Womanist Biblical Scholar Reflections

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On this blogspot I focus on social justice, womanist biblical interpretation, & reflect on my personal journey. I welcome your constructive responses. I don't expect you to agree with everything I share, but reflect & dialogue with me.
  1. "Womanism, Intersectionality and Biblical Justice" was published today in Christians for Biblical Equality's Mutuality Magazine. The full essay can be accessed by clicking on the link above.  Here is an excerpt:

    "Womanism and/or black feminism (some women prefer the latter self-designation, although they are not synonymous) has always concerned itself with intersectionality or with the destruction of interconnected forms of oppression that impact black women’s lives (and other women of color) and their communities. Black women experience multiple forms of oppression, simultaneously. Such oppressions include racism, sexism, and classism...."

    "Social justice for black women and their communities continues to be a struggle against interlocking forms of oppression. Because of the interrelated impact of race, gender, and class on “black, brown, and yellow” lives and especially on the lives of women and children of color, women of color who ignore race, gender, or class issues do so to the detriment of the larger community. If a black male focuses on race while ignoring or participating in gender bias against black women, he is exercising his male privilege. If white women demand gender parity without regard for the impact of racial bias on black women, they exercise their privileged position as white women. When elite women of color focus on racial and gender bias without regard for the impact of classism on poor women, men, and children of any race, they are exercising class privilege..."
  2. Crucifixions were community or public events, spectacles (like modern-day lynchings from trees, with nooses). They could not be effective rituals for public displays of dishonorable and violent state sanctioned death without the crowds who cheered, jeered, and even cried at the sight of a tortured human being, as life slowly faded with the flow of blood. We read of no protestors at Jesus' crucifixion; mourners, yes. If there was any significant protest or revolt, the gospel writers did not think it relevant to mention (many of his closest community scattered). Surely in Jesus' words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" we can perceive, or at the very least infer, the violence of silence.

    Silence in the throes of violence is a form of violence itself. When major American media outlets are silent when 22 or more people, worshipping in a mosque, are murdered by a suicide bomber in Maiduguri, Nigeria, salt is poured into gaping wounds, inflicting further violence. When CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and local media outlets ignore or footnote the murder of black and brown bodies, they do violence to the families and communities who mourn and render inconsequential the lives taken. And the violators are further emboldened because they can continue to inflict violence upon the vulnerable in the invisibility or shadows constructed by the darkness of the world's silence.The silence perpetuates a culture that considers those black bodies as more disposable than others. Silence in the face of violence demonstrates and reinforces a low value placed on certain lives, most often diminishing the significance of brown, black, and poor people's lives.

    If we were there, if we know of the violence and we say or do nothing in protest, our silence is violence. I once sat in a meeting of some peers, Christians, the only female present (and at that meeting the only black person), and was told by the most influential voice in the room that "you will vote with us." I did not, because it was not in the best interest of many black and brown bodies for me to do so.   But I was more hurt, felt more violated, by the silence of my peers  than by the bullying tactics of the one. When people are being or have been violated, silence is violence.

    Statistics show that when women of color are murdered and/or raped, the violence inflicted against them generally receives no news coverage. Media cooperation is often crucial in solving crimes. And how it is done, if done, determines whether the public will sympathize with the victim. If the victim is painted as less than perfect and dehumanized, as is the case with most minority victims, there will be little to no public protest or cooperation. Many of us don't protest the media silence because we have been convinced that those so violated were responsible for their own deaths and or rapes; that they were the victims of a "disgraceful" violence because they lived unworthy or insignificant lives. Perhaps, many felt the same about Jesus of Nazareth ("Can any good thing come from Nazareth?") and his death row inmates. Our silence or failure to protest, to demand that their lives, their pain matters as much as someone else's is a form of violence in itself. Our silence, our lack  of protest helps to maintain a hierarchy of human worth wherein certain violated bodies, primarily brown, black, poor, nonChristian, other-gendered bodies, deserve little to no protest and thus we inflict violence upon violence. Our silence in the face of violence is violence. The blood soaked ground and those living in the throes of violence cry out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken us?" Silence is not an option, not for the godly, not for the humane, not for those of us who claim to be nonviolent!

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     Now I understand why pregnant women don’t like to tell people that they are pregnant until they are certain that everything is fine, especially if they have lost a child and/or have been unable to carry it full term. As I wait, having done all that I am supposed to do, people ask me what’s going on with my adoption. I know I opened the door, but to be honest being asked constantly
    , not by the same person, but by different people can add to my anxiety. I am forced to talk about what I can’t do anything about at this point. I can only wait. I have been reminded again that the system is overburdened, that the system is run by people who have their own lives and issues and that mine will not necessarily take priority, that faith is not knowing but continuing to hope for the best… I know it takes time. For me, it has been over a year since I started this process. However, some of my friends and well-wishers have only come to my story a short time ago or during this waiting segment; this is not where my story began. But I still must wait and continue to prepare to receive my child. One can never be over prepared or fully prepared to parent a child. I have never been more anxious and looking forward to my life to be drastically interrupted. And I don’t even know, I’m sure, what all that will entail. I’m looking forward to it because it is not about me. I have never had some overwhelming desire to be a mother, biologically. And it has nothing to do with loving children. I don’t even fully understand why. But I do have a deep commitment to make a positive difference in a child’s life at this time of my life. 

    What am I doing while I wait? Making adjustments. I teach evening classes and so I have not been a morning person, not consistently. During this waiting period I am turning my body clock around, instead of doing a drastic 180 when she arrives. I have commenced going to bed early (or at least laying in bed for three hours before falling asleep at the time I would have normally gone to bed late). That will take time too! I have writing commitments that I am trying to get a jump on knowing that it will take time when the child arrives to work out a new or different writing schedule. And I know there will always be interruptions. I decided it is time for me to get a primary care doctor, rather than just going to specialty physicians. I am taking care of the stress I have had for some time in my lower back, which has turned into sciatica. I need to be able to stand in long lines with less physical discomfort and so I am in therapy for my back. A week before I started therapy I had a marvelous hot-stone massage from a masseuse that definitely knows which muscles need the most attention and how much attention; my back felt brand new for several days. That will be my long term therapy, and I will need to budget for it.

    Iam making other adjustments during this waiting period as well, and I am sure I will discover others. So I will try to be grateful for this time even as I look forward to the future. Hopefully in the next week I will receive a report on the child I am interested in adopting. Nevertheless, I pray each day for my child to be that she is safe and well-loved in the meantime.
  4. As some of you know from a recent Facebook post, my journey to motherhood is on track.  I have finally been assigned a licensing caseworker and she made her first home visit with me shortly thereafter. Yay!  I am very pleased with the experience, professionalism, expertise, and compassion that my licensing worker brings to this process.  She has worked as an adoption worker as well as a foster care caseworker.  She brings over ten years of experience to the ministry of helping me through this life altering journey. In
    addition to several forms that Ms. K, as I will call her, required that I fill  out during our first home visit, she checked the temperature of my hot water; it was too hot (more than 120 degrees F). I have a temperature control dial on my hot water heater, so I have attempted to cool it down. Ms. K will recheck it during the second home visit this month. Ms. K also had to measure all the rooms in the house to make sure there is adequate space for the number of people who will be living in the household including the child (just me and her). She had a gadget that she placed on an opposite wall and it beamed a red light to the other end giving her the measurements from wall to wall -- cool. I think it is a laser distancing tool. She also asked about any medicines I take and whether they are properly stored away. The only medications I take on occasion are aspirin, Aleve or Ibuprofen, which are kept in the medicine cabinet or in my purse. That seemed to satisfy Ms. K.  

    When the child first enters my care, she will be a ward of the state and thus in foster care while in my home until the adoption is finalized. Thus, the state will make sure that every effort is made to maintain a safe and healthy home environment. I had to develop a home evacuation plan in case of a fire or other emergency, submitting a copy to the agency and keeping one for myself. I will discuss this plan with the child when she arrives in my home. Also, a phone must remain in the home at all times for emergencies. Since land lines are being phased out, it is now acceptable to have a cell phone that is always kept in the home (along with emergency contact numbers). Check!

