CRSL Newsletter
July 27, 2020
Prophetic Voices in a Time of Crisis

Prophetic Voices:
On Prophecy and Hope

Dear Friends,

Most of us think of the concept of  prophecy  as being able to tell the future. However, prophecy in the Abrahamic faiths refers to the activity of those figures who ushered in a new world in their thought, imagination, speech, and action. The Prophet Muhammad in Islam and the Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Judeo-Christian tradition are three such examples.

Actually though, prophets do not simply warn us about the future that is coming, but speak to what will happen if we do not amend the course of what is going on now. Thus prophecy is speaking truth to power. It is moral imagination; it is radical social justice in the face of an inadequate and morally bankrupt status quo.

In these times as we are in the midst of a matrix of domestic and global crises, we need prophetic voices more than ever. Many of us have been reading, listening, and looking around and finding these voices. Many of us may be looking in vain or feeling alienated and alone. Many of us may feel silenced.

Yet more of us, and hopefully someday soon all of us, are finding our voices and using them, both because we must, and because a crack has opened up on the fortress of injustice, making for growing confidence that in that space we will be heard.

And this is not to say that prophecy is  certainty , rather it is  courage  and curiosity.
Prophecy is not about having all the answers, or even all about speech; it is about refusing to quell our observations or ignore our deepest stirrings. It is about cultivating habits of self-reflection so that our perception of what is outside of us and what is within us is equally probing. It is about deciding the price of staying silent is higher than the potential cost of speaking out.

The prophetic echoes around us and we are blessed to have the contributions of some of them in this publication. Smith is a community of prophetic voices. As we begin to consider "returning to in the fall," in whatever form that might be--remote or in person, let us try to look for the prophetic voice in unexpected places; in dining halls and kitchens; and from the grounds of the College. The idea for this newsletter came out of the need to talk about the dramatically disproportionate effect of the ravages of Covid-19 on Black and brown people and communities. Thus we feel called to speak to this and feel so lucky to have contributions from across the campus. (Figuratively across of course!!) We hope you enjoy it and invite you as always to send us feedback and observations that any of the material may elicit. ( )

This time is unprecedented in all of our lives. It is an unprecedented opportunity to listen for, and be, the prophetic voice.

Stay tuned for our August newsletter, in which we will address the many complexities—physical, relational, emotional, of our upcoming semester. No newsletter can do justice to how much we miss being together, but we are deeply grateful to have it, and for your attention to the issues on our hearts.

With Love and in Solidarity,

Matilda, Kim, Maureen, and Rhonda

Why Now,  and What Now?
A Theological Reflection on the
Fire of the Current Moment

 By Matilda Cantwell

“If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?” 
- John Lewis

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
'No more water but fire next time.
- Negro Spiritual, O Mary Don’t You Weep, used in James Baldwin’s seminal essay, The Fire Next Time

Last week Smith released its plan, accompanied by a letter from President Kathleen McCartney and V.P. for Equity and Inclusion Floyd Cheung, outlining the college’s  plan   to address racial justice. Given the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life’s location as part of the larger OEI team, my colleagues and I are honored to have been involved in the drafting of this plan , along with the many committees, constituents, and voices who have been working so hard on this issue in recent months and years.

The intention was for the plan to be rolled out over time; but this summer Smith has accelerated its release in response to the lynching of George Floyd and to the most recent murders of Black people--by law enforcement in the case of Breonna Taylor in March and Tony McDade in May, and by vigilantes in the case of Ahmaud Arbery. The ensuing surge of activity in the movement for Black lives, manifesting in protests, rallies, and calls for new legislation across the United States, has made our mission more urgent. Read more of Matilda's article here.
Understanding the Effects
of Racial Trauma

by Kim Alston

Racial Trauma for Blacks is a prevalent phenomenon that cannot be disputed yet it is so commonplace that it has been normalized. Every day the U.S. global majority (an alternative term for people of color) face the damaging effects of racial trauma. During Barack Obama’s presidency there was a misnomer that America had entered a post-racial era. Although this could not have been further from the truth, this false narrative was thrust into public consciousness.

