Sikivu Hutchinson

On this date in 1969, Black activist, author and feminist Sikivu Hutchinson was born in Los Angeles to Yvonne (Divans) and Earl Ofari Hutchinson Jr., respectively a retired English teacher and a noted analyst and commentator on race, politics and civil rights. Her grandfather, Earl Hutchinson Sr., published his autobiography A Colored Man’s Journey Through 20th Century Segregated America when he was 96.

Hutchinson earned a B.A. in anthropology from UCLA and a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University in 1999. She taught women’s studies, cultural studies, urban studies and education at UCLA, the California Institute of the Arts and Western Washington University. 

Her first book was Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (2003) and was followed by Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels (2013) and Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical (2020).

Her novel White Nights, Black Paradise (2015), with a focus on Black women, the Peoples Temple and the Jonestown massacre, was later adapted for the stage. Her novel Rock ’n’ Roll Heretic: The Life and Times of Rory Tharpe (2021) detailed the life of an ex-Pentecostal Black female electric guitarist who at one point says, “Those white boys on the major labels would never give an inch to a Negro woman playing race music.” 

Hutchinson founded Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA) in 2010 and is the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a high school feminists of color mentoring program in South Los Angeles. She received the Foundation Beyond Belief’s 2015 Humanist Innovator award and the Secular Student Alliance’s 2016 Backbone award. In 2020, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, a chapter of the American Humanist Association, named her one of its three Humanists of the Year.

BSLA has twice partnered with the Freedom From Religion Foundation by selecting recipients  for FFRF’s Forward Freethought Tuition Relief Scholarships. In 2020, four secular students of color each received $5,000 stipends, double the amount of the inaugural awards. 

Hutchinson has written and spoken extensively on the particular challenges of “coming out” as an atheist female of color. “[P]atriarchy entitles men to reject organized religion with few implications for their gender-defined roles as family breadwinners or purveyors of cultural values to children. Men simply have greater cultural license to come out as atheists or agnostics.” (Feminism: Opposing Viewpoints, April 1, 2012)

She has been married to Stephen Kelley as of this writing in 2023 for 17 years and has a nonbinary daughter, Jasmine Hutchinson Kelley. She’s a distance runner, acoustic guitarist and rock music enthusiast whose favorites include the Beatles, Neil Young, Sonic Youth, Parliament/Funkadelic, Hendrix/Band of Gypsys, Malina Moye, Brittany Howard, David Bowie and Bob Dylan. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation