New student organization to enhance and support Black life at the seminary
by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — For Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Black History Month kicks off with the establishment of a new student organization. The Gayraud Wilmore Society of Black Seminarians (SBS) centers the distinct voices of the seminary’s Black students by providing a sacred and unified space that uplifts Black community, cultural experiences, social connections, mental health, and the academic support of the Black student body at Louisville Seminary.
According to SBS President and second-year Master of Divinity student John Randolph, the formation of the group was inspired by three separate factors. First, seminary alums laid the groundwork in developing an organization that centered on shared cultural experiences. Second, the “three-headed monster of 2020” (including sickness from the global pandemic; the events leading to the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol; and violence from the injustices inflicted on Breonna Taylor) inspired the need to understand the fallen world in which students would minister. Lastly was the desire to honor Wilmore, a paramount figure in Black theology who died on April 18, 2020 at 98.
“We wanted to build an organization that centered around our Black experience in faith, social justice and healing during this tumultuous season,” said Randolph. “While the focus is on Black students, we seek to provide a safe space for all people of color, those seeking community, and those who authentically want an opportunity to learn about the Black experience. The SBS will create an environment that acknowledges the distinctiveness of the Black experience, values Black students and recognizes the importance of community among the Black student body.”
Randolph adds that the SBS will assist and inspire the student body and Louisville Seminary in working toward an anti-racist institution and to educate, engage and ignite the local community to act on issues and concerns related to the well-being and success of Black people.
Serving with Randolph on the SBS board are: Kimberly Blackford, vice president and second-year Master of Divinity student; Jai Everette, secretary and first-year Master of Divinity student; Mohlatlego Makgoba, treasurer and first-year Master of Divinity student; and Jacques Francois, chaplain and second-year Master of Divinity student.
Dr. Ashley Hicks, Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Dr. Brandon McCormack, Adjunct Professor at Louisville Seminary and Associate Professor in the University of Louisville Pan African Studies Department, serve as the SBS faculty advisors.
“Community and relationships matter,” said Hicks. “Black students at our institution need a place where they are able to share their voices, identify their concerns, and build community on and off campus. I think the SBS will be a prime organization to help promote the needs of Black students and to aid in their formation as seminarians. The group will also help hold Louisville Seminary accountable to our commitment to anti-racism as an institution and in the larger world. I am excited about the good work the SBS is doing and will continue to do.”
Dr. Gayraud S. Wilmore, the organization’s namesake, was a key figure in the civil rights movement, a Presbyterian pastor and an African American church history scholar. He also was the first executive director of the United Presbyterian Church’s Commission on Religion and Race. In 2019, Louisville Seminary conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Wilmore. It was the first such degree conferred in the seminary’s 165-year history.
“We welcome this new student organization at Louisville Seminary and their faithful dedication to the struggle for Black lives in the spirit of our honorary alum, Gayraud Wilmore,” said Louisville Seminary President Alton B. Pollard, III.
About Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Founded in 1853, Louisville Seminary offers an inclusive and diverse learning community, welcoming students from wide ecumenical backgrounds while maintaining its long historic commitment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Louisville Seminary is committed to building bridges across the world’s religious, racial and cultural divides. It is distinguished by its nationally recognized marriage and family therapy and field education programs, the scholarship and church service among its faculty and a commitment to training women and men to participate in the continuing ministry of Jesus Christ. For more information, call (800) 264-1839 or log onto www.lpts.edu.
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Ministries: Theological Education, Gender & Racial Justice