    Something I never thought about as a safety risk was the small pond behind my apartment. Post the first home study visit, Ms. K informed me that I must put an alarm or bell on the patio door that faces the pond. To my surprise there are several types of wireless bells or alarms that can be easily installed. I purchased a set of two for about $15 at Home Depot, placing one on the sliding glass door and one on the screen door as well. As soon as one opens either door a loud shrieking sound alerts me that the doors have been breached. It took me less than five minutes to stall them.

    Ms. K did not leave me without my homework. I had to complete an eighteen page self home study that asked me in detail about my upbringing, my parents and their backgrounds, my siblings and my relationship with them growing up and now, all the schools I attended, what I learned from my parents and what I would do differently, my knowledge of child development, what values I would install in my child, my parenting style, the demographics of my neighborhood, the schools my child would likely attend, what recreation facilities and parks are available, my faith and religious habits, my work history, etc etc. I sat down for hours to reflect and complete the self home study. This was a good and helpful exercise. I am becoming more and more aware of how planning, intentionality, and consistency will be my some of my closest allies.  Another lengthy form that I had to complete was a self assessment of the characteristics and challenges I was not willing to deal with or would be willing to deal with with appropriate training -- issues like bed wetting, aggressions, withdrawal, sexual abuse, children who are on medication, mental disabilities of various levels, etc. I know that it is important for me to be realistic about what I can physically, emotionally, and logistically handle. I know that some issues could arise later in life, but I must be honest with myself in terms of my situation now. I will, of course, continue to work/teach (God willing), but also to write. This expectation figures into what kind of issues I can handle or want to handle. While I plan to devote the necessary time to the child  I adopt to ensure she is well nurtured (educationally,emotionally, spiritually and physically) and loved, I cannot lose sight of self care and nurture. I will certainly have to rearrangement my life, but I don't have to give up my other goals, as some seem to think or have suggested. Someone recently said to me that I would not be to write anymore. I feel that a big part of what I do or do not continue to do is up to me and my ability to be creative and take care of myself while taking care of my daughter. It will certainly be an adjustment(s), and it will likely be quite rocky at first. But I believe it is doable, and with sanity.

    Over my lifetime there have been people (non family) to offer me help, but when the time came to do what they offered, they fell short -- too often. So I was (and maybe still am) a little worried about my support system.  All of my immediate family (siblings, nieces, nephews) live in Ohio. Since I started on this journey several people outside of my biological family have said that they would be a part of my support system when I need someone to step in and care for my child in emergencies, particularly. I was told that people will promise to help but whether or not they will submit to the needed background check is another thing. So far the three people who offered to be a source of support have submitted to background checks. I am grateful!  I am also grateful for sisters who have adopted (one a baby and another a teenager) who have stepped forward to offer a listening ear and/or advice -- they know who they are. At a later time and with their permission I might mention their names.

    I was also very pleased when Ms. K offered to reach out to the caseworker of the child I am interested in adopting. She has requested a report on the child and when it arrives it will be shared with me. Keep praying for me and for my child to be--wherever or whoever she may be.
  5. I wrote this poem and posted it to Facebook on June 1, 2015, before I started my adoption blog. Later I may be able to talk about the significance of this poem.

    Mitzi Smith 

    we have not met
    not in my flesh
    but what i know
    you hope
    to become
    somebody's child
    i hope
    to become
    somebody's momma
    like you
    who loves laughter,
    barbie dolls,
    riding your bicycle,
    kick ball, and
    Dr. Seuss
    And me
    And I, you
    i believe
    we will meet
    and read
    green eggs and ham,
    and so much more.
  6. Here is an excerpt from my blog post on the Feminist Studies in Religion (FSR) blog.  You can read the full post at: http://www.fsrinc.org/node/1733 

    "Sandra, the twenty-eight year old black woman who was subjected to a violent encounter with a Texas trooper and later died while in custody, was criticized and demonized by some for having the nerve to ask questions and to talk back to or to “sass” (as the old folks called it). Ironically, Sandra understood that her “purpose” was to return to “Texas and stop all the injustices against blacks.” She should be remembered, her mother stated, as an “activist, sassy, smart, and she knew her rights.” Unfortunately, sassy and smart black women are not a cherished or celebrated breed when racism and sexism interconnect and prevail."

    Check out the other powerful posts on the website as well.
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    According to the foster care/adoption literature, websites, and media ads, there is a tremendous need for foster/adoptive parents in this country. Consequently, one might expect that the road to adoption for eligible potential adoptive parents would be relatively smooth. But this is far from being the case. I am not saying that anybody should be able to adopt or foster a child or that there shouldn’t be a valid process and standards. But on my journey I am hearing that in too many cases the road to adopting a child out of the foster care system is very discouraging, sometimes painful, and even impossible.   In fact after sharing my disappointments, stops and starts, some people have suggested that I consider adopting a child from overseas! However, I am not ready to give up. I should not have to give up on adopting a child in my own "back yard." I admit that I did not expect the kind of experiences that I have had thus far.

    My journey formally began two years ago when I attended an orientation at a large local foster/adoption agency. There were only about five prospective foster/adoptive parents present, which seems to be about the norm. The facilitator was so negative that if I had any doubts about adopting she nurtured them. I cannot remember one positive remark that might have been said at that orientation. An agency can be candid and realistic without being overly negative.

    A year later I regrouped and signed up to attend an orientation at another local agency that was recommended to me.  Two heterosexual couples (one black and one white) and two single black women, myself included, attended the orientation. Of the six, only four attended the follow up mandatory PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) training (takes place on three Saturdays). The other single woman and I expressed our interest in adoption only. She wanted to adopt her grandchildren out of the system. Much of the PRIDE training was conducted by an experienced foster care parent, a mature and retired African American lady whose biological children were grown and out of the house. Many people don’t know that most foster parents are fifty years and older. She and her husband foster only boys with disabilities, the difficult children to place. Their foster children are of various races and ethnicities. She shared a wealth of experience and wisdom with us. I was hopeful that I had found the right agency for me.

    At both the orientation and the PRIDE training, attendees were asked to fill out the same application form. On the form we were asked whether we planned to adopt or foster, the gender, how many children, and the age range. I discovered during the training that in Michigan there cannot be more than fifty years difference between the child and the adoptive parent. One of the only ways around this rule is if one fosters a younger child or baby and the baby/child becomes a permanent ward of the state (parental rights are terminated) and thus available for adoption. Then the foster parent(s) may be given priority as adoptive parents regardless of age difference, if there is no eligible biological family willing to adopt the child. On each application I wrote that I wanted to adopt one female African American child at least eight years old.  And when verbally asked, I reiterated my intention to adopt. Each time the response was "we recommend becoming a foster parent first." Those conversations should have been a warning to me.

    In the last segment of the PRIDE training two African American teens from Wendy's Kids shared some of their stories with us and then responded to questions. Both young ladies struck me as very intelligent, talented, and sincere. One became a ward of the state when her mother died. Her aunt had promised the mother to take care of her daughter but the aunt got married and the child no longer fit into the scheme of things. Both young ladies stressed that potential adoptive parents need to get to know them personally and not rely on words written about them in a file, which may or may not be true. A white male who was there with his wife asked the teens why they wanted to be adopted when they both were almost eighteen years old. I reminded myself that “there are no dumb questions.”  The teenagers responded that everybody wants to belong somewhere no matter how old they are. There was hardly a dry eye nor an untouched heart in the room. 

    When the training ended, we were told that we would be assigned a licensing worker within two weeks to set up home visits and that meanwhile we should collect the items we would need for that visit (e.g., reference letters, criminal background check, TB test, physician’s report from physical exam, etc).  I had already begun collecting the items and had almost everything checked off the list. After a week I was impressed to call and follow up with the agency. The licensing supervisor was in a meeting so I left a voice message. She did not return my call, so I called again. This time she took the call and said to me that "nobody gave me your file." She proceeded to interrogate me on the phone, and finally claimed that there was not a great need for adoptive parents for African American females age 8-10. I challenged her statement; all the literature her agency gave to us and that I have read says otherwise. She said that she would get back to me. When she did not get back to me in what I felt was a reasonable time, I followed up by faxing a letter recounting her conversation with me and cc'ing the president of the agency. Within a few minutes of my sending the fax, she called me stating that they only have one case worker who does the licensing I need and that case worker would not be available for three months. I responded, “then please give me an appointment with her in three months.” "I will need to contact her," she responded. I said, “please do so. I don’t think this is an unreasonable request, is it?" The licensing supervisor never got back to me, but instead sent me a letter stating that they are a small agency and are unable to meet my needs. The letter named other agencies I might try. The one I am using now was not listed in her letter. The good thing about this whole fiasco is that my PRIDE training is transferable to any licensing agency.  In my current agency, I was told that the licensing processing should start immediately upon filling out the application to become an adoptive/foster parent. This had not happened with me.

