Sunday, April 13, 2014

Color Me Fun

On January 1, 2014 I announced via this blog and social media that I would exercise every day this year. It's mid-April and I haven't missed a day yet. 

For my workout on Saturday I walked 3.1 miles while people threw handfuls of brightly colored cornstarch at me. Yes, that's right, on Saturday I participated in the race known as Color Me Rad

Color Me Rad is a 5K that "fires off in a blaze of color bombs, color cannons, color mortars, and multi-toned courses." In each city Color Me Rad is held a portion of the proceeds from the race is donated to a local charity that partners with CMR. Birmingham's race benefitted the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama. 

Despite the heat, the hills and the itchy cornstarch my cousin Tasha and I had a blast during our trek around the Hoover Met on Saturday. My cousin is still recovering from an ankle injury so we chose to walk, not run, the race, but we got in a great workout nonetheless and had a great time.

I'm always telling my friends that exercise should be fun and Saturday's race reminded me to practice what I preach. I wasn't concerned about how long it took me to complete the race. I wasn't checking my Polar fitness watch to see how many calories I'd burned. I was just having fun.

Here are more pictures from the race:

I think Big Foot came to the race too!

A conga line broke out at the after party!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I Want to Be a Jesus Feminist

In the first chapter of her book Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey declares, "Jesus made a feminist out of me." 

Later she defines Jesus feminist for anyone left perplexed by the term: "I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier meant I am a feminist precisely because of my life-long commitment to Jesus and his Way." 

I am not a Jesus feminist, but I want to be. 

I am a Christian and I am a feminist, but I am not a Jesus feminist, at least not according to this definition. I am not a feminist because I am a Christian. In fact, I've spent the past decade declaring that I am a feminist despite the fact that I am a Christian, or vice versa. I've spent the past decade wrestling like Jacob with the angel trying to reconcile these two belief systems that are at the center of almost all that I do. 

But I am tired of the battle. 

And this battle is a silly one. 

Jesus is my favorite feminist. Reading the Gospels, it's clear that Christ saw women as people. He didn't treat us differently from men. As Bessey writes:

We weren't too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend. 

Bessey, a Canadian, didn't grow up with many of the ideas about gender roles that prevail in America, especially in the Southeast where I live. She didn't face these issues until later in her Christian life.

Ironically, even though I'm a Southern girl I didn't grow up with gender stereotypes either. My parents always taught me I could be whatever I wanted to be. Period. But I'll never forget the day when, excited by a sermon I'd just heard, I remarked that the preacher got me so interested in the Bible that it made me want to go to Bible college and be a preacher one day myself. I was quickly corrected by a well-meaning elder: "Now, you know women can't be preachers." 

Disillusion and disappointment have marked much of my church life due to attitudes regarding gender, race, sexuality, class and more. I've even gone through periods where I've stopped going to church altogether. 

But as Bessey writes, quoting Sara Miles, "You can't be a Christian by yourself." 

So as I continue to re-read Jesus Feminist I will continue to deal with my doubts, my questions, and my hurts. I will continue to, as Bessey suggests, lean into the pain, trusting that there is a balm in Gilead. 

If you are reading Jesus Feminist along with me, please leave your thoughts on chapters 1-3 in the comments section. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Introduction to Jesus Feminist (The Writeous Babe Book Club)

This month I'm kicking off the Writeous Babe Book Club with Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist.

I want to discuss this book online and hope to even start a Jesus Feminist small group at my church because I believe in the power of women sharing their stories. As author Rachel Held Evans says in the foreword to Jesus Feminist: "For women who bear the stories of patriarchy, freedom begins with the telling; it begins with those first tender words spoken out loud or written down on paper: 'When I was a little girl,' 'I remember,' 'Once.'"

I appreciate that Bessey opens this book with Idelette McVicker's "Let Us Be Women Who Love." Even in the 21st century feminism is often equated with anger and hate. But in truth feminism, especially Jesus feminism, is all about freedom and love.

She invites us to metaphorically join her on a beautiful beach to talk about "womanhood, church, the labels, and where we go from here."

In my eyes she also invites us to rest, which I appreciate because I'm tired.

I'm tired of being defensive. I'm tired of  trying to "right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every inflammatory blog post, pontificate about every question."

Bessey admits in her introduction that years ago she struggled with these things too, that she "practiced anger and cynicism like a pianist practices scales, over and over."

As women in church and elsewhere we often exclaim that we just want a seat at the table. This can cause us to resent both men and women who've already pulled up a chair.

Bessey offers a new idea:

"And someday -- I really believe this -- we will throw our arms around the people of the Table as they break up the burnished oak. We'll be there to help them heave it out the windows, smashing every glass ceiling" the transparent, mirrored, and stained glass-- all shards of broken lies now." 

I invite you to join me on this journey. During the month of April let's read Jesus Feminist and discuss it here once a week on this blog. For those of you in Birmingham I'd also love to get together to discuss the book as a whole at the end of the month.

I'll be back next Tuesday (April 8) to discuss chapters 1-3.

I hope you'll join me.

In the meantime please leave your thoughts on the foreword and introduction in the comments section.

Happy reading!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Going Natural: It's Not Just a Hairstyle, It's a Lifestyle


It was the summer of 2002, and I was probably on hour three of the tedious process of attempting to straighten my hair with all the heat my scalp could stand. This, of course, was in addition to the chemical hair relaxer occasionally applied to my tresses. While I wrestled with my hair, my roommate turned to me and said, "Maybe your hair doesn't want to be straight. Why don't you just wear it curly?"

Those words changed everything.

I was 21 at the time, and in my two decades of living no one had ever suggested that wearing my hair in its naturally curly state was OK. Many black girls grow up with everyone from the media to their mommas telling them that pretty hair is straight hair. So when an African American woman decides - as I did that summer - to forego straightening her hair with chemical relaxers, it can feel like a revolutionary act. Or even a spiritual experience.

"It's not just a hairstyle, it's a lifestyle," says Victor Simmons. Simmons and his brother, Jeffrey Simmons, started the Visions Natural Hair & Health Expo in Birmingham three years ago.

In my latest post for WBHM I discussed my decision to go natural 12 years ago and chatted with the creators of the Visions Natural Hair & Health Expo. Read the complete post and hear an excerpt my on-air segment here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Beat Feminist Burnout - Guest Post for I Am That Girl

image via
I recognized the look in their faces. It was a look I’d seen in the mirror far too many times. It was the look of frustration and complete overwhelm. It was the look of feminist burnout.
The two young women standing before me were two students in the 10th grade English class I taught that year. They were two students that – after the school day was done – I had long talks with about feminism, activism, and art.  
These two students of mine came to me on this particular afternoon filled with rage about rape culture and feeling helpless to do anything about it or anything else. They began to rattle off all the injustices we women still face and the sexist attitudes that they felt would prevent our society from ever achieving gender equality.
Then they took a breath and looked to me, the grownup in the room, for answers.
I had none.
I don’t know of any simple ways to end rape culture or change the sexist attitudes held by both men and women.
But I do know how to beat feminist burnout. I know how to be a happy feminist.
Beating feminist burnout is the topic of my first guest post for I Am That Girl, a feminist website, book, and movement for teen girls. 
You can read the complete post here
I am so excited, honored and proud to be part of the I Am That Girl family. 
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