This panel discussion considers the place of black women within the LDS tradition. What does it mean to be black, female, and Mormon? Watch this panel in its entirerty here:
PAULETTE L. PAYNE is an Atlanta television personality who has partnered with her alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, to host “Life Notes,” a talk show that highlights strains of cancer that disproportionately impact the African-American community. While attending Clark, Paulette pursued a maters degree in Africana Women’s Studies. Her thesis, "Hallelujah and Amen: The African-American Religious Aesthetic and Black Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Southwest Atlanta", explored the impact the diminutive presence of the African-American religious aesthetic, a term she coined, in LDS Church has on Black and religious identities of selected African-American LDS women in the Atlanta Ward (GA). Her motivation to pursue this body of research was rooted in her own experiences as a convert to the LDS Church and by the inspired conversion story and testimony of Gladys Knight. When she is not hosting her talk show, the multi-passionate entrepreneur can be found spending time with her family, laboring, with love, as Relief Society President in the Atlanta Ward, and swimming. Paulette recently celebrated her 26-year anniversary as a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
JANAN GRAHAM-RUSSELL is a writer, graduate student in religious studies at the Howard University School of Divinity, community organizer and active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her research and writing focus on Africana women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, womanist theology and hermeneutics as well as the spiritual narratives of African American women in the 19th century. As an activist, her work draws attention to the misrecognition of Black women within and outside the LDS faith tradition and culture. She currently writes for Rational Faiths, an online publication that features pieces about the LDS church, theology and culture. Her writing is also featured in two forthcoming anthologies: A Book of Mormons: Latter-day Saints on a Modern-Day Zion (I SPEAK FOR MYSELF) (October 2015) and Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (November 2015).
CATHERINE M. STOKES (Cathy) is a retired deputy director in public health and a community volunteer.
She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stokes was born in Mississippi, the daughter of sharecroppers.
As a toddler, she moved north with a great-aunt and her husband. Although raised in
stark poverty, she had opportunities in Illinois to improve her life. She obtained
her BS in nursing at DePaul University and then worked her way up through Chicago’s
public health system. At the time of her retirement, she was deputy director for the
Illinois Department of Health. She served as vice chairman of the board of trustees
of the Chicago InnerCity Youth Charitable Foundation for 16 years. She moved to Utah
in 2006 after her retirement. She was featured in the book, Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations, and in “Lives of Service,” an LDS Church documentary about service. She also participated
in the 1996 LDS missionary fireside with Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ.
DR. LASHAWN WILLIAMS-SCHULTZ, CSW recently completed her Doctorate in Education studying the experiences of social work faculty who teach diversity and cultural competence in their courses to observe how relationships are impacted by disconnection and how they gain resilience. She has a personal and professional investment in the work that happens in the classroom as one of the key environments for change. The Church, too, is an educational setting where she is passionate and present. She was raised in the LDS Church and became especially intrigued by the intersection of race and religion when considering missionary service. As she did not serve a mission, she has started to apply the adage of "every member a missionary" to the work of acknowledging and reconciling racism in the LDS Church. She is eternally devoted to her three children and their healthy identity development as they are raised in the LDS Church. She is an adjunct faculty member and a practicing mental health therapist. She loves to laugh. Especially when people read her bio.
TAMU SMITH is a multimedia personality and with Zandra Vranes is founder of a website and radio show called "Sistas in Zion." With Vranes, she is the author of Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons published by Deseret Book. She is a cosmetologist, wife, and mother of six from Provo, Utah.
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