    The agency matters, as successful adoptive parents have told me and as I have found out. And all are not created equal, nor are all licensing and case workers. Since I am still going through the process I will not reveal at this time on my blog the names of the agencies to which I refer. Pray with me that the current agency with which I am dealing will demonstrate compassion, professionalism, and competency. Pray for me that I will not give up or give in to a less than optimally functioning system. Pray for the child that I hope to eventually mother and nurture that she is safe and loved, in the meantime.

  8. On July 10, 2015, a Waller County, Texas police officer name Brian Encinia set in motion events that tragically, needlessly interrupted Sandra Bland's life. Bland had returned to Texas to accept a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University in Texas, more than 1,000 miles from her home in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois. Sandra Bland had graduated from the historically black college in 2009 and was returning there as a student ambassador, according to her family. Three days later on July 13, 2015, Sandra Bland was "found dead" in her jail cell, without the possibility of resuscitation.

    Officer Encinia stopped Ms. Bland, so he later claimed, because she failed to signal while changing lane. This was information he felt she had no right to ask for or to know, until he was good and ready to reveal it, regardless. I have seen thousands of people in my lifetime change lanes without signaling or while signaling and have yet to meet one who was stopped by police for said violation--somebody out there may know one or two or be one of the few. But based on the seemingly doctored footage of the encounter between Ms. Bland and the Texas cop, he never informed her of why he had stopped her or that he was placing her under arrest. Yet he immediately attempted to control her movements to make her submissive, regardless, by asking her to stop smoking the cigarette she had in her hand. Ms. Bland was asked if she was irritated and she said yes because she did not understand why she was being stopped. The officer, in my opinion, was baiting Ms. Bland into a hostile encounter. He saw that she was irritated and so said, "You seem irritated. Are you irritated?" I believe he wanted her to verbalize her irritation with him for the dashcam. Her words he wanted on tape, but not his violent actions. In response to this compliance (the verbalizing of how she felt at his request), the officer then told Ms. Bland to get out of the car, hoping, I believe, to increase her irritation, escalating the situation. She asked why and refused.  The officer then further escalated the situation, reaching into her car, grabbing her, and yelling "I will light you up." At that point Ms. Bland got out of the car with her cigarette in hand; the angry trooper with his overbearing presence compelled her out of the path of the dashcam. The dashcam is there in order to protect both citizens and the cops. She needed it more that day than he--and I believe he knew this. It seems that the police officers did not want what they were about to do to Sandra Blandcaught on video tape.  I could not bring myself to watch the entire video of Sandra Bland'stragic encounter with the Waller County, Texas trooper, but I heard and saw snippets of it on the local news. Even in snippets, it is painful--too painful to fully digest in one sitting, or at all.

    And after three days Sandra Bland was dead in her jail cell; authorities immediately notified the public that she had committed suicide by smothering herself with a plastic bag.  Today, The Huffington Post reported that the DA stated that Sandra Blandswallowed large amounts of marijuana while in custody.  I guess she got the marijuana from the same source she got the plastic bag that snatched her last breath--her captors??! 

    It haunts and hurts me that Sandra Bland died after an encounter with a cop for what was supposedly a minor traffic infraction, if one occurred at all; that she would not have died had she not been stopped for no clear reason on July 10, 2015 by trooper Encinia. The police are supposed to protect and serve and not escalate and brutalize citizens. Some have said that Sandra Bland deserved the mistreatment she received from Encinia and the other officer present at the scene because she was "combative" and not submissive, regardless. It has never been enough for black people, or women in general, in this country to be submissive. And for women (men and children) who live with or encounter abusers, no amount of submission is enough. An abuser will tease and test his victims in order to extract anew the level of submission said abuser needs, demands at any given time in any given situation. And black women are expected to be doubly submissive because of their race and gender. It was deeply disappointing to see women (I expect it of many men) justifying Sandra Bland's death because she spoke her mind (as if that in itself is a capital offense), audaciously asked why she was being stopped, refused to stop smoking in her own car and initially refused to exit her vehicle. I don't believe Sandra Blandwould have escaped this encounter with only a warning as the police officer claimed in the "video". Abusers like to blame their victims with statements like "If only you had done/acted a certain way" or "if you had not provoked me." I believe the officer stopped Ms. Bland in order to harass her, hoping she would be the "angry black woman" at whom he might justifiably direct his sense of entitlement and rage.

     A lot of women have been taught by church and society that they are to be good "foot stools" for men, and when a woman "acts up" or refuses to be that foot stool, that "biblically" submissive woman, then she is seen as deserving any violence inflicted upon her. It can be explained away. Women who have not broken loose from this type of thinking, of course, include themselves in the mix. So they do all they can to be "good girls" (I even heard a female minister not long ago at a breast cancer event talk about the book she wrote about how women can be little girls again and thus become good marriage material) always submissive to male authority and abuse.

    It troubles me deeply that as with other black women, men and children who have been senselessly brutalized and murder by rogue and racist cops, authorities and the media immediately began attempts to smear Sandra Bland's character or to support the trooper's version of events. Elton Mathis, Waller County's District Attorney, said of Sandra Blandat a press conference Monday, July 20, 2015, that "This was not a model person that was stopped." And Mathis added "it was not a model traffic stop." He applies the phrase "not a model person" to Sandra, while using the same phrase to describe the "traffic stop" rather than the officer. He negatively characterizes Sandra Blandherself but to the traffic stop, not the officer, Mathis attributes vague imperfection. He depersonalizes the stop as if Trooper E was being rated for his performance in a training drill. But Sandra Bland's character is tarnished. And people who are branded less than model citizens become unworthy of justice. Historically, in this country black women were and could be raped by white men with impunity. If ever a white man was indicted for raping a black woman, he almost always avoided conviction by claiming that the victim was less than a model citizen. Rosa Parks was not the first tired black woman forced to give up her seat on a public bus, but she was a "model citizen."  The tag "not a model person" is in some form or another often attached to people of color and it conjures up a host of illicit activities in the minds of the public who are constantly bombarded with images of black people as less than model citizens. Black people are more often characterized as thugs, unjustifiably and perennially angry, drug dealers, sexually loose, needlessly belligerent, combative hotheads, lazy, etc..  Mathis immediately called into question Sandra's character. Elton Mathis' statement tells me that he himself is not a model person or a model DA; that he is biased. One more reason that we need an independent investigation; we need the justice department to step in.

    It disturbs me each time rogue and racist cops and others (i.e., George Zimmerman, et al.) have sought to justify the murder of black people, they conjure up a narrative of fear. It is interesting that cops who commit police brutality against black women, men, and children default to the narrative of fear for their own lives regardless, as if we all are wild animals. You know how it goes: an animal is always an animal, capable of biting the hand that feeds or pets it and therefore should always be feared. So whenever they are killed, evoke the narrative. Why not? it has worked in the past and it has worked in our biased judicial system. And even some black folk have accepted the narrative, regardless. According to Officer Encinia, Sandra Blandstruggled with him and kicked him in the shin, and this caused him to fear her. He feared her so that he slammed her head against the ground as he pinned her to the ground and she could not feel her arm. She cried that she was subject to epileptic seizures, and he said "I don't care."  He, the cop in possession of a taser and gun, was willing to jeopardize her life--because she allegedly failed to signal or because she supposedly kicked him in the shin. Yet, it was he who first threatened--and  I believed delivered on his threat when out of sight of the dashcam- bodily harm to Sandra Bland: "I will light you up."

