2nd Year MASC Student
Why did you decide to become a spiritual leader?
I have been doing work in spiritual and religious leadership since I was six years old. I started teaching Sunday School when I was six and I preached my first sermon when I was eight. Funny thing is, the title of my first sermon was “What In Hell Do You Want?” because I had been watching the other pastors at the church, how they preached and repeated the title several times in their sermons. I was eight. Who should have been letting me preach? I don’t know. But, I just wanted to repeat over and over again, “So what in helllll do you want?” So that was my first sermon and I just took it from there.
I grew up serving in several capacities in ministry and leadership. I was afforded the opportunity to grow in a place that wasn’t very woman friendly (I grew up in the Missionary Baptist church) but my grandmother was a Sunday School teacher who taught me at six years old how to make a lesson plan and that has been the trajectory of my life. In the words of Jay Z, “This is the life that I chose, or rather, the life that chose me!”
Why did you decide to study at Starr King?
I Google searched the words “Masters,” “Low Residency,” “Black Power,” and “Seminary”… and “Starr King” came up. And the MASC program came up, specifically. I was so amazed, but I thought, “This can’t be real. This is going to be a certificate program or something.” You pay thousands of dollars and at the end they say, “You love people! Congratulations!” So I did more research and when I found out about the accreditation that it had, and its relationship with the GTU and UC Berkeley… it just felt too good to be true but… It’s true!
My undergraduate degree is in Cultural Anthropology and Political Science, so I knew that I wanted to do something pertaining to blackness and try to figure out how I could use the work that I have been doing to further my education but still incorporate my work in spirituality and religion. I manifested Starr King, in real life. The fact that this is a real place and a real program is just amazing to me. I willed this into existence.
What is your most meaningful or memorable experience at Starr King?
I can’t say that I have a “most memorable moment.” However, I’m very grateful for the relationships that I have with my instructors up to this point. One of the relationships that really stands out to me is my relationship with Dr. Lettini, who is my academic advisor. She is so approachable and so giving of her time, energy, and resources. She was a perfect fit for me. The work that I’m doing, a lot of it is in “Womanist Theology” and it just so happens that she studied with James Cone and Delores Williams – two pioneers in the “Liberation Theology” and “Womanist Theology” movements. Just a perfect fit for me.
The other relationship that stands out is my relationship with Dee Ward, who by the time of this posting will have moved onward and upward into a new role with a different organization. But, her willingness to open up and make me feel like family, knowing that I’m not from here and often feel homesick, has been so important to me and I’m so moved by the sacred space she allows me to walk into every time I’m in her presence.
Those are the two memorable experiences, or encounters that I’ve had since I’ve been here. They make me feel like, “Welcome. What is happening in your world really does matter to me.”
Can you tell us a little about the work you do outside of Starr King?
I am writing books. I just co-authored a book with one of my best friends. It is called “Halos on Afros: Radical Black Feminist and Womanist Thoughts on the Divine” and it is a book of essays of us cutting up about cis-hetero patriarchal white supremacy, and Beyonce! (Coming soon. Visit www.thefreepeopleproject.com for more information.)
Speaking of Beyonce, I’ve been creating a lot of scholarly work around Beyonce. I’ll be presenting at the American Academy of Religion Western Region in March of 2017, a paper entitled, “The Testimony Service and Social Justice in Beyonce’s Lemonade.” I am also the Fall Semester Hilda Mason Teaching Fellow. I’ll be teaching an introduction to African Spirit Religions based on Beyonce’s visual album, “Lemonade,” It will feature discussions on how spirituality is used to promote change and social justice. And I have a project that is raising money for high school aged girls in Kenya in hopes of confronting the gender parity issue in their education system. It is called #BeyonceKnows. It is a t-shirt that offers a percentage of all proceeds to PACE High School in Nyahururu, Kenya.
I am currently developing more scholarly, academic definitions and examples of “Hip Hop Womanism.” I’m expanding on what exists in a conversation about hip hop feminism, but dealing with the spiritual/religious aspects of what womanism brings to that – and what it looks like to be a hip hop womanist. So I have some fun things going on with that.
I also co-facilitate a workshop called “Interrupting Racism” with the same friend I just mentioned. Bi-weekly we do an online workshop that really helps give answers, follow-up, and specific strategies for what it would look like for us to stop racism in its tracks. For example, we have discussed black women’s body ownership as a justice issue and self-care in these troubling/trying times. We also have other organizations co-facilitate discussions. Recently we had a scholar on to deal with the idea of “Bad Hombres” and the issue of calling people “illegal.”
These are some of the things I’m working on outside of Starr King, many of them with the support of Starr King.
What do you plan on doing with your education after Starr King?
Who actually knows? (Laughs) No, really… Going directly into a PhD program because I think that black women should have PhD’s so that we can be the academic authority on various subjects, but especially and specifically work that relates to us. The work that I want to do (continue to do) is around Black/Women/Spirituality. I want to teach and continue to do the work that I was doing before Starr King which is creating curriculums and creating/curating content and discussion around Black/Women/Spirituality.
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