Deirdre “Jonese” Austin was born and raised in Charlotte, NC to Deridre Austin and the late John David Austin Jr. Much of her life has been shaped by the South and the Church. As such, her work, ministry, and research develop out of her own experience. Jonese is a scholar, writer, minister, and womanist. She has spoken on panels and led sessions on topics such as liberation theology, racial reconciliation, combatting hatred and xenophobia, and addressing racism and sexism in faith spaces as Black Christian women. She has also written articles and blog posts, notably in Sojourners online and Facing South, on topics related to the intersections of faith, race, gender and sexuality, and justice. Currently, Jonese’s work centers how Black Christian women in the U.S. South come to understand their bodies and sexuality through dance in “sacred” and “secular” spaces. She will be exploring this topic as a PhD student in Duke University’s Cultural Anthropology program, pursuing certificates in African and African American Studies and Feminist Studies.

Jonese’s time at Duke University is a continuation of the work she began as a student at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology where she completed a thesis that explored how liturgical dance as a pastoral care practice can promote healing from personal, racial, and pandemic-related trauma in Black Christian women. She graduated with her Master of Divinity with certificates in Black Church Studies and Baptist Studies from Emory in May of 2022. In May of 2019, Jonese graduated from Georgetown University with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service. She graduated with honors in her major of Culture and Politics with a focus in religion and social justice, a minor in African American Studies, and a certificate in Religion, Ethics, and World Affairs. Also in May of 2019, Jonese was licensed for ministry at the historic Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Darryl Roberts.

Jonese’s favorite scripture is Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly[a] with your God,” and she lives by the philosophy and Emily Dickinson quote, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.” Her professional goal is to enter a career at the intersections of ministry, nonprofit work, academia, and politics that will allow her to bring healing and liberation for all people, but especially Black women, through theology, direct action, and policy.