Today I received a message in my dm on Facebook from a person I do not know.
Today is International Women’s Day, and I don’t believe that I could have received a better gift. You see, I speak a lot about seeds and weeds. What seeds are we planting? Are we planting any at all? Are we allowing weeds to choke out the seeds we do plant? I thought I was planting seeds and maybe I was…but the weeds man. Those weeds are aggressive. They hog all the water and choked out the seeds I hoped would develop into fruit bearing plants.
In my life, the weeds represent many things, but the one thing that stands out is sin. I have at times allowed racism(weed) and a myriad of other inequalities that have been passed down systematically to harden my heart, and when that has happened the seeds that I attempted to sow were merely choked out by the weeds. I was suffocating and those seeds were falling on infertile soil(deaf ears) partially because of my approach.
But then my heart was softened. I come from a unique perspective of understanding a variety of people. Even those who are fast asleep looking at #wokefolk like we crazy. I understand them because I used to be them. It’s that in between stage that can be a beast. That stage where you are realizing that you have been in the “Sunkin Place” most of your life and then when you exit that place, life(for lack a most fitting description)…”bitch slaps” you with reality….AND. IT. SUCKS.
But over the year my use of the words, weeds(problem) and seeds(action) have helped me gather a proper understanding of what the fruit(solution) should look like.
Well, I know that I am a hot mess when I’m not led by the Spirit. So, with that said the only fruit I want to produce comes from the Spirit and that is… “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
I’m writing this so that we all can take note as to what seeds we are planting. What is the weather like in our lives when we sow? What weeds do we need to uproot so that our seeds can produce beautiful fruit? Do we even recognized them? Because the truth is, you never know how one interaction you have with someone can change the trajectory of their life and yours. You never know if they will be led into self-reflection or destruction. You never know…unless somehow in your lifetime they are led to share how you impacted them, just like this stranger did from a thread on a mutual friends timeline…on Facebook…over a year ago.
Recently I decided to participate in a poverty simulation with Unite Greater Dallas. It was called COPE, The Cost of Poverty Experience. I was given the role of a 10yr old AA boy. My character(who is a real person) has African-American mother and father. His mother is a stay at home mom and expecting another child. His father is employed and rely’s on public transportation to get around. The family can only afford a one bedroom apartment so therefore my character sleeps on the couch and to top it all off has ADHD and is beginning to act out.
*From this point on I will type as if I am in character.
We were told to get in character as much as we could. All of the families where taking an hour of our day to fast track what it is like to live a month in poverty. We were given folders which outlined our assets, expenses and activities that needed to happen that month. For instance, my families assets where a T.V. and Stereo. My mother had to go to a prenatal appointment, both of my parents had to make it to AA and they had to get my ADHD medication. That’s just a few of the responsibilities my parents had. Each 15min equaled one week in the life of my family.
The first week I had to go to school first. Meanwhile my parents were running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to pay bills, purchase bus passes, work, buy groceries, go to AA, Pawn shop, prenatal ect. I was let out of school 6min into the “week” and told to go anywhere. I chose to go home and wait on my parents to get home. As soon as they got home they were trying to figure out a plan to get through the next week while assessing what they did and did not accomplish. I just sat there.
*The facilitator got everyone’s attention and asked who fed their family that week. Out of 10-15 groups only 2-3 families raised their hand.
The next week I went to school again and instead of waiting until I was released I left early. I went straight to the food market and stole a banana. I was then arrested for stealing. Time was up. It was time to go back home and prepare for the next week. I let my parents know that I was arrested and they continued trying to figure out what to do for the next week.
*The facilitator announces that it is spring break.
My parents look at each other and are like “what are we going to do with him?”. They are planning to pawn the stereo and the t.v. so that they can pay the electric bill and then realize that they shouldn’t pawn the t.v. because I’ll need something to keep me occupied. They figure out the plan and in the meantime are “gifted” with a free voucher for my ADHD medication. Let week three begin.
