“I was a naive little kid. I actually thought I would grow up and become a Pastor of a white church because I was a member of a white church. I didn’t know the difference between white and black. Every time I looked at my mother I saw a white person, so it took me a while to figure out the concept of race. And so I thought love was and unconditional, it wasn’t based on what race you were. I thought God loved everybody and I actually thought that everyone loved everyone else. It wasn’t until much later that I figured things out. My age of innocence lasted longer than most people’s…” – D. Young
There was a funeral in progress when I arrived at Siloam Presbyterian Church. The shiny black hearse parked by the curb should have clued me in, but I didn’t immediately notice. However, when I opened the large wooden doors, I found myself in the middle of mourning. There were about fifteen people standing in the darkened lobby, some of them making polite conversation, while others were silently comforting each other. I spotted a few well-behaved children. They did not seem to notice the sadness that surrounded them. Two little boys were giggling while the adults around them remained solemn.
I immediately tried to make myself invisible, moving through sad faces and tearful eyes so as not to rub against the rawness of their emotions. I tiptoed out of the lobby and spotted an office in the hallway.
“I’m here to see Reverend Young,” I whispered from the doorway.
An older man glanced up from his computer screen and looked at me. Slowly, he rose from his wooden desk and came over to the door. He squinted at me, perhaps sizing me up and assessing my intentions.
“You mean Pastor Young?” he said. “I think he’s ’bout to do a funeral service.”
I glanced over my shoulder, and looked into the sanctuary. The room was large and bright, filled with rows of wooden pews. Siloam Presbyterian Church was built in 1849 by a former slave, and every inch of the building was filled with history and purpose. I glanced up at the altar and spotted men in black trench coats talking with one another. I imagined Pastor Young comforting the men, ministering to them, their bodies heavy with grief. I did not see him, but I was certain that he was there.
“Nah, he’s not doing the funeral” a woman’s voice called out. “That’s just a rental. He’s upstairs in his office.”
The older man tilted his head to one side. He smiled at me, but he studied my snow boots, and the scarf around my head. I tugged at my short pea coat, and automatically tightened the scarf around my neck.
“He’s expecting me,” I explained. I was growing impatient. I glanced over my shoulder again. The men were starting to make their way toward the lobby.
“Hold on sista,” the man said as he walked back over to his desk and picked up his phone. He mumbled into the receiver, laughed, and then hung up.
“Aiight then,” the man said finally. “Go on up.”
I climbed the sturdy old staircase and smiled. No matter where you go, there is always a gatekeeper. I thought about the funeral unfolding below my feet, and remembered the childhood stories of Saint Peter, the saint that allegedly stands at the gates of heaven.
There’s always a VIP section, I thought to myself. It never ends….
(**excerpt from my chapter called “The Man Inside the Minister”)
I am writing this post from a street corner in Brooklyn, more specifically, the corner of Park Place and Franklin Avenue. I have just passed 637 Park place, an apartment building that was, a few weeks ago, the scene of a violent crime. The windows at 637 are open and gospel music flows through them. The music, Kirk Franklin, makes me want to cry. Last week there was a pink sign on the door filled with messages for a dead woman. Today, life and music float through an open window.
Across the street, two uniformed cops chat with each other while an overweight girl jumps rope. It’s dark out, but cars are whizzing by and conversations swirl around me. Of course it’s Brooklyn, so yes, it smells like garbage, and, yes, there’s probably a crackhead nearby, but, in these moments I think of God, free from any dogma or religion – just this awesome universal energy that flows thru us and around us.
I mention all of this to provide a little insight. Yes, I have this theory that how men see God can give us insight into how he will treat his romantic relationships, but here’s what else you should know:
1. There are no value judgements here: I’m writing this book based on my crackpot theory, but I’m in no way arguing that religious men are better partners. In fact my experience has taught me otherwise. Just because a man acknowledges (or worships) some convention of God doesn’t mean he makes a better mate than, say, an atheist.
2. I believe that we are all seeking some semblance of heaven on earth: Said simply, we all just want to be happy. By that standard, we are all guilty of imposing and projecting some of our unrealistic ideals onto our mates. So here’s how my belief works: If a man, for example, believes in a judgmental and vengeful God, he might try, in an effort to create his own personal heaven, to push his partner into playing that role in his life.
