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    • Christena Cleveland
    • Integration. My passion is integration. I integrate justice and reconciliation, hope and lament, social psychology and theology,
      research and practice, pro-blackness and pro-humanity, truth and love, and contemplation and action. In pursuit of a new reality in which all people have an empowered seat at the table, and there is no longer us and them – but simply us.

      Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist, public theologian, author, and professor based in Durham, North Carolina. She is Associate Professor of the Practice of Organizational Studies at Duke University's Divinity School.

      As a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Christena was exposed to the richness of cultural difference. The kids on her neighborhood block represented 9 different nationalities, where she quickly discovered that, “Be there in 5 minutes,” means different things depending on who’s saying it. When she wasn’t heading off to an Oakland A’s game to catch the Bash Brothers in action, she was studying – ultimately attending Dartmouth College where she double-majored in psychological and brain sciences and sociology, and UC Santa Barbara, where she earned a Ph.D. in social psychology.

      Named one of “5 online shepherds to follow” by JET magazine, Christena has devoted much of her vocation to teaching in higher educational institutions as well as broader society by regularly writing, speaking, and consulting with organizations. Christena teaches classes around the globe on race, reconciliation, and conflict, and leads a research team that is investigating self-compassion as a buffer for racial stress.

      Christena is author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart. Her recently completed second book is on its way to the publisher, with the working title Power Trip: How Facing Inequality Sets You Free. She’s also working on her third book which examines the relationship between gender, race, and cultural perceptions of God.

      A recent transplant to the South, Christena has fallen in love with the Carolina woods, and is thinking about becoming a Durham Bulls fan.

She Who Cannot Be Shamed, Tamed or Contained

A 95-page, full color collection of art, essays, questions and practices to liberate our spiritual imaginations. On this global pilgrimage, you will encounter ten ancient images (reimagined by one of Christena’s favorite modern artists) of the Black female Divine ranging from She Who Clears Our Path to She Who Declares that You are Enough to She Who is Unapologetically Black — and beyond!

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All Black Spiritual Spaces: A Necessary Refuge

I was 5 years old when a white spiritual leader called me the n-word. Hoping to expand our cultural horizons, my parents had enrolled my siblings and me in a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program at a predominantly white church in our San Francisco suburb.

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Christ Our Black Mother Speaks (Digital PDF)

In this volume of essays, I turn toward images of Christ on the cross. As I continue my exploration of the wholly holy female face of God, I ask a deeper question. What does God’s femaleness and blackness practically mean for my particular black female experience?

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Can God Be A Black Woman?

Is God a Palestinian/Brazilian/Chilean/Russian/Khazak/…woman too?

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Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart

Despite Jesus’ prayer that all Christians “be one,” divisions have been epidemic in the body of Christ from the beginning to the present. We cluster in theological groups, gender groups, age groups, ethnic groups, educational and economic groups. We criticize freely those who disagree with us, don’t look like us, don’t act like us and don’t even like what we like.

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The Virtual Black Madonna Pilgrimage

This post is an orientation to our virtual pilgrimage — which I am so excited about! Together, we will journey to 12 Black Madonnas all over the globe — from the Caribbean to Latin America to Asia to Africa and Europe. Each stop on our pilgrimage will include four invitations — (1) to consider my own brief reflections about how cultural perceptions of race and gender impact our experience of the Divine, (2) to engage an idea/piece of art/beauty as we think about our own experiences of the Divine, (3) to reflect on several questions either individually or in community, and (4) to practice a different way of interacting with the world that will hopefully open us up to new experiences of the Divine. 

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Introducing the Last 7 Words of Christ Our Black Mother – A Lenten Series

This is public theology. As precious Patrons, I’m inviting you in to my theological process. Beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 6) and concluding on Good Friday (April 19), each week I will publish a photo and brief reflection on each of Christ’s 7 Last Words on the Cross.

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