    As has already been noted too many questions remain: Why was Sandra's mug shot taken in a prison jumpsuit and not in the clothes in which she was booked? Where did Sandraget a plastic bag? If Sandra Blandbecame suicidal after three days in jail, which I doubt, unless she was further brutalized and forced to take her own life, where did she get a plastic bag? According to records, Sandra allegedly admitted to attempted suicide after she had lost her baby but stated that she was not now suicidal. It seems to me that authorities doing their due diligence would have made sure there was nothing in her cell that could have allowed her to take her own life, given such a history. Now the authorities are claiming that Sandra Blandhad taken large amounts of marijuana while in custody. How could she do so when the authorities had taken her picture in a jumpsuit and thus had already searched her and taken all her belongings including her clothing? Where did she get the marijuana? What was the officer doing to Sandra when he forced her out of sight of the dashcam, and why did the female officer not intervene? In what ways was the video of the encounter edited? What was taken out of the video?

    I travel alone quite a bit. I am black and female. And on some days I am "sick and tired of being sick and tired," and I might just be courageous enough to assert my right to know if I should be stopped by a cop. And that cop might be like Officer Encinia. He might refuse to tell me why I am being stopped and yet expect my full unmitigated compliance. Or I might comply but be bullied and provoked--everyone, most people, have a breaking point. Like other black women and men in this country, my life could be cut short by one trivial, unnecessary encounter with the wrong police officer. Our fears are real. Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and many others, in marked and unmarked graves were real people who are mourned and missed by family and friends. For some it won't be real, the fear, the facts, until it happens to them or to someone they know. But now is past time to say "never again." #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter #Godrequiresjustice
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    Night stand  I rehabed for my child's room w/paint & new hardware.  

    While what ultimately matters most is what I thinkconcerning my decision to adopt, it is natural to want family, friends and others to celebrate with me and to be supportive in various ways. I think people go through stages in crises (I do not use this word as a negative term but one simply denoting life-changing events). Certain kinds of advice may be more appropriate and helpful at one stage of a crisis than at another. Most family, friends and others have been overwhelmingly positive and ostensibly happy for me. I recognize that any negative and/or not so helpful comments and responses may have come from a good place. My family has known for some time that I have had the desire and intention to adopt. But when I moved to a two bedroom apartment, began furnishing the child's room, talked about it more frequently, and resumed the formal adoption process, then came the unsolicited advice, warnings, and sometimes off-handed remarks from family and others. Their mostly well-intentioned words sometimes left me rolling my eyes, in a mild state of shock, or seething. Even well-intentioned words spoken at the wrong time or spoken at all can be less than helpful.
    Most people have wanted to know if I plan to adopt an infant, and some even suggest that I should. Because with an infant, they say, I have a better chance of molding ("controlling"?) the child. (I think we all attempt to control the children in our lives [and the adults for that matter]. It can be difficult to let go/God of a grip [or get a grip] while providing guidance and support, rather than trying to control others, or to always know the difference.) Sure some people may assume I am younger than I am, as is often the case. But I am far from being a spring chicken, chronologically that is. I could be the hen's momma, maybe! In Michigan, and maybe other states as well, I have had to explain, the age difference between the adoptive parent and the child cannot be more than fifty years. One could get around the age difference rule by fostering a baby or toddler and hoping that the child becomes adoptable. But there are so many variables and the goal of fostering is supposed to be to reunite the child with the birth parent whenever possible. The goal of fostering should not be for the purpose of trying on children, like a pair of shoes, for possible adoption. So I find myself often reiterating that I am committed to adoption. Besides the need is great for adoptive parents of school age children. Still some people want to emphasize how set in her ways the child will be. I am aware that according to experts most children's personalities are fully developed by age seven or first grade--a stat people love to quote. One study claims that by that age the personality is set for life. Yes, I have read and heard that. I also believe no two children are exactly alike; that children are individuals and not statistics. I think science should not be ignored and I believe in everyday miracles; the power of love and good professional counseling. I also believe that trouble, or potential trouble, should not trump compassion or a calling to give back in whatever way we choose or are led to do so. I see it all the time as a teacher: people are deterred by potential difficulties, not even realized trouble. 
    I plan to provide a loving, supportive, nurturing home, and pray the child will be impacted in positive ways. That's all any parent can hope for, whether they birthed the child or not. Some have said "well you dont know what you are getting" when you adopt a child of school age. I usually respond that you don't know what you are getting when you birth a child. Of course, that is never the end of the conversation. Someone actually pointed out the case of an adoptive child murdering his parents. But for every such case, there are probably ten in which the assailant was the natural child of the victim. In either case, most parents commit to doing their best to raise their children.
    Others pride themselves in letting me know that children in the foster care system have educational, emotional, physical and mental challenges and will need professional help. I am by no means oblivious to this fact. (And if I somehow had been ignorant of that reality, the PRIDE training remedied that.  At one agency, the orientation was horrid enoughmore about that later.) I also know that some birth parents are in denial about those same needs in their own children. For children that have been diagnosed with any physical, mental, educational or emotional challenges while in foster care (usually rated on adoption sites such as MARE or adoptuskids.org as "none," "mild," "moderate," or "severe") the state pays for access to appropriate professionals and other resources. I, of course, must know and be honest about my own limitations and make wise decisions when choosing a child based on the information that I can access about the child andher background. I also know that regardless, the child will need help dealing with loss and learning to trust and love a virtual stranger. And although I already have love for my potential child, I too will be learning to love her, regardless. Children always love their birth parents no matter what those parents might have done to them. I've seen this up close. It never ceases to amaze me how some who have birthed and raised children assume that single women who have not birthed children know nothing about children and human development.
    Some of the mildly irritating comments directed at me include "You are not going to be able to do all that you do now,"  "Are you ready to comb hair?", "You need to adopt two because she will be used to being around other kids," or "Why don't you let her pick out the bedroom furniture" (to which I replied did you do that for your three children?; case closed). People who make such comments usually don't know me intimately, make assumptions based on their own lives, or maybe just need to feel superior in some way. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of friends and family affirm me in my decision to adopt (even while offering their mis/advice), and tell me I will make a great mother. But nobody, I am happy to say, suggested that I am too old. I should take it as a compliment when some people suggest that I adopt a baby, I guess!
    I have thought long and hard about adopting a child, and I believe this is the time and season. In the process, I am painfully learning that not all adoption agencies are created equal, especially those that deal with foster children/state wards. More about this later. Thank you for your prayers and support. Pray for my potential child and for me...for grace and wisdom. They are much appreciated! My next blog will address some fears.
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    For the past 4-5 years I have been considering adopting a child. I want to make a positive difference in a child's life--a child who wants and needs a mommy like me. About four years ago I made a vision board and on that board I wrote "adopt a child in 1-2 yrs". I am a bit overdue, but we cannot control all the circumstances that will bring about the vision--when or how it will mature. First, I wanted to publish a couple books so I wouldn't feel so pressured to do so when I became a mother. You could say I wanted to "lean in" now in preparation for welcoming a child into my life. I have published three books. I also needed to be more financially stable. While I don't have more money than I did three or four years ago, following a series of pay cuts due to the economic downturn and its impact on student registration at my institution, I feel I am more in control of my finances. I cut out a lot of unnecessary expenses, like gym memberships and personal training fees (instead I bought more free weights, a jump rope, dvds, exercise ball, and hit the pavement) and cable (yes, cable which seemed more like rerun hell, only I had to pay for it). I still need to become better at avoiding a good clothing sale, but I have made great strides. So even though I am beyond my target date for adoption, I believe this is the right time and season for me to adopt a child. 

    It has already been a very emotional process, beginning before I contacted my first adoption agency. I would be watching tv, as a temporary reprieve from my routine or an escape into some comedic or adventurous reality transcending my own, but my escape would be interrupted by some commercial or story about abandoned or abused children. And I would break out in an uncontrollable, deep soul sobbing and wailing. I’d ask myself, out aloud, “what the heck is wrong with you?!”  I think it was a combination of my compassion for children needing safe, loving homes AND menopause. God was knocking at the door of my menopausal heart. My body, its season in life, was reminding me and pushing me in the direction of that commitment I had yet to honor. I had fears. I feared my life would become less controllable; that I would not be able to manage a child and a vocation; that I might not be mom material no matter how much I wanted it--not enough patience, for example. [more about my fears later]

    It is strange and ironic that I find myself in this place. Although I love children, I never had an overwhelming desire to inhabit a delivery room in order to sweat profusely in unspeakable pain with people telling me to push for what would seem like an eternity. I had severe menstrual pains most of my life and I thought if birthing a baby was anything like that I would pass. My mother said she didn't have much pain during childbirth. In fact, she would stay at home until the very last minute before going to the hospital. She said it was better to wait at home than in a cold hospital room. I pushed my way out of her womb in the elevator at the hospital! I also never wanted to be a single mother having seen how my mother struggled. But I am now choosing to be a single mother, a single black mother. More about this in another blog. I will parent a black female child in a world that is too often an unsafe place, unfriendly, hostile and deadly, for females, for minorities. The human trafficking epidemic in the US, in my state; the 2000 missing children in my state; the willingness of people to kidnap school girls and rape them or rape them on their way to school. The fate of the Renisha McBrides are as troubling to me as are the deaths of the Tamir Rices. She, my child to be, likely already "knows" this about the world, unfortunately. But I am grateful I am not deterred by fear, anymore, but moved by compassion and love.

