I’ve managed to eke out enough frequent flyer miles that I can afford to fly off to Secular Social Justice on 7 April. Also, as usual, all it takes is reading a little Sikivu Hutchinson to get me fired up for it.
In April, the American Humanist Association is sponsoring the semi-annual Secular Social Justice (SSJ) conference in Washington, D.C. This first of its kind conference is designed to spotlight the intersectional, anti-racist organizing, activism and cultural work of secular people of color. When my comrade Donald Wright (founder of the National Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers) and I organized the first SSJ conference two years ago at Rice University in Houston, non-believers of color were struggling with the very same visibility and platform issues that they grapple with today. The majority often navigate between a white mainstream atheist world that has been hostile to intersectionality, black feminism and people of color, and socially conservative religious communities of color that view atheism as inauthentically black or tantamount to devil worship.
Sincere Kirabo, lead organizer for this year’s SSJ conference notes that SSJ “was developed as a direct response to pervasive complacency within the secular community that considers focus on matters of social justice issues unnecessary or a “distraction.” Countering that view, the conference will feature speakers and presenters from racial justice, law, public policy, queer, trans and immigrant rights activism, educational equity and humanist activism.
Finally, SSJ also speaks to a critical leadership vacuum in the mainstream atheist, humanist and secular movements. There are currently few to no people of color in executive management positions in major secular organizations (i.e., the Center for Inquiry, Secular Student Alliance, American Humanist Association, etc.). As a result, it is precisely because of anti-atheist religious bigotry, white atheist racism and the lack of culturally responsive secular organizations that the vast majority of non-believers of color do not feel comfortable openly identifying as atheist. And, until this shifts, the much-ballyhooed rise of the nones will only be a footnote for segregated communities of color.
This is the direction movement atheism has to take if it wants to survive and be meaningful. If I can help in any way, that’s where I want to make my contributions.
Now, one other little thing: the conference is taking place at All-Souls Unitarian Church, but does anyone know if there is an associated hotel for the event? Otherwise, I’m just going to book the nearest, cheapest hotel in the area.