Kim McCrae Sheds Light On Islamic Studies, Womanist Concerns

Duke Islamic Studies Center program coordinator is a poet and performance artist

Kim McCrae reads her poem,
Kim McCrae reads her poem, "Redefining Freedom," in Durham. Photo by CharlesMedia Photography

Name: Kim McCrae

Position: Program Coordinator, Duke Islamic Studies Center

Years at Duke: Four years as a student, five years as an employee

What I do at Duke is: I handle financials for the Islamic Studies Center and the Middle East Studies Center. I also help put together programming that sheds light on different aspects of Islamic studies and Muslim life.  We offer scholarly seminars, talks, performances and a film series each semester. This semester's film series is "Reel Revolutions" focusing on movies about the Middle East.  Much of our focus has been around Islamophobia and addressing Islam in Post 9/11 America.

What I love about Duke is: Everything. I've loved Duke since I was 13 years old. I came down from New Jersey to visit some of my family and fell in love with the beautiful campus. It was that much more beautiful when I found out that Julian Abele, an African-American architect, designed the West Campus. When I was 18, I gave up a full scholarship at Trenton State University because I wanted the diversity of academic work and the different environment I found at Duke. 

How I got my current job at Duke: I love this area and returned to the Duke as a temp after completing my Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York. I figured I'd eventually find a match for my skills. This job opened up just as my first temp job was ending.

When I'm not at work I like to: Travel and perform. I lecture, I preach and I sing along with writing and performing poetry. I've travelled as far as El Salvador to participate in an international poetry festival. I enjoy being on stage - it is home away from home for me.

To start a conversation with me, someone should ask about: Womanist theology and/or Womanism. The feminist movement is largely focused on equal rights of women, and more specifically, white women in the U.S. The concept of womanism is centered around issues that women of color face in America that were not directly addressed in the feminist movement, such as the myth of the strong black woman who "takes care of everything". It's about dismantling oppression shaped by sexism and racism and honoring and addressing the lives and experiences of women of color. 

My dream job is: To teach Women's Studies at the university level. More specifically, I'd love to teach womanist ethics at Duke.

If I had $5 million I would: Put aside $100,000 for each of my four children for college. Then I'd clear out my own student loans and set aside money to travel to engage my art. And I would love to give enough money to the Union Theological Seminary to complete the fund raising for the Eunice Jackson - Ella Mitchell Chair for womanist theology. 

Something most people don't know about me: In addition to singing and writing poetry, I play flute, piccolo, alto sax and all sorts of drums. I can also pick out songs by ear on the piano but never mastered the two-handed thing. 

The best advice I've received: I once heard Bishop T. D. Jakes say, `Your destiny is a direct result of your next decision.' That has helped me look beyond a moment, an emotion or a perception and see how an action today might affect my ultimate goals.