    So my life is not what I expected (and neither is hers), nor what others expected either--who cares what others expect? It is what it is, and I am who I am, now. Others saw my future as a wife and mother of several children---not as a scholar, author, preacher. I do know that if I had married young and had children, I would not be the person I am today, doing what I love (though not always loving it) and wanting to share my life with a child I have yet to meet. I am not saying that one life would be better, more virtuous, than the other, just different. Both could be grand! I may have avoided some physical pain, but adopting, the process, has its own emotional ups and downs and pangs and stressors---few experiences are painless. And I will share some of them with you, if you will join me on this journey here. Blog #2 will discuss the reactions to the news. From time to time I will publish a PS (postscript) or afterthought between numbered blogs. Blog #3, My first orientation with the first of (three) adoption agencies. And on....  Ask questions if you please, and I may be able to answer them.
  11. Utility companies are quick to disconnect and shut off utilities, such as electricity and heat, even when the absence of those resources could mean the difference between life and death, sickness and health--during the coldest winter months and the most sizzling summer months. And all one needs to do to get a shut-off notice or to be disconnected is to miss one payment. If we are honest, many of us have been there.  We could have paid our bills on time for years, but let some emergency or something unexpected come up or  let us inadvertently miss a payment, and we are out of luck, especially if we cannot come up with a deposit plus the bill we missed. Our need for heat and/or electricity vary from season to season, but our need for water remains constant.  Human beings cannot survive for long and cannot remain healthy without water.  How in the world can we deny any human being access to water, unless we no longer see them as human beings but as entries in a ledger? How do we justify cutting off people's access to water at any time, but particularly when so many have lost their jobs or been subject to a decrease in pay during this latest economic recession or downturn, which we have yet to fully recover from? And I understand that Detroit Water and Sewage has been increasingly raising its rates during the recession. Few of us have been exempt, but the impact is greater on some than on others. And we must be our brothers and sisters keepers, if we would maintain some semblance of our own humanity.

    One would think that we are living in a two-thirds world country (where famines occur all too often and a history of colonizat
    Mouth of Lake Michigan
    ion has stripped naked the land making it more vulnerable) and that water is scarce. But here are some facts about Michigan water: 

    "Michigan is blessed with an abundance of water above and below the ground. Every drop of water that falls from the sky has the potential to contribute to the vast quantities of water that will flow into one of our Great Lakes. Water drops from rain are collected and stored in watersheds.
    ... A network of streams and rivers that flows to a larger river system will eventually end up in one of the Great Lakes. Michigan has 86 major watersheds. The longest watershed in the state, the Grand watershed, is 260 miles long. The largest drainage basin is the Saginaw River watershed which is approximately 8,709 square miles.
    Michigan has 26,266 inland lakes throughout the state that are greater than one acre in size. The largest lake is Houghton Lake, which is 20,044 acres and has over 30 miles of shoreline. The Great Lakes has a shoreline of 3,288 miles. About 40 percent of the major rivers in the state flow into Lake Superior, 35 percent flow into Lake Michigan and 25 percent flow into Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
    There are about 120 major rivers in Michigan. The total miles that these rivers cover is about 36,350 square miles. To put this in perspective Michigan has more square miles of rivers than the states of New Jersey, Connecticut, and the combined miles of Delaware and Rhode Island in total square miles." [Source:http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/michigan_water_facts ]

    Yet, Detroit, a major US city within Michigan, has no qualms or conscience about cutting off the water supply to thousands of its individual customers, even those who may have missed only one payment or maybe as little as $40 in arrears (I am told). And it appears that many of those customers are the elderly, the poor, and children. Nonprofit organizations like We the People of Detroit and Detroit People's Platform and individual Michigan residents are raising their voices and opening their wallets to help those residents left without water for washing their bodies and clothes, for cooking and cleaning, for flushing their waste, and for drinking. The Detroit Water and Sewage company, according to Detroit People's Platform,"launched its most aggressive shutoff and collection campaign in the history of the department.   According to press accounts the department has pledged to shut off and disconnect from the city water supply an average of 1500 to 3000 households per week with an overall target of 30,000 households during the next several months.   We believe that this policy of water shutoff as a collection strategy in addition to posing serious ethical issues, also has serious public health impacts.  For example, shutoffs create unsanitary conditions leading to the transmission of dangerous bacteria contributing to increased UTIs; gastrointestinal problems; hepatitis A; influenza; and other diseases that are linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.   Household water shutoffs also exacerbate adverse mental health conditions in the home and is likely to bring about anxiety, anger, depression and other post-traumatic stress disorder like symptoms. Further, we are concerned that the notice of water shutoff which signals by public health code that the residence is unfit for human habitation, will also trigger a child welfare crisis potentially leading to the removal of children from the home under the orders of the child protective services." 

    It appears that Detroit is systematically and callously and inhumanely pushing people, the most push-able, the most vulnerable, out of the city or into a grave!

    Recently, the Detroit Water and Sewage company has said that it will also begin to do to some local businesses what it has already done to some of the "least among us". This turn toward businesses comes after much protest from Michigan residents and  after the targeting of individual residents first--once again the needs and rights of corporations are placed above those of the ordinary citizen.

    It seems that so far Detroit Water and Sewage and the Detroit Department of health and Wellness Promotion have turned a deaf ear to the citizens and organizations who are protesting the water shut-offs for the most vulnerable among us.  Detroit People's Platform is asking for the following considerations from Ms. Vernice Anthony, Director of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion:

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    • "As Public Health Officer for the City of Detroit, advise the mayor of the potential threat to public health in the face of the widespread water shutoffs;
    • As Public Health Officer for the City of Detroit call for a moratorium on all water shutoffs;
    • Recommend that as a matter of public policy a health impact assessment be conducted on the impact of water shutoffs on the population’s health with an analysis as to how these conditions further contribute to racial health inequities."
     I hope that people of faith and people of conscience will also stand up and speak out against this gross injustice.  In the meantime, donate some water or some money to help get someone some much needed water.

    visit: http://www.unitingdetroiters.org/ for more info.

  12. Available at Amazon.com
    pre-order rate of $36 (reg. price $49)

    That Christian missionary efforts have long gone hand-in-hand with European colonization and American imperialist expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries is well recognized. The linchpin role played in those efforts by the "Great Commission"—the risen Christ's command to "go into all the world" and "teach all nations"—has more often been observed than analyzed, however. With the rise of European colonialism, the Great Commission was suddenly taken up with an eschatological urgency, often explicit in the founding statements of missionary societies; the differentiation of "teachers" and "nations" waiting to be "taught" proved a ready-made sacred sanction for the racialized and androcentric logics of conquest and "civilization."


