My Moment at the March

For to feel the need to decrease the very definition of who you are and suppress your soul in order to save your physical being is a psychologically dehumanizing encounter.


As I reflect on this day of August 28th in history, the day that fourteen – year old Emmett Till was lynched in Money, Mississippi in 1955…the day in 1963 that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rendered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington and today as the Minister’s March for Justice took place in Washington, DC …I remember my own “moment at the march.”

March 2017

I knew that this moment would come…the moment that I would have to speak my truth. First to myself…then to my community. The moment in the midst of the Women’s March on Washington that I had to make a conscientious choice whether to live or die. As I prepare to share my reflections from my article , “Marching from the Margins” in chapel tomorrow morning at Eastern Mennonite University , the dull ache of my wound reminds me that there is so much more to the story. That I am still here because I made a choice reminiscent of the days of Jim Crow and “stayed in my place.” I used my internalized survival skills and maneuvered between two worlds, one that has no respect for my mulatto body and one that thinks that I may feel that I am better off because of it. I am not..you see racism wounds the body whether it comes from the oppressor or internalized from the oppressed. But back to my moment of truth…

We all heard of how peaceful the Women’s March on Washington was, well yes perhaps on the surface it was. Yet my moment was skin deep. I learned personally that day that there is indeed a price for peace. We pay for it with the quenching of our spirits, we pay for it with the disempowerment of of emotions, we pay for it through the silencing of our souls. We pay the price for peace by the disregard of our bodies and we smile, move on and a false fiery sense of peace is achieved. But at what cost?

On the day of the march I joined my voice with other Anabaptist Women marchers who sang songs of love and hymns of hope. I raised my fist in unity with radical activist who spoke truth to power and I marched hand in hand and heart to heart with my family in a unique moment of celebration and diversity. All together from the center to the margin we boldly marched forward in faith and took deliberate steps closer to the White House as a form of peaceful protest. With each step tension was building yet peace was still present. With just a few more steps, we had reached our goal. There were barricades put in place that kept the marchers from crossing the boundaries of political power and privilege. Most marchers satisfied their 1st Amendment with a few last chants of protest and begin to head back in the other direction to neutral ground. We did as well…peacefully.

While marching back with my family in the opposite direction of the White House, I noticed a white male police officer walking quickly towards our direction. Immediately fear and anxiety begin to grip my heart. His fast pace and cold gaze reminded me of a time as a teenager in Harlem waiting by myself in the front of the 135th train station when a white male police officer begin to walk quickly towards me. Although you would have thought that I would have felt a sense of security and safety, I was overcome with such fear that I almost lost my breath. Suddenly the police officer raced right pass me down into the dark train tracks and I was left feeling foolish for feeling so vulnerable.

This time while watching the white male police officer approach my family and I…a prophetic moment from my teenage years came to pass. Suddenly the angry gaze of the police officer met my eyes and the brunt of his broad armored chest bumped my shoulder with a Brut force that shocked me back into the historical trauma of my African – American ancestry and the current reality of all of the brown and black bodies that have been brutalized and murdered by the abusive power of white police officers.

It was in this harsh moment that I found the empathetic eyes of my older sister, my caretaker of my childhood and my confident of my journey as a woman. Her knowing her fiery, outspoken and stubborn little sister, met me with eyes that in one glance, pleaded with me to make the choice to live.

I stood still and for one New York minute, everything seemed to freeze. It felt as if even the crowd was waiting to see how I would react. Would I confront the powers that be and demand justice? Would I raise my voice in protest? Would I show a strong resistance to the blatant disrespect of my being and disregard of my body?

A million and one questions flooded my clouded mind…would “speaking truth to power” at that intense moment incite a riot? Would my confrontation cause further abuse? What would happen to my family? How would they react if this crisis escalated? Who would help me if I chose to fight for my rights…to fight back and not submit to this power? After all, it was just a bump right? Who would help me? Even in those split seconds, I thought of all of the images of bodies of color…men and women…young and old being publicly abused by the hands of those that were sworn to protect and serve. Would I survive or be shot and killed for having a voice and resisting the status quo of our racist and sexist system of oppression? How would my story end as I sought to march from the margins?

