The After Life Of An AAVoice Staff Member

Student Studies in Zambia:
Lorenzo, Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership (MATL)

Lorenzo Herman, S.J. is a current student in the Master of Arts program in Transformational Leadership (MATL). We met with Lorenzo recently to learn about his summer trip to Zambia as a part of his internship requirement in the MATL program.

When Lorenzo began the program Fall of 2011, he said that his interest immediately peaked when Dr. Sharon Henderson Callahan, Associate Dean for Academics & Student Life, mentioned in orientation that the internship requirement for the MATL could be fulfilled nationally or internationally through the School’s interdisciplinary options– including through Seattle University’s Nonprofit Leadership, Public Administration, Business and Law programs among others.

For eight weeks this past summer, Lorenzo lived in, explored and researched in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, while traveling to other cities within the country on assignment. Lorenzo was based within the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, a centre highly respected throughout Africa for its focus on advocacy for social conditions, faith and justice, outreach and economic efforts. Centre founder, Peter Henriot, S.J., has taught on social analysis at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry over the years, and his social analysis method is used in the Master of Arts programs in Transformational Leadership, Pastoral Studies, and Transforming Spirituality as well as the Master of Divinity program.

The Centre, along with 26 other organizations that make up the Civil Society Constitution Coalition, is working rigorously with the Zambian government on the first draft of their Constitution and meets weekly at the Centre. 

Prior to his visit, Lorenzo had studied the Constitution at length, and upon his arrival attended meetings with key political figures and stakeholders. In the Constitutional framework, one priority was to include clauses of non-discrimination, including for individuals that have disabilities. The Coalition was finding that the families of individuals with disabilities were directly and indirectly affected by the Constitution, and needed explicit clauses of inclusivity and equality that were monitored and enforced in the community. There were not any representatives from the special needs population or service organizations in the Coalition at that time and some research was needed to further their work on the Constitution.

Lorenzo set out to visit the Ng’ombe compound in Lusaka as a part of this research. Many children throughout Zambia struggle with autism, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and down syndrome, among other special needs. There is a special needs school within Ng’ombe called Little Assisi Day School, run by an Irish Franciscan sister, Sister Helen Scully, who also has a background in special needs education. The staff at the school do far more than teach–providing extensive support to mothers and special needs children in the community: from teaching, to healthcare, to home visits, to providing basic supplies for the families.

Lorenzo visited the School and spoke extensively with its staff–asking if he might be able to  interview the mothers of special needs children to find out more about their experiences of medical and social systems in Zambia to provide recommendations to the Centre and Coalition in their work on the country’s Constitution. Lorenzo then interviewed 18 mothers, with the support of two incredible teachers at Little Assisi: Edith and Paula. Each mother that Lorenzo interviewed worked intermittently while living in the community, had 0-6 years of education, had high hopes for their children, families and community, and all experienced some form of discrimination, shame and guilt from their communities because of their children’s struggle. Some reoccurring themes in their stories included housing needs, the lack of food and medical care, desire for self-empowerment and entrepreneurship, and hopes for employment and better transportation. It took two days for Lorenzo to type out 55 pages of notes from these interviews, which he then presented to colleagues from the Centre for evaluation. After evaluating themes as well as their subtexts/contexts that illuminate further their similarities and differences, Lorenzo drafted a succinct list of recommendations for the Centre and Coalition in their work.

This experience is close to both heart and home for Lorenzo, since his sister Leslie was born with hydrocephaly and cerebral palsy, and has experienced multiple surgeries and medical treatments over her 26 years. She currently participates in integrated educational programs and social programs in the community, while benefiting from disability benefits in the United States. Lorenzo shared throughout his interviews of special needs children’s mothers, he often thought of his own mother and her strength and struggle in supporting his dear sister.

Below are photographs from Lorenzo’s trip.

Lorenzo presented his qualitative research study entitled “The Mothers of Children With Learning Disabilities in Lusaka, Zambia” at the School on Thursday, November 29th, from 4:30-5:30pm. The study’s objective was to use the collected information and to make recommendations to the Jesuit Centre of Theological Reflection and to those local and national disability advocacy groups to facilitate making recommendations to reduce the burden of disability discrimination and stigma in Zambia. The focus of this research study was to learn how mothers who have children with a learning disability are affected by their families, faith communities, medical and social systems.

Since we interviewed Lorenzo, he has been elected as President of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association (NBCSA), which seeks to contribute to the wellbeing of candidates for priesthood and religious life, with an emphasis on Black American, African, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-Latino candidates preparing to serve the Church in the United States and its territories. The Association is an affiliate of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. The National Black Catholic Seminarians Association also cooperates with the National Black Sisters Conference.