Well, while they are trying to pay the electricity I am left with nothing to do so I take it upon myself to find something to do. I stole food from strangers(wasn’t caught), smoke cigarettes with the local dealer. My dad catches me on the street and took me home. He gives me a lecture on drug usage and I throw it right back in his face. I get back out and steal money from the local store and then I am arrested…..again. My mother noticed that I was in jail and comes to try to get me out. Due to my parents not showing up to my last hearing(because they were unaware) they could not get me out and CPS got involved. TIMES UP!
Week four happens…..
By then end of the month I was arrested twice, only my father made it to AA, my mother had to choose between going to her prenatal appointment or getting my ADHD medication because each required a co-pay that they could not afford. She went to her prenatal. CPS was involved. My dad tried to by alcohol but they were closed when he went. I remember my mother telling me to go the faith center after school in week four. I did not. Why? Because at this point I did not trust adults. I kept getting in trouble for doing things that I felt I needed to do. I was hungry and my parents needed money. I was off my meds for the entire month and there was not a single fun thing that I did with my parents. I felt like a burden and I’d be even more of a burden once my sibling was born. I even remember how if felt hearing my parents rejoice when school was back in session. They had somewhere to put me.
*I’m stepping out of character now.
Each time I was arrested I was bawling. This wasn’t an act. Like I said, the character I was playing is an actual child. That alone is what pierced my heart to the core. As I described my experience I could not stop crying. My husband and I have worked with at risk youth for over ten years. We know what they are going through. We know youth who have gone to juve. We hear their pain and we have walked with them. But this…..
This situation broke me.
I saw a child who felt alone but I also saw parents that LOVED this child but had to do what they had to do just to survive. I saw parents who are battling addictions and the system only perpetuated it. I didn’t mention and we did not know, but we, as an African-American family were treated differently. The people who played my parents where white but we all had to wear red bracelets which signified that we were an African American family. The people who played “resources” had to treat us with various biases. We did not know this until the end.
I chose to participate in this experience because of Abide. As I’ve been looking more closely at my community I realize that things must be handled even more delicately and the people must be central to any programs in place. South Dallas has a history that is filled with a tremendous amount of pain via segregation, racism, corruption and sheer hatred of its people. Dallas has a treacherous history of KKK involvement and Fair Park(an entertainment hub for people in DFW) has a history that screams of White Supremacy. But this is the history and history impacts our future. So as I look at the past of my community I can see better how to serve in the present. One way is through relationships. Breaking patterns of distrust is a key element here and I know that it’s going to take a solid foundation in biblical truth that will help guide us.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
And just as it took generations of oppressive systems to create this beast, it will require a tremendous amount of time and patience to heal a community that has suffered much trauma. But let us not put God and His capacity to bring about restoration in a box. I have much hope for Sunny South D. The poverty experience did what is should have done. It broke me and it should break you. My hope is that our hearts will break for what breaks His so that we may be driven to seek racial conciliation and the physical, financial and spiritual restoration of our city. My hope is that God will use the people of South Dallas(fellow image bearers of Christ) to heal the hearts of those in positions of power and cause everyone to pursue further introspection of ones own heart.
Someone asked me recently, if I could share one thing about South Dallas, what would it be? Today my answer is that South Dallas consists of your brothers and your sisters who are worthy of dignity, love and respect. We are image bearers of Christ and we must not be forgotten or looked upon with pity. We are Sunny South D a place where hope lies and dreams can come true. We seek gospel centered justice and that power lies in not us alone….but you.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. – Romans 12:3-8
Every person who works with people needs to experience COPE. Every teacher, politician, government employee, healthcare worker…everyone. Please find one near you and register. http://www.unitethechurch.org/cope
Remember that we can take a vacation from work, a break from reality but you cannot take a “break” from poverty.
I’ve had my share of disagreements and I will admit to having some very passionate moments where I have lacked sensitivity with my words. I remember those days because they weren’t too long ago. 2016 was a beast for the black community. We literally wanted it over and then 2017 proved to be just as traumatizing. I suppose with cell phones, social media and the internet, accessing information that was intentionally and unintentionally hidden has created an awakening of sorts.
What awakening do I speak of?
