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Buddhism and Black Feminism

Online Program
Dates: Oct 09, 2021 - Nov 13, 2021

Instructor(s): Rima Vesely-Flad, Aishah Shahidah Simmons

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Course Description:
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“Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so’s you’re sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter.” 

Toni Cade Bambara

This six-week online course explores the narratives of liberation at the center of both Buddhist and Black feminist traditions. These traditions offer both a challenge and an invitation. “Buddhism continues to inspire me because there is such an emphasis on practice,” bell hooks writes. “What are you doing? Right livelihood, right action. We are back to that self-interrogation that is so crucial.” Focusing on internal and socially-induced suffering, as well as practices of freedom, we will examine core Buddhist teachings using the writings of Toni Cade Bambara, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Alice Walker. Through prose, poetry, and narrative each of these writers addresses the impacts of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in a white supremacist society. And, they also address healing from intra- and inter-communal violence, accountability, and liberation in the face of oppression. We will pay attention to the ways in which the writings of Bambara, Lorde, hooks, and Walker illuminate and expand the dharma, particularly teachings on Impermanence, Causes and Conditions, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path. We will deepen our understanding, with Walker, of why it is so important “to learn, through meditation, through study and practice, a way to free yourself from the pain of being shot, no matter who the archer might be.” And, we will explore why, for Black feminist traditions, this can never be solely an individual pursuit. As Lorde observes, “without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression.”

    About the Instructor(s):
  • Dr. Rima Vesely-Flad is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Social Justice, and the Director of Peace and Justice Studies, at Warren Wilson College.  She directs the Inside Out Prison Education Program, a partnership between Warren Wilson College and the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women.  She is the author of Racial Purity and Dangerous Bodies: Moral Pollution, Black Lives, and the Struggle for Justice (Fortress Press, 2017).  She is currently at work on a second manuscript entitled Black Buddhists and the Black Radical Tradition: The Practice of Stillness in the Movement for Liberation (Forthcoming, NYU Press, 2022)