For me, writing is about sharing the stories that I want to tell. It is about finding a sense of purpose, of liberation even, in communicating my truth with the rest of the world. Through writing, I attempt to make sense of my experiences in the past and also begin to speak into existence the future that I want to see unfold tomorrow. In writing, I feel at liberty to articulate my understanding of the Divine in a way that I sometimes feel constrained in verbal communication.
In a very real sense, writing is one of my spiritual disciplines. With pen (or laptop) in hand, soft jams playing in the background, a cup of tea, and a candle burning, I begin to connect with my Creator in ways that I don’t when I am engaging in other activities. As I calm the voices speaking deep inside of me, I start to hear my God speaking to these voices, and together, we begin to write. To create worlds that don’t yet exist. To push back on ideologies that have held us captive for far too long. To heal from past hurt even as we bring these hurts into the present so that our lessons may heal others.
My first published work, Dancing on Hot Coals, was a work of healing for me. Unable to afford therapy as a broke college student without adequate health insurance, I turned to writing as a means to make sense of what was going on inside of me. While the lens that I brought into that work reflected my best thinking at 22 years old, I would not be the person that I am today without the discipline of sitting down and listening to the little girl inside of me define, on her own terms, her experience in the world.
My second work, Embracing a Holistic Faith: Essays on Biblical Justice, came as a result of years of blogging on the intersection of faith and justice. As a Christian minister with a deep commitment to racial justice and liberation, I wanted nothing more than to have other believers also espouse this commitment. In the course of 10 years, with my most active years being between 2011 – 2016, I published 333 blog posts. This demanded great attention and untold hours of invisible emotional labor, though it was also enjoyable because again I was telling the stories I wanted to tell. Somewhere in between 2017 – 2018, however, I realized that I no longer wanted to show up in this way. It took me the longest time to understand why I had absolutely no desire to spend energy blogging the way that I used to. After deep reflection, I realized that I wanted to tell different stories and that the stories I wanted to tell, I wanted to tell with other Black and African women.
I birthed the Kinky Curly Theological Collective in the spring of 2017 with the purpose of having a platform to create and share our stories. To me, this platform is important because I believe together we are more powerful, more persuasive, and more brilliant than any of us are individually. But it is also important because I have found my own liberation in reading stories from Black and African women. While these stories may come from women who have lived in different regions of the United States or the world, who have a different faith system, who have different histories, or different assumptions about the world than I do, there is a sense a affirmation I feel when I read them because amidst all of the differences, we are asking the same question: can I belong as a Black and African woman in this world? Wadud-Muhsin’s essay, “On Belonging as a Muslim Woman,’ in My Soul is a Witness: African American Women’s Spirituality, echoed my own thoughts in an essay I recently submitted as a class assignment called “Creating a Space for Myself, in the Academy and Beyond.” Reading Wadud-Muhsin’s work, as well as the works of womanist theologians in A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil and Suffering, and the essays of black feminist academics in Black Women’s Liberatory Pedagogies, have functioned as a long lost mirror that I am only beginning to uncover.
In 2018, the women who came together with me in support of the vision of the Kinky Curly Theological Collective created nearly a dozen stories reflecting our experiences, challenging our assumptions, and defining our identities. In these stories, we were not only able to hear one another’s profession of faith but we were able to see ourselves in each other’s stories. As 2019 opens up before us, we are setting out to do even more. I am excited for what the future holds and how together, we will create a collective vision for our liberation.
In accordance with this goal, we are hosting a series of workshops entitled Unveiling the Black Woman Inside, that begins on the 26th of January. If you are a woman of African ascent and live in the Twin Cities, or will be visiting the Twin Cities on any of the upcoming dates, please join us. And if you are not, spread the word. God is up to something in the lives of women of African ascent; we would be remiss to not heed the moving of the Spirit in this season and beyond.