Have you heard the term, “stay woke”? Well, It means to be aware of or actively attentive to important facts and issues of racial and social justice. I know that many of us(people of color) have experience a great deal of trauma since waking up.
I once lived in this bubble. A bubble that “protected” me from my culture…black culture. I blame the devastating impact that white supremacy has had on the psyche of many poc in this country. This idea that “white is right”. I mean, who can deny that this country was founded on this mentality and practice? It was NOT founded on biblical principles otherwise we would not have had chattel slavery. Don’t start with “but the Bible had slavery,” because if you have a proper understanding of biblical servitude you will know that American slavery was a whole notha beast. They are not the same, not even close. My pastor who is also a dear friend, broke this down recently and it made so much sense.
My ancestors were not people according to the founding fathers. They were cargo that could be tossed overboard at any point, beaten within an inch of their lives, raped by their “masters”, bread to create more slaves for their personal profit and the economic gain of this great country. And centuries later we see how it has had an active role in breaking down the family because, to make a slave you break the mind, body, trust, unity….you name it.
We have generations of people who are only known by the person that owned them. My last name is Smith, my maiden name is Spencer. My sister recently tracked our name back to our slave owner and it listed all the slaves he owned. We do not know EXACTLY where we come from. Africa is a Continent, not a state or country. It seems many people forget that somehow. This great continent where we seek diamonds, oil, coffee, cocoa, you name it. This RICH continent is where my ancestors were stolen, stripped of person-hood and then created into chattel. And now, here we are still slaves via the 13th amendment. Even more now than back then but I digress…..
Shall I list the systemic ways in which poc are discriminated against? How about via…Housing, Education, Healthcare, the Wealth gap, Government Surveillance, Drug Arrest, Immigration Policy, Infant Mortality, Maternal Mortality. etc……
So….here I am. Reconciling the fact that I know of so so so many black people of whom I call my brothers and sisters that have done phenomenal things for this country. I mean they literally built this country….MY ANCESTORS along with immigrants and native people….the myriad of “HIDDEN FIGURES” that include doctors, scientist, inventors, politicians, soldiers, activists, feminists, you name it. Many of these people are eliminated from the history books(even executed) as if they did not exists.
So, do I have the right to get angry? THE HELL I DO. But how dare anyone say that I am a “deliberate divider”. I can show you division. Division would be like a war zone. The black voice and body coming unhinged would destroy any chance of unity this country has. We are walking around in systems that were never meant to benefit us and facing deliberate racism DAILY and implicit bias DAILY and we are dying DAILY.
What do we do about it? Well, we push all that rage and tremendous amounts of hurt down to deepest part of us and it comes out in a couple of ways. One being that our health is severely impacted by it and second(which is personal)…our activism or advocacy. The past year has proven that I have been impacted in both ways and I have realized that radical racial reconciliation is the calling the Lord has on my life.
I may offend, I may make people uncomfortable and I may very well call you out on racism. BUT I work hard to keep myself in check via accountability and staying connected to the Father, so that bridges may be built. Just as I mentioned in my last blog post “Am I a house negro or a field negro?”
I am neither,
I’m just a woman seeking justice through the lens of the gospel.
*This comment is tame compared to what many of my brothers and sisters in the faith experience. They experience death threats for doing the exact same thing(by advocating Gospel centered social justice). I suppose I should expect the same in the future.
*If you would like to contribute towards my efforts you can make a monetary donation via paypal by clicking Donate
Am I a house negro or a field negro?
I will boldly say that I am neither.
I stand in a position that is often times…..lonely.
A position that on one hand those who hold a form of privilege by having white skin are offended by my blackness and on the other hand the very brothers and sisters that I fight for, question my blackness. I’m either “aggressive” to some or a “token” to others.
As my girl Destiny said…
“Oppression is oppression is oppression. Anytime we dehumanize members of the human family, it is dangerous AF.”
So what are we going to do about it?
I refuse to live in the echo chamber of pro-life politics which fuel the policies that have little regard to the actual PEOPLE affected by those policies.
And I refuse to be in the field screaming, “YES! LET MASSA’s HOUSE BURN!!!!”
