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Reflection #1: Teaching and Improvisation: Virtual Symposium Using Creative Pedagogy with Victor L. Wooten

On Wednesday, October 7, 2020 we had our first gathering with Victor Wooten and the fifteen scholars who are privileged to be a part of this cohort. Victor asked us, “Why are you here?” Many answered while I listened. I didn’t speak during the formal two hour period, I listened. I hadn’t intended not to speak. Prior to the gathering formally beginning I was my normal raucous self but when Dr. Lynne Westfield called us to order my posture changed. If would’ve answered the question Victor posed I would’ve said: “I am here because I love music. I am here because I use music in all of my classes. I am here because I thank improvisation is the key to living full and adventurous life. I love the guitar. I love the bass. I am grew up listening to Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, James Jamerson, Jaco Pastorious and so many more. I am a true fan of Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miler, Chritian McBride and Victor Wooten. Victor Wooten is not simply a musician but to me he is a mystic, a teacher, a scholar and brilliant. Whenever Victor Wooten is in town I am there to be a part of the experience.”

Everytime Victor comes to Atlanta I am there (the links below are to photo galleries of two of my recent experiences at a Victor Wooten concert). Victor Wooten at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA I was in this cohort for the experience. I wanted to experience what it meant to be with Victor and my colleagues to do this work together, to grow together and reimagine what teaching could be for us in the present age.

Ralph Basui Watkins, MFA, DMin, PhD

About Ralph Basui Watkins, MFA, DMin, PhD

Servant Pastor, Wheat Street Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia
The Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth
Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur Georgia

Ralph Watkins is the Pastor of Wheat Street Baptist Church and the Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Seminary. His work focuses on building bridges between young adults and the church in order to develop future leaders for the twenty-first century church who work for justice. As a scholar, professional photographer, documentarian, pastor, sought after speaker and workshop leader Dr. Watkins seeks to help the churches live into the new networked world.

With over 20 years of pastoral, teaching, and administrative experience, Watkins is an active teaching scholar with over 250 publications and conference presentations to his credit. He is the author of The Future of the African American Church (co-authored with Justin West) (2014), Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme (2011), Leading Your African American Church Through Pastoral Transition (2010), From Jay-Z to Jesus: Reaching and Teaching Young Adults in the Black Church (co-authored with Benjamin Stephens) (2008), The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip Hop Generation (2007), and I Ain’t Afraid to Speak My Mind (2003). He is presently working on his next book with Eerdmans Press entitled Africana Theology: The Re-Radicalization of Black Theology.

Dr. Watkins is the host of the television show Talk it Out with Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins a show that discusses issues of faith and social justice and his preaching ministry is the featured on the Love Out Loud Broadcast, both shows air on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Network. He is also the producer / director of three full length feature documentaries: She Is The Pastor (2012) and Our Journey to Palestine: A Story of the 43rd Delegation of Interfaith Peace Builders (2013) and Africana Theology and the Roots of Our Faith: A Journey Through Egypt (2019)

In recent years, Watkins has received a Governor’s Teaching Fellowship, Lilly Teaching Fellowship, Fulbright Hayes Fellowship for study in Ghana, a Wabash Teaching Fellowship, and various awards and grants to study the African roots of African American theology in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Ghana.

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