Black And Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom

Buddhism is a way of life, a philosophy, a psychology, a set of ethics, a religion, or a combination thereof. Central to the many ways Buddhism is understood is the achievement of emotional, mental, and psychological wellness. African Americans are at perpetual risk of psychological imbalance and trauma due to the social realities of racism in the United States. The authors engage the question: What can Buddhism offer African Americans who want to be emotionally resilient in a context they cannot singlehandedly change?

Pamela Ayo Yetunde is co-editor of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom. Ayo is also the author of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology for Transgender Spiritual Care (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and Objection Relations, Buddhism, and Relationality in Womanist Practical Theology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Ayo is a chaplain and pastoral counselor and is co-founder of Center of Heart ( and founder of Audre: Spiritual Care for Women with Cancer.

Cheryl A. Giles is the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling at HDS and a licensed clinical psychologist, who teaches courses on spiritual care, trauma and resilience for caregivers, and compassionate care of the dying. Cheryl is a core faculty member of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative and co-editor of The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work (Wisdom Press, 2012). Her most recent book is Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Healing.

Judith Simmer-Brown is Distinguished Professor of Contemplative and Religious Studies at Naropa University and Acharya in the Shambhala lineage of Chogyam Trungpa. Currently she co-chairs the American Academy of Religion’s Contemplative Studies Unit, and lectures and writes on Tibetan Buddhism, American Buddhism, women and Buddhism, and interreligious dialogue. Her books are Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism (Shambhala) and Meditation and the Classroom: Contemplative Pedagogy for Religious Studies (SUNY).

Melissa Wood Bartholomew, MDiv ’15, is Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging at HDS. She is a Christ-centered minister and a racial justice and healing practitioner. Melissa is also an attorney and a mediator with nearly a decade’s experience in public interest law in the state of Washington. She facilitates workshops utilizing her framework, Healers of the Wound: Healing Racism from the Inside Out, a multidisciplinary approach to equipping people for the work of eradicating racism and healing from its effects.

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