3. I am here to learn: More than wanting to prove my theory, I want to learn and expand from the stories and ideas of others. I really work hard to eliminate judgements and preconceived notions. I’m here only to listen and grow.
Hope I’ve made things a bit clearer. I don’t want anyone to think I’m on this journey with a huge bias. (Tho, admittedly, I might be a little hard on fundamentalist Christians…Trust me, I’m working on that.)
I have to say, public tweeting has been a difficult transition for me. I’m used to being inappropriate in the company of about 26 people who know me offline. Today, though, a really interesting twitter conversation erupted regarding a recent study conducted by BestBlackDatingSites.org. The study claims that for every 100 available black women, there are only 3 “good” black men. I suspect this “study” it is part of an effort to stir up controversy and drive traffic to the site.
In any case, the folks at BestBlackDatingSites.org boil the “good black man” down to 7 of the most cliché (no) superficial, (no) “common” criteria used among black women (and by “black women” I mean black actresses in urban movies from 10 years ago). I’m not attacking the criteria, everyone has a right to define their own terms; however, as a woman who has dated “good” black men and “not so good” black men (as well as a few white and Hispanic men that fall on both sides of the spectrum), I am struggling with the requirements that the folks at Bestblackdatingsites.org have laid out. I mean, one of the requirements is that he’s “fit.”
(I don’t know about you, but I can stand to do a sit up or two. I don’t think that makes me any less “good.”)
As a writer, it scares me when we box ANY group of people into categories like good and bad based on some arbitrary rubric. What would happen if I approached my book interviews this way? If I encountered each man I met with a check list that boiled down to “good” or “less than good.”
I’ll tell you what would happen — my work would be flat, judgmental and superficial – and yet, this collection of statistics is an acceptable to choose a mate?
I am always looking for interesting men to talk to, and I think that we often rob ourselves of new experiences by making snap judgments. It could be that the man that looks great on paper is completely screwed up, and the man who seems to have nothing to offer you (except a baby momma and some love handles), might just be everything you never knew you wanted.
I’m NOT saying that anyone of any race should settle for less than they want/deserve. It’s just that “studies” like these reinforce the idea that black women are somehow unlovable and unmarryable, and I (being a black woman), must vehemently reject that.
I have to believe that there are wonderful men in the world, even if that means looking beyond race and “statistics” to begin seeing with an open heart.
I actually wrote out a list of issues for each of the criteria, but I decided not to post it. I’d rather have you all click on the info-graph and decide for yourselves. For me, there’s a bit of a gap b/w the statistics that they provide and the conclusions that they draw. What do you guys think?
Yes! God wrote a memoir. This is great news for me because, when speaking with an agent, she smiled (I think she smiled. It was over the phone), and encouraged me by saying the following. “The good news is your book totally lends itself to memoir. The bad news is the genre is over-saturated.”
Granted, this is probably true, but if God wrote a 400 pager memoir, then at the very least, I’m in great company!
You don’t believe me? Okay, fine, maybe it’s not God.
It’s actually, David Javerbaum, a writer for the always brilliant Daily Show with John Stewart. While this might be a deal breaker for some, I’m actually more intrigued. Honestly, the books written by Daily Show staff members have been funnier than, say, the Bible. The book doesn’t come out until November 2011, but here’s a synopsis from the Simon & Schuster website:
Over the course of his long and distinguished career, god has literally seen it all. And not just seen. In fact, the multi-talented deity has played a pivotal role in many major events, including the Creation of the universe, the entirety of world history, the life of every human being who has ever lived, and the successful transitioning of American Idol into the post–Simon Cowell era.
Now, as the earth he has godded so magnificently draws to a Mayan-induced close, God breaks his 1,400-year literary silence with his final masterpiece, The Last Testament…He takes us behind the scenes of Genesis, setting the record (un)straight on the real first couple, Adam and Steve, and challenging long-held notions about the viability of containing a phylogenetically complete double bestiary within a 450,000-cubic-cubit watercraft. For the first time, he breaks his silence on Jesus Christ, shedding light on a father-son relationship as heartwarming as Will and Jaden Smith’s. And he reveals his true feelings about his third great faith, Islam, WHICH ARE NOTHING BUT POSITIVE AND RESPECTFUL.
