Moving Social Justice Conference: October ’14 CFI-Los Angeles

BSLA Scholars, Members & Community
BSLA Scholars, Members & Community

Last year, the Black Skeptics Group, a 501c3 organization, was the first atheist organization to address educational inequity in communities of color with our First in the Family Humanist scholarship for undocumented, foster care, homeless and LGBTQ students.  Over the past three years we’ve also sponsored STEM education, prison-pipelining and youth leadership outreach to highlight the challenges confronting youth of color in under-resourced high poverty schools.  In 2011-2013 we collaborated with faith organizations, schools and nonprofits to amplify the connection between humanism, anti-racism and social justice.

Yet neither organized atheism nor humanism have ever addressed social, economic, gender and racial justice from the perspective of communities of color.

Given that deficit, in October of this year, Black Skeptics’ People of Color Beyond Faith network— in conjunction with the Secular Student Alliance and African Americans for Humanism—will sponsor a “Moving Social Justice” conference at CFI-Los Angeles.  Going beyond the narrow scope of “atheist good” versus “religion bad”, the conference will feature panels, presentations and strategy sessions on the following issues:

  • What political voice should people of color non-believers have in a national and global context in which the racial wealth gap has become gargantuan, increasing numbers of Black and Latino youth are being imprisoned and fewer have access to a college education?
  • What coalition-building needs to be done between activist non-believers of color and progressive faith institutions in our communities?
  • How can the under-represented issues of queer and LGBTQ youth of color (who have the highest rates of homelessness in the U.S.) be addressed beyond mainstream single variable paradigms of “coming out” and same sex marriage?
  • What does a humanist feminist of color agenda look like given the European American feminist orientation of most freethought scholarship and activism in the U.S.?
  • How can atheists of color effectively challenge homophobia and transphobia in the Black Church and other faith institutions?
  • What is the connection between economic justice, community development and culturally relevant humanism?


Panelists include:

Mercedes Diane Griffin Forbes, Mercedes Parra Foundation

Sikivu Hutchinson, Black Skeptics Group

Meredith Moise, Creative Heart Mission

Anthony Pinn, Rice University

Raina Rhoades, Black Freethinkers Network

Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers/POCBF

Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers


Info: [email protected]


Moving Social Justice Conference: October ’14 CFI-Los Angeles

Who Wants to be A Rocket Scientist? Race, Gender and the STEM Divide

By Sikivu Hutchinson

From The Humanist

Criminal.  Gangbanger.  “Baby daddy”.  Drug dealer.  Ball player.  Brainstorming recently about the psychological impact of media images with a group of African American ninth graders in my Young Male Scholars program, these caricatures were the primary images they associated with black men.  White men were identified with images of power, leadership, entrepreneurship, intellectualism and heroism, i.e., the stuff of scientific invention and discovery.  Bucking the stereotypes, a few students in the group have expressed interest in becoming civil engineers or game designers.  Yet, at every turn, the messages they receive from the dominant culture about who has the capacity to succeed in STEM are insidiously clear.

In a recent article in The New Yorker, esteemed physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson reminisced that he’d been advised to pursue sports instead of science by one of his high school teachers.  Far from being a throwback to a bygone “less enlightened” era, Tyson’s experience is the norm for many African American students in the U.S.’ re-segregated schools.  While Tyson is widely revered as an icon of science literacy in humanist and atheist circles, there has been little to no humanist or atheist critique of the legacy of segregation that informs STEM inequities.  For many humanists of color who live in communities where black and Latino youth are being relentlessly pipelined into prisons—redressing educational apartheid overall is more critical than the mainstream secular emphasis on creationism and school prayer.

Stanford University professor Linda Darling Hammond has dubbed the deep race and class divide in American public education the opportunity gapContinue reading “Who Wants to be A Rocket Scientist? Race, Gender and the STEM Divide”

Who Wants to be A Rocket Scientist? Race, Gender and the STEM Divide

Atheists Support L.A. Pastor Facing “Tribunal” for LGBT Advocacy

Seth Pickens
Seth Pickens

By Sikivu Hutchinson, From Religion Dispatches

On Sunday morning I went to a church service for the first time in decades.  I was there as a community member to support Pastor Seth Pickens of Zion Hill Baptist church in South Los Angeles.  A few days before, I’d received an urgent plea from Teka-Lark Fleming, publisher of the local Morningside Park Chronicle newspaper, encouraging progressive black folk to show up at Zion Hill in support of Seth’s pro-LGBTQ stance.  After publishing a column entitled “The 10 Reasons I Love LGBTQ folk” in Fleming’s paper, Pickens came under fire from church officials.  The controversy erupted on the heels of internal criticism he’d received for performing a marriage ceremony for a lesbian couple last year.

Zion Hill is a vibrant mini-community within a predominantly African American and Latino community that has been ravaged by the economic depression.  Each week, the church houses health and fitness classes, an AIDS ministry, financial literacy workshops, block clubs, support services for the disabled and a credit union.  Over the past three years, Pickens has even been a supporter of “interfaith” dialogue with my Black Skeptics Los Angeles organization, opening the church’s doors to our community forums on atheism, black secular humanist traditions and civil rights resistance.  I’d first met Pickens when I was exploring the grounds of the church with my then toddler daughter.  After greeting me and introducing himself, he’d asked if I belonged to any of the local congregations.  When I told him I was an atheist, the first words out of his mouth were not, “Why?” but “I respect that.”

After the success of our atheism roundtables, I attempted to organize another community forum entitled “Confronting Homophobia in the Black Church” at Zion Hill with Pickens’ support.  However, shortly before the date of the event, he called to say church officials were giving him static and that we’d have to cancel it.  Now, with the publication of his article in the Morningside Park Chronicle, church officials are demanding that he face a “tribunal” and respond to a laundry list of questions on homosexuality and biblical morality.

The controversy at Zion Hill is emblematic of a national climate in which traditional black churches are increasingly being challenged on their homophobic policies.  Nonetheless, the rhetoric that homosexuality is a white European phenomenon artificially imposed on African descent peoples is still a recurring theme in some black churches.  Recently the ATLAH church in Harlem made headlines for a viciously homophobic marquee sign equating homosexuality with whiteness.  And terrorist anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Nigeria (sparked and endorsed in no small part by the anti-gay crusades of white American evangelicals) has heightened the stereotype that both African and African descent people are inherently more homophobic than other groups.

According to a 2012 Gallup poll, “African Americans are more likely than any other ethnic or racial group to identify as gay and transgender.” Continue reading “Atheists Support L.A. Pastor Facing “Tribunal” for LGBT Advocacy”

Atheists Support L.A. Pastor Facing “Tribunal” for LGBT Advocacy