Kelsi Watters presents at the 13th Annual Conversation on Race

Watters, a MDiv candidate, facilitated an open discussion titled “The Eyes of Our Hearts”

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May 3, 2019

Master of Divinity candidate Kelsi Watters facilitated an open discussion titled “The Eyes of Our Hearts” at the Conversation on Race event October 9th at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center. Watters’s presentation focused on listening with the heart, a method of understanding a message without letting implicit biases take the foreground. Hearing is an act of listening just to take in words, while “listening engages all senses, heart, and the mind.” Watters discussed societal oppression of females and ways in which women can address this reality. Additionally, Watters shared her expertise in the areas of feminist and liberation theology.

When asked about being able to present at the conference, Watters admitted that she was nervous to discuss oppression because of the box phenomenon. This concept refers to the idea that people are placed in boxes simply because of their easily detectable features. However, Watters provided sound advice for anyone who has experienced oppression. The injustice one has faced does not define them but is a reality of social constructs. With Jesus taking the position as a liberator, there is no need for fear. Watters emphasized the idea of being strong-willed yet gentle in encountering humanity. “Don’t close your eyes to the light of truth, even when it starts to sting," she reflected. This sentiment embodies the joy and graces discovered while encountering truth, even though it may not always be pleasant.

Watters stressed the idea that womanists must develop survival strategies to be safe in the midst of oppression faced in the public eye. One of the intrinsic ways in which women experience societal subjugation is by being placed in a box. Watters, born blind, noted that society often defines her first by her condition, second by her gender, and third by her personal attributes.

Inspired by the works of Delores Williams and Jacquelyn Grant, both womanist theologians, Watters identified ways in which societal oppression can be overcome through the light of faith. One of the main sentiments shared was the reality of Jesus’ love for everyone, and the acceptance of this reality for women is pivotal in changing perspectives. Watters also noted that looking at Jesus through the lens of a liberator provides a means of freedom for those who have been oppressed. Furthermore, a view of God as merciful, compassionate, and loving can help one identify positivity in the midst of injustice.