his “out-of-the-genre” book, Mukherjee said the Institution has inspired him to continue breaking boundaries in his writing and thinking. His previous books include The Gene: An Intimate History and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

The Song of the Cell is the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them and are now using that knowledge to push medical boundaries.

The Song of the Cell is not only about cell biology, but also about what it means to be human, what defines us now and what will define us in the future,” Mukherjee said. “I thought it was an urgent history and story to convey to my readers.”

Writers such as Lewis Thomas, Atul Gawande and Richard Roves paved the road that combine science, medicine and literature, and Mukherjee said he is proud to be recognized as part of this tradition.

“Science is about discovery and books that convey that acute sense of discovery will always be not only the scientific canon, but also the literary canon,” he said.

In his prose approach, Mukherjee said all of his writing attempts to combine these elements.

“I often think these distinctions are arbitrary,” he said. “There’s no reason writing amongst science and medicine cannot be poetic.”

Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski to discuss ‘cultivating curiosity,’ understanding across religions


James Buckser
Staff writer

Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski works in the field of comparative theology.

“What comparative theology does is it tries to learn more, tries to answer theological questions by delving deeply into a tradition other than one’s own,” he said.

Joslyn-Siemiatkoski will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy as a part of Week Nine of the Interfaith Lecture Series, with its theme of “Realizing Our One World: Strengthening Interconnection.”

Joslyn-Siemiatkoski is the Kraft Family Professor and director of the Center of Christian Jewish Learning at Boston College. He is the author of The More Torah, The More Life: A Christian Commentary on the Mishnah Avot.

“By writing a commentary on a Jewish text, what I did was I bracketed off my own kind of Christian presuppositions first, and try to come to terms with the text solely as a Jewish text,” Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said. “Then, I asked the question once I was done working through the commentaries: What do I know now as a Christian that I didn’t have as deep of an awareness of before?”

He said the field of comparative theology “developed more in dialogue with Eastern traditions,” with Christianity looking at Judaism as closely related.

“Comparative theology really developed out of Christians living in non-monotheistic contexts and asking, ‘OK, how do I make sense of this vibrant religious tradition that’s all around me?’ ” Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said.

The More Torah, The More Life is part of a series of Christian commentaries on non-Christian sacred texts, he said. In Judaism, he said this would be the Hebrew Bible, but Joslyn-Siemiatkoski went beyond.

“I took the next step to say, ‘OK, what are other texts in the Jewish tradition that might be worth commenting on?’ ” Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said. “Mishnah Avot is what we would call a wisdom sayings collection from about the end of the second century of the common era, roughly contemporaneous with early Christianity, so that’s why it was kind of a useful text to engage with.”

At Boston College, Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said the Center of Christian-Jewish Learning is designed to “foster the repair of relationships between Jews and Christians in the wake of the Holocaust.”

Boston College, a Jesuit Catholic institution, is committed to the “various teachings the Roman Catholic Church has issued since the Second Vatican Council,” which instructs Christians to “recommit to creating positive relationships between Jews and Christians,” Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said.

His talk will be about “cultivating curiosity,” and “how we can learn how to engage with difference,” he said.

The lecture will include discussion on the role of the state of Israel in the Jewish community and act as an “examination of what happens when we get curious about another tradition,” he said.

“In a lot of ways, the relationships between Jews and Christians have seemed to be conflictual,” Joslyn-Siemiatkoski said. “But if we cultivate curiosity, we begin to take ourselves out of the equation and listen to the other more deeply.”

With soloist Mary Elizabeth Bowden on commissioned work from Assad, CSO wraps summer season under Stuart Chafetz’s baton

Screenshot 2023-08-21 at 6.22.41 PM

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

As the season at the Institution comes to a close, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra is ending its summer the way it started: with music. 

The CSO ends its season under the baton of Principal Pops Conductor Stuart Chafetz and features trumpet player Mary Elizabeth Bowden as soloist. The final concert begins at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. 

Bowden became interested in music when she started playing cornet at 10 years old. Her two brothers played trombone and horn, and eventually all three siblings studied under the same brass teacher. 

“He took us to many soloist and chamber concerts as well, including my favorite trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov,” Bowden said. “Nothing replaces the experience of hearing music performed live, and these many concerts sparked my love and passion for music. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a professional trumpeter.” 

