A untimely love letter…

Hey you,

I remember your grandma.

She was so mean. Mean to a 5-year old is anyone who restricts her chance to play. Your grandmother’s funeral is one of the first I remember attending.

I remember your mom, she wore a lot of jewelry.

Your mother was my kindergarten teacher. At least until she decided she didn’t get paid enough to deal with a too smart child who tried to throw a chair at her. It was decided that Mrs. Knight’s class was more suited to dealing with a child like me. Despite our “interactions,” I always liked your mom.

I remember you.

You would visit your mother’s class. You were in your 1st or 2nd year at State. I thought you were so cute. Funny the things I remember about my 5-year-old self. Your mom and everybody was so proud of you. You were the “dream.” An example of the kind of child a Black single mother could raise- excellent student, man of God and handsome. You stayed with a fitted shirt showing off those muscles. I can see the pressure you were always under to be perfect, to be an achiever. I think people like us- who are what our elders deem as respectable and admirable (minus that one thing) struggle with perfection. Our difference, our queerness drives us to achieve these unrealistic standards of perfection. You were a Black male coming to age in a Black religious working class community. You were the dream…the hope.

The early 90’s were a time that more and more Black people had to face the fact that AIDS was not just a white gay male disease. It was something that infected us, too. Many times we never put a name to the disease that claimed our brothers and sisters, the official statement from families was that it was cancer or pneumonia that claimed their loved ones. Which of course, was true in many cases, but they were opportunistic infections due to immune systems being compromised because of HIV/AIDS.  Often our churches and places of worship failed us. Be it through preaching that HIV/AIDS was a plague sent by God to punish those engaging in sexual deviant acts. Or through the defining silence.

My Lorde, I can’t imagine what it was like growing up in this era navigating hegemonic notions of Blackness with your own sexual desires. I will never know your internal journey, but you presented excellence. Pledging a NPHC frat, graduating with a Masters and having one of them good jobs.

Growing up I saw you at conventions and church events. From afar I observed your journey to the ministry. Big Daddy had everybody preaching at that church. You had grown up in that church, you were everybody’s golden boy. An example of the type of good Black man that the church could raise. But then again you were always suspect. Never really received fully by the men in the church.

In high school while I ignored my queerness in many ways, I was also surrounded by many young men. Men I imagine who were not much different from you. Young men raised in the church but who struggled reconciling their sexuality and their relationship to God. I would hear stories about you.  Particularly your friendship with one of those young men. Your falling down and getting back up. The shame you felt after sexual experiences and your desire not to do those things anymore. I am trying to remember what gay dating site you were on then.  My mind is blanking. The young man you had that friendship with, is now on Facebook testifying about the power of deliverance.

As I moved away from home I heard less about you. I would see you from time to time on breaks. Looking buff and shit. We were Facebook friends. When I think of you- I envision the picture you took at the southernmost point in Key West. Beautiful brown skin and muscles rippling. You were a beauty.

Flash forward to early this summer, pictures of you came across my newsfeed. Pictures that claim to be you but they did not look like the man I have known almost my entire life. Physically you were smaller and look tired. There were no muscles, your clothes looked to big. I immediately called my father and asked him what was going on with you.

He mentioned he thought he saw you at a church event. When he saw you leave you looked like a ghost of a man. He wasn’t even sure it was you, but the person he saw got into the kind of car you drive. After asking some people at your church, he relayed the news that you were sick to me. I ask some of our mutual friends about you, but they didn’t know much.

The images I saw of you haunted me.

I posted on May 17th 

“When Deliverance was never enough”(Random thoughts to a man):
I sure hope it was worth it. Spending your life never really being true to yourself. Trying to please your church and your frat and whoever else. In the end what do you have? Cause with all your fronting and searching for deliverance they still never picked you. You worked harder than anyone but still they never saw you. From my outside perspective all I see is a middle aged man searching for happiness and fulfillment externally- all the while self-hatred is eating you up internally. Here’s to hoping that one day you will say “Fuck you” to whatever religion or entity that taught you to hate the divine being God created you as. It’s never too late to live an authentic life.

