Yanique Hume, President
Dr. Yanique Hume received a PhD from Emory University in anthropology, with an emphasis on Caribbean cultural politics, African diasporic religions and spiritualities, and cultural performance. She co-edited the important volume Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora (2013), and is presently working on a book for Duke University Press about the Caribbean mortuary complex, based on findings that emerged from a workshop funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. She is also developing a monograph from long-standing research on the Haitian presence in Cuba and Haiti’s place in Cuban cultural politics and the Cuban imaginary. Dr. Hume is a professional dancer and choreographer; she has toured with several companies and continues to teach Afro-Caribbean dance across the world. She is a lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, in Barbados.
Kyrah Malika Daniels, Co–Vice President
Kyrah Malika Daniels is Assistant Professor of Art History and African & African Diaspora Studies, with a courtesy appointment in Theology at Boston College. Her research interests and course topics include Africana religions, sacred arts and material culture, race, religion and visual culture, and ritual healing traditions in the Black Atlantic world. Her first book (Art of the Healing Gods, in progress) is a comparative religion project that examines ritual art objects used in healing ceremonies to treat spiritual illnesses in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Daniels was awarded a Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowship in the History of Art for 2019–2020. Between 2009 and 2010, Daniels served as Junior Curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Following the earthquake of 2010, she worked in St. Raphael, Haiti, with Lakou Soley Academic and Cultural Arts Center, a grassroots organization that develops arts-based pedagogy. Her work has been published in the Journal of Africana Religions, the Journal of Haitian Studies, and the Journal for the American Academy of Religion. Daniels currently serves as Co-Chair for the Religions, Medicines, & Healing Unit for the American Academy of Religion and as Leadership Council Member for the African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association (ADRSA). She completed her B.A. in Africana Studies at Stanford University, and received her M.A. in Religion and her Ph.D. in African & African American Studies at Harvard University.
Charlene Désir, Co–Vice President
Dr. Charlene Désir is an associate professor at the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education at Nova Southeastern University. She received her doctorate from Harvard University. Dr. Désir's academic interest is in the social, psychological, and spiritual adjustment of immigrant students in public schools. Dr. Désir has published and presented various papers on the topic of immigrant students' adjustment to the United States. In addition, she co-founded T.E.N. global, an empowerment network for Haitian women and children, and was the 2012 president of the Haitian Studies Association. Dr. Désir has worked as a school psychologist, K–12 school counselor, school administrator, academic advisor, and professor.
Lois Wilcken, Secretary
Dr. Lois Wilcken, a native New Yorker, has had the pleasure of researching the music of Haiti in Port-au-Prince and New York City's Haitian neighborhoods. As Executive Director of La Troupe Makandal, she develops educational programs for the public. White Cliffs Media Company published her book, The Drums of Vodou, and one may visit her virtual Vodou music exhibit at La Médiathèque Caraïbe. She is currently archiving the life and legacy of Vodou Master Drummer Frisner Augustin at frisneraugustinarchive.org. Dr. Wilcken has served twice on the Board of the Haitian Studies Association and is currently Secretary of the Board of the Congress of Santa Barbara, a.k.a. KOSANBA.
Claudine Michel, Executive Director
Claudine Michel served for many years as Director of the Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was also Professor of Black Studies and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Student Affairs. She received a BA in Education from the École Normale Supérieure; studied at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti; and earned a PhD in International Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research has appeared in many scholarly venues and she is the author and co-editor of a number of volumes on education, Black studies, and Haitian Vodou. Her current work reconceptualizes alternative modes of knowledge production and models of pedagogical interventions grounded in both education and religion. She is a former President of the Haitian Studies Association and the long-time editor of the only peer-reviewed journal on Haiti, the Journal of Haitian Studies, published at UCSB for the Haitian Studies Association. Dr. Michel is founding member of KOSANBA, A Scholarly Association for the Studies of Haitian Vodou and Culture and a founding editor of Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies, both housed at UCSB. After the 2010 earthquake, she served as consultant for Direct Relief International on its Haiti community projects and is a member of the Haiti Soleil Board of Directors. Recent awards include an excellence and service award from the Haitian Studies Association and the prestigious Jean-Price Mars Medal from the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti.
Rachel Cantave is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs at Skidmore College. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University (2017), an M.A. in Public Anthropology (2013), and a B.A. in Individualized Study from NYU (2008). She was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow of Swarthmore College's Latin American and Latino Studies Program (2018). Dr. Cantave is also co-founder of TheEbonyTower.com and co-producer of the documentary Chèche Lavi, a film documenting the experiences of Haitian migrants at the Tijuana, Mexico border. Dr. Cantave's research explores the influence of Candomblé, Neo-Pentecostal, and Catholic religious beliefs on political ideologies, activism, and community service initiatives in multi-faith, Afro-Brazilian communities. She is published in the Journal of Religious Studies, History, and Society and has a forthcoming chapter in the edited volume Embodying Black Religions in Africa and its Diasporas: Memory, Movement, and Belonging through the Body.