Now living that dream, Bowden is a Gold Medal Global Music Award Winner, Opus Klassik Nominee and Yamaha Performing Artist. Currently, she is Principal Trumpet of the Artosphere Festival Orchestra and a member of the Iris Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra. Bowden has released two solo albums with Summit Records: 2015’s Radiance and 2019’s Reverie.

Tonight’s program includes three selections. The season started and will conclude with J.S. Smith/Damrosch’s version of The Star-Spangled Banner. The concert continues with Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino and Clarice Assad’s “Bohemian Queen” Concerto for Trumpet and Strings — commissioned by the Institution and seeing its first Chautauqua performance tonight. The composer herself has performed in the Amp, in 2021 with her father, the lauded Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad. 

The CSO’s final selection is Alexander Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances.” 

Last season, Chafetz also conducted the final CSO concert for the summer.

“It was bittersweet because it was such an incredible experience, but also a reminder that all good things must come to an end,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, the summer has flown, and it’s just a sad time, I think, for all of us who have to go back to our off-season gigs,” Chafetz said. “It’s kind of wild, but I also feel very lucky to be able to connect with my colleagues one last time.” 

Chafetz is particularly excited for the Verdi, “one of the greatest overtures” by the composer. Verdi’s opera is a predominantly dark-hued tragedy, with a grim, historical setting intertwined with moments of gaiety and spectacle.

Chafetz described the work as “wonderful, fantastic, meaningful, emotional, powerful overture,” and the “perfect way” to send Chautauquans off for the fall. 

“There’s going to be a lot of fireworks within the orchestra. In both of those pieces, they really highlight the full orchestra really well,” Chafetz said. “And these are two pieces I was able to play with the orchestra when we did them on timpani, so I found them to be really gratifying to play, but also for the audience to really enjoy.” 

Bowden performed last summer at Chautauqua with her brass quintet, Seraph Brass. The group was founded by Bowden with the mission of elevating and showcasing the excellence of female brass players and highlighting musicians from marginalized groups both in personnel and in programming. Historically, the music industry has been dominated by men — and the world of brass music has been no exception. For Bowden, she said the challenge “has meant proving my skill and dedication repeatedly” and that “any hurdles have only fueled my determination, fostering resilience and empowerment.”

“As a woman in the industry, I’m not only achieving personal success, but also becoming a role model through my solo work and Seraph Brass, breaking stereotypes, and contributing to a more inclusive musical landscape for future generations,” she said. “We are seeing more diversity and there is still a long way to go.”

With Assad’s “Bohemian Queen,” Bowden hopes the audience is left “dancing” and with “a  new appreciation for the trumpet.” The piece has many moods, Bowden said, and showcases the full ability of the trumpet.

The concerto is a portrait work that centers on Chicago-based painter Gertrude Abercrombie. Known as the “queen of bohemian artists,” Abercrombie immersed herself in both the art and jazz scenes of the city as an artist, musician and poet. 

Assad’s work has three movements each representing a part of Abercrombie’s life and art. The first and second movements, are inspired by her paintings, “Girl Searching” and “The Stroll,” respectively. The final movement imagines what one of Abercrombie’s parties were like as one of the greatest names in the jazz world. Bowden said the whole work “crosses lines, blending classical, contemporary and jazz, in both the trumpet and orchestral parts.”  

As the CSO’s season closes, Chafetz reflected on the “variety of wonderful music” the Chautauqua audience heard this summer.

“It’s just another reason to be so proud of our very own Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in anticipation of the Institution’s 150th anniversary next year,” Chafetz said. 

Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam calls for international solidarity over personal gain

Screenshot 2023-08-21 at 6.23.36 PM

Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff writer

In a time when free speech is under threat across the globe, not everyone has the luxury to remain silent — and they face persecution as a result. Some countries arrest people for simply documenting a public event or speaking out of turn against their government.

Shahidul Alam, National Geographic explorer-at-large, is a photographer, writer, curator and human rights activist from Dhaka, Bangladesh. After obtaining a doctorate degree in chemistry, Alam switched to photography in 1983 and has been documenting the struggle for democracy in Bangladesh ever since.