Reading that I see that my response was riddled in judgment. It lacked empathy and critique of the systems that regulate Black masculinity. Who am I to judge anyone? It’s been almost 2 years since I have been home and the sexuality thing factors into my absence more than I care to admit. My critique should have dealt with systemic and institutional oppression. I don’t know what internal struggles or resolutions you came to in your life. I do wish you knew that it was a better way.

A little over a week ago, my newsfeed was flooded with prayers for you. I called my dad, asking what happen to you. He found out that you were in a coma, dealing with the advance stages of cancer. They said the family isn’t disclosing many details. My heart sunk. I watch people flood your wall with well-wishes, prayers and later remembrances. I wonder how many of these people who professed to love you were complicit in your death. I wonder how many people really knew you. Allowed you to be the divine creature God create you to be. I wonder who was with you as you took your last breathe.

I asked my dad did he know if you had a partner. He said at your ordination there was no woman there as your girlfriend. No woman sitting in the area reserved for wives or wives to be of ministers. I asked my dad was there a male there. He said he didn’t think so, but if there was that person would not have been recognized.

I wonder who you loved. Who loved you. I wonder if at the end of your life did you have a lover holding your hand…someone to ease you into the next world.

I hear your mom is not doing good, she is also in the hospital. She wasn’t even able to make it to your homegoing service.

I don’t know your official diagnoses, but I do know what killed you.

Toxic theologies.

If we did not internalized some of the homophobia we were feed, where would we be?

I want to end this letter with an excerpt from a book (I stay quoting this book). The character George has secretly engaged in relationship with males his whole life. Something he was ashamed of. At the end of the book, he dies. Due to the details given and time period we can assume the disease is AIDS.

George’s senses were the first parts of his soul to die, so that the boundaries of one passed away into the others, and for a few of his last moments in the work he could see touch, and hear smell, and feel taste. As he lay sunken in his sickbed, undignified and emaciated, little more than a pile of twigs, a cricket of a man, on the threshold of a shameful death, he suddenly remembered his boyhood. Down Georgia. Where he once ran barefooted in tobacco fields, his feet barely touching the hot ground, his face to the sun. As he lay in bed, now too weak to move, the crumbly smell of Georgia bird songs danced before his clouded eyes. The salty tastes of down-south sunsets were loud on his lesioned skin. And he remembered knowing he was good then. A good boy who did what he was told and helped his mother with the washing and knew God. He remembered climbing trees and how his skinny legs looked like two more branches as he sat high and leaned his head against the breathing trunk. He had known then that he was part of creation, made by God with intention, pure and right as grass and bees. He did not know the moment when he had forgotten it, the moment when his desire for other boys’ mouths and hands and things started to mean that he was not good, not something the Lord made. He had spent his life since  moving from moment to moment between longing and shame, and as he lay on his deathbed he could no longer remember or understand the self-hatred he had carried for so long a time. He could no longer taste the scorn, once like a stew on which he had gorged and fattened himself all the days of his life.

But he could remember the taste of Chuck’s quiet eyes, and the ruddy smell of Butch’s voice. He could hear Robert’s smooth skin now, and see James’ silly and abundant heart. And the same for all of them. Louis. And Bud. And Tony. And Richard. And Red. And the boy with the cigarette behind his ear and the eight-shaped scar above his lip, who never said a word but smiled almost to laughing the whole time they were together. And the man behind the shed by the train tracks, who shuddered and cried like a child when he came, and held George to him for hours in the dark. And so many others. He remembered them now, not with the deep hatred of himself with which he had always tried to forget them, a deep hatred which his dying mind and body could no longer clearly recall, but with as much joy and light as the coming of sure death would allow him. They had all been so beautiful, black and soft, brown and wiry, red and lithe. Southern boys the color of Georgia earth, who had run in the same tobacco fields, with their faces to the same sun and the sounds of the birds on their same skin. They had been more than his lovers, more than secret tousles in tree-hidden places. They had been his kin, too, they had been of him and of God. In his last moment, he did not have to wish that he had seen that truth before, that he had understood more, that he had loved them better, and himself. When the shame fell away, ashenly, quietly forgotten, it was as if he had always known, and that trick of memory was a tender mercy before he died.”  (McKenzie, The Summer We Got Free)

I don’t pretend to know where we go when we die. I don’t believe in hell, so I question if there is a heaven. But I pray you received the same type of solace when you took your last breathe. That whatever shame you held drifted away. That you knew you were something the Lord made, that you were/are of God, that you were made with intention. That you were/ are loved.

