Soulforce has held Symposiums in cities across the nation including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Richmond among others. We dive deep into a political education feast covering intersectional approaches to activism, white supremacy and its relationship to anti-LGBTQ religion, class, and organizing skills.
Contact Renee@Soulforce.org to bring Soulforce educational and transformative events to your campus, organization, or institution.
Download a menu of examples of our workshops by clicking here: Soulforce Workshop Menu.
Reports From Past Soulforce Symposia
The Life Rally is just one part of what Soulforce has brought to Philadelphia. On Nov. 6, 2010, Soulforce held an all-day symposium, “The Truth About Faith, Science, Love and Reparative Therapy.” Speakers debunked the myths that plague our national conversation about homosexuality — both the notion that homosexuality can be changed and the notion that there is a valid reason why any young person should seek to change it. We expected mostly LGBT people and allies to attend the symposium, but the tragic loss of young lives over the several weeks preceding the event — Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi and more — showed how important this event really is to all of us. The event was a success, reaching well beyond the walls of our gathering. Together, we learned what we can do to put an end to this tragedy of discrimination, we dialogued about the challenges yet to be navigated in various cultural and religious groups, and we rallied in Philadelphia’s Love Park to speak our stories to the masses.
Manchester, Indiana 2011
The following is a review of a Symposium conducted at Manchester College by student Wes Heath:
After just under a year’s worth of organizing, conference calls, reservations, and possibly hundreds of emails, I was very excited to see Jason Conner and J. Mason pull onto the campus. After a quick meal at Manchester’s finest restaurant, El Mesquite, we returned to campus for a quick tour and made our way to the location for the Leadership and Non-violence training. Upon arriving, we were all excited to see that we already had a good crowd waiting. After a few minutes of preparation, the presenters and the audience were both ready to begin.
The atmosphere was fantastic! Jason introduced Soulforce and the meaning of their visit to campus, and J. Mason introduced the training. Everyone seemed very intrigued and receptive as the presentation carried on. The audience was made up of several Peace Studies students, student leaders from several different organizations on campus, and a few faculty and staff members. In total, the amount of visitors was around 30 people, and proved to be the perfect size group. People were comfortable questioning the topics that did not make sense or that were not agreed with, while others felt the one-on-one attention of the Soulforce crew. After the training, several students made their way to the front to thank Jason and Mason for the wonderful opportunity. We also heard from two students who drove all the way from Cincinnati, OH to hear the dynamic duo speak!
The next day at 3:30 in the afternoon, Soulforce was heard once again on campus. This time, they were here to provide a convocation requirement for many students known as VIAs (values, ideas, and the arts) at Manchester. The panel arrived early to prepare while Jason and Mason made last minute arrangements. Originally we had ordered 250 chairs for the program, but as time quickly faded, we realized the need for more seating. In total, another 50 chairs were added, and the VIA still had people filling up the aisles and standing along the wall without seats. We quickly estimated that roughly 400 students were in attendance making this the biggest turn-out in Soulforce history for their panel. Panelists Mason, Dorothy, Michael, Cheri, and Whitnee took their seats while Barb (professor of social work), the moderator, introduced the schedule of events. Questions dwelt with personal definitions of intersectional justice, how society and individuals can help with intersectional justice, and what groups are currently working to achieve intersectional goals. The audience was captivated by some of the emotional answers in which panelists told of their minorities and stories of social denial and acceptance. Following the convocation, several students stayed behind to discuss their insights with the panel and the Soulforce crew. One particular conversation lasted well over forty-five minutes!
Later that evening, Soulforce and students reconvened for a night of open mic and the performance from J. Mason (J. Mase III). The crowd was a good size, roughly 30 people, which helped keep the event on a personal level, and with a variety of talent. Joseph Myers, a sophomore Communication and English major was first to present at the open mic. His poem recalled an array of stereotypes that surround the Black community while refusing his participation or acceptance in a single one. Following suit, students read segments of autobiographical essays, told stories of their pasts, and continued with emotional poetry. As a nice intermission, Jason Conner taught the attendees his infamous “Window Dance!” Complementing the talent of Jason, J. Mase III took the stage with his impressive, comical, and emotional routine of poetry. All-in-all, the evening was very inspiring and uplifting.
Soulforce was an amazing experience for Manchester College, and I, on behalf of everyone here, would like to thank them for the outreach, talent, and charisma that they brought to us!
Wes Heath is the co-president of the Active Inclusive Movement or AIM at Manchester College. He was the student liason for the Soulforce Symposium.
The Body In Space: Gender, Location, and Street Level Justice. Held December 13th in Sacramento, CA
On Saturday Dec. 13th, Soulforce gathered at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento, CA for the annual Symposium Series titled, “The Body In Space: Gender, Location, and Street Level Justice.” Thanks to our sponsors and you, our donors, it proved to be a fascinating series of presentations, dialogue, and keynotes! Here are some of our favorite moments:
1.) Haven Herrin, Soulforce Deputy Director, provided the audience with a mini-Bible Boot Camp! They explained Leviticus from a socio-cultural, historical perspective, explaining the importance of the virtue of hospitality in the scripture.
2.) Methodist minister, longtime Soulforce friend and Civil Rights era veteran Reverend Phil Lawson gave one of the most moving talks, sharing his and his family’s experiences during times when lynchings and state-sanctioned violence against African Americans were commonplace and accepted. He left everyone in the room with this essential idea: ”The opposite of oppression is not freedom. Freedom is only the half-way mark. The opposite of oppression is community building.”
3.) Later in the morning, Keynote Speaker, Sam Dennison, from The Faithful Fools Street Ministry, enlightened us on the experience of moving through and outside of binary gender and how that relates to community building. The Faithful Fools are located in The Tenderloin District in San Francisco and are invested in bringing racial and economic justice to the neighborhood.
4, 5.) Carmen Barsody, Co-Founder of The Faithful Fools Street Ministry, played the part of the narrator in the afternoon theatrical workshop presentation of “The Wolf of Gubbio!” Actors Alex and Melissa play St. Francis and The Wolf. After the play, the audience engaged in reacting to and questioning the re-interpretation of this age-old story.
Columbus, OH 2014
Soulforce held its first Symposium of 2014, “Trans*figuration and Trans*formation: People and Communities Living Out Loud with Love” during the weekend of February 7-9 at First Congregational Church in downtown Columbus. Soulforce Symposia provide opportunities for training and discussion for community activists around intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion. The program represented the culmination of months of organizing work carried out by Soulforce activists in Ohio, particularly around trans*, faith, and immigration issues.
The program was led by Soulforce’s new Acting Executive Director, Haven Herrin, and featured presenters Rev. Dr. William Kondrath of the Episcopal Divinity School, Rev. Roland Stringfellow of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, Shawn Copeland of Equality Ohio, Kathleen Campisano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Esmé Rodríguez, Soulforce Program Director.
The events of the weekend were capped off Sunday morning at First Congregational Church, where Soulforce Co-Founder Rev. Dr. Mel White led an adult educational program at the church and preached the sermon during the morning worship service.
Haven Herrin opened the program on Friday night with a reading from trans* Rabbi Reuben Zellman, suggesting that LGBTQ people are “twilight people,” comfortable living in the in-between spaces of life and identity. Herrin encouraged participants to spend the weekend reflecting on the program’s theme of transformation of self and community.