In this surreal moment, I took one glance back towards the direction that the police officer had went in, slowly turned my head back around and felt the gentle tug of my sister’s hand on my arm. I remember putting my head down for a moment, perhaps in shame or sadness, perhaps I was mourning my reality and the reality of my people or perhaps I took a moment to say goodbye to a piece of me that was broken off. What did it just cost for my soul to live?

To march forth, my mind had to imagine that the moment never happen. I still had to maneuver my way though the crowds to safety. We still had to stay together as a family and remain peaceful protesters.

For weeks after the protest, many people asked me about my experience. I shared about all of the diversity, all of the amazing and creative posters and what a unifying, empowering and life changing event that I had experienced. We made history right? I honestly didn’t even remember the moment I was intentionally “bumped back into my place.” But my body did…

It wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I noticed a deep pain in my shoulder. I looked for a bruise. I saw nothing but felt everything. It hurt when I moved my shoulder forward, it hurt when I raised it high. It hurt when I lifted my arm up and it hurt when I didn’t even move it at all. They say that the body always remembers. Our experiences are carried deep beneath our skin.

It has been almost been two months since the March on Washington and even as I write these words and prepare to speak on “marching from the margins…” it hurts. The dull ache and sometimes sharp pain of my experience on that day reminds me that there is a price for peace and a danger in marching from the margins.

When I begin to share what truly was my most significant moment of the march with loved ones…they whole – heartily agree that I made the right decision in that moment of injustice. Some now recently hearing my experience may disagree and perhaps even feel that it was not a significant ordeal at all. However, it is my truth and my experience to wrestle with and wrestle I will. For to feel the need to decrease the very definition of who you are and suppress your soul in order to save your physical being is a psychologically dehumanizing encounter.

It is these countless moments that people of color have had to bear the burden for generations… whether life – threatening or not….for there are many ways for oppression to take its toll.

It is for this reason that I will continue to march, write, read, study, teach, mentor and preach. It is for this purpose that I will let my voice be known. And it is why I will remain unmoved and continue to resist this present political power in mind, body and spirit.

I will make my moment at the march matter.




Little Cuts Are Not Innocent

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” (Psychology Today)

Recently I have been sorely reminded that microaggressions are prevalent no matter where you go…whether in the church where we are called to be Christ – Like, or in the academy where we are striving to be professional scholars and practitioners.

These everyday verbal insults are usually unintentional and seemingly innocent. However the effects are psychologically draining and emotionally disturbing. They are like experiencing a million little “paper – cuts” everyday from all different directions and all different levels. Yet, to the normalized and conditioned  human eye, it appears that no harm was done.

Confronting microaggressions is entering into dangerous territory, as they are very difficult to prove and the journey to assist others in recognizing their assault is tedious and exhausting to say the least. It is a perfect example of the oppressed trying to appease the oppressor to make them feel better about themselves…even though you are the one that was wounded. Also, if you continue to confront these microaggressions, you may end up being labeled as the aggressor, accused of being confrontational…over – sensitive and unprofessional. It is truly the perfect set – up for controlling the non-dominant party in a given situation. It is traumatizing as it leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness, anger and confusion.

So what do you do? Do you Ignore it? Minimize it? Excuse it? Do you quietly suffer the traumatizing perspectives and non – verbal behaviors of those that represent a historically dominant culture? Do you offer the privileged the benefit of the doubt when they fail to recognize their offense?

“When giving someone the “benefit of the doubt”, you are believing what they say and taking their word because you, yourself, have some doubt about what happened.“ (Urban Dictionary)

That is the thing about microaggressions. They are “slight offenses,” seemingly “minor prejudices” that take an a immense amount of mental energy for the one who was offended to even process and recognize that they are somehow being put -down, pre – judged or patronized.

Yet in their souls they feel it. Their heart senses it and their mind knows the bitter truth of what they have experienced. It is a painful reality that unfortunately increases with every step of success, every stride of confidence and every seat at the table. It is “unequal” and separate.

