Stargazing Team Bios

Maria Hamilton Abegunde

Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D. is a Memory Keeper, ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, a devotee of the orisa Osun, healing facilitator, doula (birth, postpartum, death), Civic Reflection Dialogue trainer, and Powerful Conversations on Race facilitator. Her research and creative works are grounded in contemplative practices and African-based rituals. She respectfully approaches the Earth and human bodies as sites of memory, and always with the understanding that memory never dies, is subversive, and can be recovered to transform and heal transgenerational trauma and pain. 

Specific areas of interest include the Middle Passage, genocide, sexual violence, memory and embodiment, community healing, and the arts as a vehicle for community transformation. In 1998, she was the lead team teacher on the Middle Passage teaching voyage as she retraced TransAtlantic Slave Routes with Captain Bill Pinkney. She was a member of the UNESCO Lest You Forget project that studied the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and Middle Passage in the Americas. Geographical areas of interest include Brazil, Nigeria, and South Sudan (Juba). In 2016, she was invited to Juba to help create a Masters in Teaching Emergencies at the University of Juba.  

Her writings/performances have been published in the journals COGzine, North Meridian Review, theMassachusetts Review, Obsidian, Tupelo Quarterly, FIRE!!! (ASALH), the Kenyon Review, COGzine, and nocturnes; in the books The Eternal Year of African People, Ashe: Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity, Theorizing Folklore from the Margins: Critical and Ethical Approaches, Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, Best African American Fiction, Let Spirit Speak!, Black Powerful: Black Voices Reimagine Revolution, and SO WE CAN KNOW: Writers of Color on Pregnancy, Loss, Abortion, and Birth;and in the exhibitions Be/Coming, Keeper of My Mothers’ Dreams, and Sister Song: The Requiem. Her poems and other writings have been anthologized in Black Powerful: Black Voices Reimagine Revolution, Gathering Ground, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century, Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places, I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You, and Catch the Fire. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Wishful Thinking and Still Breathing, and the full collection What Is Now Unanswerable. 

Dr. Abegunde is the ritualist and commissioned poet for the Ancestral Masquerade Series and the Sister Song exhibitions. She is a Cave Canem, Sacatar, Ragdale, and NEH Summer Institute fellow, and was one of the participants in the inaugural Poets and Scholars Writing Retreat, hosted by the Rutgers University Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice. She is a faculty member in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, with affiliations in Gender Studies, the African Studies Program, and the Center for Research on Race & Ethnicity in Society. Additional information about her work, including interviews and performances, can be found HERE and

Dr. Raymond Wise

Raymond Wise, Ph. D., a native of Baltimore, Md., began his musical career at three, singing gospel music with his family singing group, “The Wise Singers.” Wise was educated through the Baltimore City Public School System and graduated as a salutatorian from the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community High School in 1979. Dr. Wise earned a BFA in Music (Piano and Voice) from Denison University (Granville, Ohio). He reorganized the Black Student Union Choir and started the Black Student Union Ensemble and Dance Company. He did additional studies in Opera, Art, and German at the Institute for European Studies in Vienna, Austria, and African-American History, Music, and Dance at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California. He completed an apprenticeship in the business and recording of Gospel Music with the Walter Hawkins Corporation in Oakland, California. Dr. Wise was awarded a Graduate Fellowship from the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he earned a Master in Music Education, Ohio Teacher’s Certification, and Doctorate in Music Education. His dissertation topic was “Defining African American Gospel Music by Tracing its Historical and Musical Development from 1900 to 2000.” Dr. Wise anticipates the pending release of his new book, “What Happened to Gospel Music?” published by Cascade Press. 

Dr. Wise currently serves on Indiana University’s faculty in Bloomington, Indiana, as a Professor of Practice in the African American African Diaspora Studies department. He is the recipient of the James E. Mumford Excellence in Extraordinary Teaching Award. Dr. Wise serves as the Associate Director of the African American Arts Institute, an IU division devoted to African American music and art’s perpetuation and performance. Dr. Wise conducts the African American Choral Ensemble ( He has also served on The Ohio State University and Denison University faculties and is an adjunct professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Columbus, Ohio) and Trevecca College (Nashville, Tennessee).   

Dr. Wise is an ordained minister and has served as a church musician for more than 45 years. He has appeared on radio and television, recorded 25 albums, and performed with opera singers, orchestras, dance companies, and professional recording groups. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia as a singer, pianist, composer, lecturer, choreographer, and conductor for honor choirs and choral festivals. Dr. Wise has performed at Carnegie Hall and other major halls throughout the world, including the Kennedy Center and National Cathedral (Washington, DC.), the Apollo Theater (Harlem, New York), Berlin Philharmonic Hall (Berlin, Germany), Smetana Hall (Prague, Czech Republic), Shenzhen Grand Theater (Shenzhen, China), Chamsil Gymnasium Olympic Stadium (Seoul, Korea).  

Dr. Wise began composing at the age of 9 and has penned more than 680 compositions; including Anthems, Spirituals, Sacred and Secular Choral Music, Art Songs, Gospel Songs, Children’s Songs, Psalm Settings, Band Music, Piano Music, Rap Music, Dance Music, Commercial Jingles, Opera and Musical Theater Scores.    

His works are published by Hinshaw, G.I.A., Hal Leonard, MusicSpoke, Abingdon Press, and the United Methodist Publishing House. Wise was recently awarded a writer/editor series with Hinshaw Publications. His Anthology of 21 Spirituals for the 21st Century has received national and international acclaim. More than 200 of his compositions are available through the Raymond Wise Choral music series. In addition, Wise’s works have been performed and recorded by national and international recording artists. 