This notion was quickly disproved with all of the problematic issues surrounding race that continued to surface during his administration. A July 8 webinar I attended for professional development, entitled “Racial Trauma in Troubling Times” Professor Emeritus of Social Justice Education at the UMass Amherst College of Education Barbara Love, Ed.D., unpacked the meaning of racial trauma with participants.  Read More of Kim's article here.
CRSL's Mission

The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life is an inter-religious, non-denominational body which promotes spiritual flourishing for all students, religious and non-religious alike. The CRSL focuses on ethical reflection, social and racial justice and civic engagement, mindfulness and contemplative practice, and community building based in dialogue and respect.

We provide resources grounded in different faith and wisdom traditions, and strive to raise religious literacy and promote interfaith engagement toward a more inclusive, just, and engaged citizenry. We offer guidance and pastoral care through a lens of mutuality and exploration, and collaborate to respond with resourcefulness, grace, and courage to the events which threaten to disrupt our lives.

In the midst of a vibrant academic community, we encourage explorations of mystery, faith, ritual, and that which we experience as Holy. We invite you to reflect, resist, rejuvenate with us, and remember—whoever you are, wherever you have been and wherever you are going, you are welcome here.
A Revolution of Rest:
A Case For ‘Radical Renewal’  

By Camille Bacon '21

While I was brainstorming for this piece I found myself struggling to formulate something that hasn’t already been said about this moment of absolute turmoil. At first, I aimed to express something profound, original… politically galvanizing even. But quite quickly, I stopped to ask myself, why? Why do I continually feel pressure to react in response to the continued devaluation of my life and the lives of my black identified loved ones?

As the internet continues to be laden with images of and testimonies about the quotidien violence inflicted on Black bodies, the enemy lines are being drawn. I feel there is constant pressure to prove you are on the right side. The most common way I have seen of displaying allegiance with Black lives is publicly reacting to these eruptions, especially via social media. But, as I wade through the grief I am inundated with each time I open my browser and inevitably witness another transgression against Black humanity, I wonder what the cost of this pressure to react is.  Read more of Camille's article here .
Mindful Mondays, Monday, July 27, 2:00 p.m.
Finding Our Breath: Mindfulness Practice and Conversation with a Commitment to Compassion and Hope. 
A forum for light meditation instruction, sharing and building compassionate communities in times of uncertainty, isolation, and heightened revelation of the deep racial and social disparities that are part of the air we breathe in American society.

no one is free until we are all free. - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King   

We will meet at 2:00 p.m. on July 27 and August 3. No meeting on August 10 and resume at 12:00 p.m. for the last session on August 17, 2020.
To join by computer, click this link:  

Meeting ID: 398 381 4324   
For Audio or questions, contact
I love this picture of George Floyd with his daughter.  This is how I want to remember him.

A Poem for Gianna
(George Floyd's daughter)

by Valerie Joseph

I  love this picture of George Floyd with
his daughter. This is how I want to
remember him.

One day you will watch a recording of a beautiful man

Who was your father

That day I hope that you will be in the strong arms of those 
Who love you and hold you

That day you will need love, love and more love because
Who are they to take that from

Valerie Joseph, Ph.D. is AEMES Mentoring Coordinator.
A chieving  E xcellence in  M ath,  E ngineering and  S cience

Shooting a Virus
Dred Feminist Rant #16

©Loretta J. Ross 4-3-2020

The corona virus exposes unmistakable crises in capitalism. While we reconfigure our expectations and lifestyles because of a virus few of us knew about three months ago, we endure this unimaginable crisis under a ruthless economic philosophy that sacrifices people to make profits. We witness some of the worst and best of humanity: paranoid racist vigilantes attack Asian Americans, immigrants, or Muslims, while compassionate neighbors check on each other. Always feeding their self-interests, some rich people donate buildings to become hospitals, while callous others evict tenants. At our best, we demonstrate what social caring can look like under social distancing.

Some social justice activists ponder what an alternative economic system could or should do to transition from this racialized capitalist model euphemistically called democracy that has so miserably failed to protect our human rights and meet our human needs. Some people promote socialism or even communism as the solution.

