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Trailblazers 2014
Claiming our Roots, Charting the Future: Sankofa

Thu, 27 Feb, 2014 2:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Trailblazers Sankofa

"...All of them died in faith. They didn't obtain what had been promised, but saw and welcomed it from afar. By acknowledging themselves to be strangers and exiles on the earth, they showed that they were looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country from which they had come ,they'd have been able to return to it. But they were searching for a better country, a heavenly one. So God isn't ashamed of them, or ashamed to be called their God. That's why God has prepared a city for them."  --Hebrews 11:13-16 [NRSV]



The Henry H. Mitchell Black Alumni/ae Preaching Series - evening services featuring Union's Black Alumni/ae.

Named after the “Dean of Preaching” - The Rev. Dr. Henry H. Mitchell ’44 - the preaching series is a central part of Trailblazers and Black History Month. Lifting up Mitchell's exception model of preaching, the preaching series is focused on delivering powerful sermons that showcase the art of good preaching in the Black tradition. This year we offer an opportunity for current student and participants to discuss the sermon that was preached the night before over breakfast.

Trailblazers Tribute

Held on the last Thursday in February, it is a culminating day of revival, rejuvenation and remembering, as well as a way to honor our Black alumni/ae and their gifts.This day celebrates the unique spirit found within the varied African and African American worship traditions through a panel discussion, breaking of bread, and a celebratory service honoring the Trailblazers in the Union community.

2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
The Social Hall
A Conversation with Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman '05, '08, '10 and Ph.D student Nkosi Anderson on Marshall Turman's work entitled "Moving the Body: Black Women, Black Bodies and the 21st Century Black Church"

5:00 - 6:30 p.m.
The Social Hall
Community Reception and viewing of the trailer for the 50 minute video, "Journey to Liberation", a video celebrating the voices and stories of womanist scholars and womanist theological history at Union will be premiered.

7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
James Memorial Chapel
Worship Service and Trailblazer Awardee Tribute: Rev. Carolyn Cavaness ’11, Guest Preacher

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Teaching and Scholarship Trailblazer
Black or African American Union Alumni/ae who have blazed trails in scholarship or teaching, whether inside or outside higher education or the formal academy

Rev. Yvette Wilson ‘09
Rev. Yvette Wilson was born in London, England of Jamaican heritage. Rev. Wilson graduated from Union Theological Seminary (Union) in the City of New York in May 2009 with a Master of Divinity Degree, which involved the study of Psychiatry & Religion with Social Ethics and she currently serves Union as the Associate Dean for Student Affairs where she provides vision, administrative leadership and strategic management of the Office of Student Affairs. Rev. Wilson additionally holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, a Master of Arts in Sociology: Applied Social Research and a Juris Doctor. Dean Wilson is a Doctoral Candidate in the Executive Doctorate program in Higher Education Management within the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, researching the diversity and inclusion experiences of students attending progressive graduate theological schools, who are, deeply committed to diversity and striving to create inclusive campus environments.

Community Organizer/Activist Trailblazers
Black or African American Union Alumni/ae who have blazed trails in the ministry of community organizing or in social or political activism

Charlene Sinclair ’08
Charlene Sinclair is the founding director of the Center for Race, Religion and Economic Democracy (C-RRED) at Union Theological Seminary. Prior to starting C-RRED Charlene served as Program Director for Engaging the Powers at Union Theological Seminary. Engaging the Powers is a program designed to train Black and La- tino pastors in critical theory, policy and strategy relevant to the development and implementation of their social justice ministries. A community organizer for over 20 years, Charlene is committed to the development of lived theologies of liberation where ques- tions of faith are engaged and articulated within struggles for justice. Charlene is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Social Ethics from Union.

Michael Roberson ‘13
Michael Roberson is an ’13 MDiv graduate and current STM student at Union Theological Seminary. He has served as Executive Director of People of Color in Crisis, Inc. He is a founding co-creator of the National Black Gay Men Advocacy Agency and “Many Men, Many Voices” and has been part of several research projects for HIV/AIDS, Intervention both for the community of MSM and nationally in cooperation with the CDC. He his a nationally much sought after keynote speaker, lecturer and outspoken advocate for the myriad of issues facing Gay Black Men, African American LGBT, MSM, and the ballroom community. He is the co-creator of the Houses of Manolo Blahnik, Massai, Commes De Garcon and manages Vogue Evolution. Michael graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Urban Studies.

Social Services Trailblazer
Black or African American Union Alumni/ae who have blazed trails in the ministry of social service including social work, the health professions, counseling and therapy professions

Nicholas Richards ‘09
Rev. Nicholas Richards is the Executive Secretary of The Foreign Mission Board at The National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. as well as assistant Minister at The Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. With 7.5 million members, The National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. is the largest African-American organization in the world. As the international envoy for the Convention Rev. Richards provides leadership for mission programs and personnel in countries across Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Rev. Richards has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and NBC News. In 2009, he founded the Abyssinian Fund, an NGO that provides training and capital market access for Ethiopian coffee farmers. Abyssinian Fund is the first Ethiopian NGO to be started by an African-American Church. To date, Abyssinian Fund has provided $1 Million for farmer training and equipment. The fund current impact reaches over 5000 residents and later this year, the farmers coffee will be sold in in grocery stores across New York. Born in Mandeville, Jamaica and raised in the Bronx, NY, Rev. Richards is an alumnus of Morehouse College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy. In 2009, Rev. Richards earned a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary.

Trailblazers is sponsored by: the Black Caucus, the Black Women's Caucus, and Fierce, the Caucus for Queer People of Color – Union Theological Seminary; in association with The Office of Institutional Advancement, The Office of Student Life, and The Office of the President.

A Brief History of Trailblazers

In 2001, a few of the African American alumni/ae initiated a Union Black Alumni/ae Association. They reached out to many other alumni/ae that did return to Union for a memorable reunion and reconnected with each other and the institution. It was a few years later, in February of 2004 that the Black Caucus and Black Women’s Caucus of Union hosted the inaugural Trailblazers worship service and celebration.  This formal tribute was the embodiment of the organizers vision to continue the Association’s efforts and build on it, in order to connect the powerful legacy of spirituality and strength among the distinguished list of Black Alumni/ae and the current students of African descent.  The goal of Trailblazers is primarily to provide an opportunity to honor the ministerial work of Union’s Black Alumni/ae as well as provide a forum for ‘organizing’ around important and shared social justice issues. Read More>>

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