Sweet Honey in the Rock singer Ysaye Barnwell to highlight daylong “Radical Love: Taking Back Valentine’s Day” program, February 8, 2012.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- “Radical Love: Taking Back Valentine’s Day” will be the theme of Vassar’s annual Religious and Spiritual Life Day on February 8, to open up campus conversation about love, sexuality, and spirituality. Visiting speakers, Vassar staff, and students from diverse religious backgrounds will address the theme with activities reflecting aspects of their spiritual traditions. Among the day’s highlights will be a multifaceted inter-religious service at 5:30pm in Ely Hall where Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, a long-time member of the internationally renowned African-American choral group Sweet Honey in the Rock, will lead attendees in one of her famed community sings.

“Sexuality and spirituality often seem like strange bedfellows. But this day is designed to celebrate and affirm that they are not,” says the Rev. Samuel Speers, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Assistant Dean of Campus Life. “In the radical spirit of St. Valentine, we hope the day will help all of us consider the transforming power of love, not only as a power within our individual lives, but as a social force and social critique of what it means to live together on this small planet.” 

Beginning at 11:00am students will staff an information and discussion table in the College Center Atrium of Main Building to kick off the day’s activities. At 3:30pm in the Rose Parlor of Main Building, pastor and Vassar alumnus Joseph Tolton from the Rehoboth Christ Conscious Church in New York City will host a discussion on love, sex, sexuality, and religion. Pastor Tolton is part of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and on the Board of Directors of the Global Justice Institute, the social justice arm of the Metropolitan Community Churches.

The inter-religious service at 5:30pm will include several additional participants: student leaders from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; the student-led choir “Vassar Has Soul”; dance professor Katherine Wildberger and her student Cheng Peng; Rabbi Rena Blumenthal, Assistant Director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and the Rachlin Advisor to Jewish Students; Imam Qari Muhammad Asil Khan from the Islamic association Masjid al-Noor in Wappingers Falls, NY; the Venerable Khenpo Kalsang Gyaltsen from the Tibetan temple Tsechen Kunchab Ling in Walden, NY; and Rev. Samuel Speers.

This year's Religious & Spiritual Life Day program is part of Vassar College's participation in the 
President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge: Advancing Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service in Higher Education, a national initiative led by the White House and supported by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

About Ysaye Barnwell

Dr. Ysaye Barnwell joined Sweet Honey In The Rock  in 1979. She appears as a vocalist and instrumentalist on more than thirty recordings with Sweet Honey and other artists.  For the past thirty years she has spent much of her time off stage as a master teacher and choral clinician in African-American cultural performance. She has conducted her workshop “Building a Vocal Community®: Singing in the African-American Tradition” on three continents, making her work in the field a significant source of inspiration for both singers and non-singers, and a model of pedagogy for educators, cultural activists, and historians.  She has also been a commissioned composer on numerous choral, film, video, dance, and theatrical projects.
Dr. Barnwell has her doctorate in speech pathology from the University of Pittsburgh, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from her alma mater, the State University of New York at Geneseo.  For over a decade she was also on the faculty of the College of Dentistry at Howard University.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact the Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the campus can be found at
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, February 3, 2012