Others demand democratic socialism, or parse themselves as social democrats. I believe the majority of people who promote these modified forms of capitalism are those who fail to incorporate a robust racial or gender analysis while attempting to appeal to people for whom those things are vital. They universally start at the macro instead of the micro: how do we care for ourselves by caring for others?
Fighting White Privilege with Accountability
The Smith College Staff and Faculty White Accountability Group is a collective learning space for white-identified staff and faculty who are looking to learn, share resources, connect and collaborate with others in order to unlearn internalized messages about white supremacy and commit to changing ourselves and our communities, including Smith College. While this group is facilitated by staff from OEI and CRSL, it is intended to be a collaborative educational space where all of us can share and learn from each other. 
To join, email Maureen Raucher, Adviser to the Christian and Humanist Communities, at

What do Smith students of color have to say?

Scripture & Music Stir the Soul

Throughout history people of faith have cried out to the Creator about injustice and inequality. Psalms in the Bible is filled with personal lamentations of despair, distress, inspiration and hope. Read this article from the Interfaith Youth Corp inspired by psalms and listen to Nina Simone's "psalm-like" song, "Come ye of Hope," performed by famed a capella ensemble Sweet Honey and the Rock. The IFYC in another piece also featured excerpts from Smith's Morningstar Family Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Bible Joel Kaminsky's Hebrew Bible for Beginners, co-authored with Joel Lohr, president of Hartford Seminary. In this article the authors connect Covid-19 and racial injustice to excessive human suffering , reminding us of another Sweet Honey and the Rock song on the Breaths album, "Echo" which focuses on Black anguish.
Faculty Speaks Out

Smith Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor on a recent PBS panel talked about systemic racism, self reflection, subtle racist acts, and spiritual awakenings . The program, entitled "The State We're In: Changing Systemic Racism" urged people to continue to demand change and dismantle structural racism. Pryor specializes in 19th century U.S. history and race.

People of the Mask

by Rhonda Shapiro-Rieser

My son is now a project manager for a large hospital system. Two weeks ago, he took on the task of getting remote communications and monitoring programs into ICUs so nurses could monitor Covid-19 patients without having to always enter into the patients’ rooms. This has required his team to do in weeks what they normally did in months. It also requires him to now go into offices and hospitals.

Yesterday his job began early and was non-stop. Finally in mid-afternoon, he got a chance to have lunch. As he was sitting at his desk eating a sandwich, a staff member walked by, stopped, and stared at him. “I’ve never seen what you look like,” the staff member said. “Since I met you two weeks ago, you have always had your mask on.” The staff member, of course, was wearing a mask. Read More of Rhonda's article here.

Tackling Anti-Blackness:
Moving Past the Abstract

Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Otelia Cromwell, class of 1900

Cromwell Day provides dedicated time and space for reflection and education about diversity, racism and inclusion. Through this work, we seek to take individual and community responsibility for our behavior with an awareness of how it furthers and disrupts patterns of structural oppression.

The Cromwell Day Committee seeks recommendations and feedback for this year's workshops from students, faculty and staff. Please click on this link to complete the short survey. Thank you for your assistance!

Adelaide Cromwell '40

by Robert Dorit, Professor of Biological Sciences

"Health Disparities arise from a complex interplay of underlying social, environmental, economic, and structural iniquities. We will continue to fail to address longstanding iniquities until we commit to eliminating structural racism and the systemic roots that maintain and even reinforce these iniquities."

- Gregory Millett, M.P.H., et al

Read the above study as well as Dorit's Teach In at Smith and learn more about the relationship of health disparities, Covid-19 and African Americans.

Smith has purchased a license that will allow every student, staff and faculty member to enjoy a free subscription to Calm, a widely lauded relaxation and meditation app. To sign up, visit  or download the Calm app from the Apple iTunes store on iOS devices or the Google Play Store on Android devices. Create an account using your name and your Smith College email address. Once you sign up, you will automatically have access to your Calm subscription!
The Virtues and Importance of the First 10 Days of Zulhijjah

Although the Zulhijjah workshop series has officially ended, CRSL and Al Iman will share the eight days of recordings on their respective Face book pages. Zulhijjah is the last month of the Islamic calendar and is a sacred month in Islam. The workshops were led by Smith's Muslim Community Religious Liaison and Islamic teacher Heba Saleh. For more information email
We hope you enjoyed our prophetic voices newsletter. A special thank you to all of our contributors. We could not have done it without you! We leave you with three generations of "Killing Me Softly" renditions by Infinity Song , Roberta Flack and the Fugees .

Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
Helen Hills Hills Chapel
123-125 Elm Street
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
Publisher Matilda Cantwell
Managing Editor Kim Alston
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