From the Soweto Market (above and below)



Lorenzo comments on the above photo:
“I was walking home one day when I came upon these two boys in front of me. It was endearing to see the public affection they have for each other. They were inseparable and having a great time. I could not understand what they were saying because they were speaking Nyanja but their body language was endearing, playful, and sincere.”


Lorenzo shares about this photo, above:
“I thanked the wonderful lady next to me who let me help sell her fish for a while. She thought I was weird for asking. — at Soweto Market.”




13 Religious Women to Watch in 2012

Center for American Progress

Changing the World for Good

(Let The Spokane African American Voice  know who and  how local women are changing our communities for good)

By Catherine Woodiwiss, Emily Farnell | March 7, 2012

For women in religion 2011 was a year of firsts, challenges, and accomplishments. As three religious women won highest accolades with the Nobel Peace Prize, others received hate mail for their work on climate change or reproductive justice—and many others not yet making headlines have worked tirelessly on a range of social issues, guided by their faith and galvanized by their conscience.

Women of faith are breaking barriers, challenging narratives, and building social movements around the world. This International Women’s Day we honor a diverse group of women who are setting an example of compelling leadership on a daily basis. Compiled below is a sample that is representative—though in no way exhaustive—of the kind of work we can expect from religious women in 2012.

We are proud to present 13 women in religion who are changing the world for good this year.

1. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Takawel Karman, joint recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Each of the Nobel Peace Prize winners this year demonstrated a tireless commitment to peace inspired by their faith. In addition to this joint accolade, each woman is accomplished in her own right. Sirleaf, a committed Methodist, is the president of Liberia and the first female head of state on the African continent. Gbowee, a practicing Lutheran, helped lead peaceful protests during Liberia’s second Civil War and has been an important player in the post-war reconciliation process. And Karman, a Muslim journalist from Yemen, helped organize the 2011 Yemeni uprising, which became part of the larger movement for peace and democracy, dubbed the “Arab Spring.” Coming from countries where religion has historically been used as a tool of persecution and suppression, these women used it as a catalyst for change.

2. Bishop Minerva Carcaño, a dedicated and prophetic voice on immigration. Bishop Carcaño, the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the episcopacy of The United Methodist Church, has become the official spokesperson for the Council of Bishops on immigration. She has been a vocal opponent of Arizona’s draconian immigration laws, marching with other faith leaders against the law in Washington, D.C. In December 2011 Carcaño led the United Methodist delegation to the Geneva Convention on Migrant Rights and this past summer gave a keynote address on the importance of compassion toward immigrants to MARCHA, the Hispanic coalition of Methodists. As states continue to introduce harsh anti-immigration bills, Carcaño is challenging discriminatory narratives about immigration, working instead to humanize the issue through respect and empathy.

3.Captain Pratima Dharm, the first Hindu military chaplain for the U.S. military. Captain Dharm was appointed as the first Hindu military chaplain for the Department of Defense in June 2011. Despite claiming nearly a billion adherents worldwide, Hinduism was the largest faith not represented by a chaplain until Dharm’s installment. Her role requires her to be a priest to Hindu adherents and a chaplain—that is, a mentor and spiritual counselor—to all. Says Dharm, “Hinduism by its very nature teaches tolerance, acceptance and respect for all religions, a key characteristic of successful military chaplains. … I can’t think of a more American endeavor than supporting the free exercise of religion for all military members.”

4. Rev. Rebecca Turner, spiritual counselor and committed voice for reproductive justice for all women. Rev. Turner is the executive director of Faith Aloud, a faith-based organization whose mission is to “eliminate the religious stigma of abortion.” Faith Aloud provides counseling to women and their families through telephone hotlines, DVDs, and other media outlets. Turner has counseled thousands of women who are facing difficult and sometimes painful decisions about abortion and often feel isolated, abandoned, or confused. Her compassionate care for women stands in stark contrast to the current public shaming of women’s sexual choices from some in the media and in politics. Her work also provides a strong counterexample to the currently male-dominated and narrow rhetoric of “religious liberty”—instead, Turner exemplifies religious leaders who provide a holistic, moral voice that supports reproductive choice.

5. Lisa Sharon Harper, a dynamic voice and a mobilizing force on issues of poverty and racial justice. Harper is the director of mobilizing for Sojourners, a nationwide Christian social justice network based in Washington. This year Harper mobilized communities of faith to speak out against harsh immigration laws; supported Human Circles of Protection, a grassroots initiative to protect federal funding for critical social services; and pressed policymakers to treat their budgets as “moral documents”—that is, with an understanding of how budgeted federal funds have significant ramifications for vulnerable communities who rely on government-supported services. An author, regular blogger, and speaker on social justice concerns, she also published her second book on morality, faith, and politics, Left, Right & Christ, in October 2011.

6. Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and Evangelical Christian. Dr. Hayhoes’s list of credentials is impressive: She is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University and associate professor in the Department of Political Science. She has written more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and reports, including the 2011 U.S. National Academy of Science report, “Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia” and the upcoming 2013 U.S. National Climate Assessment. Hayhoe is also a committed evangelical, a historically conservative tradition in Christianity with many communities that don’t accept the reality of climate change. Hayhoe’s unwavering dedication to bridge the often-competing claims of climate science and evangelical churches—and to do so with respect and honesty—has made hers an increasingly valuable voice among climate scientists and interfaith green movements alike.

7. Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association and courageous advocate for health care reform. Sister Keehan’s work to expand access to health care in order to protect the vulnerable, support the weak, and provide for the poor is a powerful example of faith in action. Keehan, arguably one of the Catholic Church’s most prominent female figures, is the CEO of the Catholic Health Association, or CHA, of the United States, the nation’s largest group of not-for-profit health systems and facilities. She was instrumental in garnering support for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, when CHA broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly support the act. As a result, Keehan gave moral permission to legislators who were conflicted about supporting the bill. Last month, Keehan again publically broke with the bishops when she supported the Obama administration’s revision of an HHS regulation that broadens religious exemptions for religiously affiliated employers who do not want to include contraception in their health plans. The revised regulation requires their insurance companies to provide such coverage directly to their women employees.

8. Joanna Brooks, progressive Mormon and award-winning scholar of American culture, politics, and faith. Brooks’s ability to blend wit, wisdom, faith, and facts when educating the electorate on the history and idiosyncrasies of the Mormon faith gives her a distinctive voice in discourses on American faith and politics. In this election year, when the Mormon tradition has come under increased scrutiny, her columns have provided political context and theological explanations of Mormon beliefs, and her new book of personal stories, The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith, helps personalize a little-understood but deeply held American faith.

9. Zarqa Nawaz, compelling and nuanced storyteller of daily life for North American Muslims. Nawaz is a Canadian filmmaker and producer known for her authentic, complex, and often humorous representations of Muslim life in North America. Since the success of her hit TV show, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” she has been a frequent advisor and writer for Hollywood projects. As anti-Muslim bigotry continues to infect everything from political campaigns to sponsorship of shows like “All-American Muslim,” Nawaz continues to create an alternative, insightful, and relatable portrayal of what it means to be Muslim.

10.Rev. Katie Ricks, the first lesbian to be approved for ordination in the Presbyterian Church.Rev. Ricks’s unwillingness to shy away from her sexual orientation or her religious beliefs was rewarded when she was approved for ordination by the New Hope Presbytery in North Carolina last month, making her the first lesbian to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA. In 2011 the church’s General Assembly voted to allow people in openly gay same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders, and deacons. Since coming out in seminary in 2002, Ricks has joined the ranks of gay and lesbian faith leaders who have used both prayer and reason to be recognized as authentic spiritual leaders in the church.

11. Joelle Novey, grassroots environmental activist connecting religious language with the urgency of climate change. Novey has been steadily building bridges between congregations, interfaith groups, and environmental activists over the past year. She helped organize the religious contingent to the massive Keystone XL protest around the White House in November 2011 and helped spearhead the effort to get Maryland legislators to support offshore wind development in January 2012. As the director for the greater Washington, D.C., arm of Interfaith Power & Light, Novey splits her focus between grassroots engagement with local congregations, domestic energy legislation, and international climate negotiations, all through the lens of climate change as a moral crisis.

These 13 women provide vivid examples of the many impressive, inspiring women at the nexus of religion and public life. Their voices—and those of other female faith leaders—will be worth listening to as we continue to tell the story of who we are and who we hope to be as a nation and a global community.

Let us know who and and how local women are changing our communities.


Emerge: The Play Was Talking About Yo Mama

Yo Mother Yo Sister Yo Daughter Yo Aunt Yo Cuzin . . . .

The ladies were talking about you, brothers, to our women . . . .

The message is right on! The production top notch! The delivery hit the high notes in message and tone! The band got a groove on that kept a beat that had us bouncin’ and clappin’ all evening long!  The big hips were swingin! The Christians’ hands and arms were wavin! And all in a palatial setting!

Let’s  help keep this show on the road – it needs recognition, sponsors and supporters.

 Read more about the cast . . . .