Yvonne Chireau is Professor in the Department of Religion at Swarthmore College, where she teaches courses on African American religions, American religious history, religion and culture, and popular religion. She is the author of Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition (2003) and the co-editor of Black Zion: African American Religions and Judaism (1999). She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University and her Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard. Her work has focused on diversity in the African American religious traditions, black diaspora religions, and the intersection of religion and culture. Her most recent project engages conceptualizations of magic and religion in black Graphica across traditions, practices, and contexts. She currently blogs on topics related to Africana religions at The Academic Hoodoo.
Elana Jefferson-Tatum received her PhD in religion from Emory University in 2016. Her research investigates problems of translation and interpretation in the study of African religious cultures with an attention to theories and methods in the study of religion that participate in colonialist constructions of African and Africana sacred worlds as religiously other. Her current research specifically investigates Vodun religious-material cultures as productive sites for re-imagining "religion" as material, immanent, and natural. She is presently revising her dissertation project for book publication.
Kate Ramsey teaches in the History Department at the University of Miami. She is the author of The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (Chicago, 2011), and co-editor of Transformative Visions: Works by Haitian Artists from the Permanent Collection (Lowe Art Museum, 2015). Ramsey’s current research is focused in two ways. One project studies how early writings about Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices shaped and were shaped by medical ideas about the imagination during the final decades of slavery in the British Caribbean. Another project, based on collaborative research with Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, centers on the history of Vodou objects confiscated by U.S. marines during the 1915–1934 occupation of Haiti, and thereafter acquired by museums in the United States and beyond.
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Richard Brent Turner is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the African American Studies Program at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Soundtrack to a Movement: African American Islam, Jazz, and Black Internationalism (New York University Press, 2021), Jazz Religion, the Second Line, and Black New Orleans, New Edition (Indiana University Press, 2017), and Islam in the African-American Experience, Second Edition (Indiana University Press, 2003). Turner is a 2020 American Council of Learned Societies Fellow.
Funlayo E. Wood-Menzies, PhD, is a scholar-practitioner of Africana Religions, specializing in the Ifa-Orisa tradition as practiced in Nigeria and among African Americans in the United States. She is the founding director of the African and Diasporic Religious Studies Association and founding dean of Ase Ire Communiversity, an independent Africana Studies Institute. Dr. Wood-Menzies received her PhD from Harvard University and her work has been published in academic and popular venues including the Journal of Africana Studies, the Review of Religious Research, and Medium. Her book in progress, Obi: Death, Divination, and the Divine Feminine, will produce the first scholarly monograph on the kola nut in the context of African religion. A dedicated public scholar, she lectures frequently and has appeared in documentaries for PBS and the National Geographic Channel.
LeGrace Benson, Immediate Past President
LeGrace Benson currently directs the Arts of Haiti Research Project and is Associate Editor of the Journal of Haitian Studies. Professor emerita from the State University of New York, she holds a PhD from Cornell University and an MFA from the University of Georgia; she also studied at Long Island University (film production) and at the Episcopal Divinity School of Philadelphia. She has held faculty positions at Cornell, Wells College, SUNY-Empire State College, SUNY-Cortland, and Ithaca College. For the Faculté d’Education Regina Assumpta (FERA) in Cap-Haïtien, she taught Art History and English as a Second Language. In 2003–2004 she was a Cornell Civic Fellow, and in 2005–2006 a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Black Studies Research, University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work includes documentary films and numerous publications for scholarly journals, chapters in edited books, and art exhibition texts. She recently published Arts and Religions of Haiti: How the Sun Illuminates under Cover of Darkness (2014).
Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Past President
Patrick Bellegarde-Smith is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He obtained a PhD in international studies, history and comparative politics from The American University, and has taught in these fields, African American studies, and women’s studies. His scholarship is presently in the areas of African religious thought and Haitian social philosophy, with an emphasis on national and cultural identities. He has authored, edited and co-edited several books on these subjects and a large number of articles, notably In the Shadow of Powers and Haiti: The Breached Citadel. Some of his work has been translated into French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He is a recipient of the Medaille Jean Price-Mars, from the Université d’État d’Haïti, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Scholarship from the Haitian Studies Association. He is an oungan asogwe, a priest of Vodou.
Gerdès Fleurant, Past President
Gerdès Fleurant is a professor emeritus of music at Wellesley College. He is the author of Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite (Praeger, 1996).