No More Gallery Sections: Exploring Spiritual Wellbeing for Descendants of Enslaved Africans at Predominantly White Institutions of Higher Education
This project explores spiritual wellbeing for descendants of enslaved Africans at historically and predominately white institutions of higher education, through the hermeneutical and phenomenological accounts of past and present Black curators of spiritual wellbeing. By focusing on the accounts of religious and spiritual affairs professionals, my research encompasses thirty years of studying the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of Black folks in higher education, in part by speaking with the oldest living Black religious professional to integrate higher education. But first, this project will look back to the historical establishment of higher education institutions being spaces that trained and equipped white clergymen with tools and practices for developing and maintaining healthy (white) souls while simultaneously omitting care and lacking concern for the souls of Black folks. This project explores the rise of "Well-Being" pedagogies in higher education while simultaneously juxtaposing them with desegregation and integration practices. By grounding the project in the historicity of higher education and the systemic exclusion of Black bodies from higher education, the curators' accounts and the stories of the constituents have roots more profound than the present. Accordingly, this thesis captures the practices for repairing one's humanity— a spiritual act— after repeated attacks to devalue one's presence and existence. The question that this thesis seeks to answer is if wellness is a desired locale for all students (faculty and staff), should administrations consider the importance of having a curator for spiritual wellbeing, especially one particularly for Black descendants of enslaved Africans (DEA) who labor under and resonate with the Black experience in America.
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