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    Part 1: Colonial Missions and the Great Commission: Re-Membering the Past

    1.     Colonial Mission and the Great Commission in Africa — Beatrice Okyere-Manu

    2.     Examining the Promulgation and Impact of the Great Commission in the Caribbean, 1492–1970: A Historical AnalysisDave Gosse

    3.     US Colonial Missions to African Slaves: Catechizing Black Souls, Traumatizing the Black Psychē Mitzi J. Smith

    Part 2: Womanist, Feminist, and Postcolonial Criticisms and the Great Commission

    4.     The Great Commission: A Postcolonial Dalit Feminist Inquiry —Jayachitra Lalitha

    5.     Privilege but No Power: Women in the Gospel of Matthew and Nineteenth-Century African American Women Missionaries through a Postcolonial Lens — Lynne St. Clair Darden

    6.     ‘Knowing More than is Good for One’: A Womanist Interrogation of the Matthean Great CommissionMitzi J. Smith

    Part 3: Theology, Art, and the Great Commission

    7.     Images of the White Jesus in Advancing the Great Commission — Sheila F. Winborne

    8.     The Great Commission in the Face of Suffering as Minjung Michelle Sungshim Lim

    9.     Children’s Agency and Edinburgh 2010: The Great Commission or a Greater Omission? — Rohan P. Gideon

    Part 4: The Great Commission and Christian Education: Rethinking Our Pedagogy 

    10. Interrogating the Matthean Great Commission for US Christian Education: Reclaiming Jesus’ Kingdom of God Message for the Church — Karen D. Crozier

    11. Beginning Again: Rethinking Christian Education in Light of the Great CommissionAnthony G. Reddie

    12. Christian Moral Education and the Great Commission in an African ContextLord Elorm-Donkor

    Part 5: Interrogating the Commission from Beyond the Academy 

    13. A United States Inner-City Oriented Great CommissionMarShondra Scott Lawrence

    14. The Great Commission’sImpact on a Short-term Missionary and Lay Leader in the Church of God in Christ — June C. Rivers


  13. On yesterday, December 5, 2013, Rolihlahla (Madiba) [Nelson] Mandela (b, 1918) died in his native South Africa. I remember first learning, in any critical way, about Apartheid in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), and about Nelson and Winnie Mandela in the mid-80s in a course about Apartheid at OSU as a black studies master's student.  In 1963, Mandela was brought to trial  together with his fellow black activists for about the third time. This time, he and 10 other ANC leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment for political offenses, including sabotage. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island for 18 of his 27 years in prison. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However, while incarcerated, Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program.

    In 1982, Mandela and other ANC leaders were moved to Pollsmoor Prison. In 1985, South African President P. W. Botha  offered Mandela's release in exchange for renouncing armed struggle; the prisoner  rejected the offer. With increasing local and international pressure for his release, the government participated in several talks with Mandela over the ensuing years, but no deal was made. It wasn't until Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by Frederik Willem de Klerk that Mandela's release was finally announced—on February 11, 1990. And in 1994 Mandela became the first black President of South Africa!

    By 1986 I had returned to Washington DC to work in law firms as a legal secretary in anti-trust litigation and corporate real estate. When Mandela visited the US for the first time I was working at a law firm in downtown DC.  I heard some commotion outside and discovered that Mandela was across the street from our offices visiting a museum.  I ran outside to a crowd that had already gathered and the police had roped off a path for Mandela. Somehow I made my way to the front of the crowd just as Mandela was coming out of the museum, and he shook my hand. I wanted to never wash my hand. I had locked hands, if but for a second or less, with a man who epitomized courage, dignity, integrity, justice, community, peace, love.. under some of the most trying circumstances. I was so proud and honored to have shaken his hand.

     I shall not forget Apartheid, the struggle, the solidarity with the struggle that many  of us in the diaspora demonstrated, his fallen comrades (known and unknown), and Mandela's long walk to freedom!
  14. ProfessorFrançois Bovon
    I am deeply saddened at the death of a great New Testament scholar ProfessorFrançois Bovon,Frothingham Professor of the History of Religion Emeritus at Harvard Divinity School. He was an excellent scholar who encouraged and supported his students, demonstrated God's compassion, and continued to mentor former students, inviting us to have a meal with him every SBL/AAR! He was my teacher, academic and dissertation advisor, supporter, and friend. He was known to take time to pray with his students at appropriate times. I took my first class on the Christian Apocrypha from ProfessorBovon, and his teaching style, his expert knowledge, and enthusiasm for the subject ignited in me a love for those texts.  In fact, it was out of that class that I published my first article as a Ph.D. student and it was published in an international journal. He wrote the French version of the abstract.  Professor Bovon, in these latter years, struggled with throat cancer.  One of the last times I saw him was on Harvard's campus where he invited me to lunch at the faculty club in the fall of 2009 (I was on study leave from my institution), and he shared his story with me. He never sought pity but courageously lived his life to the end continuing to do what he loved to do. He will be dearly missed in this world. Rest in peace, my friend!

    François Bovon was a professor from 1967 to 1993 at the University of Geneva, in its Divinity School, which was founded by John Calvin in 1559. He was dean there from 1976 to 1979, and is still an honorary professor of the University of Geneva. He began teaching New Testament and early Christian literature at Harvard in 1993, and was chair of the New Testament Department from 1993 to 1998, and again in 2001-02. He was editor of Harvard Theological Review from 2000 to 2010. He was president of the international Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas in 2000. In recent years he has developed his teaching and research in two directions: the exegesis of New Testament texts, particularly the Gospel of Luke, and the publication and interpretation of non-canonical Acts of the Apostles, particularly the Acts of Philip, legends on Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and apocryphal fragments. His critical commentary on Luke, in four volumes, has been completed in German, French, and Spanish. English and Italian will soon follow. The first volume in English appeared in the "Hermeneia" series, published by Fortress Press, in 2002. The second and the third, published together, appeared in Italian in 2007. His critical edition of the Acts of Philip, done in collaboration with Bertrand Bouvier and Frédéric Amsler, was published as volume 11 in the Corpus Christianorum: Series Apocryphorum by Brepols in 1999. His book The Last Days of Jesus was published in 2006, and a Spanish translation appeared in 2007. Two volumes of essays have been published in recent years: Studies in Early Christianity (2003; in paperback, 2005) and New Testament and Christian Apocrypha (2009; in paperback, 2011).

    Precious in God's sight is the death of his children!

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    Feminism is not a dirty word. In a nutshell, it is a movement that believes that women are equally human and deserving of the same rights and privileges their humanity calls for. It is not about male bashing or hating. Feminism calls for the naming and dismantling of all systems of oppression. Some have dubbed COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg as the new face of feminism.  Sandberg’s book Lean In has captivated millions of women and she is taking her show on the road again. But black feminist scholar bell hooks is exposing her faux feminism in a recent article for the Feminist Wire. I must admit that I read Lean In a few months ago because a black female pastor asked me to help her unpack it (and fortunately or unfortunately that conversation never took place).  Many career-minded women would naturally want to hear what the female COO of Facebook had to say; what nuggets of wisdom she might share that would help them navigate the corporate world with success. Although Sandberg offers some somewhat good practical advice, good depending on one's context, it is elitist and naive to believe that an oppressive patriarchal system will just give way to one’s gifts and talents because women,of any and every hue, ethnicity and class just "lean in". While one cannot underestimate the power of perseverance (I believe in perseverance), one cannot equally underestimate the power of evil and/or oppressive systems in which the power to hire, promote, and fire rests with misogynist, racist, classist, primarily white males and at institutions that fail or neglect to put in place any kind of systemic mechanisms against those and other isms.
    bell hooks writes: 
    “Sandberg’s definition of feminism begins and ends with the notion that it’s all about gender equality within the existing social system. From this perspective, the structures of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy need not be challenged. And she makes it seem that privileged white men will eagerly choose to extend the benefits of corporate capitalism to white women who have the courage to ‘lean in.’ It almost seems as if Sandberg sees women’s lack of perseverance as more the problem than systemic inequality. Sandberg effectively uses her race and class power and privilege to promote a narrow definition of feminism that obscures and undermines visionary feminist concerns....

    "Contrast her definition of feminism with the one I offered more than twenty years ago in Feminist Theory From Margin To Centerand then again in Feminism Is For Everybody.  Offering a broader definition of feminism, one that does not conjure up a battle between the sexes (i.e. women against men), I state: “Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” No matter their standpoint, anyone who advocates feminist politics needs to understand the work does not end with the fight for equality of opportunity within the existing patriarchal structure. We must understand that challenging and dismantling patriarchy is at the core of contemporary feminist struggle – this is essential and necessary if women and men are to be truly liberated from outmoded sexist thinking and actions.”

