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Author Jemar Tisby kicks off new speaker series through ACU’s Carl Spain Center

Bestselling author Jemar Tisby will speak Feb. 10-11, 2021, at Abilene Christian University as part of a new speaker series sponsored by the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action.

Both events will include a limited and physically distanced audience at Cullen Auditorium at 6:30 p.m., with face masks required. Virtual tickets are also available to watch via livestream. On Wednesday night, Tisby will speak on “White Supremacy and the Evangelical Church: Untangling Race, Politics and Religion in America.” His topic Thursday night will be “Surviving as a Person of Color at a Predominantly White Institution.”

Tisby is an author, speaker and president of The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, where he writes about race, religion and culture. He wrote the New York Times bestselling book The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, which received honors in 2019 as Book of the Year from the Englewood Review of Books, and Best Religion and Spirituality Books from the Library Journal. He also co-hosts the podcast “Pass the Mic,” and his writing has been featured in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and Vox. Tisby is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Mississippi, where he studies race, religion and social movements in the 20th century.

“In recent years, Jemar Tisby has emerged as a leading voice confronting the legacy of white supremacy,” said Dr. Jerry Taylor, associate professor of Bible, missions and ministry and founding director of the Carl Spain Center. “We believe Jemar’s lectures will help our campus and community reckon with both the historic and current state of the Christian church as well as the weight this reality places on people of color in predominantly white spaces.”

Tisby’s addresses are the first in the Don Williams and Royce Money Distinguished Lecture Series. J. McDonald “Don” Williams, former CEO of Trammell Crow Company and a former ACU trustee, began the Foundation for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit that helps revitalize low-income neighborhoods in Dallas. He also has funded efforts to recruit Black students and faculty to ACU and underwrote the October 1999 “One in Christ” conference at his alma mater. 

As an outcome of that event, which was designed for church leaders to discuss race in Churches of Christ, Dr. Royce Money – then president of the university, now its chancellor – publicly apologized and asked forgiveness for ACU’s previously discriminatory admission policies, and began a series of reconciliation meetings. The public apologies took place at Southwestern Christian College in November 1999 and in February 2000 at ACU. 

Williams is a 1963 and Money a 1964 graduate of Abilene Christian, which first admitted Black students in Fall 1961.

“We saw this speaker series as a good opportunity to remember Don as a catalyst who helped us gain traction in recruiting Black students and faculty,” Taylor said. “Royce worked to make that happen and has always been a big supporter of all things related to race and reconciliation.”

Learn more about the Carl Spain Center.

— Wendy Kilmer

Feb. 9, 2021

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