Lifeguards in Academia
I attended Union Presbyterian Seminary (Upsem) from 2008 – 2013; yes I was able to graduate with my Masters of Divinity. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to navigate through some of the underlying yet obvious racist, classist and sexist undertones of certain courses and specific professors. Even with there being a black president in the oval office and a black president overseeing Union Presbyterian Seminary (for the first time) I experienced some of the my most oppressive moments matriculating on those grounds, more so than I’ve experienced anywhere to date. I considered quiting several times and at one point I actually took a break from school for an entire year while I considered discontinuing the degree program. Two professors made the experience worth enduring, those two professors are Dr. Carson Brisson and Dr. Katie Cannon. Dr. Brisson was my “baby hebrew” professor during the summer of 2008; without him I would not have felt so wrapped in Love and Respect which protected me as I endured challenging curriculum, challenging introspection and not so caring or mindful professors to come. With his humor and the way he tuned into to frustrations of the class, he adorned me with the emotional and spiritual armour I needed to make it to my next “UPSEM lifeguard”, Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon.
Womanist, Feminists and Mujeristas
I don’t recall the year I was introduced to Dr. Katie Cannon, I only remember that her class was titled “Womanist, Feminist and Mujeristas” and without knowing much about either word I felt magnetically drawn to the course and signed up for the class. The time spent in that room was such a game changer. Her classroom was a safe space and not just for people of color; it was an inclusive safe space for anyone who felt it important enough to enroll or even simply audit the course. The calm she bought to each day of class was a powerful presence I’d not felt before, it commanded yet calmed at the very same time. She required much from you but she gave back to you so much more. I remember feeling like a fish out of water because of how much new material I was having to process at one time (not just in her class but in other courses as well). I believe I didn’t speak a single word my first year and the second year was not much better; the first two years were difficult for me… I’d lost my “voice”. I was unlearning so much of what I thought I knew and as a person who likes to speak from a place of confidence and integrity, I felt like I had nothing intelligent to add to most of the conversations. Needless to say, this experience “stretched” me in a way that I’m forever grateful for (the entire UPSEM experience, not just Dr. Cannons course). But as my energy interacted with the unique energy signature that is Dr. Katie Geneva Canon something inside of me stirred. That “stirring” would go on to build in momentum over the years that follwed, igniting something inside of me that was dormant. What she stirred in me was my truth, my highest self and most important my “voice”.
In the years that followed that course, I would go on to add more experiences to what she began, to learn more about myself, to develop my identity and reconstruct my theology and belief system on a firmer foundation. In 2016 I created Woman1sh.com as an online safe space for me to express topics that dealt with womans issues, specifically woman of color. But it wasn’t until around 2017 that I actually started to breath life into this site in the form of creating a logo and generating content. Today the site has evolved into what you see and I couldn’t be more proud of the direction it’s heading. This site is a reflection of my truth and my authentic self, not the ideal self that others want me to be or the old self that I’ve outgrown. I post about what matters to me and what I deem to be important conversations for the collective. I post about those topics that I think critically about and I make sure to express the content in a way that is vulnerable and transparent so that I can connect with others in a real way.
The Implicit Lessons
Dr. Cannon inspired me to be me, in all my overachieving ways! She used to say something like “I love an overachiever because I am one”. She made me feel good about being an overachiever, not as if I were in some way inconveniencing others. She encouraged us to read (her supplemental resource list for her course was like 2 pages long, lol.). She taught me that people can digest difficult material easier if you present it as fiction; allowing them to wrestle with the injustice more than they would if the stories were “true”. She taught me to create words and terms and to publish my writings. She reminded me of the “games” that society will play and that it is important to often ask yourself “which game are we are playing today” (THAT lesson continues to come in handy). And finally she taught me, by example, how to find balance in being a woman with a strong presence while also holding space with others in a humble and inclusive manner.
Love and Gratitude
Good God, I will miss you in this world. I wish you safe travels as you continue your journey to your next destination. I will say “thankyou” aloud each time you cross my mind and I will call your name aloud each time I honor you on my ancestor altar. Continue to send guidance. Thank you, for it all. Thank you for ministering to me in that setting, during those moments, in that way, in the midst of those conditions.
A MUST READ:
CLICK THE FOLLOWING LINK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW Katie Geneva Cannon Raised Up Black Womans Voices For the Sake of the Church and The World