Keynote: Dr. Jemar Tisby
Join Dr. Jemar Tisby for his perspectives on faith, history and activism at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 in Hoover Auditorium.
Tisby credits the beginnings of his faith journey to a friend from high school who was an evangelist at the age of 15. He invited Tisby to go to his white, evangelical youth group with him. Tisby started going because it was a social outlet. Over time, the youth pastor’s messages really sunk in and helped Tisby see the attraction to this new way of life.
While getting his degree at the University of Notre Dame, Tisby began attending his first explicitly reformed Christian church. At most services, he was the only Black person in the congregation. The book-by-book and verse-by-verse exposition of scripture scratched an intellectual itch he had for understanding Christianity.
After graduating from Notre Dame, Tisby became a corps member with Teach for America and was placed as a sixth-grade teacher in a new public charter school on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi Delta.
In 2011, he enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, Mississippi, to earn his Master of Divinity degree. He also began to take on a much more public voice in speaking and writing about race and religion.
While at RTS, he came “under care” in the Presbyterian Church of America and worked at an intentionally multi-racial Presbyterian Church. Also, at RTS, he started the Reformed African American Network and the African American Leadership Initiative.
Tisby received a lot of support and found there was a hunger and desire to address racism in the church. There was a community he could gather around these topics and around making progress in terms of racial justice. Tisby imagined making space for Black people at the white, Reformed and Evangelical table to which he’d first been offered a seat in high school.
Tisby took a graduate course in history at Jackson State University, and that launched him on the path to earning a PhD in History from the University of Mississippi. Shortly after, he began working for the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University. He realized his real passion is writing, challenging and encouraging the nation and the church to be a racially and ethnically inclusive community. He stepped down from that position with the hopes of writing and creating content that can help move everybody forward in the journey toward racial justice.