Martin Institute Welcomes Dr. Kim Harris, Storyteller Who Integrates the Arts and Humanities

October 4, 2017


Dr. Kim Harris

Acclaimed storyteller, Dr. Kim Harris, who is also an artist, teacher, and composer, will bring her message of spirituality, theology, hope, justice, and music to the campus. Arriving October 23, Harris will spend a week at Stonehill immersed in constant dialogue through meetings, lectures, conversations, and song at the invitation of the Martin Institute for Law and Society.

 The Martin Institute invited Harris because of her unique approach to teaching and for her immersive storytelling, which dynamically integrates the arts and humanities into her work.

“Dr. Harris’ mission and voice speak to the very timely issues of ethnic equality and cultural diversity, something that is empowering to all,” said Professor Kathleen Currul-Dykeman, director of the Martin Institute who noted that the visit is in keeping with both the College’s and the Martin Institute’s commitment to providing uniquely rich cultural and academic experiences for students.

Three Goals
A visiting professor in theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angles, Harris comes to Stonehill as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and has three goals for her time at the College.

“First, I want students to remember their ancestors and their accomplishments. In terms of the Catholic tradition, we’re thinking about saints. As an African American woman, I'm thinking also about my ancestors who were slaves.”

“Second, I will encourage the students to wade in the water because God has got you. You’ve got to do difficult things, to definitely step out on faith.”

Harris’ third goal is to have students “keep looking upstream.” “That’s the cliffhanger,” she said. “They have to come and see me to understand what keep looking upstream means.”

Songs of Freedom
“I make my points through storytelling,” explained Harris, who is also a professional vocalist.

“I’m always interested in teaching through the arts, always interested in communicating various aspects of African American history and U.S. history and in particular the Underground Railroad and the modern Civil Rights Movement. And especially how music was used in these periods. We’ll talk about songs of faith and songs of freedom. And, we’ll be singing in class!”

Classes, Choir and Keynote
During her visit, Harris will lecture in a variety of courses, including Professor Jeremy Solomons’ writing class, Music as a Cultural Critique, in which she will discuss how spirituals were used during the time of the Underground Railroad. She will also lecture in Professor Todd Gernes’ course, Life and Times of Frederick Douglas, exploring the continuing power of his legacy today.

Harris will also participate in a performance with the Chapel Choir, meet with students and faculty in the fields of sociology, criminology and political science, deliver the keynote address at the Conference on Diversity and Inclusion sponsored by Intercultural Affairs, and speak at a Martin Institute event.

Liturgical Celebration
In addition to her position at Marymount, Harris is a liturgical consultant for the Office of Black Ministry in the Archdiocese of New York. She holds a Master of Divinity in worship and the arts from Union Theological Seminary; for her thesis, she wrote the libretto and collaborated to compose the one-act family opera, “Friends of Freedom: An Underground Railroad Story.”

While pursuing her PhD at Union Seminary, she composed “Welcome Table: A Mass of Spirituals.” The text is taken from the newly revised third edition of the Roman Missal while the melodies are those of Negro spirituals.

“The heart of the worship is the celebration of Eucharist and the heart of that is the response people make to the various aspects of the liturgy,” said Harris.

Catholic Heritage
“Since the Second Vatican Council, there’s been an opening for people to bring their cultural gifts and traditions into the singing of the Mass. This will be part of our conversations when I’m at Stonehill because when I’m on a Catholic heritage campus, I’m always interested in liturgy and being involved in the celebration of the Mass.”

Woodrow Wilson Fellows
The Council of Independent Colleges sponsors the Wilson program, which brings prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders, and other nonacademic professionals to campuses across the United States for substantive dialogue with students and faculty members to create better understanding and new connections between the academic and nonacademic worlds.

Since 2008, the Martin Institute has welcomed four other Wilson Fellows: A. Richard Norton of Boston University; Harold Piper, an international journalist; Kathleen O’Neil, president and CEO of Liberty Street Advisors; and Julius Coles of Morehouse College.