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Berkley Center Examines Religion, Race and the Art of Storytelling

January 24, 2017 — As part of Georgetown’s Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrations, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs hosted an event on January 18 at the university to encourage informal dialogue surrounding the intersection of faith and race.

The event was part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a university partnership with StoryCorps, which collects and shares stories from ordinary Americans about their encounters with religion, race and society.

The project’s goals are to deepen understanding of the role faith plays in the lives of diverse individuals who are often overlooked through the ancient practice of storytelling.

Author and project director Paul Elie moderated the informal conversation among West Virginian ministers Ronald English and James Patterson, as well as a couple, Ralph and Dana Moore of Baltimore, who talked about their personal relationships to religion.

“Liberation is engrained in the wood of the black church,” said Rev. English, who was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, assistant at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

He said the black church has served as the means by which parishioners “grasped and held that dignity” in order to establish community within the church and continue to speak out against the oppressive culture during the civil rights movement.

Dana Moore called for audience members and all Americans to come together in the country’s time of need despite religious or racial differences.

“We are our own first responders; we are responsible for our neighbor; we are responsible for our brother,” she said.

With one-third of the American Pilgrimage Project underway, more than 100 informal, conversation-style recordings from eight cities across the country have been gathered and archived.

One of the project’s recent stories – on a Lutheran pastor and garbage man in conversation with his 13-year-old daughter – aired on NPR's Morning Edition Jan. 20.

New conversations are shared online every other Friday.