Don’t be fooled by my pro-life feminist stance. I stand in a position that highly respects those who are fighting for the lives of the unborn AND respects the many black women who are fighting for reproductive justice.
Don’t peg me as someone that’s ignorant.
I’m just a unicorn who actually is more interested in building bridges and finding common ground.
I’m going to scream this…
PRO-LIFE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM BLACK FEMINISM AND REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE ACTIVISTS!
PRO-CHOICE ACTIVISTS! THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM MEMBERS OF THE PRO-LIFE COMMUNITY!
PRO-LIFE, PRO-CHOICE, BLACK, WHITE, LATINX, DEMOCRAT, REPUBLICAN ETC. THERE IS MUCH TO BE LEARNED FROM THOSE WHO UPHOLD A CONSISTENT LIFE ETHIC!
Back to me….
What I am doing is standing in the middle attempting to be authentically me…
And that me is a black woman breaking free from the influence of white supremacy. A Black woman who will call out bigotry and racism, a black woman who is constantly seeking to understand MY culture and MY history and the impact the past has on the present. A black woman who seeks to dismantle systems fueled by hate and create a world where every.single.human being is valued.
A black woman who can forgive and think independently from the tribe.
Today my pastor had a great word coming from Colossians 3:12-17
“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
How do we bring about change? How? Without compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience we may as well keep doing what we are doing.
The divide will continue and people will die.
I’m sitting in the middle with the complete understanding that without Christ…
I’d be in the field.
Don’t get it twisted. There is such a thing as righteous anger. I’m choosing to combine the rage that the field produced, with the compassion, kindness humility, meekness and patience that only Christ can provide. This combination shatters walls of oppression and only then will we see radical unifying change take place.
Listening to respond does nothing. Listening to understand saves lives.
In July I had an anxiety attack that landed me in the E.R. It was brought on after listening to the amazing women of a podcast called Truths Table. The episode was called “Strange Fruit”. I had also been reading up on a lot of information on racial injustice. I remember the subsequent days vividly. My breathing was shallow, chest felt tight and just not right. These episodes lasted for a couple of days until I found myself in the E.R. This was the beginning…the beginning of me understanding my transformation.
If you have read any of my previous blogs over the past year you will see that I have gone through an identity crisis of sorts. It’s been an incredible year. I’ve been exposed to so many different people and I’ve been given a platform that I never asked for and certainly never expected. For some reason people have found that I have a message that is worth hearing.
I’m going to spare you the details of my past, but in a nut-shell, the identity crisis that I speak of comes from a past that was filled with a colonized, revisionist and hidden history that created a woman who did not see color and wondered up until four years ago why there was a Black Breastfeeding Week or black anything for that matter. I was clueless when it came to systematic inequalities and institutional racism. I lived in a bubble and I most definitely was not #woke. Not at all. I was just as blind as the many ytpipo that so many talk about.
But I woke up.
The past few years have been a roller coaster emotionally. With so many POC dying at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them, I’ve become desensitized to news of another death of a person of color. None of it surprises me. At times I am enraged. The more I learn about the history of my brothers and sisters of the diaspora and the senseless deaths of black women and children at the hands of careless medical practitioners who hold implicit racial bias, the more driven I become in doing something about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some very dark moments. I pride myself on my bridge building reputation but I must be honest. There are times when I want to be just like some people who I know. I want to throw my hands up and say to all white people, “I DON’T NEED YOU”. But it’s only by the grace of God that it has not happened, and it won’t. Why? Because I don’t believe that any one person is beyond redemption and I believe that racial reconciliation is yet another beautiful representation of Christs love for His bride…the church.
I was telling my girl Destiny that not a day goes by without me thinking of my race. She asked me if I wished I could go back to how things use to be and I said, “No”. I said no because in the past I was like the walking dead, completely unaware, and with that lack of awareness came a tremendous lack of true identity, empathy and compassion. You see, before I was conditioned to think and be a certain way, but now it’s like….damn.
Where do I begin.
