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Caring for Our Own Vineyards: Ain't I A Leader 2010
April 13, 2010
On Tuesday evening, March 30 nearly 70 African-American women religious leaders gathered at Marble Collegiate Church for an experience of Ain’t I A Leader, Auburn’s initiative dedicated to supporting the lives and work of black women in ministry. The third in an on-going series, the theme of this year’s program had a special resonance for the gathering. Committed to Caring for Ourselves named self-care as a necessity for prophetic ministry, and charged black women to embrace their own health and well-being with the same level of passion and energy they have tirelessly extended to the community at large.
More than a simple acknowledgment of the importance, as program leader and Auburn Seminary Board member, the Rev. Kanyere Eaton noted, to ‘care for our own vineyards,’ the evening was a call to critical thinking and strategic action. Renowned womanist scholar and Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, joined Rev. Eaton at the ‘strategic planning table.’ Together they invited the women in the audience to’ pull up a chair’ as well – a desire to at once ‘tell the truth of their experience as black women,’ AND to conceive of at least one practical first step they could take to advance their own wholeness being the sole, but pivot criteria for access.
A wide-cross section of leaders – ordained and lay, seminarians and activists, Christians and Muslims -- quickly added their voices to the mix. ‘I don’t know what it’s like to NOT work from before sun-up to long after sun-down,’ one of the sisters reflected. ‘I’m exhausted, but it’s what my mother did and her mother before her. Where are the role models for a different way of being?’ ‘I may be depressed,’ another noted, ‘but who do I trust with that truth? What do you do when the struggle to find help exposes you to people and institutions that have never taken black women seriously?’ ‘What diet and exercise regime,’ queried a third? ‘I know what I should do. My pressure is high and the condition runs in the family, but even with all my ‘education’ I still live in a neighborhood with fast food in every other store-front, sub-standard grocery stores and no gym. The idea of traveling outside of my community for these basic services is a real challenge.’
These ‘hard truths’ were but a small sampling of what the women shared. But just as engaged as they were in telling the truth about what they are up against, they were equally as passionate about articulating a first step they would take toward bringing a little justice into their lives as black women. ‘I will not work through lunch this week.’ ‘I will honor my meditation time.’ ‘I will substitute three pieces of fruit for three high calorie snacks.’ ‘I will not cancel that doctor’s appointment, or I will schedule the one I have been putting off for months.’ ‘I will listen to my bodies need for sleep and not medicate the need away with coffee or other caffeinated beverages.’ ‘I will have tea with my girlfriend and tell her what is really going on with me. I will listen to what is really going on with her, and together we will encourage each other to love ourselves regardless!’
Small steps to be sure. But that was the point on that rainy March evening at Marble Collegiate. We are starting a conversation. We are paving the way for a larger engagement of how a commitment to caring for ourselves is integrally related to the broader justice work of our communities. Join us for as we move forward!
For additional information on the Ain’t I A Leader or how you can become involved in any of Auburn's women's leadership work contact Lisa Anderson at landerson@AuburnSeminary.org.
For learn more about the broad themes addressed in this post see:
Cannon, Katie G. Katie’s Canon, (Continum, 1997).
Copeland, M. Shawn. Enfleshing Freedom, (Fortress, 2009).
Coleman, Monica. Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology (Fortress, 2008).
Degruy Leary, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing , (Uptone Press, 2005).
Weems, Renita. Showing Mary: How Women Can Share Prayers, Wisdom, and the Blessings of God, (Walk Worthy Press, 2005).
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