However uncomfortable and painful these situations are, microaggressions must not be ignored. For to pretend that someone is not steadily chipping away at your spirit…diminishing your dreams or spreading doubt about your abilities, whether unintentional or otherwise, is to deny the right to engage in self – preservation…the protection of yourself.

To not confront microaggressions is to engage in the slowly but surely destruction of your self – esteem…to grant permission to an outside force to redefine who you are and to determine what your divine purpose will be. Microaggressions may seem small but their effects are humongous and detrimental to the essence of our being.

As a woman of color from an urban setting who has experienced these “slight” words of offense, stereotypical prejudices and unacceptable “liberties” taken in the context of racism, sexism, and even classism, I vow to myself, to the communities that I work in and to the global world that I dwell in, that I will not cease to speak – up, speak – out, educate, bring awareness, challenge and confront microaggressions in my personal or professional life.

For I must remember that small cuts left untreated become infectious wounds that spread.  Let the healing begin.

Don’t ask me if I trust God…

I trust God to give strength to the weary…to lift up those that feel a sense of despair and to bring light to the darkness that surrounds us.

written  on November, 9th 2016 posted on November 9th 2017

Yes of course I trust God.

I know without a doubt that God is still in control. I have never doubted who is on the throne according to my Christian Faith. And I have never doubted who I am in Christ. I am a child of God who has not been given the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Yet sadly I have doubted the true intentions, actual awareness and refusal of many of my brothers and sisters in Christ to address the patriarchal system of oppression and institutional racism that bleeds out of the heart of our country and seeps through the mindsets of people. People who make decisions that affect us all, particularly those whose voices have historically not been heard.

Yes I trust God.

Yet I do not believe that God has called people to use our faith to place a blanket of “warmed over apathy” to cover the seen and unseen “iceburg” that represents our current and historical trauma of systemic discrimination concerning race..gender…religion or class. I refuse to excuse those who accept the divisive tool of Conservative Christianity to silence the masses of the oppressed.

Yes I trust God.

Yet I also speak of an accountability that we have to love our neighbors as ourselves according to scripture. Who are our neighbors? As many of us our mourning today over a country that has chosen to ignore our fears…disregard our rights and promote the power and agenda of the privileged.

Yes I trust God.

I trust God to give strength to the weary…to lift up those that feel a sense of despair and to bring light to the darkness that surrounds us.

I trust God to protect the powerless…to provide for the disenfranchised and to place a spirit of self – determination and unity within the hearts of those that are still “speaking from the margins.”

I trust God to speak.

The Calling

Growing up in Harlem, NY where I saw poverty, violence, abuse, alcoholism and broken families…I knew what it meant for people to suffer under life altering circumstances. I felt a sense of compassion and a desire to help others at a very young age. I tried to be there for my friends in school and in my neighborhood. I also struggled with my own issues and had a deep need to explore and examine my own life in order to encourage positive change and personal healing. 

I was raised in the church, so I understood the power of hope, faith and love. I was baptized at the 15 years old and begin to actively serve in my church through directing the youth choir, teaching Sunday School and volunteering at our Head Start Program. However it was at the age of 19 years old that I received my “Calling.” I was asked by my Youth Leader to become a Counselor for adolescent girls at our church camp.

 I served as a summer camp counselor with young girls that were molested, raped, abandoned and abused. It was because of that experience with these young girls that I decided to start my first “Girl’s Group” Ministry in Harlem, pursue my higher education at a Christian College and later obtain my Masters in Social Work.  From that summer long ago until this very day…my “Calling” has driven my occupational choices, educational pursuits and overall life purpose.

The Recreation of a Female Soul

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Audre Lorde

I was born in the African – American Village of Harlem, New York City to a White Mother and a Black Father. They married as an interracial couple during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. However, after three children and eleven years of marriage, they separated in 1975. I was seven years old. My mother was from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania; a small German – Swiss Mennonite rural farming community. After my parents separated, my mother’s family thought that it would be best if she moved back home to the community that she “belonged” to. My mother refused adamantly, stating that she wanted to raise her children in the Harlem community that she was “called” to.

