I am finding my way. After trying to be what the church told me I needed to be, to be good, to go to church every Sunday, to be a lady and not use foul language, to hide my cleavage with a safety pin, to believe that God will provide all I need and desire, because I’m saved; after trying to figure out so much of what could be wrong with me while trying to figure out what should be right with me, I’ve come to the conclusion that I all I want to do is breathe. That’s all I want to do!
Friend, don’t be so hard on yourself. Be kind to you and to others, love yourself and others.
Queering the American Dream is a memoir of resilience, hope and the dare to live in the moments of joy and grief. Angela Yarber shares subversive, revolutionary women and goddesses as she journeys through the bravery of camping in strange and beautiful places, letting go of past hurts of microaggressions delivered by Christian church folk while facing difficulties of experiencing family trauma and addiction. Queering the American Dream shows us that it is quite okay to do things differently, to think differently, to live differently, to create a world that is different from the status quo, to create a kind of America that does not always look like a two car garage with a white picket fence, a mom and dad and two children, a male and female, but instead a tiny house with a mama and mommy and children who get to decide their pronouns for themselves. Queering the American Dream gives permission to dream a reality that is creative and liberating. Angela Yarber pours her dreams into reality making it possible for all to see that queering America, perhaps, is exactly what is needed to make this country a more loving and kind place. I highly recommend reading this touching memoir, Queering the American Dream.
What does love look like? Will it look like sidewalks that sparkle when we walk our children to school? Will the air smell like magnolia trees in full bloom and allergies be non existent? Will the streets be clean of debris which our towns sweep to welcome guest who come from far away places? Will our restaurants be full of laughter and conversations, opinions and disagreements, in safe spaces that we create? Will government officials be truly for all the people, not based on party lines or personality politics, but because their service calls them to do good and do what is right? Will our schools allow for the history of all people to be heard and learned and appreciated, even when the history is stories of genocide and hatred? Will police officers stop the killing of black and brown people? Will no-knock warrants cease? Will those who are descendants of an enslaved people ever get reparations? Will those who were on this land first ever be recognized because of their goodwill offering to share with us a blessing? Can we ever get to a point where we see each other as equals and not competitors? Can we normalize that love is love regardless of who’s hands we hold or who we share in making passionate love? Will we embrace our trans children who stand in defiance to our ignorance? Will we stand with those who are brutalized by dictators that kill innocent people and fight with them to gain freedom? Will we welcome all refugees seeking safety no matter what their race or nationality? Will we notice a stranger’s smile in the grocery store and will we smile back? Will we search for ways to end hunger and poverty? Will we seek ways to ensure that all people have shelter? Can we get to a point where material objects are not the things that define our being but realize we have enough so that others will have enough? Will we learn that the death penalty is not a righteous act? Will we serve our enemies food and water? Will we write to the mothers of our enemies that their children are safe in our protection? Will we understand that we are interconnected like highways, bridges, fiber connections that expand the internet, and like those things, when they become crumble and broken, when we lose the ability to connect with each other, we become crumple and broken. Finally, will we discover that at the end of the day, LOVE that heals all of us, that feeds all of us, that clothes all of us, that protects all of us, that accepts all of us, demands one thing from all of us, and that is, simply, that we love ALL OF US!
Hear what Christ our Savior saith. Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments, hang all the law and the prophets.
God Is a Black Woman, written by Christina Cleveland, PhD., is witty, courageous and empowering to Black women who are searching for the image of God that is within herself. Dr. Cleveland is a social psychologist, activist and theologian who has provided to us permission to experience God on our own terms. In her memoir she shares her stories of her struggle growing up in a Christian culture dominated white male patriarchy system, “whitemalegod,” that refuses to comfort her and love her unconditionally but soon discovers the Sacred Black Feminine that identifies with all of her being.
God Is a Black Woman is real and raw, setting you on a spiritual journey, to walk along with Dr. Cleveland, experiencing sometimes discomfort but making your way to a place of wholeness. Dr. Cleveland’s ability to express her childhood memories growing up in a faith riddle with an oppressive theology that is controlling, unkind and unloving, and then as an adult working with white organizations, seeking to eradicate racism, but instead reverting to status quo, Dr. Cleveland finds a way to break free, with no apologies, through the power of several Black Madonnas.
God Is a Black Woman is brave and bold, speaking up against the power and authority of established patriarchal systems and institutions. Dr. Cleveland invites Black women, and all women, to find their liberation and I am here for all of it! God Is a Black Woman is a must read that will have you crying, rejoicing and hugging the very essence of your Sacred Black Feminine.
Some of you won’t believe me, but yes, there is a gospel according to MJB! The gospel she sing comes from heartaches, failures and comebacks. The MJB gospel will dance with you, dry your tears, and tell you that you are “Just fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, oooh! ”
Listen, the MBJ gospel got me through the worse time in my life. I felt like I had the sister riding with me, each time I put the “No More Drama” CD in my car stereo. Each time I felt I couldn’t go home to a husband who greeted me with abuse, Queen Mary, reminded me “Not to Cry” no more!
Yes, there is a gospel according to the truthful Mary J. Blige. Ask any Black woman who has experience pain and triumph; that’s why she moves with a bounce in her hips!
I like to dance. I am not good at it, but there is a freedom that overtakes me when I move my body to the music of 70’s funk. I dance to release stress and it is also a means of exercise for me now since the weather is cold and snow is on the ground. One day as I was dancing across the room, my arms rising in the air, my hips swaying, my knees aching and my face gleaming with joy of content, I realized that I was not alone. Present with me in the dance was Katie, Pearl, Yvette, Millie and Eliza. All women who are gone from this earth. These beautiful souls who touched me in ways that instill the person who I have become and who I am becoming. I felt their whispers in my ear, saying to me, “Close your eyes and dance until you get every worry, every disappointment, every sadness, out of your soul and mind. Dance until your feet can’t move any more. Then know, that everything is alright.” Y’all, I closed my eyes and danced until the sweat of insecurities, sweat of exhaustion from trying to be so many things for others, sweat of doubt, dripped heavily on the floor. And I didn’t even try to clean up the mess. I left it there to evaporate.