But The Last Testament doesn’t just look back. It also offers God’s perspectives on the perennial quagmires of
love, marriage, and smiting. And he takes an unfiltered look at contemporary society, addressing such hot-button topics as:
- Why he loves America
- What he listens for in a good prayer
- Which sports teams he really roots for
- Which celebrities are totally gay
I haven’t been this excited since Lynne Spears wrote a tell-all about daughter Britney and called it a memoir!
It’s a new week and I am feeling more positive about turning these interviews into a memoir. I’m still overwhelmed, but I am in the throes of an extremely inspiring narrative non-fiction class, and its reminding me of all of the things I’ve been trying to avoid writing. Also, this is a breakthroug day for me because I never ever ever post pictures of myself. that’s me with my sack of secrets (i.e. baggage) —->
Case Study: A few years ago my mentor required suggested that I read Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and The Story. I read a few chapters and two things stuck with me. First, was the idea that personal narratives (the situation) must lead to some larger context (the story) for readers to actually give a shit. I’ve been so resistant to sharing my personal narratives because I do not know how rambling about my past relationship (the situation) will lead me to some universal truth about men and God (the story??). It seems more important to let the interviews do the talking. Although I’ve started chipping away at this idea, I had an epiphany when, after reading Jo Ann Beard’s The Fourth State of Matter, I actually wrote an intensely personal piece about the break up.
This story is not in my current manuscript.
In the current version of my preface, I pretty much gloss over the entire episode of how this book is a direct result of, you know, a break up. While I’ve been resistant to share in the past, but today I’m finally getting Gornick’s other lesson: There is a very distinct “I” that will tell this story. This person, this Patia, has lived and breathed and cried – but she is not who I am in this moment. I have been holding her close to me for too long, and, as I begin to create distance, I realize that she and I are different people.
I love her dearly, but she can function on her own.
Conclusion: I think she might be the strongest and purest part of myself, and I’m sorry that she has suffered for so long. Sometimes we hold things so close that we don’t look down to realize that we have healed. She and I both need to grow, I need to let her tell her side of the story. Separating the past from the present is liberating. Thinking of myself, the narrator, as an “other” is helpful in opening up and sharing these intimate details.
I’m actually hoping to share a few snippets of what I’ve written over the course of the week…we’ll see [I might lose my nerve].
It was a rainy day in NYC, so I spent a lot of my Friday afternoon surfing the web. In my travels, I came across the site, Stuff Christians Like . I know I’m like years late, but I completely fell in love! The author, Jon Acuff , is brilliant. In his site description he asks: “Does the stuff we like ever get in the way of our relationship with the God we love?”
He is totally someone I’d love to interview, and this video he did totally hits home.
In the 2 minute podcast, Jon asserts that Christians are “Weird About Counseling.” He draws a distinction between pre-marital counseling and regular marriage counseling. (Premarital counseling = good & Marital counseling = failure)
This absolutely hits home. By now, most of you guys know I was raised Catholic and I consider myself a spiritual seeker. That said, I am guilty of “counseling weirdness.” For some reason, I have this aversion to seeking outside help. I think, thru God and meditation, I can handle “it.” I’ve read more than a few spiritual texts. Eckhart Tolle Deepak Chopra is the home boys in my head.
Translation: If there’s something “wrong” with me, I can fix it.
This of course is entirely untrue. When going through a particularly hard time, one of my mentors suggested I see a therapist. I immediately recoiled, as if she were suggesting I was a nutcase. I was actually mad at her. I thought to myself: she doesn’t really know me. She clearly doesn’t know how strong I am. Only upon further examination did I realize that maybe, just maybe, she was right.
When we step out of our fear of public imperfection, we discover that its okay to speak to an impartial witness. It is right and good and holy to examine some of our unhealthy habits. I pride myself on resounding faith and new age sensibility, but I agree with Jon…we all need to entertain the possibility of receiving earthly help.