Your death is a reminder and a push for me to go back home. That in our hometown we need more examples so that those that come behind us don’t suffer the same issues we did. You are a reflection of me.

I remember you and all that you push me to be.

Rest in Power.

~Just Tab

These are my memories and my perceptions. I do realize that they may not be his truth or his expierences.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 10, 2015 in HIV/AIDS, Learning bout Tab!


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When You Can’t Do Teach- Teaching the Erotic

“S and I was snap-chatting all weekend about how Professor Chester’s knows soooo much about us.” –Student

I made my students write biomythographies. We read Audre Lorde’s Zami, since she is the prototype. Students were resistant, they always are when they have to talk about themselves. Be vulnerable. We did free writes in the days leading up to the assignment. Overall, I was pleased with the work they put in. The student was right, I know a lot about them now.

When you can’t do teach.

Reading their words made me reflect on the honesty of my writing. My ability to be vulnerable. Reading Zami always pushes me to interrogate my identity, the feeling was even stronger coupled with these 18-22-year-olds grappling with who they are and who they want to be.

This week we are reading another favorite of mine, The Summer We Got Free (one of the perks of my job I get to force people to read my favorite books with me).

The opening lines…

“Ava did not remember the taste of butter. It had been seventeen years since she had last moaned at the melt of hot-buttered cornbread on her tongue. She was not bothered in the least about it, because she did not know that she did not remember. At breakfast, when she dropped a square of butter on grits, or on yams at dinner, and laid a spoonful of either on her tongue, she believed what she tasted was butter. She did not know that she was only tasting milkfat and salt, the things that make up butter, which, of course, is not the same thing. She certainly did not know that the taste of butter was a thing that had once made her moan. Ava did not remember what it was to moan” – Mia McKenzie, The Summer We Got Free

I love the beginning. Its sets the book up beautifully. Beyond that, it resonated with me. I mean it has been almost 5 years since I tasted “real” butter. The funny thing about taking certain things out of your diet you tend to forget the taste. I remember the feeling I got eating things like pork chops (I wrote poetry about it) or macaroni and cheese…but I don’t remember the taste. I eat “vegan” pizza and enjoy it. It is my normal, now it is what pizza should taste like to me. I don’t really remember how cheese taste, yet in the back of my mind I know I am missing something.

Watching other people eat pizza, they seem almost orgasmic. I enjoy pizza but it in no way borders on a erotic experience.

I remember rolling on my bathroom floor after stuffed crust pizza first came out, moaning “My tummy gonna explode.” Moments before I stuffed slice after slice in my mouth.  Unable to control myself from the buttery cheesy crust.

I enjoy pizza now in nice moderation. Stopping before I am even fully full.

In The Summer We Got Free, Ava’s awakening in the book exemplifies the erotic that Lorde speaks of in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”

“During World War II, we bought sealed plastic packets of white, uncolored margarine, with a tiny, intense pellet of yellow coloring perched like a topaz just inside the clear skin of the bag. We would leave the margarine out for a while to soften, and then we would pinch the little pellet to break it inside the bag, releasing the rich yellowness into the soft pale mass of margarine. Then taking it carefully between our fingers, we would knead it gently back and forth, over and over, until the color had spread throughout the whole pound bag of margarine, thoroughly coloring it.

I find the erotic such a kernel within myself. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors my life with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all my experience.” -Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

I am teaching my students to see and understand the erotic as empowering, as a life force, as affirmation, as power.

Theoretically I understand the intense power of the erotic. Someone once told me, that I am good in theory but not so good in practice. I am a preacher who can preach beautifully about the pitfalls of sin and the power of deliverance, yet am unable to find that deliverance in my life.

When you can’t do teach.

When I am honest about myself, I know that the power of the erotic that Lorde speak of is absent from my life. The creative life-force that color one’s life…that empowers one to change is barely visible.

I get glimpses of it and its power. Those glimpses have inspired me to write over the few last week’s more than I have in months. It inspired me to create a practice. To open myself up and embrace vulnerabilities. I feel it. I can see it changing me.