Nothing is mine. My true culture was beaten out of my ancestors. My last name comes from the people who owned my family. I had my beautiful thick and long hair relaxed as a child because my God given hair was too difficult to manage(society). That’s just .00001% of what I could share about me. What about all the black women injured or dying in childbirth at 4x the rate of all other women, or black babies dying at 3x the rate of others before age one. What about redlining, black cemetery’s desecrated to build shopping centers (Lemmon Ave.), black communities moved to flood zones(West Dallas and Bonton)? Food deserts? How about the fact that if it weren’t for my ancestors, this country would not be what it is economically. Yet, what do we own? And I still get people mad because I want to support black owned businesses? Ya know, like we are on even footing. If only we would just work hard. How about the prison industrial complex aka The New Jim Crow?
Oh and #thesunkinplace…..I have found myself in it often this past year. It’s a horrible place to be and it plays a major roll in the struggles I’ve had.
I listed those things because I want you to know where I’m coming from. I live in the south. As I reflect on my history, it’s not golden. When I go on road trips my mind literally looks out at the trees and imagines the strange fruit that once hung from so many that are still standing. That’s MY reality. So yes, I get mad. But more than anger I get filled with a pain that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My mind has been overloaded with so much that it came to a point where my heart literally hurts.
Everything above is raw, but the reality is this. My identity has always and will always been found in Christ. Now, I know I may have lost some of my atheist and agnostic friends, but the thing is, if you have known me… you know that transparency is EVERYTHING to me and transparency is what you will get. The past couple of months God has been doing something in me. Calming me…slowing me down and helping me to see that there is a reason I was blind my whole life to injustice of so many kinds. It was so that I can hold compassion in my heart towards those who are still walking in darkness, as I did for so long. It was so that while each layer of ignorance is stripped from me, I can then still remain humble. It was so that I can truly feel what he feels.
May my heart break for what breaks His.
My heart is broken, but my will is strong.
I’m still healing, in fact I’m certain I will always be in a state of healing. But as I learn to navigate this world in a constant state of transformation, my hope is that I become a woman who seeks radical racial reconciliation that results in bridges built and walls of oppression torn down.
My prayer is that hearts are healed, lives are transformed and God will use His people to bring Shalom to my community and beyond.
As I sit here in a relatively empty house feeding Ezra while drinking my coffee and hearing the birds chirping outside, I am suddenly reminded that this is not my daily truth. My truth is beautiful in a different way but it’s still…..so different.
This reality further helps me to understand that we all are living a truth that many are unaware of. I was just talking to my sister about how at times I wish we could live in a place like this that is incredibly peaceful. A place surrounded by God’s creation. A place where I hear a variety of birds and a stream over the sounds of cars, horns and gun fire. A place where my sensory’s are more inclined to experience the creation of God rather than the creations of man.
This leads me to further thought on key issues that become polarizing within varying movements. Social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, feminism, LGBTQ awareness, trans rights , abortion etc…..
I find that there is something that we all could use a little bit more of and I’ve learned this through not only having children of my own, which challenge me to ask “what if?”. But also through having conversations with people, which in turn pulls me into their truth and forces me to empathize. I have felt the Lord strip me of my dogmatic approach and fill my soul with a heart of compassion towards the complex nature of humanity.
I challenge you all to get from behind the movement(s) and be intentional about having personal encounters with people who you do not agree with or lack a tremendous amount of understanding. Reading articles isn’t all it takes to understand the complexities of human nature. If we could only begin to see people over rules, laws and policy. Let’s see how our decisions and the lives they affect intersect.
As I finish my time here in PA I am further encouraged by the many truths I’ve experienced here. Those of my sister, friends and myself. They vary on so many levels and they are real. Now take a moment to not only be aware of your truth but step into some one else’s.
It’s easy to put in the work to maintain your own lawn while simultaneously criticizing your neighbors over run yard across the street. Why is it so easy? Because we are viewing their lawn through our own personal lens. I guarantee you would be more compassionate and understanding once you saw things from their perspective. The thing is, we have a history of not doing this. We want to fix things to fit our agenda and line up with our own perspective all while ignoring the very valued human being behind the over-run yard. How about we slow down, breath and take a moment to value all life over the messed up lawn. Let’s….#rehumanize.