    Read the rest of hooks’s article at http://thefeministwire.com/2013/10/17973/
  16. A womanist is "a black feminist only more commonly". A womanist, as a woman of color and/or a black woman values and privileges her own experiences as an individual black female and as a sharer and participator in the historical and cultural legacy and present reality of black women and black people's lives. The following is an excerpt from my article:

    "There is no shame in begging especially when we have done all we can to survive. What difference would it make in people’s lives if we all lived in a sharing mode grounded in a compassionate consciousness of the existence and impact of unjust systems and situations, of human error, of hardships that can befall any of us, and an understanding of our human connectedness? In her 1983 book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Alice Walker describes a womanist as committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female …. Traditionally universalist, …Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “it wouldn’t be the first time.”...."The first time” signifies Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and her work to free other slaves. A womanist ethic asserts that we cannot free ourselves without freeing other people too. We cannot liberate ourselves and our children and leave other people and their children to themselves without the proverbial boots or bootstraps, if we can help it. Human beings need other human beings to survive....

    "Both the miracle of the feeding of the great crowd in our text and manna in the Wilderness of Sin connect the earthly miracle with heaven. In the desert, Jesus looked to heaven before (or as) he blessed and broke the bread. 24 In the Wilderness of Sin, Yahweh promised to rain down bread from heaven for the congregation of Israel. In Matthew, both John the Baptist and Jesus announce (and commission his disciples to proclaim) that the “kingdom of the heavens (ouranoi)25 has come near” (3:2; see also 10:7). The Kingdom of heaven has drawn near in the person and ministry of Jesus; he embodies the Kingdom and encourages his disciples to do the same. Matthew’s Jesus is God with us (1:23). The food that fed the multitude was multiplied in the human hands of the earthly Jesus in whom the kingdom of heaven is brought near. “The source of the feeding is God, but the resources are human.” (Boring, 324). As Cheryl Sanders states, “God feeds the poor in our kitchens”; we must make “God’s kingdom come alive on earth.”....

    "When human beings fail to respond to hunger, to dismantle injustice, and use what we have for the sake of others, then even the righteous will be forsaken and its seed begging for bread....

    read the entire article at www.bibleandtransformatiom.com Vol 3

  17. Dr. Karen King of Harvard Divinity School discovered a fourth century CE Coptic papyrus in which a scribe writes “Jesus said to them my wife." When some Christians read or heard about this discovery, their first reaction was, “what difference does it make?”. The papyrus fragment discusses issues of discipleship and family in general. In fact, one of my Facebook connections and a friend asked more specifically what difference the possibility of Jesus being married makes for salvation. Dr. King is careful to note that the papyrus does not explicitly say that Jesus was or was not married. In fact, the papyrus is of a quite late date compared to some other New Testament manuscripts dated in the second century CE. But the papyrus does raise questions as to when early Christians started raising questions or talking about Jesus’ marital status. Below is a video of an interview with Dr. King of Harvard University:

    I think Christians should be interested in the papyrus fragment, and other such archaeological finds as well, for the following reasons: (1) They are historical documents. And as historical documents they give us a glimpse into the history of Christianity. We ought to know about our history, how it impacts the present, and how it may inform the future. Christians who belong to denominations that require their pastors to obtain a theological education are exposed to church history for the prior-mentioned reasons; it makes good sense to be able to understand things in their historical context. Without context we have no meaning or meaning is distorted. Members of Christian churches should want their pastors and teachers to be able to place things in their proper historical context, in as much as it is possible. Nothing happens in a vacuum. (2) Some Christians base their understandings of marriage and singleness in general, as well as the impact of marital status on ministry, on whether or not they understood Jesus to be married. In fact, some Christians place a higher value on being single over being married with regard to commitment to Christian ministry, relying heavily on Paul’s statements in First Corinthians chapter 7. Other Christians have believed and some still believe that all clergy should be married (as well as all men and women!). Such a discovery that Jesus was married might certainly impact how we understand ministry and the Christian life. (3) If Jesus had been married, we would certainly read differently some of the canonical and non-canonical witnesses that preserve the sayings of and about Jesus.  For example we might read differently the two somewhat contradictory testimonies at Matthew 5:31-32 (when Jesus says in Matthew that no man should divorce his wife except if she is unchaste. If he does so for any otherreason and remarries, he has committed adultery) and at Mark 10:10-12 where Jesus takes the position that there is no exception or excuse for divorce (anyone who divorces and remarries as committed adultery).  Or we would at least expect that Jesus definitely set the example in his own marriage and was, as the author Hebrews writes "touched with all the feelings of our infirmities." If he could maintain a good marriage, certainly we can. If we see it as a bad thing for Jesus to have been married, then it may be that we place a low value on the institution of marriage in general. Again, however, the fragment does not say he was single or married. I personally think God would be fine with Jesus or anyone making the choice to be married or to remain single, as long as they lived a life pleasing to God.
    We should not be so readily dismissive of new finds and evidence. It was not until the middle 1940s (1947-1956) that the over 800 Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves thirteen miles east of Jerusalem. That archaeological find yielded invaluable manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (written in Hebrew and Aramaic), not including the book of Esther (as well as other nonbiblical texts). TheIsaiah Scroll, found relatively intact, is 1000 years older than any previously known copy of Isaiah. It also contains never before seen psalms attributed to King David and Joshua. The scrolls are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found! I don’t believe that our salvation is threatened by keeping an open mind and being humble about what we know and don’t know. God probably has quite a few more surprises for us.

  18. This Psalm Sunday I am reminded how Jesus exercised initiative in his early life, in his ministry, and during the final days of his life. Despite knowing that he would die in the Holy City because of the purposeful, inclusive, compassionate, and power-filled life of ministry he practiced, Jesus headed toward Jerusalem; he did not wait for his adversaries to come after him (Luke 9:51). As womanist biblical scholar Raquel St. Clair asserts in her book Call in Consequences, it was not Jesus’ purpose to die but to live; his suffering was a consequence of his ministry. This historical Jesus was God with us(Matthew 1:23). Jesus lived a life in which he continually exercised initiative; he took charge of his life. Jesus chose to go to John the Baptist so that John could baptize him even though John thought himself unworthy to baptize Jesus; that Jesus should be the one baptizing him. Jesus followed the Spirit’s leading and spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting, praying and being tempted by the adversary in preparation for his ministry (Matthew 4:2). Jesus, like his forerunner John the Baptist, did more than the minimum required to fulfill his purpose. Perhaps, because he believed that with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Jesus understood that to exist in and exercise a God-like perfection or wholeness means exceeding what is required and allowing possibility, purpose, compassion, and passion to compel us (Matthew 4:43-48).
    In order to pursue our lives and vocations in excellence, we will exercise initiative that is motivated by possibility, purpose, compassion, and passion.This means that we won’t wait for others to compel us or overlook us, but we will step up to the plate and do what needs to be done and more. Too often people wait to see if someone else will do a task rather than doing it themselves. This lack of initiative occurs in situations from helping people in distress to asking questions in a classroom. Many people won’t ask questions that can help them to understand a particular topic because they are waiting to see if someone else will ask the same question. Meanwhile, nobody asks the necessary questions. So like the majority, they just show up, which is the minimum required of them.  I don’t want to minimize the importance of showing up; showing up is half the battle, but only half the battle. Too many people set the example of only doing the minimum required for a task or project. Some students will only do the homework a teacher assigns, even when it would greatly benefit them and increase their knowledge to do more. But those motivated by possibility, purpose, compassion, and passion will exercise initiative. We can exercise initiative by thinking about and researching our options beyond the obvious ones, by asking questions, and by doing more than is required. For example, if an executive asks her assistant to reserve a room at her favorite hotel in a certain city and the hotel is booked, then the assistant should take the initiative to, (1) ask her employer at the time of the initial request if she has a second or third option if the hotel is booked; (2) search for comparable alternatives, and (3) ask the hotel to notify her in case of cancellations.
    We value initiative in others; therefore, we should cultivate it in ourselves. Most parents and adults value initiative in children. If we ask them to take out the trash, and they only empty the trash in the kitchen and not in the rest of the house, we become annoyed with them. To do only what is required of us will only assure that we are average or mediocre.
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    Democratic Womanism

