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Prof. Kimberly Russaw Joins #BlackScholarsMatter Symposium

Prof. Kimberly D. Russaw, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, has helped to organize and will participate in an upcoming two-part online symposium, #BlackScholarsMatter, organized by the Society of Biblical Literature. The symposium offers an opportunity to hear and learn from a number of Black biblical scholars “about their experiences in the academy and the changes that they would like to see happen.”

The Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) is the oldest and largest academic organization of scholars and teachers of the Bible and has more than 8,000 members worldwide. SBL consists of different units and sections that cover the range of member interests, from Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature to Computer Assisted Research and Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible. An active and longtime member of the SBL, Prof. Russaw currently serves as the Chair of the organization’s African American Biblical Hermeneutics section.

After being approached by SBL Executive Director Dr. John Kutsko about the idea of the symposium, Prof. Russaw and her colleagues Dr. Raj Nadella, a Bible professor at Columbia Theological Seminary and Chair of the Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the Profession committee of the SBL, and Dr. Tat siong Benny Liew, a Bible scholar at Holy Cross and SBL Council member, joined Dr. Kutsko in planning and organizing the event.

Prof. Russaw said that the event grew “out of the ferment of the racialized unrest in this country and deplorable anti-Black realities around the world,” and it has been especially motivated by “the problem of how scholars of the African diaspora and their scholarship continue to be marginalized within the academy.” She explained that the symposium offers an opportunity “to hear directly from [scholars of color] about their experiences” and hopes to engage scholars from all around the world. Importantly, Prof. Russaw said that the symposium “is part of the SBL Council’s multi-step commitment to address the issue of anti-Blackness within the academy.” She added that the SBL Council has also organized a task force to study and implement both short- and long-term strategies to address these important concerns.

Prof. Russaw was also asked by her colleagues to participate on one of the panels. She agreed to do so but was humbled by the invitation and initially unsure about whether to accept. Among those participating on the panels are towering figures like Dr. Renita J. Weems, the first African American woman to earn a PhD in Old Testament, and Dr. Randall Bailey, a renowned Bible scholar and seminary professor of Prof. Russaw. “To me, the idea of sitting on a panel with that sort of rich history is significant,” she said. “The invitation is a weighty honor to join esteemed scholars to discuss our important scholarship and varied experiences in the academy.”

The symposium will take place over two days, August 12 and 13, and engage two different panels of biblical scholars. The two panels, entitled “Visions and Struggles” and “Lessons and Hopes,” will feature a number of prominent scholars from across the country and world. Learn more about the symposium here.



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