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Chera Jo Watts

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Doctoral Student, Religion & African American Studies

Chera Jo Watts is a mother, writer, gardener, yoga practitioner, and artist striving towards what Darlene Clark Hine labels a “Black Studies Mindset”. Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2010), Master of Arts in Religion, and Graduate Certificate in African American Studies (2022) from The University of Georgia. She is currently a doctoral student in the Religion program at The University of Georgia alongside her continued work in the Institute for African American Studies under the direction of Dr. Carolyn Jones Medine. Her broad research interests include African American women’s religion and literature, focusing primarily on Womanism, American Buddhist Modernism with an emphasis on Black Buddhists, and bridging the gap between the Academy and the everyday. As a non-traditional and first-generation student from a poverty class background, she’s interested in the intersections of race, religion, class, and gender as they relate to higher education access and attainment, and she asserts that we have much to learn from ancestors while operating among what bell hooks labels imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-patriarchy. These teachings facilitate personal and communal healing as we continuously dismantle these systems of domination in the tangible ways that we can from the spaces that we occupy. Watts currently serves as the Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Institute for African American Studies at The University of Georgia and Executive Associate for Digital Services for the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies.

  • MA in Religion, Graduate Certificate in African American Studies (2022), University of Georgia, Athens, GA.
  • BS in Psychology, Cum Laude (2010), University of Georgia, Athens, GA.
Research Interests:
  • Ongoing: African American Womanist Thought & Practice (focusing on Alice Walker); Black Buddhists & Practice in America; Black Feminism; Womanism; Love as Active Teaching Practice (in the spirit of bell hooks); African American Female Blended Spirituality; Comparative & Blended Religions; Decolonizing Teaching Strategies, Learning Practices, & Modes of Being in the World
  • In Progress (see peer-reviewed book chapters on CV): A Case Study in Mutual (Re)Creation: A Collaborative Approach to Understanding the Lives, Literature, and Lessons of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, co-authored with Chanara Andrews, concerning archival research citing letters written between Baldwin and Morrison during the 1970s alongside their fictional writing, public appearances, and other public historical documents.
  • Franklin College Curriculum Diversity Enhancement Grant, $100, Acknowledgement Award, University of Georgia Franklin College Dean’s Office, January 2023.
  • Student Responses to But Some of US are BRAVE, $250, Grant Recipient, University of Georgia Institute for Women’s Studies, Spring 2023.
  • University of Georgia Office of Sustainability Grant Sponsor, Franklin Residential College Community Garden Pilot Program, $3000, Spring 2021.
Selected Publications:
  • “An Ongoing Womanist Buddhist Project: Reading Between the Times,” Literature, Special Edition: “Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance in African American Literature,” edited by Carolyn Jones Medine, 2022. Link.

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