Black August: Madeline McClenney on the Biblical Imperative to Abolish Mass Incarceration

Black August Series

August 31, 2023, 7:30pm Eastern Time

Why We Must Seek Mass Clemency or Stop Preaching the Gospel

President and founder of ExodusFoundation.Org, Rev. Dr. Madeline McClenney will explore what the Exodus tradition, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and other biblical stories have to say to us in this age of racialized criminalization and mass incarceration. Dr. McClenney has been tireless in working to integrate her training as a Hebrew Testament scholar with her work for fundamental system change. She will share about how she is doing that, and how we can support and participate in it.

Dr. McClenney will be joined in conversation with former political prisoner M. Ashanti Alston. The session will be hosted and facilitated by CLBSJ Board Member Sr. Sharifa Vernice Meytung.

This year’s Black August series is focused on how the experiences of struggle to overcome racism, slavery and mass incarceration have informed Black/Africana biblical interpretation, and how Black scholars are using the understanding embedded in these experiences to reshape the field of biblical scholarship. The series is being curated by Hugh Page (co-editor of Black Scholars Matter) and Angela Parker (co-editor of Bitter the Chastening Rod), along with Nicholas Johnson, Sr. Sharifa Vernice Meytung, Sherly Fabre, Warren Cooper, Carolyn Grice and Amy Dalton. Bios are available at We are grateful for the co-sponsorship of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and the Community of Living Traditions.

Rev. Dr. Madeline McClenney is a prison abolitionist and an ordained Baptist minister with over two decades of experience serving the church. She completed a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance, and a Master of Divinity Degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. where she was an active advocate for the homeless. She continued her education at Duke University where she earned a Ph.D in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies in 2001, with minors in Women’s Studies and Islamic Law. She is the President/Founder of Exodus and chief architect of the Time’s Up Let Me Go Campaign. Click here to read full bio.

M. Ashanti Alston is an organizer, speaker and writer who spent 14 years in prison because of his membership and participation with the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. Since being released in 1985 he has been a leader in organizing support for political prisoners and is now on the Steering Committee of the National Jericho Movement to free U.S. political prisoners. Brother Ashanti was raised within the Church of God and Saints in Christ and the Baptist tradition, and has a deep respect for the role of religion in opening the mind for liberation.

Sr. Sharifa Vernice Meytung is an African-American artist, haijin (a writer of haiku poetry), and a teacher and lay religious practitioner in the Catholic and Buddhist traditions. Her practice is also steeped in and informed by West African, Native and HipHop traditions. Her media books and CDs include Oil For The Lamp: 7 Virtues of Human Character Development, Hiphop H.A.I.K.U. Vol 1 and 2, Rough Ground, and she is currently producing an online video series focused on the study of the Jataka Tales of early Buddhism. Sister Sharifa serves on the Board of CLBSJ and the Philadelphia Buddhist Association.