Archive for the ‘women in leadership’ Category

Dear Rick: A Lesson on Race

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It took several days for me to decide whether to post the email below. It arrived Sunday night in my mailbox. I read it and became immediately suspicious. “You kidding, right?”  It’s obvious that Warren hasn’t read what I’ve written here and elsewhere about him. Either that, or the letter is a fake. I shut down the computer and thought nothing more about it.

Well, maybe one more thought came to my mind:  Perhaps Warren knows that I’ve been critical of him and is writing because he genuinely and really wants to reach out and find common ground.

But that was before I got here to Florida where I’m vacationing with friends and discovered that I’m not the only one  to receive  a letter from the pastor of Saddlebrook Church. Jessica, Floyd, Jeremiah, Frank, Jim, John, Eboni and many others did too. It seems that Warren (or his emissaries) decided to go through some old issues of The African American Pulpit and write letters to folks with sermons there claiming to want to reach out to us and solicit our advice on a sermon he’s doing Monday in celebration of  King’s birthday there at Ebenezer. Everyone got the same form letter. Change the recipient’s name, the sermon title and hit “send” is all it took.

Is this Warren’s way of getting to know African American preachers? Is this his way of making friends with us?  Is this how he bones up on Black History? Evidently, Warren obviously doesn’t know that black preachers talk, that many of us are friends, and that a letter from Rick Warren would generate buzz enough for us to share and compare notes.

Admittedly, nothing annoys me like white Americans– especially those my age– wanting me to teach them about race and racism.  Where have you been?

Warren, if you (or your people) read this, you’re asking yourself, “What did I do wrong? What harm is there in sending an email out to respected black leaders around the country and soliciting their advice on a King speech you’re slated to give on Monday?”

If you have to ask, then you don’t get it.  You don’t get the whole point of King’s ministry and that of others who suffered and sacrificed working for racial equality in this country. You don’t get that a mass email to black leaders can not substitute for real flesh-and-blood relationships with peers in the African American community. Can not substitute for doing your own reading and research on the history of the American slave trade and race relations in America. Can not substitute for asking God to open your eyes  so you can see, really see, the race dynamics in your church and in your city. Can not substitute for asking how a man like yourself born in 1954 doesn’t know better. And doesn’t know more about race in America.  Where have you been?

What was the King Committee thinking? What got into them to invite Rick Warren who has no street creds in justice work to be the speaker for 2009 annual Martin Luther King service there at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta? But that’s another conversation. In the meantime, follow the money. You can bet there’s a Purpose Driven donation that’s recently been deposited in the King Center account.

Read my friends and weigh in.

Dear Pastor Weems,

Recently I was reading an older issue of African American Pulpit (I’m a long-term subscriber) and I came upon your article, “How Will Our Preaching Be Remembered”.  I thought it was so good I wanted to write and tell you what a great job you did. Well done!

After reading your work, I decided to ask you for your help. On Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, I have the humble privilege of being invited to be the first white pastor to preach the annual memorial message in Dr. King’s home church in Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist.  I consider this opportunity as one of the greatest privileges in my ministry. It is even more important to me personally, than praying the invocation for my friend President Obama’s Inauguration the next day.

I’d like to know your thoughts. If you were preaching the annual Martin Luther King sermon at his church on his day – what would YOU say?   I just felt led to write you.  Please help me, your brother in Christ. I’m open to any ideas, texts, or suggestions you might have for me, and I’d deeply appreciate it.

For so many of us, Dr. King was a role model, not just for justice, but also a role model for local church pastoring and preaching.   I have a personally typed and signed letter by Dr. King framed on my office wall.

I am committed to the ministry of reconciliation, so I’m always trying to build bridges to my African-American brothers and sisters in ministry. We’re a part of the same Body, saved by the same Grace, filled with the same Spirit, preaching the same Word, serving the same Lord, and called to fulfill the same Purposes on earth.
Thanks again for how your words touched me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rick Warren

Rev. Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell (1917-2008)

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Perhaps you didn’t know nor even notice. But a branch of our tree fell to the ground recently.

Dr. Ella Dr. Ella Pearson Mitchell transitioned from time into eternity on Thursday, November 20, 2008, following complications of a stroke back in September. Dr. Ella, as she was called by many of us, was a teacher, preacher, wife, mother and outstanding author. She was hailed by many as the “Dean of Black Women Preachers.” for her multi-volume collection of sermons by black women preachers.

Dr. Ella was the first woman Dean of Sisters Chapel at Spelman College and also taught at the American Baptist Seminary of the West and the School of Theology at Claremont. Dr. Mitchell was editor of a five volume collection of black women sermons, Those Preaching Women, and with her husband of over 60 years a volume of their sermons Fire in the Well, as well as a joint autobiography of their years together as partners in marriage, ministry, and the movement for justice Together For Good,

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Dr. Ella was the third of four daughters of the late Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Pearson. She completed her secondary school education at the nearby Avery Institute and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama. Dr. Ella graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1943.  The second African-American woman to graduate from Union Seminary, Dr. Ella was licensed into the ministry in 1943 by the Church of the Master in New York City, where she served as Minister of Education for two years. She met and married her husband, Dr. Henry H. Mitchell while they were both students at Union.

