African and Diasporic Religions – Gods, Ancestors, Witchcraft, Voodoo, Spirituality and Mysticism: What is it all About?

SORAC’s Africa and the Diaspora in the 21st Century Series
“Ex Africa semper aliquid novi”
African and Diasporic Religions
Gods, Ancestors, Witchcraft, Voodoo, Spirituality and Mysticism
What is it all About?

February 25, 1999 9:00AM – 12:00 Noon

Voodoo Altar

Voodoo Altar

On the Occasion of Black History Month, this half-day conference for the Montclair State University community, secondary school teachers, students and all interested participants will explore the complexities underlying the practice of religion in Africa and in the African Diaspora (Haiti and the USA).

On the African side, our speakers will offer an overview of African spirituality, exploring such concepts as God/gods, spirits/ancestors, the special interactions between the world of the dead and the world of the living, the social significance of practices often known as witchcraft and sorcery, the battle between good and evil through the occult practice of soul migration and metaphysical “cannibalism”, the role played by nature as the link between humans and the forces of the universe, the particular role of African spirituality in the area of indigenous sciences and medicine.O

n the Haitian side, our speakers will explore the concept and practice of Voodoo: What is Voodoo? Where does it come from? What are the African cultural components in Voodoo? What African gods do Voodoo priests worship? What in Voodoo came from other cultures? Why and how did Voodoo emerge as the main cultural denominator among Haitians? Is Voodoo as evil as people have had us believe or does it serve a particular socio-cultural, medicinal and scientific purpose among Haitians that is not often visible when perceived from the outside? On the African American side, our guests will take us on a tour of African American spirituality through an exploration of religious practices in African American communities. Among other things, our speakers will address the following questions: Why does the practice of religion among the African American communities differ from that of mainstream America? What role does the African cultural heritage particular to these communities play in their practice and contemplation of all things God? How did this African heritage influence the birth of a particular African American religious culture and maintain it across the centuries? Is the concept of God in African American communities different from that of mainstream America? What role has religion historically played for African Americans in their building of survival and community skills at the social, family and individual levels?

Among our speakers will be Drew University’s Gbolahan Akinsanya and Peter Savastano, and a special guest in the person of Jean-Hervé Bellevue, a Haitian sociologist/educator and himself a Voodoo priest who inherited the science of Voodoo priesthood from a long line of family practitioners.



8:30 AM – 9:00 AM
and Breakfast Buffet Ballroom A

9:00 AM – 9:05 AM
Opening Remarks Daniel Mengara, SORAC

9:05 AM – 10:05 AM
Gbolahan Akinsanya will offer an overview of African spirituality

10:05 AM – 11:05 AM
Jean-Herve Bellevue
will explore the concept and practice of Voodoo

11:05 AM – 11:15 AM

1:15 AM – 12:15 AM
Peter Savastano will offer a comparative overview of African American spirituality and other Diasporic religious practices

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