    By Alice Walker
    You ask me why I smile when you tell me
    you intend in coming national elections
    to hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils.
    There are more than two evils out there, is one reason I smile
    Another, is that our old buddy Nostradamus comes to mind
    With his fearful 400 yr old prophecy that our world
    And theirs too, our enemies, lots of kids included there
    Will end by nuclear Nachbah?, by holocaust, in our life time
    Which makes the idea of elections
    and the billions of dollars wasted on them somewhat fatuous
    A southerner of color, my people held the vote very dear
    While others for centuries merely appeared to play with it
    One thing I can assure you of, is this,
    I will never betray such pure hearts by voting for evil,
    even if it were microscopic,
    which as you can see in any newscast, no matter the slant, it is not.
    I want something else – a different system entirely
    One not seen on this earth for thousands of years, if ever
    Democratic Womanism
    Notice how this word has “man” right in the middle of it
    That’s one reason I like it.
    He is right there front and center, but he is surrounded.
    I want to vote and work for a way of life that honors the feminine
    A way that acknowledges the theft of the wisdom female and dark mother leadership may have provided our spaceship all along
    I am not thinking of a talking-head kind of gal—
    happy to be mixing it up with the badest bad boys on the planet
    Her eyes a slit; her mouth a zipper
    No, I am speaking of true regime change
    Where women rise to take their place unmasked
    At the helm of earth’s frail and failing ship
    Where each thousand years of our silence is examined with regret
    And the cruel manner in which our values of compassion and kindness
    Have been ridiculed and suppressed, brought to bear on the disaster of the present time
    The past must be examined closely, I believe, before we can leave it there.
    I am thinking of Democratic, and perhaps socialist, Womanism.
    For who else knows so deeply how to share but mothers and grandmothers,
    big sisters and aunts, to love and adore both female and male,
    not to mention those in between
    To work at keeping the entire community educated, fed, and safe
    Democratic Womanism, Democratic Socialist Womanism
    Would have as its icons such fierce warriors for good as
    Vandana Shiva, Aung San Suu Kyi,Wangari Maathai, Harriett Tubman, Yoko Ono, Frida Kahlo, Angela Davis and Barbara Lee
    With new ones rising wherever you look
    You are also on this list,
    but it is so long, Isis would appear midway, that I must stop or be unable to finish the poem
    So just know that I stood you in a circle
    that includes Marian Wright Edelman, Amy Goodman, Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem, and Mary McCleod Bethune,
    John Brown, Frederick Douglass, John Lennon, and Howard Zinn
    are there, happy to be surrounded.
    There is no system now in place that can change the disastrous course the Earth is on.
    Who can doubt this
    The male leaders of Earth appear to have abandoned their very senses
    Though most appear to live now entirely in their heads
    They murder humans and other animals, forests and rivers and mountains everyday they are in office and never seem to notice it.
    They eat and drink devastation.
    Women of the world, women of the world, is this devastation us?
    Would we kill whole continents for oil or anything else rather than limit the number of consumer offspring we produce and learn how to make our own fire?
    Democratic womanism, democratic socialist womanism
    A system of governance we can dream and imagine and build together
    One that recognizes at least six thousand years of brutally forced complicity
    And the assassination of Mother Earth but foresees six thousand years
    Ahead of us when we will not submit
    What will we need? – a hundred years, at least, to plan
    Five hundred will be handed us gladly, when the planet is scared enough
    In which circles of women meet, organize ourselves, and elide with men brave enough to stand with women.
    Nurture our planet to a degree of health, and without apology, impossible to make a bigger mess than has been made already,
    Devote ourselves heedless of opposition to tirelessly serving and resuscitating our mother ship
    And with gratitude for her care of us worshipfully commit to rehabilitating it.

  20. “In the summer of 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which eliminated all literacy tests. After that, people in Alabama did not have to answer twenty-four questions. They could register to vote if they could sign their name in cursive. It didn’t take us but twenty minutes in Selma, Alabama, to teach a woman to write her name. The white students took her to the courthouse. She wrote her name in cursive writing and came back with a number that meant she could register to vote. This is the way we did it.”~ Septima Clark (1898-1987), educator and voting/civil rights activist (Ready from Within)

    Of course, I don’t know very much
      About these politics,
    But I think that some who run ‘em
      Do mighty ugly tricks.
    When we want to school our children
      If the money isn’t there,
    Whether black or white have took it,
      The loss we all must share,
    And this buying up each other
      Is somthin worse than mean.
    Though I think a heap of voting,
      I go for voting clean.”  ~ Francis Ellen Harper (1825-1911), Sketches of Southern Life (1896)

    If white American women, with all their natural and acquired advantages, need the ballot, that right protective of all other rights; if Anglo Saxons have been helped by it—and they have—how much more do Black Americans, male and female need the strong defense of a vote to help secure them their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And neither do the colored citizens of the Republic lag behind in the fundamental duties of tax-paying and using the elective franchise. The price of their freedom as far as that freedom has progressed, was too dear a price to be treated lightly.” ~ Adelle Hunt Logan (1863-1915), educator and activist

    “And gentlemen, I warn you no longer to stand out in refusing the right to which we contend; in trying to withhold from these noble ladies here and their darker sisters the franchise they now demand. Miss Anthony and Mrs. Stanton, with their high moral and intellectual power, have shaken the states of New England, and the shock is felt here today… Woman has a power within herself, and the God that reigns above, who commanded Moses to lead the children of Israel from out of the land Egypt, from out of the house of bondage, who walled the waters of the Red Sea, who endowed Samson with power to slay his enemies with the jawbone of an ass, who furnished Abraham Lincoln with knowledge to write the emancipation proclamation, whereby four million Blacks were free—that God, our God, is with and for us, and will hear the call of woman, and her rights will be granted, and she shall be permitted to vote.” ~ Naomi Talbert (Anderson) [1814-1894], writer and lecturer, pioneer in black women’s suffrage movement

    “By a miracle the 19th Amendment has been ratified. We women have now a weapon of defense, which we have never possessed before. It will be a shame and a reproach to us if we do not use it”  ~ Mary Church Terrell, 1920 [1863-1954], educator, activist, professional lecturer

    “It is important that I never made the rights of women or of blacks a primary theme of my campaign but insisted on making my role that of a potential voice for all the out-groups, those included. As best I could, I tried to keep stressing the principle that our government cannot keep on being primarily responsive to the privileged white upper classes but must serve the human needs of every citizen. Long unmet needs for housing, health care, pensions on which the aged can live decently, effective schools everywhere, including the poorest neighborhoods—all people in need must be helped, not written off as malcontent, demanding, lazy, ignorant bums and cheats.” ~ former and first serious female Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the US, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

  21. Yes, rape is rape, and I believe in a woman’s divine and civil right to choose what she will do when she is raped or when her life is threatened.  Representative Todd Adkin’s recent remarks about women who experience “legitimate rape” and the utter nonsense about the rarity of pregnancy in those cases [tell it to the 33,000+ women who have been impregnated by rape] have sparked an old debate and spotlighted perennial attempts to control women’s bodies.  It is no secret now that the Republican Party’s platform includes on its political agenda a prohibition against all abortions regardless of how the woman was impregnated (e.g., rape, incest…); against a woman’s right to choose. 
    Recently Rev. Eva Melton Billingsley asked for a response on a Facebook post that read: “If we use Todd Akin's logic then the thought of Bathsheba being raped is impossible because she got pregnant. What's funny is some won't even entertain the thought that David raped her. Biblical scholars what say ye?”
    My response was/is:Bathsheba was raped by a man that exponentially outweighed her in power and authority, by a man who felt he deserved any woman he desired and had the power and authority to take what he wanted and cover it up. Many men who don't have David's power think this way. David even went the step further of murdering her husband and because of his power went unpunished by any civil or judicial system. And maybe we need to question that author's labeling of him and our reinscribing of him as a "man after God's own heart," which somewhat implies the crime was not so bad; that a man should serve no time for raping a woman and killing her husband, if he has enough power and authority and is God's anointed. He faced no time in jail for his crime but was allowed to live out his life. Yes, he lived with other consequences, but none that might not happen to others by just living and having children that make choices of their own or by being a bad example to their children.”
    Rape is rape, whether the victim is female or male, child, run-away-teen, or a grown-up in or out of a relationship, drugged or sober, naked or fully garbed ­– rape is rape and it should not be tolerated in a civil society or among God-fearing people of any religion. I am “pro-choice” and I am for life.  I am for the life of an unborn child; I am for the life of the child born and living on the streets of America, or any country, homeless and dying; I am for the life of children who have easier access to drugs and guns than to a quality education, decent housing, and three meals a day; I am for the life of a child or adult whose spirit for living is murdered by other people who practice racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, hatred and/or with words meant to diminish and tear down.