Religion Seminar Series

Butler University Seminar on Religion and Global Affairs and Visiting Black Intellectual Series presents:

Black Diaspora: Faith and Expressions 

The 2023–2024 series is an exciting new collaboration between The Compass Center—Series on Religion and Society and the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement’s Visiting Black Intellectual Series.

The timing of this seminar series is intentional in its connection to the approaching ending of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent 2015–2024. The Compass Center in partnership with the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement will present unique perspectives throughout the year on how Black people throughout the African Diaspora understand, practice, and express their faith/spirituality in meaningful and culturally collective ways. This series will not be comprehensive in presentation but will provide examples to encourage further exploration and dialogue among various audiences. Central to this series will be a focus on the necessity of faith and spirituality as a vehicle for resilience and resistance to oppressive conditions and struggles that especially affect Black people.

All events take place from 7:00-9:00 PM,  Shelton Auditorium, on the South Campus of Butler University.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information about the series and virtual attendance, visit

Thank you to our cosponsors and partners: Center for Interfaith Cooperation, Grace Unlimited, NEH/Frederic M. Ayres Fund, Sikh Satsang of Indianapolis, Butler Philosophy and Religion Department, and the Diversity Program Council.

For accessibility information or to request disability-related accommodations, please visit

Butler Cultural Requirement (BCR)

Fall 2023

Black and Buddhist

Tuesday, September 26, 2023, 7:00 PM

View the Recording of Black and Buddhist

This seminar features the authors of the text Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom, Drs. Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl A. Giles. In the foreword to their text, Gaylon Ferguson writes “Now, more than ever, we need this message of peace, a. strong peace with justice and dignity. This is a practical message of cultivating inner spiritual power to meet the daily challenges of aggression, violence, lying, and deception.” We will learn about the Buddhist faith and practice has served as a source of healing and liberation for many Black people and what about this religion is effective in addressing individual and collective suffering.

Cheryl Giles headshot

Cheryl A. Giles is the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling at Harvard Divinity School and a licensed clinical psychologist. Giles is a core faculty member of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative, where she mentors the International Ho Foundation Fellows and students preparing for chaplaincy and public leadership. Her most recent book, Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom (2020) is co-edited with Pamela Ayo Yetunde and won the Gold Nautilus Award. Her articles have appeared in Christian Century magazine and the Journal of Pastoral Theology.

Pamela Ayo Yetunde headshot

Pamela Ayo Yetunde is a pastoral counselor, instructor, writer, and speaker who is native to Indiana, which includes graduating from IU School of Law–Bloomington. Most recently Yetunde authored Casting Indra’s Net: Fostering Spiritual Kinship and Community (2023) and co-edited Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom (2020), which.on the Gold Nautilus Award. Yetunde is an associate editor with Lion’s Roar and is the principal co-founder of Buddhist Justice Reporter.

Black and Muslim

Monday, October 30, 2023, 7:00 PM 

View the Recording of Black and Muslim

This seminar is a collaborative effort with the Muslim Student Association to bring the Islamic and African Studies scholar Dr. Rudolph “Butch” Ware II. He will provide knowledge and insight on his research of West African Muslim communities of Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania that serve as the basis for his book The Walking Qur’an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge, and History in West Africa.

Butch Ware headshot

Rudolph (Butch) Ware is a historian of Africa and Islam, serving as Associate Professor in the History Department at U.C. Santa Barbara. His areas of focus are West Africa, Islamic Knowledge and Spirituality, and African Diaspora. Ware’s two recent publications include The Walking Quran: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge and History in West Africa (2014) as well as Jihad of the Pen: The Sufi Literature of West Africa (2018). Forthcoming work will include a new book titled Second Sight and Social Change in Islamic West Africa. Ware’s work is interdisciplinary, seeking to engage with and pushes the edges of both African and Islamic studies.

Imam Alamine headshot

Imam Ahmed Alamine was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and spent significant time in West Africa, resulting in speaking six languages and ordination as an Imam. Since 2017 he has been the Imam and the Director of Religious Affairs of the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association, the first Muslim community and nonprofit organization in Indianapolis. In addition to his roles in the Muslim community, Imam Alamine currently is pursuing a professional doctorate in philanthropic leadership at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Center for Interfaith Cooperation, and holds a role on the board for the Greater Indianapolis MultiFaith Alliance as well. Further, Imam Alamine serves as chaplain within the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, serving officers and civilians.

