Archive for February, 2009

In The Beginning, God (She) Created

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I am convinced that in a previous life I was an African market woman who specialized in making and selling dazzling cloths. “Madam, Madam, over here. Come and see.”

African Milliner

I LOVE beautiful fabric. Reams. Bolts. Yards. Pieces of fabric I fell in love with for the sheer beauty of the texture, color, or design can be found draped over a chair or table in nearly every room of my house. Some pieces are mounted on my walls for the sheer pleasure I gain when I see them when I enter a room. I should have been a milliner. cloth

Silk. Satin. Linen. Brocade. Organdy. Damask. Raffia. Batik. Kente.  Mudcloth.

Special shout out to fellow fabric addict Rev. Renee Keels and the “Sisters in Stitches Joined by Cloth” for the fabulous quilts they make and those they donate to worthy causes.  Based in Boston, “Sisters in Stiches Joined by Cloth” is the only African-American quilting guild in New England. The African inspired quilt below was done by Renee’s Quilted Creation and donated to My Sister’s Keeper an organization created to reach out to the women of Darfur and to provide assistance.

sister stitchers

Finally, I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve taken up a new hobby. Quilting.Last night was the third class there in the church’s basement. Whenever I pull out my fabric pieces for my quilt I feel like Lydia an enterprising sister in Acts 16: 9-15 who figured out how to whip up dazzling purple dyed fabrics to sell to the wealthy patrons of her day. For now I’m just enjoying spending late Thursday evenings with other women there in the basement of our church cutting, sewing, and laughing across the room at each other. Given the state our economy these days, revisiting some old high school home economic lessons and refamiliarizing yourself with your grandmother and great-grandmother’s art of recyling scraps of fabric and making a family quilt makes a lot of sense.

Here’s a sneak peak at the quilt I’m working on. Special thanks to my teacher Judi Worthan Sauls. Last night’s class focused on how to mount the quilt pieces onto felt cloth so we can get an idea of the lay out of the pattern before beginning to stitch.

Renita's Quilt

I think I’ll spend the weekend doing a little quilting and stitching. Making use of the other side of this old brain lodged here underneath all this silver grey hair. The creative side. The side that keeps me closest to God.

“In the beginning God created…”

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The photos above of the woman balancing a sewing machine on her head and the one balancing a stack of fabric on her head are taken from a book  which would make a wonderful gift to give anyone you know who loves fabric and quilting, especially African inspired quilts: Quilt Inspirations from Africa: A Caravan of Ideas, Patters, Motifs, and Techniques by Kaye England and Mary Elizabeth Johnson.

The Face I’m In

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

ross You may be wondering what a woman’s face has to do with the topic of gendering God. A whole lot. I just don’t have the time right now to help you see the connection. But it’s there for the thinking woman to intuit.

I can’t believe I’ve been thinking of dying my hair. Getting rid of my grey.  “And you call yourself a womanist (feminist)!” mockingly says the man who lives in my house (who, by the way, is adamantly opposed to the notion). I am ashamed to say that the pressure is getting to me.  Not so much to look younger, but the pressure not to look older than I have to.  We spent a wonderful evening at dinner with friends last night. Between sips,  I noticed that I was the only woman around the table with grey hair. And I wasn’t the oldest woman at the table. Rashad

Every time I stand in the pulpit with this mane of grey, natural hair that has a mind of it own, I know that for the first 15 minutes most folks can’t hear a word I’m saying for wondering where in the world I get the chutzpah at my age to stand before audiences with wild and nappy grey hair like mine. Most days I love defying convention and am proud of the skin I’m in.  Flaws and all. But I gotta admit, there are other days when I look in the mirror and wonder where the 30, 32, 36 year old face I remember so well went.

Speaking of face.  What about those lines around the face? Aging gracefully. What the heck does that mean?

No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how qualified you are for the job, there’s that pressure on you as a woman to look sexy.  To have gravity defying skin. To stay thin. To look glamorous.  To appear any age younger than the age you are. To nip, tuck, and botox the signs of aging away.  Don’t think so? Name some of your favorite black actresses from the 80s and 90s who are still in front of the camera.  It’s conventional wisdom that Hollywood has no use for a woman over forty. Hollywood is not the only place that turns out women to pasture once they hit 40. winfreyClergywomen too feel the pressure. Every time we stand in pulpits before the scrutinizing eye of audiences there’s the pressure to look glamorous.  Sexy.  Young-er.  Ageless.  Respectable. Ask evangelists like Joyce Meyer and Juanita Bynum.

Strange isn’t it? God is spoken of as male. But it’s women who are expected, like God, to never grow old. To look the same yesterday. Today. And Tomorrow.

What Does God Look Like?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I was planning on blogging about God this morning. I’d even come up with a title that was sure to scare a few of you away, “When God Was A Woman” (taken from Merlin Stone’s 1976 book). But then the morning got away from me.

Even those of us who are enlightened women, we who don’t have a problem speaking of ourselves as feminists and womanists to identify our fierce gender justice commitments, we say that god is neither male nor female, but then we proceed to speak of God as male. What we mean when we say that God is neither male nor female is that God is definitely not female.  I’ve talked before on the blog about the way in which God is gendered, but I wanted to explore some new angles on the topic. I’ll need another day to let things marinate in my mind.

In the meantime, I came across this delightful video by artist Rae Johnson who posed to some Hartford, CT kids the very deep question: “What does God look like?” Pay attention.

With all the women taking on leadership roles in churches, what difference have we made on the way children see God?

Madea Ain’t Funny, and Neither is the New York Post

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Nearly two years later folks are still leaving comments to my May 30, 2007 blogpiece decrying Tyler Perry’s sense of humor.

Yet another piece of satire has comes across our national screen forcing us all to have to reflect upon what exactly is humor, satire, parody — and the cost of laughing at other people’s expense.

I woke up this morning asking myself three questions.

1. Is the infamous New York Post cartoon that everyone is up in arms yet another example of this country’s enduring legacy of racism which has some in the media thinking it’s perfectly defensible to use a chimpanzee to poke fun at the President and his stimulus bill?

chimpanzee cartoon The cartoon shows a police officer, after his colleague just shot dead a chimpanzee, saying, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

2. Or, is the cartoon, as the Post claims, a parody on Washington’s efforts to revive the economy?

If that’s so, why a chimpazee? Sure, we all know about the tragic story of the 200 lb. chimpanzee who went beserk and mauled his owner’s neighbor and had to be shot by Connecticut police.  But what does a chimpanzee have to do with the stimulus bill? Both, some say, are supposed to be dead primates.

The third question I asked myself:

3. Do I want to expend the limited moral capital I have screaming and yelling about a political cartoon, knowing full well that cartoons are just that, cartoons? Political cartoons, especially, are supposed to be edgy, risky, and irreverent.  It takes all that to get folks talking.

Oh yeah, I forgot the fourth question.

4. What is acceptable political satire in a racialized society where the President of the country is the first African American to hold the office?

I don’t have any answers yet.