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.
As I sit here alone in my room listening to India Arie’s “Beautiful”, while enjoying the rain and grey sky, I find it fitting to write about my life…in the grey.
I want to go to place where I am nothing and everything
That exists between here and nowhere
I want to got to a place where time has no consequence and oh yeah
The sky opens to my prayers – India Arie, “Beautiful”
The grey is a tough place to be. That black and white life that I used to inhabit was actually a pretty comfortable place. It was was very me vs. them, right vs. wrong, no matter the situation. I had a cut and dry no nonsense type of mentality. Over the years I have learned that my heart was pretty hard and I lacked a tremendous amount of knowledge. I most definitely was not an independent thinker.
I was the first to say “embrace relationship (with Jesus), reject religion”, yet religion still had me bound. It had me so fixated on looking right, living right, giving no appearance of the mess that I really was. I was one way in the public eye but quite another behind closed doors. Over the years my faith has been tested on a massive level. Spiritual warfare is real. A few years ago I was brought to the very edge of losing it all. But something happened. I was reminded of God’s faithfulness. This changed my life. Now I know what it truly means to “embrace relationship, reject religion”. I see the word of God through a new lens. I no longer see black and white ink. I see a God who walked among the broken and was the perfect example of compassion and empathy. Where black and white ends at salvation and grey begins at living life in a fallen world.
The example was right in front of me all these years but I was so focused on being right that I did not take in to account the human condition. We are all a mess! Every single one of us. The Lord knows this, which is why He gives us examples of His mercy and His grace throughout His word. He knows we are complex individuals which is why the relationship is so vital. Imagine a world where we loved as He loved His disciples time and time again. They walked with Him and yet some rejected Him, doubted Him and were flat out cowards even upon His death. But you know what? He loved them with a love I will never fully comprehend.
I want to go to a place where I am suspended in ecstasy
Some where between dark and light
Where wrong becomes right – India Arie “Beautiful”
How do we go about cultivating relationships with each other that lead to reconciliation?
How do we find the bridge between polarizing topics and reconcile them?
Step into the grey
In the grey you will see the person behind the policy.
In the grey you will feel what they feel.
In the grey you see the layers, and work to peel them back.
In the grey it hurts because it’s not about you, but about everyone else.
In the grey you become compelled to seek justice and believe it can be done righteously.
In the grey you see Christ in a whole different light.
In the grey you deeply desire to build bridges and tear down walls.
In the grey compassion and empathy drive you.
In the grey you learn to lament.
In the grey you don’t quite fit in.
In the grey transparency is vital.
In the grey you seek consistency…..
Living in the grey can be challenging because in your attempt to comfort the disturbed, you also disturb the comfortable. People don’t like that. They hate being uncomfortable. They don’t like the nice little bubble they live in poked and prodded. But in our mind we aren’t poking and prodding for nothing. We are simply trying to get people to look beyond their perspective. To step into the grey.
Shades of grey
The grey that I live in is formed by my experiences as a black woman, mother and wife who is still trying to figure out her identity. Decolonizing my mind from a particular standard of beauty, thought and action all while embracing a hidden history, stripped culture and new perspective.
This separates me from my white counterparts living in the grey.
The grey I’m in has it’s challenges because in an attempt to be a bridge and bring about racial reconciliation, healing and truth I’m are also faced with the brutal truth behind white supremacy and the mess that it has created within society’s structures. The grey helps us to see how things intersect and it’s heartbreaking. It takes every ounce of grace from the Most High not to give every descendant from the oppressor a big fat F U.
I understand why some of my beautiful melanin rich brothers and sisters turn their backs on even the white ally. Because some, still refuse to just listen to the black voice.
Our voice is still silenced, questioned and ridiculed. Our experiences are not taken seriously and in the end #whitefragility is the biggest hurdle. If only those who live in a constant state of fragility at the mere mention of white supremacy would stop, listen and understand that they are contributing to the problem by refusing to comprehend that what we are dealing with is systemic. We’ve all been infected. It’s not a surface wound, it’s in the blood. White supremacy (the disease) has affected EVERYTHING. The descendants of the oppressors were gifted with privilege. Imagine what would happen if that privilege was acknowledge and used for good. All of us have some form of privilege and reconciliation can be determined by what we do with that privilege.
One thing I know about my ancestors is that they were and we are a resilient people. We have no time to be fragile. There is much for everyone to learn from POC and the immigrant.
Please understand that it’s not that I don’t care
But right now these wall are closing in on me
I love you more than I love life itself
But I need to find a place were I can breathe
I can breathe
I want to go to a place were I can hold the intangible
And let go of the pain with all my might – India Arie, “Beautiful”
I will end with this. The potential for beauty is there if we can all take off the shades that blind us to other people’s pain. When I say all, I mean it. All people across racial, religious, socio-economic and gender lines. Let’s begin to see each other, rather than discuss each other. When we step into the grey we see humanity. It comes with a tremendous amount of pain but the pain is much like a mother in labor, it has purpose. It makes us more compassionate and, in the end more like Christ whether you choose to believe He exists or not. It will make you want to stop and retreat back to your bubble (trust me) but you can’t. Once you’ve entered the grey there is no turning back, no matter how hard it may be the truth compels us. Pull out your inner woman and push through, for the results are nothing short of…beautiful.
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