I am a Black woman who preaches. The pulpit is a traditional site of knowledge production in the Black Church and historically cisgender heterosexual males have been considered chief generators of that knowledge. Conversely, Black preaching women’s ability to confront and critically engage hegemony is not solely lodged in the physical location of the pulpit. Black preaching women have lived between dynamism and tenderness; being vocal about certain lived experiences and expected to be silent about others.
In August 2016, I went live on Facebook for the first time. Responding to news that yet another black person, this time a young woman, was killed by law enforcement was unsettling. Subsequently, around the same time, the senior pastor at the church I attended, shared with me that a female parishioner was dissatisfied with my pulpit presence and demanded that I no longer be allowed to preach. What started out as curiosity quickly burgeoned into a commitment. Facebook had recently introduced the live feature—the ability to record live interactive content and display it in real time. I was outraged at both sets of circumstances. I needed a clearing—a space to moan, protest, and affirm the sound of my own voice even if others would not. I needed a place to lament. I needed a place to live out my vocation and I refused to wait for permission or to be approved by a governing body.
What started out as curiosity quickly burgeoned into a commitment. Now, every Sunday at 8:00 am, Eastern Time, often wearing a tattered pink robe, I go live on Facebook and YouTube. Initially, the live streams were brief reflections about the lessons my grandmother and other black women shared with me while coming of age. Today, they are hour-long meditations on heavy theological concepts like theodicy—the vindication of goodness in the face of evil or soteriology—the study of aliveness, gender, power, class, race, and respectability politics.
Pink Robe Chronicles
A viewer named the weekly feature Pink Robe Chronicles (PRC). The pink robe is my priestly garment. The virtual community—half coffee house and half church—is a blend of insiders and outliers. Pastors of offline Black Churches searching for sermon inspiration. Muslim black women with Black church roots appreciative of the Black Church prophetic tradition that PRC is squarely rooted in. LGBTQ+ who don’t have to explain away their identity in order to praise God. Practitioners of African heritage religious traditions honoring our Egun (ancestors) with prayers of gratitude. All are here in what Je’ Exodus Hooper calls a “theologically inclusive spirit-driven black sanctioned space of love-working. In this digital hush harbor, I and other innovative creatives are “reimagining black joy, black love, black affirmation, black resistance and sacred truth telling within the offline Black Church.” We are transcending the margins designed by interlocking oppressions lived out in the Black Church.
Today, Pink Robe Chronicles is an online gathering that centers faith and spirituality from a theologically progressive, womanist, pan-African, and Afrofuturist interpretive lens. We are guided by the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles): Faith, Creativity, Purpose, Unity, Cooperative Economics, Collective Work, and Responsibility/Self-Determination. The chronicles used sacred texts to illuminate and practice the philosophy of Ubuntu. We believe that Jesus was a political prisoner and faith leader who was ultimately executed by a scandalous government. We believe his witness of and to a new way of being in the world that repositions those in last position to first, redistributes wealth from the center to the margins, and provides a template for ethical and just living that liberates us from the fear of multiple deaths. We are ordained multi-faith clergy, seminarians, graduate students, professors, attorneys, higher education professionals, administrative specialists, entrepreneurs, labor workers, stylists, degreed and non-degreed. We are Christian, Muslim, Humanist, Priest and Priestesses, Bible readers and Bible scholars, preachers, artists, and activists. We are goal diggers and truth-to-power speakers. We believe that ALL Black lives are sacred and that all Black love is revolutionary. We are straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex, bi, queer, and/or questioning.
1Love and Artistic Soul
The 1Love Festival and Artistic Soul non-traditional ministries were birthed from this creative and liberative space. Both offerings augment Pink Robe Chronicles. 1Love is an initiative that curates unconventional pulpits for artists of all kinds-culture innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives, spiritual practitioners, faith and thought leaders to build sustainable relationships with members of underserved and underrepresented communities. We believe that art has the power to dismantle necropolitical legacies of power, raise consciousness, and restore the spirit of collective work and responsibility. Community members and artists coexist at the core of our mission. We care deeply about black folks’ quality of life and believe that exposure to art elevates and enlivens. All our programs infuse selected market areas with progressive content and diverse talent. In turn, we amplify the voices of emerging ministers and artists by providing them with a platform to offer their gifts and forge deep connections with other innovators.
The Artistic Soul Conversations center the intersections of art, faith, public service, entrepreneurship and innovation. In June 2024 we will co-curate the exhibit Speaking in Tongues: From Africa to Louisiana to Digital Hush Harbors and Urban Areas with international artist Angelbert Metoyer illuminating Black religious traditions and art. I am grateful for the support of the Seeds Project Fellowship and have learned so much from the cohort. What is clear is that non-traditional ministries often reach individuals who may feel excluded or marginalized by traditional religious institutions. Ministries like PRC, 1Love Festival, and Artistic Soul Conversations provide inclusive spaces where people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and identities can find spiritual nourishment. I am grateful to have received support from The Seeds Project. I’m excited about what’s to come.