However, the pellet that is the erotic is constrained. Only really moving or coloring certain aspects of my life. The key to accomplish the change needed to demand more from myself and those around me is to let those aspects of color paint my whole life. But rather than “evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives” I am here unable to find the words to return two emails and one voicemail. To try something new and claim my happiness in a different way.

When you can’t do teach.

As a child growing up in the church often pastors would say that the “word” they were giving was for themselves.

As a professor sometimes the lessons I craft are for myself. So I am hoping that my pedagogy can help both me and my students get a bit freer and embrace our erotic as power.

But until I can do it, I will teach the good news of Lorde and Black Feminism.

When was the last time butter (or anything) made you moan?


1 Comment

Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Academia, Ima Read, Learning bout Tab!


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sleep Deprivation, Misogyny and Thug life.


Around 3:30 am, Tuesday morning I pulled into a 7-11 somewhere in Maryland.

At this point, Mercedes and I had been driving for a couple of hours. She had to work that day so I told her she should sleep some.

Perhaps I should explain why I was in Maryland at 3am. I spent the previous weekend in Montreal for a Theatre conference. I should have been home Sunday night but due to bad weather, I missed my connecting flight in Toronto. I ended up at the hotel the airline got for me at 1:30 am, after landing in Toronto at 8:30pm. This meant no dinner for Tab. I have a lot of unkind things to say about Toronto’s airport and AirCanada but I can do that later. My new flight left Monday at 8:30am. Which meant I needed to be up before 6am to catch the shuttle to the airport.

Still wearing the same clothes from the previous day. I landed in Columbus at 10am.

Great. Tab can rest! Naw. Mercedes and I previously decided we would take her three nieces back to Philly on Monday. They had been staying with us for two weeks.  So I rented a car and drove to Philly, leaving a lot later than I originally planned. Remember I was supposed to be home Sunday night, in bed by 11pm. But since I am thug and driving long distance runs in my blood, the 8 hour drive (with kids) was not a problem.

Three kids, three different mommas meant I was playing bus driver making multiple stops. The run also included getting some of Mercedes stuff from her old place to bring back to Columbus. I had to pretend like being in a basement at after midnight didn’t scare this never had a basement Florida girl. Plus, I gotta impress my lady and show off my Crossfit strength.

Tab: “Don’t worry boo…what box you need? I got this.

You know I still aint really had meal since brunch the previous day. The thing about the drive to Philly, it is really expensive, $60 in tolls roundtrip. Damn, the Pennsylvania Turnpike. However, your girl was feeling bold and cheap. So I decided to take another route. Technically it was 45 min longer but would save $30. That’s like a lap dance and a half. We got on the road around 1 am but for some reason all the entrance to the highway was blocked. We spent almost an hour trying to get on. Remember, ya’ll I still haven’t really eaten or slept. The plan was to stop get some fruit for me during the drive. The first place was some rest stop type place. It was $5 for thing of grapes. Hell no. I ended getting a banana for free because the lady didn’t know how to charge me for it. So, since I was still hungry I stopped at the 7-eleven, I figured it would be cheaper.

Yeah. That was long intro. Hope you are still with me.

When I pulled up I notice this black man playing music in his car. He looked about 30ish. Nice beard and good build. I walked in and got what I came for. Mercedes is still in the car, half sleep. As I was in line, I noticed him talking to this woman. She was paying for her stuff and she appeared to either be going to work or just getting off.

She was clearly not interested in dude.

W: I’m married.

M: How long has that been a problem?

W: It’s not a problem for you, it aint a problem for me.

The man continues his advances.

Tab is in line behind them. And of course she has to say something.

Tab: “Yo, clearly she isn’t interested. Chill man”.

M: “Who the fuck was talking to you? Mind your fucking business.”

Can we just say that went from 15 to 100 real quick! I am not letting anybody talk to me like that. So me and dude went back and forth until he left. During this time he told me I was lucky the police was across the street and that I was a female. He also mentioned going to my car and getting at my girl. I pretty much told him he wasn’t going to do a god damn thing and he was an ignorant ass motha fucka…among other things. When I left he is staring at me smiling from his car. I pulled off and he attempts to try to follow me and scare me. He got stopped at a light and I sped off to the highway. I guess I will never know if he was really trying to follow me and do me harm or was just trying to scare me.