However, during my childhood, we would often travel down from the streets of the city, to the farmlands of my mother’s birthplace. It was not in diverse sights and sounds of New York City that I first became aware of my “race,” but in the tall cornfields and whispering trees of Pennsylvania. I remember standing at the bus stop with my mother, aunt and siblings. We were waiting for my cousin to get off of the school bus. I was bright – eyed and full of excitement for this new experience. Yet my excitement to see my cousin and all of the other school children quickly turned into a feeling of deep confusion and pain. I was struck with the harsh words of a white boy with blond hair and blue eyes that pierced my soul. “Nigger!”

The word shocked me, even though I do not even think that I knew what it meant. I had never heard it before. However, I would never forget that moment. I knew that somehow it meant that I was “less than.” I immediately felt “unlovable,” “rejected” and “dirty.” The word was a sharp whisper that seeped into my soul. I do not think that anyone else even heard him and I felt such a sense of shame that I just kept quiet and carried it in my being for many years to come. The school bus drove away and the dust from the country road covered my face and hair and clouded my eyes now dimed from the dark word that was spoken over me.

Back in Harlem I did not have to deal with the overt racist views of other white children. I felt accepted and loved. My peers in my school and neighborhood were mostly African – American and were similar in socioeconomic status. Again, I viewed the world as a place of joy and security as I continued to develop as an innocent young girl. I remember being outside in front of my building playing with all of my peers and some of my older sister’s peers as well. A teenage boy who was a friend of my sisters came up to me and told me how pretty and cute I was. I innocently blushed and politely said thank you. He then went on to proclaim that he was going to give me a new “nickname.” From this day on, he happily exclaimed, I am going to call you “sex – symbol.” I was nine years old. He kept his promise and called me that publicly each and every time he saw me. I think that he actually thought that it was an honor to be called that new name. Somehow there was “value” in being thought of as “sexy” in my community. Even though physically, I wasn’t even fully developed. Confusion again set in.

My self – identity was somehow being shaped by a white boy who called me “nigger,” and a black boy who called me “sex – symbol.”

Again, later, as a pre – teen on the farmlands of Pennsylvania, my white cousins and siblings were all playing a game. Male and female, we all made a big circle and had to throw a ball to each other across the front lawn. One of my male cousins threw the ball in my direction but I had failed to catch it. When he ran over to fetch the ball he quickly leaned in towards me and groped me between my legs. I was 11. Nobody reacted. Not one word was spoken and the game just went on like nothing even happen. What gave him the right to do that? Did he really just touch me there? My thoughts wandered. Perhaps it was a mistake. After all, he was probably just trying to retrieve the ball. If only I could believe that in my heart. It was then that the crushing of my spirit began.

The world had labeled me as a “nigger – whore” and I didn’t even get a chance to find out for myself who I really was.


On top of that, I was “light skinned,” “bi-racial;” mixed with the blood of the oppressed and the oppressor. Although I was born out of the love of my parents under the covenant of their marriage, often my black peers who did not know my mother would immediately express “distrust” for the side of me that represented “white people.” My “light skin” was both envied and hated by my own African – American Community. By the time I became a teenager, I begin to experience the effects of internalized racism. To the white community, I was “too black,” with my curly hair and wide nose. To the black community I was not “black” enough. Later, in college, I learned about the term, hypo – descent, “the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union or mating between members of different socioeconomic groups or ethnic groups to the subordinate group.” Or was I experiencing the opposite practice noted as hyper – descent, “in which children are assigned to the race that is considered dominant or superior.”

Either way, the effects of racism and sexism were prevalent in the formation of my identity, self – esteem and mental well – being. I continued to wrestle within my community, myself and the broader society on identifying myself for myself.

Civil Rights Activist, Womanist and Harlem Born Poet, Audre Lorde once stated that;

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

Perhaps as a defense from being eaten alive by society’s fantasies…I recreated my own identity to save my soul.