Religion plays a central role in the lives of many New Yorkers. According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study of the Pew Research Center, 56% of adults in New York state believe in God with absolute certainty, 45% believe that religion is very important in their lives, and 48% pray at least once daily. While religion and spirituality are important to New Yorkers, African diasporic religions (ADRs) are often marginalized, misrepresented, or left out altogether. There is a need for a unified space where people can find multimedia presentations covering a range of ADRs that are practiced in NY state, and in NYC in particular.
In doing preliminary research, I found a website devoted to NYC religions, “A Journey Through NYC Religions,” but not surprisingly, African diasporic religions are otherized. They literally fall under the category of “Other.” As an afterschool program coordinator, I attended trainings by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. They were truly inclusive of world religions. The problem is that only a small, self-selecting group of schools and youth development programs will access their trainings. What about the teacher who identifies bullying of students that is rooted in both racism and religious prejudice? What about the youth whose families practice one or more ADRs, but they are scared to mention it in school, hiding a critical aspect of their identities? We need tools that are universally accessible and that can support individuals in navigating complex conversations.
I want to create an internet space that promotes faces, voices, and geographic locations from these communities. My target audience is teachers, adolescent youth, and college level students. It would include the following:
- short written articles with links
- religious songs and music videos
- video footage of interviews with religious leaders and heads of cultural institutions in each borough
- data visualization and mapping to illustrate where populations and places of worship are in each borough
- Interactive educational games based on the content of the website
I envision that the website will be designed for both desktop and mobile access. Users can be at home, in school, at the library, or anywhere where internet access is available. I intend to use Commons software to design the website because WordPress is a common platform. Another alternative platform would be Wix, as it allows for a more engaging interface. I currently maintain a website my own website that was designed on Wix and am somewhat familiar with the tools. I would pay for the yearly hosting of the site through my publishing company, Dimonet Connect Publishing LLC. I would need to look into sponsorships as a possibility.
For the educational games, I am not yet sure of which software to use or websites to use as a model. I will build the basic design for the website and will need to enlist the help of a videographer to record interviews. I had originally planned to produce all of the content, but someone suggested to me that I could find a way to invite community members to submit content, as well. I will need to give this more thought.