He will give his lecture at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater for the Week Nine theme, “The Global South: Expanding the Scope of Geopolitical Understanding.”

“I am very concerned about the fact that migrants in my country, and probably elsewhere, are treated abysmally by the very people who profit from them,” Alam said.

Another concern is the hypocrisy and stereotypical representation of developing countries by Western development agencies and media. To combat this, he co-founded the photo agency Majority World in 2004 as a platform for local storytellers to tell their stories.

“Not only to talk about the reality of our situation, but also the cultural richness, the nuances and the human fabric around it,” Alam said. “While we were doing that, we also began to question our own position within the media space.”

As a middle-class male photographer, he was aware of, and wanted to break down, the power dynamic he felt with the people he photographed.

Alam moved to London after living in Bangladesh for the majority of his life, but had to move back to Dhaka for his parents — something he struggled with a lot. 

In his earlier work, Alam said he was censored and although the government encouraged artists, they didn’t want the artists to be political.

“I made a conscious decision that in my subsequent work, I would not allow the politics of my work to be separate from the aesthetics,” he said. 

He said he wants Chautauquans to think about the concept of “otherness,” which he believes is the root of most problems. There are a lot of unspoken rules, he said, across the globe that are applied to countries differently based on how they’re perceived in the Western world.

“We are at a very difficult time in the world today,” Alam said. “We are in a position to be able to change it, but that change will only happen if each one of us plays our role. I hope, through my talk, I’ll be able to get some people to become more correct.”

The concept of a “Global South” is difficult to define, he said, because there’s no singular definition in geography, politics or economics to understand it without a broad context.

“Entities like the United Nations, which purport to be the global champions of global values, very rarely apply that lens to themselves,” Alam said. “The old laws of colonialism and imperialism (in) different forms (are) sometimes much more sophisticated.”

Rather than “Global South,” Alam said he prefers the term “majority world,” to remind the West, which “talks so much about freedom,” that the eastern side of the globe does in fact make up most of the world.

“When (Western leaders) take on that mantle of becoming global saviors, I want to question whether they have the liberty in doing so (if) they actually do it through our lens,” he said.

The core principles and power structure of journalism exemplifies the world is uneven, Alam said. For a subject to rightly question if a storyteller or journalist can understand them indicates a history of misreprentation on the part of the West.

“We can tell more nuanced stories,” Alam said. “We can tell stories from a position of trust, stories which are more in-depth, culturally sensitive and perhaps richer and able to encompass broader emotions of human value.”

On Aug. 5, 2018, Alam was taken from his home shortly after giving an interview to Al Jazeera and posting live videos on Facebook that criticized the government’s violent response to the 2018 Bangladesh road safety protests.

“Security people came into the flat, blindfolded me and took me away,” Alam said. “I was fortunate that I was put in remand, a state-sponsored project, and I spent seven days in jail.”

Bangladesh, he said, is a very repressive state and turned down his bail six times, and the case has continued since. Every month since his release, he has to appear in court. His court date in August is today, which he suspects was “deliberately done” by the Bangladesh government, since he will be speaking in the Amp and not able to appear in court.

“Constitutionally, the case has to be dropped,” Alam said. “But the government’s judiciary has decided not to do that. … Either I have to skip going to Chautauqua or risk being absent in court.”

This would be Alam’s “first offense,” he said, as he actually hasn’t committed a crime thus far, but failing to appear in court would qualify as one. 

“If I’m not there on the 22nd, I will have actually broken the law,” he said. “It might well be this is a trap they’ve set to put me back in jail.”

Alam has been charged with spreading false information and making provocative statements; the government, he said, has no evidence to support that claim, and he wants to use his lecture to show international solidarity.

“We live in a very polarized world,” he said. “It is up to us as global citizens to actively bring down those barriers and each of us has a role to play. I would like to provoke and inspire people to do the same.”

Devaka Premawardhana to talk nuances of tribalism globally, domestically


James Buckser
Staff writer

In 2021, Devaka Premawardhana wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

“It was a reflection on the state of affairs in the United States, especially the situation of hyperpolarization,” Premawardhana said, “the partisanship but also the real acrimony that we see between different groups within the United States, and that’s been, as I’m sure you know, intensified in recent years.”