What bothered me the most about this situation was the (lack of) response of the other two Black men present. When the guy left, the clerk asks me if I knew him. I tell him hell no, I have never seen that man before. The clerk tells me I am “a tough lady.” He tells me that guy has been bothering every women that walked in and he should have left her alone because she said she was married. I told him even if she wasn’t married he should have left her alone.

As I drove away I reflected on how vulnerable women are in this world. This man watched another man verbal harass several women and threaten to assault me. Yet, he did nothing and said nothing. He could have easily asked the man to leave the store or even called the cops (who were camped out in the parking lot across the street). But he didn’t. Him and the other employee sat silently by despite knowing the man was wrong.

I am left wondering where are the men who will interrupt patriarchy and misogyny. Who will say not on my watch, not in front of me. Who will make it their business to speak up. I want my brothers to know that their silence makes them complicit. That their silence will never protect them.

Until then I guess I will have to stay on my thug life swag.

While I can joke about this now. I do want to acknowledge how scared I was. In that moment, I didn’t have the luxury to show fear.

I have never directly experience such aggression from a man. The reality was I had no clue where I was, what this man was capable of and despite the other men presence, I was alone.

I drove away fully awake but oh so tired.



Tags: , , , , , , ,

A few words on intentionality…

Is there anyone that you didn’t treat quite right?

My memory of how it started is similar to my memories of almost all of my relationships.

It just happened. I didn’t plan it. I didn’t even know she was interested in me. Things that I am still saying to this day.

I am a charmer and I am a flirt. Most days I am doing both without even realizing. On our last day of class together, I started to think that maybe she was flirting with me. When I saved her number in my phone, I wasn’t entirely sure what her name was. I never paid that much attention to my classmates. I invited her out to a party, turns out she was crushing on me all semester. I was curious about her, one thing made her different from all the other straight girls that have been interested in me. Conversations about our differences led to dating. Of course, I convinced myself that we were not dating. Yet, I treated her like we were. I took her on dates, brought her gifts, etc. So despite me verbalizing that I could never see us together. That difference of hers- was something I had no interest of dealing with in a relationship. I put all kinds of stipulations on our interactions. Not sleeping over. Not being friends on Facebook. Or holding hands in public. Things that were ridiculous and expressed more about my discomfort with who I was than the value of this woman. Looking back, I can see how amazing she was and my inability to accept it. I allowed her to love me in a way I had no interest in returning. At times, I used her as a boost to my fragile ego. We all want to be wanted, but I was doing it at the expense of someone’s heart and emotions. My actions were the epitome of selfishness and immaturity, even though I told myself it was her choice to engage with me.

The situation helped me understand the importance of intentionality and being intentional about love. A lesson I am still learning. In any and all relationships, it is important to be conscious about how you envision that person in your life. To be purposeful about the energy you carry with you. But to also be knowledgeable of what the other person’s intentions are. As a person that just like things to play out (with relationships- I like planning and order in other aspects of my life) this has been hard for me. I am getting too old to continue saying things like “It just happened,” things don’t just happen- we allow them to.

Today’s post is really a reminder to myself about my past failures in the hopes that I will continue to do better in the future. I am grateful for experiences that challenge me to grow. I don’t have to be trifling my whole life…


1 Comment

Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Learning bout Tab!


Tags: , , , ,

“Open the Fucking Gate”: Microaggressions

“Are you going to open the fucking gate?” I yelled at the intercom machine. I could not see the person who I was talking to but they could see me. My morning had been particularly stressful and all I wanted to do was pick up a student and leave. This left me on edge.

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.

Here is the story:

I pulled up to the parking garage at my job. My ID card wasn’t working

Man: Your card isn’t working? (He can see me via video camera and can also see that my card is white not blue/red which is designated for students)

Me: No, its not working. I have two and I never remember which one is magnetized. Can you let me in?

Man: What is your name and your department?

Me: Tabitha Chester, Black studies. Can you let me in?

Man: Well, students are not allowed to park here.

Me: I just told you my name and my department. Are you going to open the fucking gate?

