Reflections on Charlottesville

A panel featuring Drs. Jeffrey Pugh (Religious Studies), Megan Squire (Computer Science), and Tony Crider (Physics), and Elon alumna Jasmine Turner ’15. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at 7:00pm in Whitley Auditorium

Whitley Auditorium was packed on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 with students, faculty, and staff who wanted to hear the very personal stories by four members of the Elon community who were present during the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12. The Reflections on Charlottesville event, held by the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society and the Council on Civic Engagement, hosted a panel discussion in order to help students develop an informed perspective about the white nationalist protests and counter-demonstrations by people who were actually there.

The panelists came from different sectors of the Elon community: one was Dr. Jeffrey Pugh, the Maude Sharpe Powell Professor of Religious Studies and a resident of Charlottesville. Dr. Pugh, a longtime scholar of the life and work of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who conspired against the Nazi regime and was executed for it, said that his entire scholarly career told him one thing: “When the Nazis come to your town, you’ve got to show up!” An ordained United Methodist minister, Pugh participated in the counter-protests organized by Charlottesville clergy. Elon alum Jasmine Turner (Class of 2015) now works as a reporter for NBC12 in Richmond, VA. She went to Charlottesville to cover the Unite the Right rally and spoke of the strong feelings that being a woman of color on professional assignment in that setting generated. Although their academic backgrounds and their reasons for being there were different, one message of all four panelists was the same; we need to see who these people are and we need to stand up against them for ourselves and on behalf of those who are not able to do so.

Each panelist spoke about his or her specific experience with previous protests and with the counterprotest in Charlottesville. Their different perspectives kept the audience engaged, and students’ curiosity was evident in the questions they submitted to the panel. The Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society would like to thank the panelists and everyone who came to the event for making it an open space to share stories and be heard.

Comparative Satire: A Tale of Two Scandals

Paul Courtright will discuss scandal in British India.

Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 4:15pm in the Global Commons Media Room

Paul Courtright will give a lecture exploring the two scandals that occurred in British India to see what might be learned by placing them together as part of a larger colonial process of disruption involving humor, money, sex, and the law. The lecture of part of Courtright’s book in profess: Nabobs and Babus: Satire and Caricature in Early Colonial India.

Myth, Meaning and Morality in the Films of the Coen Brothers

Elijah Siegler will argue that Joel and Ethan Coen are some of the most rigorous and profound religious artists alive today.

Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 4:00pm in the Isabella Cannon Room in the Performing Arts Center

Dr. Elijah Siegler of the College of Charleston spoke about two filmmakers that many contemporary critics consider among the best in U. S. cinematic history on Thursday, October 26th. His lecture, “Myth, Meaning, and Morality in the Films of the Coen Brothers” was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society. Siegler is a professor of Religious Studies and editor of the recent edited book called Coen: Framing Religion in Amoral Order (Baylor University Press, 2016).

The lecture examined three ways that religion and movies have been paired in film criticism: by focusing on religion and film, religion in film, and film as religion. Siegler argued that film interpretation that pursues a “religion and film” approach often looks for hidden religious symbols or ideas. He contrasted the films of the Coen Brothers with explicitly religious films such as “King of Kings” and “The Passion of the Christ” that exemplify the “religion in film” approach. Through their use of comedy and overarching themes that connect to religion in some “blink and you miss it” moments, Siegler explored how the Coen Brothers engage with spirituality and morality in ways that are serious and subtle. His talks featured illustrative clips from various Coen Brothers films, such as “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “A Serious Man,” and “The Big Lebowski.”

Often considered a cult-classic, “The Big Lebowski” illustrates Siegler’s contention that film can be religion itself, inspiring the emergence of Dudeism, the self described “slowest-growing religion in the world” based on the film’s main character and  cultivated online. Siegler spoke highly of the Coen Brothers’ latest film, “Hail Caesar!” illustrating the film’s overtly religious concerns by examining a scene featuring clergy from different religions debating the relationship between religion and Hollywood.

Siegler’s visit to Elon came about as a result of the College of Charleston’s grant from the Wabash Center for the Teaching of Theology and Religion to develop high impact practices in interreligious studies. Siegler traveled to Elon to conduct a site visit of what he regards as one of the country’s leading multifaith engagement programs and to learn more about the work of Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society.

Redneck Muslim Film Screening

Screening of the short film exploring the life and work of Elon’s Muslim Life Coordinator, Imam Shane Atkinson, with a discussion afterwords.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018 at 4:30pm in Turner Theater

This just-released short film explores the life and work of Elon’s own Muslim Life Coordinator, Imam Shane Atkinson. It was directed by celebrated documentary filmmaker, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor. The film chronicles Imam Shane’s search for ways to honor his Southern heritage while also challenging white supremacy.

Together Forever? Strange and Storied Alliances Among Hindus and Jews, India and Israel

Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 4:15pm in McBridge in the Numen Lumen Pavillion

This lecture explores the politics of solidarity and the on-going alliances between Hindus and Jews after the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 179 people and targeted a Chabad house.

Brother Ali: Race, Faith, and Hip-Hop

Performance and talk by the rapper who has been featured on Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 7:00pm in McKinnon Hall

Rhymesayers recording artist, Brother Ali, spent time on Elon’s campus last week, speaking to multiple student groups and participating in a dialogue about race, faith, and hip-hop. As part of his wide-reaching public discussion with Elon campus leaders on April 18, Brother Ali also performed material from recent albums before a packed McKinnon Hall.

Three panelists engaged in a discussion with Brother Ali from the stage of his performance and talk about race, faith, and hip-hop. These panel consisted of Buffie Longmire-Avital, associate professor of psychology and coordinator of African and African-American Studies, Alonzo Cee, a student in his senior year at Elon, and Imam Shane Atkinson, Elon’s Muslim life coordinator. Stephen-Bloch Schulman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, helped organize the 2 days of events and hosted Brother Ali in his Race and Hip-hop class.

On how he sees the connection between his music and his faith, Brother Ali said, “I have always believed that beauty and truth are connected and that beauty is the splendor of truth. Beauty has a way of communicating truth directly from heart to heart. The right ideology with the wrong heart can actually be really damaging. The bad heart will turn anything into a weapon.”

Students who submitted essays for the 2018 Layne Critical Race Consciousness Essay Contest were invited to join a “master class” with Brother Ali earlier in the day during which the artist discussed his life story and answered their questions about the social issues his music highlights. For the essay that he submitted, “Brother Ali: White Allyship in Hip-Hop,” student Nathan Jones was named the winner of that contest.

Brother Ali began rapping before he was 8. By the time he was a teenager, he was writing his own songs and attracting the attention of local clubs in Minneapolis. Brother Ali’s immersion in hip-hop culture introduced to Islam as he began tracing out its references to important Muslim figures and concepts and he converted at the age of 15 after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He was sent to study Islam in Indonesia by Warith Deen Muhammad, one of the most important leaders of US Islam in the 20th century who was, at the time, trying to move the Nation of Islam away from black nationalism to a more global, orthodox Islam. Brother Ali’s personal history and the themes in his music, which range from hard-hitting political critique of race relations in the US to celebrations of his Muslim faith to the domestic bliss of being a dad—has given him one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop today.

Brother Ali has recorded for 18 years with the Twin Cities’s independent hip-hop collective, Rhymesayers. Since 2000 he has released 10 studio albums and EPs, including The Undisputed Truth (2007), Us (2009), Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color (2012), and his most recent release, All the Beauty in this Whole Life (2017), all of which reached the top 10 of Billboard’s Independent Album chart .

Brother Ali’s visit was sponsored by the Elon Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Philosophy Department.