An anthropologist and author, Premawardhana is currently an associate professor of religion at Emory University and the recipient of a Fulbright grant for his work researching Indigenous traditions in Mozambique.

Premawardhana will speak at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, as a part of Week Nine of the Interfaith Lecture Series, with its theme “Realizing Our One World: Strengthening Interconnection.”

The talk, Premawardhana said, will focus partially on the idea of “tribalism,” which ties into the ideas expressed in his op-ed.

“We call it sometimes political tribalism, or the way in which we become sorted into political tribes,” Premawardhana said, “with the understanding being that this is a way of indicating how incapable we are of talking across the divides, or engaging with things that are different or things that are outside of our own so-called tribes.”

Premawardhana said he felt there was something to the issue of polarization, and that we are in “dangerously polarized times,” but as he discussed in his op-ed and plans to elaborate upon in his lecture, he’s not sure that “tribalism or anything referencing tribes” is the “appropriate term.”

While communities like the Makhuwa-speaking people, whom Premawardhana has studied, could be “construed as tribes,” he said, and anthropologists have historically done so, they live in ways that are “actually quite inclusive of things outside of their own community, that are actually quite open to engagement with alterity.”

Premawardhana said he tries to apply that idea to contemporary American politics, and that in referencing tribes in relation to problems in the United States, “you might actually find solutions to the problem of polarization.”

“These are communities that figure out how to be hospitable, welcoming, open to difference, and generally inclusive in a way that ‘tribalism’ as a term is, in a sense, exactly the opposite of that,” Premawardhana said.

He said the Makhuwa are “very much at the heart of his talk” and he hopes he will be “introducing some of their wisdom” to the audience “with the intent of shedding some light on the ways in which we talk about the current state of affairs in the United States.”

Premawardhana’s book, Faith in Flux: Pentecostalism and Mobility in Rural Mozambique, published in 2018, focuses on Pentecostalism, “Africa’s fastest growing form of Christianity,” which is known for “displacing that which came before,” according to the book’s description.

Despite Pentecostalism’s reputation, Premawardhana “witnessed neither massive growth nor dramatic rupture in the part of Mozambique” where he worked, with his research opening “a new paradigm for the study of global Christianity.”

“No less than ancestral traditions, Pentecostalism also is marked by mobility,” Premawardhana writes in the introduction to the book.

“It presents itself, thus, as continuous with Makhuwa ways of being, continuous precisely through its dynamics of change.”

The dynamics of change, Premawardhana said, has to do with “this way of being that’s open to being changed,” which is comfortable with transformation, uncertainty and ambiguity.

Premawardhana touched on Yale scholar Amy Chua, author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, who spoke at Chautauqua on her book in 2018.

“I think her argument is precisely right about the antidote to the problem,” Premawardhana said. “Which is to get people — in this case, Americans — to simply spend time with, to dislocate themselves, to move to other places at least for a period of time, places that they’re otherwise unlikely to go, as an experiment both for the civic good of the country, but also for individuals’ own well-being, as a way of expanding their horizons and getting out of their comfort zones and being richer people as a result.”

In addition to Faith in Flux, Premawardhana has two forthcoming projects. One is an edited volume with Don Seeman, and the other is a new book based on his research in Mozambique with the Fulbright grant, tentatively titled Rite of Passage, Rite of Return: Male Initiation in Mozambique and the Limits of Linear Thinking.

That book, he said, will be a “history of the revival of traditional rites of passage among the Makhuwa.”

“That’s a separate set of theoretical and conceptual issues, but that’s generally the theme,” Premawardhana said. “(It) comes up in my first book, but you could say the second one, I intend to be an expansion.”

Premawardhana hopes Chautuauquans leave his lecture with a “more nuanced understanding” of “what Indigenous societies value and how they understand life.”

There’s “a lot of misunderstanding” and negative stereotyping of “what we might call traditional societies, African societies in particular, that they’re only marked by things that are negative,” he said, like poverty, sickness, or superstition.

“I have found that there’s tremendous wealth and wisdom in these communities that are generally unknown or simply untapped because we just don’t even realize how much there is to learn from them,” Premawardhana said. “The general hope is to renew our curiosity about communities that are historically on the margins of our world and on the margins of our consciousness.”

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