Who am I? My name is Cessilye Smith. I am a black woman who grew up in an amazing two parent household with a younger sister and a dog. My life as a child was pretty much drama free. My parents are two beautiful human beings who are still married and very much in love. My mother was my most spiritual influence and my father was present and affirmed that I was both black and beautiful. My sister and I fought a lot but now we are closer than we have ever been. I am now married to an amazing man and we have three children.
The uncomfortable stuff
Growing up I was surrounded by white people. There are only a few instances of racism that I recall in my life but my first was when I was in kindergarten. A little red head girl did not want to hold my hand on a field trip because she thought I would rub off on her. My parents handled that. No doubt.
I remember going to a convenience store when I was in middle school in Sulphur Springs, TX. and the cashier didn’t want to touch me so I was forced to put my cash on the counter. No one had to tell me what happened was racist. In fact, I don’t know if anyone knew what had just happened. But what I do know is that I felt it…and it felt horrible.
My sister from another mother, father and culture lives outside of San Antonio. I met her at track camp at UT in Austin when we were teens. We hit it off and we have always called each other sisters. Not friends, but sisters. We were so innocent about things such as race. I remember us putting on each others makeup to see what we would look like(that evidence will never go public;). I would go visit her and vice versa about once a year. Well, in 1998 I went to visit her and I found myself terrified. You see, my sister friend is from a small Polish town and although I grew up very comfortable around white people I was actually scared of them for the first time in my life.
Why all of a sudden?…..
James Byrd Jr.(Jasper,TX)
I’m actually in tears typing this. I’m thinking about my sons. I’m thinking about the loss of innocence and the current reality of not going a day without thinking about the color of my skin and how it affects so much around me. From the way I raise my sons and my daughter, to activism.
In my early twenties I dated this white man about 16yrs older than me. I managed a store in Granbury, TX and we were hanging outside the Walmart there when a group of white men in their car yelled out “Nigger Lover!” to my then boyfriend. I was terrified to drive back home that night…..so I didn’t.
I grew up protected from the world around me, completely unaware of the realities that people of color (POC) face every single day. Due to the “protection” that I received from my parents I believe it contributed to the happy, healthy, relatively uneventful pregnancies and fat babies that I birthed at home….for that I am incredibly thankful.
Ignorance regarding my culture. Black American Culture.
I was teased a lot. I “talked white” did not understand slang or much about my history beyond MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman….slavery.
“What school do/did you go to?”…private school…”Oh!…..THAT explains it”…yeah…it did.
*Side note. Have you ever researched the history of private schools? I’m not saying they are all like they use to be, but private education was a way to defy integration. It was a way to keep us brown people away and to some extent it still is. They let us in if we have the money to attend and/or the athletic ability to make their schools look good(it’s so obvious). This goes into the inequalities of education based on socio-economic status which ties into racism. That’s a rabbit trail I’m not going to lead you on right now.
I was a conservative, right winged, Bible thumping, Obama hating(not quite hate, just dislike) woman. I talked about the black community negatively. “They only vote democrat because mama did and granny did, so on and so forth.” It was a lot of “they” talk. There was such a disconnect. I was pro-life because why wouldn’t a Bible believing Christian be? Funny how I attributed the behaviors of a specific community based on how they were raised without looking at myself. This is in no way intended to paint my parents in a negative light. I will to this day attest that they are the most incredible parents I could have ever had. Flawed? yes, and so am I. I apologize to my children almost daily.
The thing is…..it has taken me becoming a parent for my eyes to be opened. I believe we are products of our environment. Our parents influence us in so many ways. I still do believe that often times people vote (among many things)based on what their mama did and their granny did and it does not matter what socio-economic environment or political affiliation you come from.
Open eyes create relief and heartache.