Spring 2024

Black and Jewish

Monday, February 26, 2024, 7:00 PM

View the Recording of Black and Jewish

This seminar will involve the showing of the film, Queen Esther, and a discussion with the filmmaker Ira Mallory and two featured actresses—Erreol Robinson and Paige Wells, who will specifically discuss their specific roles. Ira Mallory is native to Indianapolis and in addition to responding to audience questions about the film, he will discuss how the intersections of his Jewish faith and his filmmaking work allows him to be more authentic.

Ira Mallory headshot

Ira Mallory is an Indiana based film director and head of IRA FILMS, a division of BJYL Productions LLC. He is an alumni of the Fox Searchlight Director’s Labs in association with the American Black Film Festival. Hadassah: Queen Esther is Mallory’s premier project of recent release, which screened at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival in 2022 to much fanfare. Mallory was among over 40 Indiana artists awarded a fellowship with the On-Romp Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator, sponsored by the Indiana Art Commission in 2021.

Erreol D. Robinson is a wife, a mother, a ministry leader, Community Organizer, song writer and actress. She has toured professionally with two different theater companies and will always have a love for musical theatre. With her love for music and performance, Erreol was the first African American (as well as the first female) to be employed by The Lodge Recording studio in the city of Indianapolis. She was also a founding partner of Heart & Soul productions -where she would write and produce songs, jingles, theme song and radio commercials. Erreol later partnered with TylerMade music and co-wrote “Safe in His Arms”on the album of Grammy nominated, Steller and Dove Award recipient Earl Bynum.  Erreol and her husband Gavin Morgan are the proud parents of 5 amazing teenagers and together they lead the youth ministry of New Direction Church in Indianapolis. Currently Erreol portrays Queen Esther in the award winning  mini-series Hadassah: Queen Esther. 

Page Wells headshot

Paige Wells is a multi-talented artist hailing from Fort Wayne, Indiana. With a passion for music and acting, Wells has made a name for herself as a songwriter and actress. Having studied vocal performance and songwriting, Wells has released her own original music in addition to taking on roles as an actress.

Black and Womanist as expressed through Mermaids and Priestesses

Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 7:00 PM

The final seminar in the series includes Merwomanist scholar Dr. Jalondra Davis and Butler faculty member and historian Dr. Charlene Fletcher (History/Anthropology/Classics) discussing more traditional and alternative African religious expressions that are situated in the lives and experience of Black woman in the African Diaspora.

Jalondra Davis headshot

Dr. Jalondra A. Davis is a Black feminist artist intellectual, warrior mama, and merwomanist Melusine currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at University of California, Riverside. She has published theory and criticism of Black speculative fiction and culture in the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Shima Journal, the Museum of Science Fiction Journal of Science Fiction, and forthcoming in the Routledge Anthology of Co-Futurisms. Her monograph in progress, Merfolk and Black Being analyzes the many appearances of mermaids, water spirits, and other aquatic beings in African diasporic literature, art, and popular culture, with a focus on narratives that engage the transatlantic slave trade, Western modernity, and the Anthropocene. Mermaids center in her current scholarship, fiction writing, recreational practices as an amateur mermaid, and content creation for the Merwomanist Podcast as a site of both interrogating history through fantasy and as Black whimsy, pleasure, and play.

Charlene Fletcher headshot

Charlene Fletcher is a historian, educator, and writer. With a PhD in History from Indiana University specializing in 19th century United States and African American history and gender studies, Fletcher joined Butler University’s faculty in fall 2023. Her forthcoming book explores the experiences of confined African American women in Kentucky from Reconstruction to the Progressive Era. Fletcher has been affiliate faculty at the Center for Africana Studies at IUPUI and Curatorial Director at Conner Prairie Museum as well. Among her many accolades, Fletcher served as the ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Research Associate at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. 

View the Recording of Black and Womanist as expressed through Mermaids and Priestesses

Previous Years’ Recordings