I am the first to admit I sometimes have trouble controlling my temper. On the surface this incident should not cause me to lose my cool. If, of course this was an isolated incident. Being read as a student is something that I face all the time. While many people suggest that this is a positive thing and I should enjoy looking younger than I am, the situation is a bit more complex than this. As a young Black woman who at times may appear gender non-conforming it is very hard for some people to read me as a professor. The only way I make sense to some people on a college campus, is if I am a student. My biggest issue with this occurs with staff at my university. I rarely have any issues with students or other faculty. Here is a brief list of some of my encounters:

  • I was reprimanded by a librarian for not having my ID or knowing my Student ID number. When I informed her I was not a student and was a faculty member her attitude completely changed. I had so many incident with be treated rudely at the library I now have the student workers go for me.
  • While standing in line for food, I am routinely passed over in favor of someone who is more easily read as staff or faculty.
  • Heading to my office with a bag of tortilla chips. Some lady decided to ask was that my lunch and proceed to lecture me about unhealthy for choice as if she was my mother.

These are just some incidents. They occur when I am wear business casual clothing or jeans. They occur in person and on the phone. The resounding message becomes- you do not belong here. I speak to my friends who are also Black professors on college campuses and they have similar experiences. They are not all read as students but they are never read as college professors. Somehow regardless of age or gender it is hard for many to see us as professors. I have friends who changed the manner in which they dressed to be seen more traditionally professional, it did not alter their treatment.

Of course, this experience does not just happen to professors. Many of my Black students recount tales of being asked repeatedly to show their ID to prove they are students. Something that their white peers rarely have to do. Students have told me they have been pulled over by security on campus for acting “suspicious”. Earlier this semester at a fraternity party, students were told that Blacks and gays were not invited. Again the message becomes both explicitly and implicitly- you do not belong here. These are microaggressions that students and faculty of color regardless of institution affiliation can relate to.

I recently heard a case in Florida, where a black judge was approach by another resident in her condominium and was asked “What family did she work for?” in so many words, this man was telling her that she did not belong. His mind could only conceive that this Black woman had to be the hired help.

Stories like these are not an anomaly. These are experiences that happen every week, day or sometimes every hour. They add up and as much as I would like to admit, they affect me. I have to consciously affirm myself and remind myself I don’t need permission to be here.  I am motivated by Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown, who walks around with her colored wigs daring the establishment to come for her. Forcing the university to deal with her Blackness and never assimilating to university culture. When I ask her how do I have fun with my scholarship and teaching? She tells me “Just do what you want. Cost too much not to.” I won’t let microaggressions scare me from being myself. Sometimes I am will wear a blazer or I might wear a hoodie with my hat backwards. Either way you have to deal with and respect this Black Girl Genius.


Dr. Ruth Nicole Brown and I

But next time I will take a moment before I tell the man in the intercom to open the fucking gate.

Or maybe I won’t.


I have yet to find another faculty member who has even talked to the person on the intercom. They always just get buzzed in. I always have to prove that I work there. 


Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Academia, Learning bout Tab!, politics


Tags: , , , , , ,

But that’s not how the story ends…Easter 2015

I wish I could tell you the last time I went to church on Easter Sunday. Maybe 5 years ago, but don’t quote me. My childhood is full with memories of Easter. Reciting Easter speeches, finding the perfect outfit (I believe Easter was the first time I wore heels) and of course getting the hair did. Does anyone else remember microwave ponytails? A weave ponytail that you put in the microwave to give it curls. Real Black shit. Easter is one of the Sundays that everyone goes to church (add Christmas and Mother’s Day to that list), particularly the “heathens”. I have descended so far past heathenism that I barely remembered today was Easter. I spent the day writing and grading. Holidays formally rich with religious and family memories have lost pretty much all significance in my life. I slept till 6pm on Christmas, did not get/give one gift and it has been 6 years since I spent Christmas with my family.

Don’t worry this is not a lament on why I don’t do Holidays. Been there done that. Since my FaceBook newsfeed was hellbent on reminding me today was Easter, I might as well speak on it.

The thing I love about Easter is the choir sings one of my favorite songs, No Greater Love “That’s not how the story ends, three days later he rose again- That’s love!!!” That shit goes hard!