Wise has received numerous commissions, including “Afro-American Suite” written for Bass-Baritone and Chorus and Barefoot, a children’s opera commissioned and performed by Opera Columbus’ educational outreach program. Other notable commissions include “The Essence of Christmas,” a choral Suite for Strings, Brass, and Rhythm, commissioned by the Essence of Joy Singers from Penn State University (2014), and A Suite for Bassoon and Piano entitled “This Far By Faith” commissioned by Dr. Maya Stone. In addition, wise has composed works for the American Spiritual Ensemble (ASE), the International Spiritual Festival held in Prague, Czech Republic, and others. Wise recently premiered his Gospel Mass, including the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and 16-Fold Amen set in various contemporary gospel styles.  

Dr. Wise’s most recent commission is entitled “Lift Your Voice and Sing,” which was commissioned for the 2022 American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Eastern Division Gospel Honor Choir. He was also the recipient of a Platform Grant funded by Indiana University and the Mellon Foundation, for which is composing an art song cycle entitled ‘Star Gazing” based on the life of “Elizabeth Breckenridge.” 

Wise has composed original scores for more than 20 musical theater productions, including Dwight Collin’s “Dark Symphony,” the Samuel S. Davis production of “The Snow Queen,” and the Amera-flora production of “Listen With Your Heart.” In addition, wise has composed and conducted his orchestral works with the Nashville (TN), Littleton (CO), Akron (OH), Ithaca College (NY), and Czech National Symphonies. His works have also been performed by the McGill University, Omaha (NE), and London Symphony Orchestras.  

Wise’s compositions are featured in the “Zion Still Sings,” “Africana” hymnals, and “The Lectionary Psalter.” Wise won an Addie Award for a Franklin County Children’s Services commercial that featured his composition entitled “Give Him a Hand.” Wise recently won an Emmy Award for his work as writer and conductor for the PBS documentary “Amen: Music of the Black Church.” He was featured on the Long Street Cultural Wall Bridge in Columbus, Ohio has won numerous Gospel Music Excellence awards and nominations for his gospel compositions.  

Wise is the founder and President of Raise Productions’ Center for the Gospel Arts, a gospel music production and publishing company in Columbus, Ohio, established to provide educational training and resources for gospel artists and the community. In addition, wise has served as the artistic director of the various Raise performing ensembles since 1986 ( 

Dr. Wise served as the Co-Director and Director of the Hampton University Minister’s Conference Choir Directors’ and Organists’ Guild and Academy, which provides intensive training in African American sacred music for church musicians. He has also served as a member of the academic faculty for the Gospel Music Workshop of America for 34 years. His knowledge of the gospel and classical music genres has enabled him to serve as a consultant and clinician in academic and gospel music settings. Wise is known for helping choirs perform gospel music authentically. In addition, Dr. Wise served as the Ethnic and American music Repertoire and Standards Chair for the American Choral Director’s Association Central Division (ACDA). 

Carey Champion

Carey Champion, MLS (IU) is an Associate Librarian and Director of Wylie House Museum and the Morton C. Bradley, Jr. Education Center. She works closely with students and staff to create an inviting, dynamic, and safe space for teaching and learning. In addition to managing the museum and its collections, she serves as a liaison between the museum and the IU academic community, scholars, and the public providing reference and research support and developing programs. Her research interests include pedagogical approaches to primary source instruction, place-based learning, and the educational role of academic house museums.  

Jeffery Giddings

Jeffery Giddings is a 2nd year Ph.D. student within the African American and African Diaspora Department and the Co-President of the AAADS Graduate Student Society. His previous educational experience includes a bachelor’s degree from Saginaw Valley State University with a major in Sociology and a minor in Black Studies. He also has a master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint in Public Administration within the Non-profit concentration. Before pursuing his Ph.D. studies, he worked primarily in the non-profit sector serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in after-school programs, and as a College Success Coach for undergraduate students. His current research interests encompass the realms of Black Studies, Sociology, History, Public Administration/Policy, and the Digital Humanities, with a particular focus on communicating Afrocentric ideas in creative mediums like graphic novels. 

Shenika John Jordan

Shenika John Jordan is a Caribbean American soprano and a native of New York City who enjoys performing in the United States and abroad. Her performance highlights include the I.C.Y.O.L.A. Summer Music Concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA), the Lisbon Summer Music Festival (Portugal), and performances in France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Bermuda. She has received awards from the NANM Marian Anderson Competition, Benjamin Matthews Vocal Competition, and George Shirley Voice Competition. As the founder of Cooking and Opera, Ms. John Jordan also uses music as a catalyst for wellness and positive change. 

Kathiana Dargenson

Kathiana Dargenson is a Haitian American soprano, born and raised in Orlando, FL. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Voice under the tutelage of Michelle DeYoung. Ms. Dargenson was most recently seen as Margarita Xirgu in IUOT’s production of Ainadamar. Prior to this she was the soprano soloist in Ballad of the Brown King with the IU Symphony Orchestra and sang the role of Marschellin in the Der Rosenkavalier trio in a pre-concert show for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Other engagements with IU Opera Theater include Mary in Highway One USA and ensembles for Candide, Don Giovanni, and Magic Flute. 

Mansi Jain

Mansi Jain is a graduate student pursuing a degree in Data Science and a research assistant supporting the Stargazing project. She is a versatile and accomplished individual with a strong background in business and technology. She holds a degree in computer engineering from a top-tier university and has several years of experience working in the tech industry, where she has gained valuable expertise in software development and project management. Along with her technical skills, Mansi also possesses a keen business acumen, having worked in various roles across finance, marketing, and sales. She is a passionate learner, an excellent communicator, and a team player who is always looking to grow and challenge herself professionally. In her free time, Mansi enjoys reading, traveling, and volunteering for social causes. 

Stargazing Team Bios