2019 Summer Institute Speakers


ruby sales

Throughout history, there have been many inspirational women who have impacted the fight for social and racial justice. Ruby Nell Sales, an African-American social activist, was born in Jemison, Alabama and raised in segregated Columbus, Georgia. As a child, Sales’ parents often spoke about the inequity of the society they lived in, but Sales did not fight the same way about racial tensions until her late teens when she became aware of the effects on her and others’ lives.


Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin is the recipient of the 2007 Power of the Voice Award from The Human Rights Campaign, the 2008 Safe Haven Award from Immigration Equality, the 2008 Honors from the Lesbian AIDS Project, the 2009 New York State Senate Award, the 2013 American Heritage Award from American Immigration Council, and the 2016 Planned Parenthood Excellence in Media award. Chin is also a 2017 LGBTQ Humanist Award recipient. She unapologetically identifies as Caribbean and Black, Asian and lesbian, woman and resident of New York City.

A proud Jamaican National, Staceyann’s voice was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where she spoke candidly about her experiences of growing up on the island and the dire consequences of her coming-out there. 

Widely known as co-writer and original performer in the Tony award winning, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, her poetry has seen the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets' Café, one-woman shows Off-Broadway, writing-workshops in Sweden, South Africa, and Australia. Chin’s three one-woman shows, HANDS AFIRE, UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, and BORDER/CLASH all opened to rave reviews at the Culture Project in New York City.

Staceyann is the author of the memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, and is currently touring MotherStruck, her critically acclaimed solo theater piece, directed by Cynthia Nixon, and produced by Rosie O’Donnell, chronicling her incredible experiences about motherhood, which opened in New York, in December, of 2015.

Be it on “60 Minutes,” in the New York Times, or The UK guardian, Staceyann has a reputation for telling it exactly like it is.


Judge Wendell Griffen

Wendell Griffen is Circuit Judge for the 5th Division in the Sixth Judicial District of Arkansas, Pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting. He is a native of Delight (Pike County), Arkansas, and a graduate of the University of Arkansas (B.A., Political Science, '73) and the University of Arkansas School of Law (J.D. '79).

Rev./Judge Griffen is a U.S. Army veteran, a 1975 graduate of the Defense Race Relations Institute (now the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute), and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service in work concerning race relations and equal opportunity.‎ His writings about faith, social justice, public policy, cultural competency and inclusion can be found on his blogs: 'Wendell Griffen on Cultural Competency' and 'Justice Is a Verb!"


Dr. Nancy MacLean

Framing our week together

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, and the award-winning author of several books, including Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux KlanFreedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American WorkplaceThe American Women’s Movement, 1945-2000: A Brief History with Documents; and Debating the American Conservative Movement: 1945 to the Present. She also served the editor of Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism.

Her scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards, and been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation. 


Plenary Keynote Speaker

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. is a scholar who speaks to the black and blue in America. His most well-known books, Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, and In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America, take a wide look at black communities and reveal complexities, vulnerabilities, and opportunities for hope. Hope that is, in one of his favorite quotes from W.E.B Du Bois, “not hopeless, but a bit unhopeful.” Other muses include James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Bobby “Blue” Bland. In addition to his readings of early American philosophers and contemporary political scientists, Glaude turns to African American literature in his writing and teaching for insight into African American political life, religious thought, gender and class. He is chair of the Department of African American Studies, a program he first became involved with shaping as a doctoral candidate in Religion at Princeton. He is the current president of the American Academy of Religion.


Emilie Townes

Track I: Racist Governance

Vexations: Religion and Politics in the Black Community

The Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, is dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society.

Townes' broad areas of expertise include Christian ethics, cultural theory and studies, postmodernism and social postmodernism. She has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, a field of studies in which the historic and current insights of African American women are brought into critical engagement with the traditions of Christian theology. Townes has a strong interest in thinking critically about womanist perspectives on issues such as health care, economic justice, poetry and literary theory.


Daniel Cornfield

Track I: Racist Governance


Dan Cornfield is Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and American Studies at Vanderbilt University, Editor-in-Chief of Work and Occupations, and a Fellow of the Labor and Employment Relations Association. His work on artist careers, labor, civil rights, and immigration addresses the formation of inclusive and expressive occupational communities and their impact on cultural pluralism.  During his Fellowship year at the Curb Center, Dan and a team of sociology graduate students will examine the role of local arts agencies in promoting cultural equity and community engagement in the arts in the U.S.

His Beyond the Beat: Musicians Building Community in Nashville (Princeton University Press)  addresses how indie musicians strengthen their inclusive and diversifying peer community of artists in the contemporary era of the gig economy and heightened identity politics, based on his in-depth interviews with 75 Nashville popular-music musicians.   Dan’s work has been widely published in social science journals, including the American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, and the ILR Review Among his books are Becoming a Mighty Voice (Russell Sage Foundation) and Worlds of Work (Springer), co-edited with Randy Hodson.  


Karla McKanders

Track I: Racist Governance


Karla McKanders directs the Immigration Practice Clinic and teaches Refugee and Immigration Law. Her work has taken her throughout the U.S. and abroad teaching and researching the efficacy of legal institutions charged with processing migrants and refugees. In 2011, she received a Fulbright grant to lecture in Morocco. Before joining Vanderbilt’s law faculty, Professor McKanders was a tenured associate professor of Law at University of Tennessee College of Law. During the 2016 – 2017 academic year, she was a Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Howard University School of Law, where she directed the Civil Rights Clinic, co-authoring with her students, amici curaie briefs on the federal immigration travel ban litigation in International Refugee Assistance Project ("IRAP") v. Trump (Fourth Circuit, U.S. Supreme Court) and Pars Equality Center et. al. v. Trump (D.C. Cir.). Before she joined the law faculty at the University of Tennessee, she was a clinical teaching fellow at Villanova University School of Law in the Clinic for Asylum Refugee and Emigrant Services. Professor McKanders serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration Advisory Committee. 

Professor McKanders was a law clerk for Judge Damon J. Keith with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit after earning her law degree at Duke University and undergraduate degree at Spelman College. She has been cited as an authority on immigration and refugee law by such media outlets as Reuters, ABC News and Al-Jazeera.


Herbert Marbury

Track II: Racialized Economics


Herbert R. Marbury researches the Bible’s textuality—that is how biblical texts come to meaning both in the ancient world and in the contemporary worlds of modern U.S. communities. Although he turns to cultural studies, he grounds his work in both historical-critical and hermeneutical methods.  In the ancient world, he focuses on Judah under Persian and Hellenistic imperial domination, which are the societies from which much of the literature of the Hebrew Bible emerged. In his first book, Imperial Dominion and Priestly Genius (Sopher Press, September, 2012) he focuses on Ezra-Nehemiah and asks, “What meaning(s) might Ezra-Nehemiah have held for elites in Persian Jerusalem?” He investigates the Second Temple community’s counter-narratives of resistance against imperial domination.

Since 2012 Marbury has served as co-chair of the African American Biblical Hermeneutics section of the Society of Biblical Literature. There, he raises the question of meaning for African American communities. In Pillars of Cloud and Fire: The Politics of Exodus in African American Biblical Interpretation (New York University Press, 2015), he uses cultural studies as a mode of inquiry and builds on the method developed in Imperial DominionPillars of Cloud and Fire recovers trajectories of counter-history in examples of African American biblical interpretation heretofore unexamined by biblical scholars. Focusing on figures such as Absalom Jones, David Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Frances E. W. Harper, Adam Clayton Powell, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Albert Cleage, Marbury asks, “What meaning(s) has the exodus story held for successive African American communities in the U.S. from the antebellum period through the era the Black Power Movement?”


rev. dr. Teresa Smallwood, jd

Rev. Dr. Teresa L. Smallwood, Esq. was born in Windsor, North Carolina.

She is the daughter of the late Harry and the late Mattie Cherry Smallwood.  Dr. Smallwood graduated from Bertie Senior High School with honors in 1978.  She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for undergraduate studies where she majored in Speech Communications and Afro-American Studies and graduated with a B.A. Degree.  She received the Juris Doctor Degree in 1985 from North Carolina Central University School of Law. 

Dr. Smallwood began her legal career with Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont in Charlotte, NC. She also work as a staff attorney for the Children’s Law Center in the same city.  In 1989, she served as an Assistant District Attorney until she commenced her private practice that spanned more than two decades.


Shameka Nicole Cathey

Track II: Racialized Economics


Dr. Cathey earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science from Howard University. She has gained various teaching experiences at colleges including Howard University, Prince George’s Community College, The University of the District of Columbia, James Madison University, Tougaloo College, and Brown University. She currently serves on the faculty of American Baptist College where she teaches African American Politics and Social Justice.  Her research interests are in the areas of Civil Rights, African American Politics, and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.  As a scholar-activist, she intentionally works to integrate applied research with social justice issues.  She prides herself on working in partnership with students, colleagues and community advocates to uplift the freedom, affirmation, and celebration of all diverse identities.  She serves the profession through membership and committees within her professional associations including the American Political Science Association (APSA), National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS), and American Society of Public Administrators (ASPA).  Dr. Cathey is also a Dean’s Scholar at Vanderbilt Divinity School and anticipates graduating with a Master of Divinity in May 2021.


Professor Daniel Sharfstein, jd

Track II: Racialized Economics


Daniel Sharfstein’s scholarship focuses on the legal history of race in the United States. He received a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship to support his work on a book-length exploration of post Reconstruction America, Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard and the Nez Perce War (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017). His book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2011), won the 2012 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for excellence in non-fiction as well as the Law & Society Association’s 2012 James Willard Hurst Jr. Prize for socio-legal history, the William Nelson Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History, and the Chancellor’s Award for Research from Vanderbilt. His article, “Atrocity, Entitlement, and Personhood in Property” won the Association of American Law Schools 2011 Scholarly Papers Competition. His writing has also appeared in the Yale Law JournalMinnesota Law ReviewNew York TimesSlateWashington PostEconomistAmerican Prospect and Legal Affairs. For his research on civil rights and the color line in the American South, Professor Sharfstein was awarded an Alphonse Fletcher, Sr., fellowship and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, and he was the inaugural recipient of the Raoul Berger Visiting Fellowship in Legal History at Harvard Law School.