Announcing Dr. Tia Noelle Pratt as Scholar in Residence for 2018-2019

Since our founding, Aquinas Center has prioritized learning and critical inquiry, believing that the democratization of knowledge is essential to just and fair communities. It is in this spirit that we are delighted to announce our first scholar-in-residence (of hopefully an annual program)! Dr. Tia Noelle Pratt, who has spent time in the past with our Youth Researchers to prepare programming on race and faith, will join us for the 2018-2019 academic year. Dr. Pratt will meet with the new team of Youth Researchers on a monthly basis to facilitate instruction on research methods and then will share findings from her own scholarship at a spring symposium.

Her residency at Aquinas Center will take place while Dr. Pratt is working on a book project, Black and Catholic, Catholic and Black:  Structure, Racism, and Identity in the African-American Catholic Experience. This project analyzes how systemic racism in the Catholic Church has resulted in the small number of African-American Catholics. Also, the book examines liturgy as a form of identity work by looking at how African-American Catholics combine the dual heritages of Roman Catholicism and African-American religious traditions such as music, preaching, and commitment to social justice to form a singular identity. Her research and data collection includes interviews with St. Thomas Aquinas’ Concerned Black Catholics, a group that recently celebrated 15 years of centering the very same themes.

Aquinas Center Youth Researchers with Dr. Pratt at a Race/Justice event they co-facilitated in the Diocese of Camden, NJ in January 2018. (Above and below)

When asked to consider the role Dr. Pratt might have at Aquinas Center, current Youth Researcher Atianah Thomas noted that it is “critical to have scholars who look like us.” Ma’Kayla Taylor agreed, saying, “representation matters.” Andrea Rusli, a high school senior aspiring to a career in cultural anthropology, remarked, “We need to know that women of color can achieve in any field they want to.” All four current researchers expressed enthusiasm for next year’s cohort to have the regular presence of a scholar who is committed to guiding and supporting their research topics, which this past year have examined rape culture, youth inclusion in public space, and the intersection of faith and racial justice.

Dr. Pratt is a graduate of West Catholic Preparatory High School, Chestnut Hill College, and Fordham University. Her research is supported by grants from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Louisville Institute. Support for her spring symposium at Aquinas Center and related research materials with teens (photocopies, internet, and more) can be donated here.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting collaboration!