March 2020, I stopped wearing makeup during the early days of the pandemic. To be honest, all the cosmetics I had in my dresser drawer were way too old and I should have thrown the products away a whole lot sooner than I did. I only used mascara to look fully awake in all of the ZOOM events that required that I show my face. Wearing no makeup was quite refreshing! Plus why would someone put foundation on to only get it all smeared on a face mask any way? And why wear lipstick when no one could see the your lip color? Wearing no makeup, I was a new woman, a natural woman, and the mirror showed off my new found freedom proudly.
One day, bored out of my mind, I started searching YouTube videos on something ,I don’t even remember now what it was. But makeup tutorials caught my attention and for two hours I sat and watched women change their entire appearance, looking nothing like the person that I stared at in the beginning of their instructions. It was fascinating! It was pure art! I admired them for being so detailed in how to apply eye shadow and how to make their nose keener (still don’t really understand that part). Of course I wasn’t going to try this myself. First I am too lazy and second, I really don’t have that kind of time. But, walking down the Rite-Aid beauty aisle, I could’t help but pick up a tube of L’Oréal face foundation that begged me to just remember what it felt like wearing makeup before the pandemic hit. So I took the bait. Baby steps. Today getting ready for church, I wore foundation, Number 8-10, for my skin complexion and mascara, along with my face mask. I felt pretty. So why am I writing about this?
We discovered in this pandemic that we had choices in how we presented ourselves to the world and even to ourselves. We discovered new things about ourselves and brought forth the hidden things we so loved about us to the surface for others to see. We were open to let go of our idiosyncrasies, not afraid no longer of what others thought of us, no longer afraid of our unique abilities. We discovered a freedom that introduced us to ourselves because the gift of time demanded from us a sit down with self. The videos I discovered were makeup artist in their bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, with sounds of their children playing in the background, in the midst of their homes where toys and clothes are thrown across the room, sharing cosmetic products bought from their neighborhood Walmart. Their videos brought joy to me as I watched how one makeup artist was excited to introduced a $1.99 tube of lip gloss. How pure is that? I discovered that I am not a makeup artist. I can wear makeup or do without, but what I discovered that when I take the opportunity to see others shine in their own unique sort of way, when I take the opportunity to experience their freedom, I too experience my freedom. I too, experience my sparkle. We are all INSPIRATIONS! What is that you are offering that puts a sparkle to someone’s day? $1.99 tube of lip gloss can be a great start!
You would think that as we get older, we really would stop trying to fit in, right? Or am I just talking about me? As teenagers we wanted to belong to the group of kids that fascinated us, rather that be the smart group that had life figured out, the cool group that was just way to cool to care about anything but themselves or maybe the group we created in our minds, just to have a feeling of belonging. And still here I sit, still pushing and scrambling to be noticed, to hear my name called, to be recognized, to be accepted, to be me, in a place I don’t fit. Why am I still trying to fit in? Why am I seeking among those who have decided I don’t belong and why do I constantly seek their blessings to matter so much.
We all want and need to be accepted and loved for just being who we are and if we are desperately fighting to received the love and acceptance, that is rightfully deserved and not getting it in the places we sit, then there is nothing wrong with us, with me, with you. It simply means our belonging, our breath, our gifts and talents are needed some where magical. Somewhere that is not afraid to hold us and hear us, somewhere that is not afraid to cry and laugh with us. Somewhere that community happens around us and in us. Somewhere that looks like love and smells like love.
I love Westside Story, the original and the new one. When I was little, after church on Sundays, I would rush home hoping that Westside Story would be on our black and white TV. We only got a few channels. Old movies, Elvis Presley and beach movies, were showed a lot. But when movies like Imitation of Life and Westside Story came on, I somehow related to these stories, even as an 8 year old girl, seeking to belong somewhere.
My sharing with you is not meant to be a sad one. I still look to a place and wonder why they never chose me, even as I get older. Oh well! This is what I know… if I continue to push in a place that does not want me, I miss experiencing the beautiful place God has for me. We can’t stay in the place that does not want us, we can’t grow in the place that does not want us. We seek the place God has for us, nourish it with all the love we have and settle in our place with gratitude, welcoming all who seek to belong.
“There’s a place for us, a time and a place for us. Hold my hand and we’re half way there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow, someday, somewhere.”
There are so many things we are trying to accomplish. For some of us, making up the bed in the morning is a big accomplishment, along with getting the household ready, up and off to work and/or school, which is probably located in a room down the hallway of our home that has become the sole place of our existence. Whew! Here we are, 2022!
My daughter asked me if I had anything new plans or challenges I wanted to do this year, any new goals I wanted to go for. Really? My answer was no. All I’m trying to do is do the best I can. I’m not trying to run a marathon, or accomplish something so absolutely spectacular that I would have to pinch myself to see if it’s really me that is doing all this amazing stuff! Sorry. Nope, not a new thing. Of course for those who are raring to go in this new year and shoot for the stars, I say hooray!! I know you will succeed and I will be there to pinch you and say, yes, you did that!!
So for those like me, who maybe moving a little slower these days, not because of age, but because we choose to do so, know that you are doing enough and you are doing life well. Please give yourself some grace and move when you are ready. We have all been through a great deal of trauma and just maybe, 2022, is the lazy year we need.