Today one of my friends, Ahmad Greene posted this status:

“He got up,” isn’t where the story ends, though that’s where y’all typically close the book. What does resurrection from crucifixion mean when those that have “risen with Christ” crucify others? For example, as Candace pointed out today, it was the women (Mary Magdelene, Joana, Mary the mother of James) who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection first, but it was the male apostles who ignored their witness and went to inspect the tomb for themselves (Luke 24: 10-11). Indeed, it was sexism that crucified the women to a metaphorical cross, and arguably, it is that same hatred and vitriol that crucifies many among us to both physical and spiritual crosses. Jesus got up, but Jesus also had love. And you honestly can’t shout, dance, and roll in the floor today because “He got up,” if you’re not living the LOVE he preached every day he walked the earth. (Well…you can and that’s what y’all typically do *sips tea*). Stop crucifying others in Jesus’ name. It ain’t Godly and it ain’t love. This, in fact, is a word for those who call themselves “Christian.” Little do you know, you side with Pilate and the Roman government more than Jesus.

This status struck me for several reasons, most directly the continuing crucifixions that “Christians” often perpetuate. The show Preachers of Detroit, has recently highlighted the blatant and often unapologetic sexism that is rampant in Black religious spaces. My concerns are primarily for the Black community, but I will acknowledge sexism is a problem in a variety of institutions and races. As Greene’s status indicated women are often ignored and dismissed within religious spaces. Jesus resurrection, had to be certified by male apostles. The conversations about women’s role in ministry that Preachers of Detroit incited made me face my own battles with the internalized sexism I inherited from my religious upbringing. Subsequent conversations with my father reminded me how the talents and strengths of Black women are often dismissed in the patriarchal structure of the Black church. I have watched my father elevate unloyal, lazy and ignorant men to positions of authority- yet his theology won’t allow him to see women as viable religious leaders. I wonder how much his ministry would benefit if it could be free from the shackles of sexism. In the same vein, how many of our queer brothers and sisters in ministry are ignored or not seen as viable leaders due to the hetero-normative and homophobic structures often embedded in the Black church. What are we overlooking and missing as we wait for the “male apostles” to confirm the resurrection, to confirm things the women have already told us?

During a week in which a noose was found hanging from Duke University campus. Easter becomes a time to remember the countless Black bodies crucified through state sanctioned violence. As Pastor Starsky Wilson reminded me during my journey to Ferguson- the Crucifixion of Jesus was nothing more than act of state-sanctioned violence. A murder carried out by the government (the police) and praised by the people. As James Cone eloquently wrote in The Cross and the Lynching Tree, the “crucifixion was a fist century lynching”.

“The cross and the lynching tree interpret each other. Both were public spectacles, usually reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves, and rebels against the Roman state and falsely accused militant blacks who were often called “black beasts” and “monsters in human form” for their audacity to challenge white supremacy in America. Any genuine theology and any genuine preaching must be measured against the test of the scandal of the cross and the lynching tree.
“Jesus did not die a gentle death like Socrates, with his cup of hemlock…. Rather, he died like a [lynched black victim] or a common [black] criminal in torment, on the tree of shame” (Hengel). The crowd’s shout, “Crucify him! (Mark 15:14), anticipated the white mob’s shout, “Lynch him!” Jesus’ agonizing final cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) was similar to the Georgia lynching victim Sam Hose’s awful scream, as he drew his last breath, “Oh my God! Oh, Jesus.”

So on this Easter Sunday it is hard for me to think about Jesus, the son of God- who was without sin but died for our sins. Without thinking about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Relisha Rudd, John Crawford, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and the many many more Black bodies killed in this country that were guilty of being Black in an anti-Black world. In my theology those hours that Jesus hung from the cross as public spectacle are not that different from the hours Michael Brown laid in the streets of Ferguson.
As I was discussing religion with a culturally Christian, non-practicing friend she stated

“I believe in the power of that story (Easter). I believe in the power of resurrection. And our creator offering a life for which we could see the world anew.”

So while I am no longer interested in dressing up and attending anyone’s Easter service. While I have realized my salvation will not come from Jesus- I do believe there is something valuable about reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope that it provides in today’s world. There are lessons to be learned by radical politics of Jesus love.

