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Spelman College Commencement

Baccalaureate Speaker

2019 Speaker: Alisha Lola Jones, M.Div., Ph.D.

Alisha Lola Jones Baccalaureate Speaker 2019 SpelmanA fourth-generation, ordained, itinerant preacher, the Reverend Dr. Alisha Lola Jones has preached internationally and has spoken before organizations such as the Student National Medical Association on tapping into their genius. She has spoken alongside notables such as Dr. Dorothy Height, Judith Jamison, and Attorney Star Jones, and has worked for ministries in Connecticut and Illinois. She is an associate pastor at Greater Grace Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland where Rev. Dr. Martha Jones is senior pastor. She will deliver her Baccalaureate address on Saturday, May 18, at 9 a.m., on the Oval at Spelman College. 


An assistant professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University (Bloomington). Dr. Jones is a graduate of University of Chicago (Ph.D.), Yale Divinity School (M.Div.), Yale Institute of Sacred Music (ISM), and Oberlin Conservatory (B.M.). She is a council member of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s council and the SEM liaison to the American Academy of Religion. Additionally, as a performer-scholar, she consults seminaries and arts organizations on curriculum, programming, and content development. 

Dr. Jones’ forthcoming book “Flaming: The Peculiar Theo-Politics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance,” breaks ground by analyzing the role of gospel music making in constructing and renegotiating gender identity among Black men. Dr. Jones' research interests include musical masculinities, gastromusicology, global pop music, future studies, ecomusicology, music and theology, the music industry, musics of the African diaspora and emerging research on music and future foodways in conjunction with The Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, California. 

In spring 2016, she received a College of Arts and Humanities Institute grant to expand upon research on music of the African diaspora to the Pacific islands, focusing on Pacific African Americans' musical responses to the #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName movements in the United States territory of Guam. Among her lectureships at schools of music, seminaries, and churches this year, Dr. Jones is slated to train interfaith leaders on the merits of music and wellness at the United Nations. 

Dr. Jones was named an innovator in community organization by the Harvard Divinity School (2016), inducted into the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College (2017); and recognized by the University of Chicago Divinity School with an award for her contributions to womanist religious research and public engagement (2017). 

She received academic acclaim and support for her research with fellowships from Andrew W. Mellon; the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; Martin Marty Center; and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, among others. As a performer-scholar, Dr. Jones has lectured on her research throughout the world at institutions such as Oxford University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, Yale University, Hampton Ministers Conference and Musicians Guild, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Spelman College, Howard University, Boston University, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her writings on African American religious music, gender and sexuality in ethnomusicological research appear in various publications. She has been featured in Liner Notes magazine, The Afro-American newspaper, Black,,, and She is a contributing writer for HEED magazine and


Training theologians and researchers to turn their research and faith into innovative entrepreneurship, Dr. Jones is an inaugural thought-leader for the Forum for Theological Exploration’s entrepreneurship incubator. Dr. Jones has unveiled her award winning Genius For Men Conference (GFM). GFM is a men’s empowerment conference that celebrates community between men and women, male achievement, and transcendence within one’s profession. Also, Dr. Jones has founded Move And Shake Women: Academic Women Connecting in the Journey. With the support of a University of Chicago GSA Innovation Grant Move and Shake focuses on training high achieving women in work-life balance. In addition, Dr. Jones has served on the board of several faith-based and arts focused organizations such as the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) and the Black Gents of Hollywood. 

Spelman's 2019 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients



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