by Earle Fisher
In his storied writing, The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson, expounds on the impact that the education of an oppressed and displaced people can have on the psyche of generations yet unborn. Education in this sense posed a problem for those being educated due to the xenophobic misunderstanding of one group of people in producing an apathetic and inadequate educational environment for a group deemed inferior, separate and unequal. Although this brand of education has proved itself to be theoretically erroneous and transient, the spotlight that was placed on how education can influence thought and self-awareness is still evident, even when education takes place inappropriately, with malice and ill intent. Although the insight Woodson appropriated to the field of education was not theologically specific, suffice it to say that the impact theological thought has had on the American ethos makes his assertions applicable and apropos.
The necessity for theological educators of color is glaring. In lieu of this, I have committed myself to be a theological educator; one that is devoted to the uplifting and enlightenment of those who are impacted by the ideas and efforts that stem from sacred communities. I have adopted a philosophy of education that posits education as a priceless endeavor that continuously provides an opportunity for learning, empowerment and liberation to take place both individually and communally.
I have spent the last 5 years of my life teaching in higher education at several college campuses, classes that range from humanities to philosophy to religious studies. I have been intentional to offer my educational experiences and perspectives to a diverse group of students at various institutions. Although I consider myself to be interdisciplinary (in part because I believe the contemporary climate demands this of educators and faith leaders), I view my educational platform as an extension of my ministerial calling.
I am eternally indebted and bonded to the black church. And what the black church is tragically lacking are theologically and academically trained, nurtured and empowered ministerial leaders. There has been a mythical chasm drawn between the academy, community and the church. It has been my pledge to uncover the bridge that already exists, but has been buried under despair and misconception; a bridge the joins together the aforementioned entities.
As a pastor, I am able to see the impact theological education (and the lack thereof) have at the grass roots level. Therefore I have grounded my educational endeavors in a commitment to scholarship, service, creativity and compassion.
Not only is there a need for theological educators of color, but there is also a need for educators outside the scope of the “traditional” theological disciplines who maintain the necessary sensitivity to assist the contemporary church (and spaces of theological thought) in expanding our reach and sustaining (or reclaiming) our relevance. I view institutions apart from divinity schools and programs beyond the religious studies disciplines as increasing in importance as it relates to the well-being of the church in a post-modern, multicultural, hyper-corporatized and uber-technological culture. Therefore, I have sought the Rhetoric and Communication program at the University of Memphis as my platform for furthering my education.