I’ve always been one of those people, you know the “I’m not spiritual, I’m religious” types, so I was really delighted when I came across the Huffington Post article by Ed and Deb Shapiro. I was raised Roman Catholic, but, after years of undoing some of that Catholic guilt, I’ve decided to identify as “spiritual” rather than religious. I’ve always felt that spirituality somehow moves beyond doctrine to some place more universal; however, I understand the folks who think that “spirituality” is code for cherry picking the religious principles we like while avoiding the ones we don’t.
I think the Shapiro’s capture the essence of my beliefs when they write:
“Where religion tends to breed separation — my religion vs. your religion, my God is the only real God, my ethics are better than yours, etc. — spirituality sees all people as equal. We are not an “ism” or a label, we are spiritual beings whose purpose is to awaken to our true nature.” Check out the article here
Check out my informal interview with my friend Christopher Banks, a 33 year old graduate student and English instructor. I decided to interview Christ because one day, he informed me that he believes God is a woman. I knew I had to sit down and talk with him.
Forgive the video quality. I promise it will get better, and my pieces will be edited as I get used to the blogging thing.
I came across this interesting USA Today article about Rebecca Watson, a popular skeptic blogger who received major backlash upon sharing a story about how, after giving a talk on Feminism at a European Atheist Conference, she was followed into an elevator by a male attendee. The stalker elevator companion then invited her to his room.
Who does that? After hearing her give a talk about feminism? Seems like poor taste to me.
Anyway, the article goes on to discuss the backlash she received after sharing this story. Several people commented that she needed to toughen up and get a thicker skin. Even Richard Dawkins got in on the action, telling her to “stop whining.”
Suddenly there was a new layer to this weird discussion, the new question became: are atheists, who are typically white and male, somehow more sexist and chauvinistic?
Excerpted from USA Today:
“I think the essential problem that women have in the
movement is that they are greatly outnumbered,” said Susan Jacoby, author
of “Freethinkers.” “When you talk about women atheists, there is
less of a pool than men. Women are more religious than men, therefore there are
fewer women active in this movement than there are men. So you are starting
with a smaller pool and that is a fact.”
But that is slowly changing. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found a 60-40 percent breakdown among men and women who say they who have no religion. Yet women make up 52 percent of the broader population.
While we can debate whether or not there is a propensity for sexism among atheists, to me, the more important question is this: Don’t ALL RELIGIONS provide fertile ground for the seeds of sexism? When I think of the gender roles and inherent inhibitions wrapped up in the Abrahamic religion, for example, one wonders if anyone can escape ideology seeped in sexism?
While you ponder that, I’m getting ready for tomorrow’s post. I’m going to try to post my interview with Christopher Banks, a man who believes that God is a woman.
Probably not. I really really really hate writing about my personal life.
The more I work to write (and rewrite) my text, the more obvious it becomes that I have to “go there.” I have to talk about this relationship and discuss how it affected me. It’s probably the only way to make the entire book come together. So why am I so reluctant?
I think it’s scary to publicly talk about your personal humiliations. I mean, no one wants to lament about the guy that broke up with them. Especially because, well, I’m certain that he’s moved on with his life.
He has a wife and child. I have a book project and a blog…you can see why dwelling makes me feel pathetic.
Anyway, while writing (and deleting) my manuscript, my mentor told me about Sophie Calle, an amazing French artist and fellow woman scorned. After receiving a break up email from her boyfriend, Calle created an artistic installation. She sent the email to 107 women – including a copywriter, a psychiatrist and a lawyer – and asked them to analyze, interpret and respond to the email. She then used the response in an art exhibit called “Take Care of Yourself”
Isn’t that amazing? My mentor told me that Calle’s ex couldn’t leave the house for a month!! While Calle’s work seems strong and powerful, my own journey somehow seems pathetic. Talking about my ex in my work makes me feel like a sad lonely girl who hasn’t gotten over a breakup.
But I have. I swear….haven’t I?
While I ponder that, let me share what Calle says tells the Guardian about turning her personal life into art: “It’s the right method, turning things to my advantage in order not to suffer from them.
I’m going to put that on my vision board and keep on writing.