My prayer this Easter Sunday is that the Black bodies, our country continues to crucify, deaths are not in vain. That we remember the power in the story, the promise of liberation and redemption. Remember the impact of state-sanctioned violence. Remember the audacity of Jesus who challenged the status-quo as we dare to challenge white supremacy. That we reflect on the bodies we continue to crucify in the name of religion…of the voices and ministry that we ignore simply because they are not cis-gender men.We are living in a world where the governor of Indiana has signed into law “A Religious Freedom Act” that is entrenched with religious infused bigotry.Christians are looking more and more like Pilate and the Roman government than Jesus.  As we challenge racism, homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, etc. remember and declare that we decide how the story ends.



Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Holidays, Learning bout Tab!, Religion


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Blue Ivy is my Savior or The ramblings of a colored girl who is finding her own salvation when Jesus was never enuf


Blue Ivy is my Savior. My friends and acquaintances constantly hear me refer to the child of Beyonce Giselle Knowles and Shawn Carter as my Lord. To be honest it started as a joke. I really enjoy performing irrational ‘Yonce stan. I love the utter ridiculousness of the Beyhive. As time progress my reasoning for calling Blue Ivy my savior also progressed. It was my way of drawing attention to the “irrational” concept of needing a savior and what I deem the arbitrary yet fanatic way Black people revere Jesus Christ. In order words what makes one baby divine and another not. I firmly believe that salvation comes from within and often we as a people spend too much time looking for an external savior.

However there is another reason Blue Ivy is my Savior. I remember the first time I heard someone refer to God as a she. I remember how outrageous I thought that was. How sacrilegious the concept seem to be. Never had I in my 20 years of life, ever even considered God as a woman. I immediately wrote this young lady off as some heathen who would burn in hell. How dare she refer to God as a woman? I later realized my reaction said a lot about my own conception of myself and beliefs about women. Growing up in a very patriarchal world, which was heightened due to my intimate experiences in a patriarchal religious environment. I was taught and believed that women were less then. If I had the time or desire I could describe the ways in which I saw women demonized in both scripture and in religious spaces.  Hell, the fall of men was blamed on Eve, and that’s the first book of the Bible.

He can’t do nothing for me

The concept of Jesus’ Blackness was a less radical thought. However, I still spent much of my adolescences in a church with a mural of a white Jesus on the wall. I was still raised in a world that painted and depicted Jesus the Christ, Savior of men as a white male. The history of white males with blonde hair and blues eyes (as Jesus is so often seen as) have a history of never seeing me or treating me as equal in this country/world.  So what does it mean that I was to think of these depictions as images of someone who could and would save me? The pictures that do show Jesus with hair and skin like mine are always labeled “Black Jesus,” calling attention to their deviation for the norm- that is the real Jesus-the white one.

When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a feminine divinity. I am making a conscious effort to affirm my own femininity in my conception of a Savior. When I say Blue Ivy is my savior I am affirming a savior that has skin like mine, who has hair like mine. I am affirming my Blackness in a very anti-Black world. My femininity in an anti-female world. The research on Black girls show that are more likely than their counterparts to be suspended, that they have low self-esteem, they are deemed a problem, they are more likely to be sexually assaulted, less likely to fit in at suburban  schools. Black girls are often seen as the problem.  When Black girls grow up, they can look forward to articles with titles like “Why Black women are single.” When I say Blue Ivy is my Savior I am proclaiming that Black girls are not the problem they are the solution. That if I am to have any external savior not only must they look like me, but I am proclaiming that I am the only one that can save myself. The only way the little Black girl inside of me can be redeemed, is through me. As stated in my favorite book The Color Purple  “The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it.”

I am a big fan of liberation theology. The idea that Jesus came to liberate the oppressed and through the liberation of the most oppressed in society we all shall be liberated.

So when I say my Savior is Blue Ivy- in my head and in my heart I am saying that my Savior is Black and Female. Girl-child and Queer. Misunderstood and Powerful. I am saying that my Savior is me.

“I found god in myself / and I loved her / I loved her fiercely”. ~ Ntozake Shange

What does your Savior look like?

~Just Tab


Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Learning bout Tab!, Rants, Religion


Tags: , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers