When We Lead

 

Only the BLACK WOMAN can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me – Anna Julia Cooper

I found god in myself and I loved her fiercely – Ntozake Shange

 

We live in a society highly structured by institutions and agendas that are committed to maintaining white heteropatriachy as a way of being. It is this way of being that fights to maintain control over the way that people navigate society, rewarding those who most approximate or validate white patriarchy.

Those who either don’t embody these identities or who actively resist them are often punished, silenced, or ignored. For me, this has been most true in my pursuit of serving in professional ministry, and to be clear, has also existed in my work in the nonprofit, in government and in higher education.

I want to focus most on church ministry because for 18 years this was the field that I actively pursued, feeling the call when I was quite young to preach or proclaim the good news of God’s liberation. But my call never challenged or rather it could not change, the whiteness and maleness that I confronted inside of these institutions. 

And so as a Black woman I floundered and struggled to find a church body that I could not only minister in but belong to. This was a challenging feat in and of itself, which was only further complicated by my growing analysis around racial justice and understanding of how patriarchy operation in these spaces reified assumptions about hegemonic authority throughout our society. Most of the church, or faith based spaces that I participated in – whether they were physical or virtual spaces – did not take too kindly to a Black woman speaking truth to the oppressive ways in which they operated. As a result, those who felt threatened – both white men as well as men from other racial and cultural backgrounds – disregarded my epistemology (though we had studied in the same seminaries), questioned my Christianess (was I sure I wasn’t backsliding), and chastised me publically in ways that made me feel stupid for ever daring to challenge the racist patriarchal norms of the church.

The thing about oppression, however, is that it causes people to do one of a few things: either give up and surrender to it or resist it. For years, I tried to resist the oppression as a frequent blogger, using the internet as a place to minister when the pulpit seemed to be out of the question. In the course of 7 or 8 years, I published over 300 blogs, self published two books, and co-hosted a podcast. Some of this opened doors to teaching and preaching in public spaces, but for the most part, my profile stayed low key. I was okay with this until I wasn’t okay with this, namely because I realized that I really was not making the impact that I wanted.

What did I want? I wanted a place where I could bring my whole self and have it fully accepted. I wanted a place where I could be both affirmed and challenged to grow beyond my comfort zone. I wanted a place where I would not be looked down on, silenced, or marginalized as a dark-skinned Black woman. I wanted a place where I could continue to write and produce, understanding that the process of writing was where I continued to find and define myself. And I wanted a place where my voice could be heard and taken seriously without the permission of white supremacy or patriarchy. In the words of EbonyJanice, I wanted to decolonize authority. 

So, I created it. And I created it outside of the walls of the church. I knew that I could hit my head against the wall for 1,000 years and 1,000 years later, I could not expect the church to ever do right by Black women. Black women who have been scapegoated, chastised, and defined as the epitome of sin to the point where we begin to internalize that nonsense. Black women whose bodies have been hypersexualized, abused, and then punished for the acts committed against our own bodies. Black women who have been expected to serve and give sacrificially, as they are told that their reward is in heaven so that those who exploit her get away without ever paying reparations for the countless hours of physical and emotional labor. 

But I didn’t just create it for Black church women or ex-church women. I created it for Black women across various faith institutions including those outside of them. And I created it for Black women representing the multiplicity and diversity of the African diasporic experience. And I created it for women across sexual orientations and gender expressions, who may still use the term woman as a strategic organizing tool even as they push back against its confining binary. I created it not so that these women could be ministered to (how patronizing), but so that we could collectively raise our voices to talk back to our environments.

As inclusive as my aims are here, I am particular about the space being for Black and African identified women. I am intent on not doing the POC thing because I want to be sure that the narratives of Black women stay centered. I realize how radical such an assertion like this might be and also recognize that it is only radical because Black women as a group are seldom centered. Misgynoir permeates our movement spaces because of the ways Black women’s bodies and Black women’s labor uphold capitalism. 

This space, called the Kinky Curly Theological Collective, is new. Like two years new. After a few years of running it as an informal, unpaid side-hussle, we are making our business structure more concrete. And we need your help! We have a year end goal of raising $5,000 and need as many partners and co-conspirators to help us reach it. Your donation of $25, $250, or $1000 will help us do the following: 

  • Host our conference on Saturday, December 7, Unveiling the Black Woman Inside. This conference is going to be LIT. We have a few local speakers including DeVonna Pitman and Junauda Petrus as well as an All-Star panel speaking to the diversity of the Black woman’s experience. And I cannot forget to mention the all too amazing Lyvonne Proverbs from Atlanta who will be speaking on bodies, sexuality, and the Church.
  • Expand our network and community of Black diasporic women writers.
  • Sustain and build our writing program, including promoting and publishing the works of Black women

We need your support because the world needs the Kinky Curly Theological Collective. The world needs, in fact, craves a space where Black and African woman can be their full selves and lead. Yes, this challenges the status quo and systems that exist on our continual marginalization and oppression. And that is kind of the point! Support us in our efforts today. 

 

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