My season of infertility was the beginning of my birth work/activism journey. You can read that here https://xrossxulture.wordpress.com
But let’s go back a little. The very beginning was Project M.I.C.A.H.(Molding Identities in Children through Art and History). The mission…”Project MICAH is dedicated to enhancing the lives of low income and under privileged youth by providing quality education in the area of dance and various art disciplines while promoting creativity and spiritual growth”
You can see the old site here http://projectmicah.blogspot.com/
I founded a non-profit….WHAAAT! I truly had a passion for dance and I LOVED youth that looked like me. I wanted them to have the same opportunities that my parents offered me. Project MICAH was my first child and I believe it provided me a door into the realities of black life and essentially parenting. Looking back, it also revealed a “savior” complex that I was unaware I had until I began reflecting. You ever hear the term “white savior”? Well, obviously I’m not white but what did I really know about the community aside from how “under privileged” it was?….nothing. But I say that not to discredit the work that was done. It was beautiful and I believe there was purpose behind the organization and it’s telling by how far I have come today.
I can write about this stuff because I am not the person I once was. In fact I can say with confidence that my intentions were pure. I just didn’t know much. Through years of my husband working in youth ministry, living in the hood, witnessing the gentrification of our communities, learning of the preschool to prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, having children of our own and learning of the disparities in maternal and infant mortality of POC…. I was forced awake!
With this new found wokeness came relief and heartache. Relief because I now know who I am. I am confident in myself as a black woman and I am continually empowered by the long lineage of black women and men that made it possible for me to be who I am today. The #hiddenfigures in my ancestry. The black bodies that literally built this country. This is exciting because I’m learning daily and my children will know their history and will be part of it.
It’s awful. The more I learn the more pain I feel because of what I see around me. My community is riddled of generational poverty and oppression. I see how the past affects us. Just as in feminism we fight against the view of holding the male body as normative, we as POC are fighting against whiteness as being viewed and held as normative. I feel like screaming! Some days I just want to go outside and scream until the whole world FEELS not only my pain but the pain of every oppressed person in this country. Every dead black mother and child due to systematic inequalities that span generations.
I want people to understand that “There is neither shame nor glory in being among the privileged/powerful (who can do great things when they become accountable stewards of their power/privilege) or among the oppressed/marginalized (who are a prophetic witness to injustice in the world, as well as the justice and mercy of God)” – Judy Wu Dominick
Who am I now?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I know that Christ is continually pruning me and making me new. I know that I don’t quite fit in anywhere and I suppose that is ok. For many I’m a bit TOO BLACK and for some I am not BLACK ENOUGH. I’m behind the ball and there is still so much that I have yet to learn.
Because I identify as a pro-life feminists with a consistent life ethic, people aren’t sure what to do with that. But the cool thing is that people are a beginning to at least listen to me….which is weird.
You CAN be both Pro-life and Pro-black….in fact you should be. In other words you can be both Pro-life and have a clear understanding of the oppression of people of color, marginalized people groups and see how things intersect. You CANNOT be Pro-life and ignore the very laws that make it impossible for people to choose life to begin with. You CANNOT be pro-life and not be actively dismantling the structures of white supremacy that essentially kill black babies whether that be through abortion or through food desserts, gentrification and institutional racism. We have a national crisis at hand within the black community. Infant mortality, maternal mortality and abortion are linked in more ways than many care to realize and I believe we all can choose to be part of the solution or be part of the problem.
What am I saying?
I mentioned above that I’m not quite sure who I am…Well, I’m learning. I know that I’m not the person I once was. I know that I can generally bounce between heavily saturated black and white environments with ease and I have my upbringing and life experiences to thank for that. I know that my life’s purpose goes beyond being a wife and mother. I know that part of my purpose it to leave a legacy of truth, freedom, justice and mercy. I know that I am a sponge and I want to surround myself with empathetic, compassionate and most of all transparent people who seek to be consistent in their life and the lives of others. I know that I love to garden and I have this backyard that keeps growing weeds. And I believe these weeds are symbolic of the work that still must be done. That…
“In order to get rig of the weed you must pull it up by the root. Let’s uproot the system and plant a seed that bears fruit.”
I pray my seed (children) see my rooted faith along with the efforts that have been made and choose to be fruit bearers for future generations.
But most importantly……I pray that my children live.
