March 2022 – In celebration of Black History Month, The African Students Community at Drew (AfriSCaD), in collaboration with the Black Ministerial Caucus (BMC), hosted If Oceans Could Speak: Untold Stories of the African Diaspora.
The virtual event welcomed Drew Theological School professors Kenneth Ngwa, professor of Hebrew bible and director of the Religion and Global Health Forum, Arthur Pressley, associate professor of psychology and religion, and Althea Spencer Miller, assistant professor of New Testament, to share stories and personal reflections of the African Diaspora.
Ngwa, who shared the news that the African Diaspora has officially been declared as the sixth region of the African Union, joining the five existing geographic regions—North, South, East, West, and Central, talked about the sheer power of the oceans and the force of water—physically and metaphorically. “What kinds of memories do we encounter and what kinds of stories do we tell when we come out of the water?”
Ngwa shared the widely untold story of Kimpa Vita, a young Kongolese woman from the sixteenth century who was considered to be the leader of the Antonian movement, first Black Christian movement on the continent of Africa, fighting for for democratic reform. “Let’s think about the ways we are all now called to share this history together,” said Ngwa.
Pressley recalled, with vivid detail, his travels to Ghana with Theological School students on past travel seminars. These visits included tours of the slave castles in Elmina and the Cape Coast, which had a profound effect by all, regardless of race or origin.
Afterward, the students gathered on the beach. “There was a rawness to their anguish,” said Pressley. But there was a shift when the students entered the ocean, together.
“They clustered together as one,” said Pressley. “The ocean is able to connect with us because it has the same basic density and composition as ourselves and there is a transformation—a sense of connection, vastness, and continuity.”
“I’m certain that the ocean wonders if it’s healing powers—the way it remembers our stories, our blood, and reacts to us as a living organism—if that is enough to overcome our necropolitics that so strongly shape our lives,” said Pressley.
Spencer Miller offered a poetic narrative on the impact of Christianity and its compulsory transformations. She noted that Christian baptism means an “emergence of a new being dressed in the whiteness of the other and their religion and culture.”
“The lesser told story is the challenge of Black people to name and recover from the psychopathologies as they exist in religious practice, faith, and dogma. It involves processes of recovery and recuperation.”
Click here for a reflection of the event from African Master of Divinty student Lerato Pitso.