In the early 1950s, after taking off six years for childbearing, Ella Mitchell resumed her career as an instructor in religious education at Berkeley Baptist Divinity School (now American Baptist Seminary of the West). From there she went on to Fresno State College, where she studied and taught early childhood education. From 1959 to 1973, she served on the Board of Educational Ministries of American Baptists, four years as its president. In the late 1960s, she was instructor of early childhood education at Compton College and at Santa Monica City College.

In 1974 Dr. Ella received the Doctor of Ministry degree from the School of Theology in Claremont, and four years later—after a ministry that spanned 35 years—she was finally ordained at Allen Temple Baptist Church, in Oakland, California.  Dr. Henry and Dr. Ella Mitchell served for many years as co-mentors in the Doctor of Ministry Program at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH and were founders of the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies in Los Angeles.

The last time I saw Dr. Ella was back in April in Fort Worth at the Brite Seminary Black Church Conference where she spoke, along with her husband of over 60 years, Dr. Henry Mitchell, about their long term marriage and co-ministry together. Her mind was as sharp as a tack and her recollections about those early years of ministry as a woman and marriage back in the day to an ambitious man were poignant and telling. Before Fort Worth she was in New Orleans holding court from her wheelchair there at the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Church Conference revelling in the love and respect heaped on her by friends and admirers for all her years  as a trailblazer for black women in ministry and black women in the academy. Like another wheelchair bound trailblazer and contemporary of hers Dr. Dorothy Height, Dr. Ella refused to let old age and frail health keep her from meetings and events where the young needed reminding that the struggle did not begin with their generation.

Dr. Ella Mitchell was 91 years old at the time of her death and had been married for 64 years to Dr. Henry Mitchell. In addition to her husband, Rev. Dr. Ella P. Mitchell is survived by their two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren. The funeral will be held Tuesday, December 2nd at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA where Dr. Ella and Dr. Henry Mitchell have been members for many years.

Well done. Well done, Dr. Ella. Now rest from your labors.  We will not forget the model you left us nor the lessons you taught us.

Those who knew Dr. Ella and/or her work, feel free to share your memories.

Take Our Daughters, Granddaughters, and God-daughters to the Polls

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

daughters to the poll

Why our daughters? We show them that they are in fact a valuable part of the political process. We show them that their vote counts. We show them that women can indeed make a difference in the political process.

Did you know that the U.S. currently ranks 71st–that’s right 71st!!– in the world in women’s political representation.

  • Women make up just 16% of the Senate,
  • Women make up 23% of state legislatures,
  • Women make up 10% of big city mayors.

Don’t get me started on how few of these are black and other women of color.

With so few women to emulate, young girls have a hard time sometimes believing that they can make a difference in politics when they grow up. Unless, of course, they have someone around telling and showing them otherwise.

To find out about initiatives designed to get more women to run for public office, visit The White House Project’s  “Vote, Run, Lead.” For those of you who do not know, The White House Project, is a national, nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization, which aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors, up to the U.S. presidency.

So, here’s something I need readers to help me think about:

Do women leaders make a difference?
Are our expectations for women leaders different from the ones we have for men in leadership positions?
Whether she’s a governor or pastor of a church, a college president or company head, student government president or head of the PTA — does it matter if it’s a she instead of a he?
Do women bring some unique experiences to their leadership positions?

What do you think?

You Need Some Time To Yourself

Monday, August 25th, 2008


Just because you’re not in Denver this week with the DNC doesn’t mean you don’t have some thoughts about what it takes to change the world.

We’ve talked a lot on the blog about a lot of issues. We’ve not always agreed. But there are some things we all agree on: the importance of black women taking stock of their lives, taking care of themselves, and taking charge of their situations.

Join me in Savannah, Georgia for a Sistah Summit that includes reflections, relaxation and for a spiritual renewal.  

Are you ready for a luxurious Southern escape?  The Sistah Summit Retreat from November 5-9, 2008, as we take in the bountiful beauty of Savannah,GA and the rich cultural heritage of Daufuskie Island.

The Sistah Summit will feature cultural and holistic activities, engaging workshops, dynamic speakers and some post-election reflection and conversation. There’s still time to register to get away and have time to think clearly and hear from within what the Spirit is saying you’re supposed to be doing.  

What better place to meet than in historic Savannah and the sea island of Daufuskie. Think Daufuskie and think Julie Dash’s 1992 “Daughters of the Dust.” Drenched in sea mist and strewn with palms, come and contemplate the wild beauty of the sea island Dafuskie which was once home to a sizable population of Gullah inhabitants from the end of the Civil War until very recently. Gullah are the descendants of freed slaves.

Let’s gather there off the coast of Georgia and prove to both CNN and NBC: It Does Not Suck to be a Black Woman!   and We are Our Sisters’ Keeper!

Restore your Senses.

Journey Within.

Seek Solace.

Soar to Greater Heights.