Posts

Made to Flourish: An Introduction to Millennial Womanism

“How do we decide what to study or what jobs to pursue, or what topics to write about? The answer is simple: do the work your soul must have” — Katie Cannon

The author

There are works that are assigned to each of us. Some works come in seasons, while other works last a lifetime. The late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon’s work was the one her soul had to have. As a result, thousands of lives have been changed academically, pastorally, and theologically through the foundation of womanist theology: a theology of liberation that places the lives of black women at the center. Womanist theology and womanist ethics have challenged weekday lecterns and Sunday pulpits as it has built new tables with enough seats for all. Today, through the work of Min. Liz S. Alexander and Rev. Melanie Jones, millennial womanism has been created.

Millennial womanism seeks to build upon the foundation of womanist foremothers: Cannon, Townes, Williams, and Grant to name a few. Womanism in itself was created by Alice Walker as a way to include the voices of black women when feminism was not sufficient or accessible to black women. Black Millennial women have a space both in the academy and in the pulpit and we seek to help black women understand that we have space to flourish, that social media and digital platforms are for womanist work and witness, and that our works are expanded through collaboration and sisterhood, as well as making space for the divine and advocating prophetic social justice ministry.

Millennial womanism grants me the space to further my practice as a pastor to youth in urban contexts, while spreading the gospel through digital platforms such as podcasting. As a pastor, my daily work is grounded in the prophetic and redemptive gospel of liberation and healing that addresses urban trauma among the lost, the least, and the left out, with an afro-centric hermeneutic. I sit among those who are considered to be “the other” and the voiceless in our communities. Read more

“Even when they call your truth a lie, tell it anyway!” — Remembering Katie Cannon

headshot of The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

The Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon

It was April 7, 2014, and my friend and I boarded a bus from Washington, D.C. for a daylong adventure in New York City. We were headed to Union Theological Seminary in the for the premier of
“Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology and Ethics at Union Theological Seminary.” The film was an offering by the late filmmaker (and Union alumna) Anika Gibbons, and it featured the founding mothers of Womanist theology and ethics as they told their stories in their own words.

My friend, another African-American woman, was newly ordained. I was still navigating the ordination process and fighting off discouragement. The call to which I believed I was called didn’t seem eager to make room for me. Oh, it was much deeper than experiencing some difficulty with a justifiably rigorous process. I respected the boxes I was asked to check, and I checked them. I finished my Master of Divinity program with high marks. I passed all the ordination exams on the first try. I was “call-ready,” but there was no call ready for me. And even in an otherwise pastoral relationship with my Committee on Preparation for Ministry, I sometimes felt as if I was speaking a different language from them.

[Read the full article in The Presbyterian Outlook]

Acting Womanish, Being Womanist, Living Womanism.

The author

Understanding your own identity is an ongoing process. Family ideals and traditions typically shape much of your childhood identity. As you grow into young adulthood, there are defining moments that continue to form you, and you begin to become more of who you desire to be. The stages of life redefine us, until we settle into a comfortable core identity that we will hold fast to and defend at all cost. For me, my identity was first defined as a young, Black girl growing up in Houston, Texas. It was many years later that I discovered the vocabulary to understand and explain the core components of who I was, who I am, and who I will continue to be as an adult.

Acting Womanish

Any young Black girl who has ever dared to talk back to an elder, or question a directive she was given, has probably been told she was “acting womanish.” Acting womanish means having the bold audacity to speak up in the face of injustice. It means daring to have her own opinions and thoughts, and rejecting the “go-along-to-get-along” expected mentality. Acting womanish means trying to “be grown” before your time. I remember my mother telling me to “stay in a child’s place” and “you actin’ womanish” in response to my speaking up too much and too often about things with which I disagreed. I also remember being told to save my arguments and disagreements for conversations with my friends; it was not the place of a child to correct their elders. It was a rather strange and delicate dance to navigate: be smart, be great, be the best you that you desire to be, but do it from within certain constraints. Don’t act womanish.

As children do when given such constraints, I learned to be quiet and contemplative. I learned to take mental notes of my disagreements with parental directives, and save my well-developed arguments for the privacy of journals and diaries. Rather than face possible consequences for “acting womanish,” I would wait until I became a woman to speak my piece, and speak it I did.

Being Womanist

August, 2005, was the beginning of my true development and understanding of myself as a grown woman. It was then I started my first year at Brite Divinity School on the campus of Texas Christian University. Concentrating on Black Church Studies, I had the honor and pleasure of taking classes with a Womanist Christian social ethicist who helped me discover my Womanist voice: Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas. Most pivotal were her words to me in that first year: “Dwalunda, you are Womanist to your core.” Read more