#blacklivesmatter #representationmatters #prolife #prochoice #prowoman #newwavefeminist #doulaforlife #consistentlifeethic #trueprolifefeminist #rehumanize
What comes to mind when you think of 2016? Is it the Presidential election, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, senseless deaths….Haiti? Is it social media, bathroom rights, Cosby, Kanye, The Kardashians, and Katherine Jenner? How about mommy wars, breastfeed shaming(to cover or not to cover), GMO’s, Vaccines and all those holistic dr. deaths being suspect. What about police brutality, riots, Dallas, the New Jim Crow, Flint and …the wall.
I know, I know, some of you are probably thinking….damn.
Some of you are probably wanting to stop reading right now, but wait.
I know that this year has bene rough to say the least. I personally left tha book(you know what I mean) right before the election. I needed to. As much as I wanted to change the world for my children the world was wrecking me.
I’m an empath. Google it….With that said this year has been a tough one.
I initially thought that this blog entry would be about how amazing 2016 had been. Because when it’s all said and done there is a laundry list of things that I am so thankful for. It’s been a whirlwind but a good one. The tough times have brought me to a place of self reflection and healing.
The thing is…I want to encourage you. Instead of marinating on the brutality of this past year or wishing for it to be over I want you to close your eyes for a while and peel back all the thick layers of hurt and pain until you come to something…beautiful.
Peel it off…
keep on going…
Have you found it?
Now once you’ve found it I want you to reflect on it. Go deep. See if anyone else could have possibly been affected in a positive light. After that I want you to go searching for more. It should get easier. Pretty soon you just may be focused solely on just how amazing 2016 has been. Notice I didn’t say “was”. Because 2016 is not over. You still have a few more days to make incredible memories.
Can I share something beautiful with you?
In Oct. I found myself on the verge of a mental breakdown. My husband and I were not speaking each others love language, I was overwhelmed being at home all day with three kids under five. I was always tired, I missed being fit and dancing like I use to, I was sad. Sad because my family life is not how I imagined it would be. Sad because of all the tragedy in the word and my eyes being opened to oppression and institutional racism. People of color feeling hopeless and babies dying in the womb because women feel they have no way out and a government that keeps people trapped into an oppressive mindset and way of life. I could go on and on at the things that were plaguing my mind but let me get to the good stuff.
The good stuff is that I know for sure that I needed help. I’ve suffered with depression on and off for years. And post partum depression can develop anywhere from a few weeks to a year after delivery. Is it possible that if you have your babies every 2-2.5 yrs like me, that you never fully kick it? Maybe, all I know is that with a little help from some natural supplements(I’m not talking about the ganja 😉 Although, that stuff has some amazing properties if you can get it legally(obey the laws of the land ya’ll).
Anyways supplements helped me and dare I say it(to all my agnostic and heathen friends, don’t tune me out) Jesus. I’m serious ya’ll. If there is one thing that has remained constant in my life it is Christ. The one that saved me. The one that listens even when I may not feel He is. The one that keeps me going. The one that I will always and forever give glory to. I’ve joined a local BSF where we study the Word. Not devotional, no….BIBLE STUDY. It’s been amazing. But most importantly, my relationship with God is growing. I’m grounded or shall I say rooted.
I encourage you to give up the desire to be “tha man or woman” and lay your burdens at the cross. Just lay it out. Everything……then wait. Wait for His direction and be prepared for whatever that is. Sometimes it is in line with what you want and then sometimes it reminds you that your desires aren’t His desires. People often misquote Psalm 37:4
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
They usually take out the first part of that sentence and say “Girl you know God will give you the desires of your heart”…………..WRONG……but right. Who or what do you delight in? If you aren’t delighting in the Lord then……marinate on that for a minute.
My husband teaches our children this saying. “I am what I am by the grace of God, by the grace of God”. Now repeat that. Rap that piece. Add a little shoulder bounce and beat to it. I’m here to remind you that “You are what you are by the grace of God, by the Grace of God”.
So if you don’t take away anything from this year, take away that…and carry it into the new year.
Romans Road – Romans 3:23, 3:10, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 10:17