Last night, as I was wracking my brain to come up with an end-of-year post that was reflective, inspirational and brilliant, I skimmed some of my posts from 2015. Then I tried not to belittle myself for not living up to this short one from June 9th:
Last month, I unveiled my new personal mission statement: to help Black women and girls in my community discover the power and importance of their own voices by sharing my story and the histories of other Black women, via writing, podcasts, and radio documentaries. To that end, I have to make some slight adjustments to this blog. Iâ€™ve resolved to use my blog as a space to tell my story as I transition from a religious woman to a spiritual woman, from a perspective academic to a creative writer and, I hope, from a single feminist to a married one. You will still see my rants about racism and patriarchy, and occasionally, I may find myself able to write fast enough to respond to current events coherently and with righteous indignation. And surprises are ahead as I continue experimenting with audio storytelling. I hope youâ€™ll continue on this journey with me.
Though I fell off the face of the internet for two months, I have been working hard at becoming the woman I want to be. I made a drastic, good, and wise move to Philly, where I have more of a social and dating life than Iâ€™ve had in years. Iâ€™m in a creative writing program that challenges me in positive ways while still reminding me that fine arts degrees are obtained within academia, andâ€”as the nation was reminded in November when the president of Mizzou resignedâ€” academia isnâ€™t exactly the bastion of equality.
Also, Iâ€™m living in a neighborhood that is quite literally surrounded by churches, but I havenâ€™t been going to any of them.
Itâ€™s hard for me to read that last sentence, because while I want to â€œtransition from a religious woman to a spiritual woman,â€ Iâ€™m not sure that I want my church life to end. I also have to admit that I donâ€™t know how to maintain a spiritual life without the churchâ€™s assistance. This is about more than seeking divine guidance for big decisions. Itâ€™s about feeling like I possess an other-worldly capacity for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control; that Iâ€™m connected to God; and that this connection shapes my sense of self and my view of the world. A consistent spiritual practice probably would accomplish that for me, whatever the practice is. (And yes, I do want the practice to be a Christian practice. I quite like Jesus. His followers? Not as much.) Church, at the very least, provides consistency. But that consistency also interrupts deeply spiritual things like sleep, nature hikes, afternoon West African dance class, and that moment when, 15 pages in, you finally know what you want to write about.
My ambivalence towards the religious-to-spiritual transition also is about feeling like I live up to my own brand. Another awesome thing about 2015: my first publication in an anthology. I have an essay in Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Women on Why They Stay. I contributed to the collection so that women who think critically about their faith would know they arenâ€™t alone, but by not being as religious as I used to be (i.e., attending church weekly, reading the Bible daily, praying multiple times a day), I feel like Iâ€™m really saying that â€œChristian feminist,â€ â€œBlack Christian feminist,â€ or even â€œChristian womanist,â€ is an oxymoron. Itâ€™s an impossible identity.
Even as I type that, I know itâ€™s not true. Though I havenâ€™t made church a regular part of my PhillyÂ life, I will note that another awesome thing about 2015 has been meeting inspiring and radical God-believing women like Brittney Cooper (yes, Crunk Feminist, Rutgers professor, Salon columnist, her), Pastor Leslie Callahan, Rev. Charisse Tucker, Candice Benbow, and Shannen Williams, who prove that these intersectional identities can co-exist peacefully and joyfully. So maybe I just need to make more effort.
Thatâ€™s my goal for 2016: to change the stories I tell myself about my life and how itâ€™s going. Multiple therapists have advised me to revamp my cognitive thinking processes. If I stop jumping to conclusions or stop discounting evidence to the contrary, Iâ€™ll see that a Black Christian feminist life isnâ€™t impossible. It just takes work.
And that life with a Black feminist male partner whose salary meets a certain minimum, just takes faith. But more on that revelation later.
(I know I say that all the time. If I donâ€™t write it here, itâ€™s coming in long-form essays and memoir and thesis. I promise.)
Happy New Year!