Artist Statement: Rev. Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins

The scholar with a camera!

Seeing the Future of the African American Church in the Rainbow: A Year in the Life of Real Inspiration Ministries

Artist Statement

At the very core of the Gospel is the liberation of all who are oppressed. The work is founded on a commitment to freeing the African American Church from heterosexism, homophobia, and transphobia. It calls for the African American church to affirm and celebrate that all of God’s people are created in the image of God. That all people have the God-given right to be included in the life of the church as their authentic selves. This work challenges the mainline, traditional African American church to look, hear, and engage in an active conversation that leads to liberation and radical inclusion. The African American Church is challenged to live up to its claim of being a liberative church that fights on the side of the oppressed.
  • All people are created in the image of God.
  • The Black church claims to be a church that fights on the side of the oppressed.
  • The gospel calls us to radical love.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,

17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version.
(1989). (Lk 4:16–20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Seeing the Future of the African American Church in the Rainbow: This is My Story, This is My Song

Artist Statement

The images in this work are of pastors, lay leaders and queer allies who demand: Look me in the eyes. See me in the church. See me in those spaces that have denied my full humanity.  I may sit in this space, alone, yet the light shines upon me. These images are portraits of dignity in the hues that call attention to the humanity of lesbian, gay, transgender, queer ,and queer-allied people who are created in the image of God. The work calls on the viewer to attempt to feel what the participants in the portraits have felt as Christians who have been ill-treated by the very church they love.

The documentary invites those who engage this work to hear, see, and feel the participants’ story. A story that amplifies the truth of their being created by God in the image of God, and what it means to live as a person of faith who is LGBTQ or a queer ally. This is a Black Church story, a story about the Black Church, and a call to the Black Church.

Rev. Dr. Ralph  Basui Watkins“The scholar with a camera!”The Peachtree Professor of Evangelism and Church GrowthColumbia Theological Seminary

MFA, Savannah College of Art and DesignDMin, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary PhD, University of Pittsburgh  
Ralph Basui Watkins is known as “the scholar with a camera!” He is an arts based researcher who does work at the intersection of spirituality, photography, documentary film and social justice.  He is the author of six books, and over thirty chapters and articles.  He is a sought after speaker, workshop leader and panelist. His television show Talk it Out with Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins was one of the top rated shows on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting network for over four years (2012-2016).  

He is also the producer / director of three full length made for television feature documentaries: She Is The Pastor (2012) and Our Journey to Palestine: A Story of the 43rd Delegation of Interfaith Peace Builders (2013) and Out of Egypt I’ve Called My Son: A Son’s Journey Black to Africa – Part #1& 2 for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Network (2018) (2018).  Dr. Watkins has had three solo photography shows and his photographs have been published in numerous publications. He is presently working on a documentary and photo series  Seeing the Future of the Church in the Rainbow. Dr. Watkins is also working with Dr. Bill Brown on his seventh book The Word Made Image: Scripture, Photography, and the Creativity of Justice, Fortress Press, projected, Fall 2025.

In recent years, Watkins has been the artist in residence for Pride in the Pews at Spelman College,Velvet Note and St. James Live, both nationally recognized jazz clubs.  He also been awarded a Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant, Collegeville Institute Sabbatical Residency Grant, 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 in Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Ghana. Dr. Watkins is married to Dr. Vanessa C. Watkins, they have been married since 1982 and have three adult children.

Brian Cromer, JD
Research Assistant
Cell Phone: (864) 216-7714
Brian Cromer is a queer cisgender male, halfway through his M.Div. program at Columbia Theological Seminary (PCUSA) in Decatur, GA. He grew up in South Carolina and attended Southern Baptist churches until he came out as gay in 1992. For twenty years, Brian was a corporate attorney in San Diego, CA, for a large energy company. In late 2018, he moved back to South Carolina to be near his family. Brian attends First Baptist Greenville and is a leader in their LGBTQ & Friends Community Group. He is in a committed relationship with two guys. Brian enjoys hiking, cooking, wine, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and being trained by his Yorkie to pick her up and put her down on command.

The project is funded by a Sabbatical Research Grant from The Louisville Institute

The writing of the book and curriculum for this project is funded by a Writing Residency Grant from Collegeville Institute