As children we were told about God and religion in a very vague sense. We read the bible together as a family every Saturday. We knew morally right from wrong and what was right and wrong within Rasta. But I don’t remember ever feeling like I really knew God or what religion meant. My relationship with God really came to be when I was 8. I needed answers, so I prayed and I asked God “why do good people have to die?” My answer started my relationship with God. There was no parting of the heavenly skies, thunder and lightning or this big omnipresent being coming to talk to me. It was the subtleness of my own inner voice saying “when people die we realize how precious life is. We see its value and their value to us.” From then I knew that God was inside of me. I have never had a spirit of fear towards my God. I talk to God as openly as I do with any friend. I am in tune with the God within me so much that I am drawn to the God within others. It was the God within that drew me to the first man I ever fell in love with. His inner strength and compassion was palpable.
Growing up I asked questions about the Rastafarian faith and sometimes I was given a direct answer I could understand. As I got older I stopped believing myself to be a faithful practicing Rastafarian. I didn’t agree with everything nor did I follow the exact same lifestyle. I had no idea about the different Christian denominations so in college I visited non-denominational, Baptist, Seven-Day Adventist, and African Methodist Episcopalian churches. I went to my first Baptist church and left feeling scared saying never again. The pastor touching foreheads, people dropping to the ground shaking, speaking in tongues and being covered in cloth was quite an experience and not for me. I didn’t mind hearing a good word that actually motivated or inspired me. But I did not like hearing a pastor say “no matter what you’re going thru Jesus is the only way.” That was my cue to get up and leave and say never again. I had a college friend that did not believe in Jesus and it made me question if I really did. We never prayed to Jesus. Regardless of the simple letter change we called out to Negus or Jess-us. To me Jesus and Jess-us were two different people. This contributed to my Rasta confusion. Were we Christians or not? We had church services that resembled Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. So I decided I didn’t want a middle man to God I would go directly to the source. I read lots of books on the history of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddha, and Yoruba. I spoke with deeply religious persons and atheists. I could relate and understand both sides to a degree. I still have much to learn but I decided that all religions were pretty much the same. Did not see religion holding woman in an honorable, respectable position but rather saw bible filled passages of misogynist authoritarianism and patriarchal societies. Any religion, group or persons that feels like women are to be subservient and degraded by men was not worthy of my devotion.
I am not interested in converting anyone’s religious or non-religious beliefs. I want people to test their own beliefs, ask questions, and seek out information that will affirm your foundations and faith or maybe cause you to make new ideals. How can you truly believe, or love something that you’ve never investigated? When you start to date someone you ask them a million questions, you ask a friend if they know their background. Question your religion. I believe in something called the “glass slipper theory”. It’s my theory that your faith, your religion is personally fitted onto your soul, your spirit. We should follow our intuition and trust ourselves. What fits someone else won’t always fit you. Personally for me it is hard to follow any religion especially ones that were forced upon my ancestors to “humanize their savage ways”. A man comes into your home and rapes your wife and children. He steals your home and car then tells you to respect him and learn his ways, his religion. To me that doesn’t make any sense. I believe long before slavery became an issue in Africa the religions and way of life that was practiced was authentically their own. I believe that the Christianity practiced in certain parts of Africa centuries ago has now been weakened by man’s constant interpretations. I don’t believe in religion. I believe in a God, a higher power. People ask how I can have faith in someone who I can’t see. But I have seen him in my own way that satisfies me. I have never felt the presence of God in any church building or gathering the way I do when I am at the edge of my sanity, my peace. It is the place where earth meets water, where I stand still and he washes my feet. It is my place of solitude, fortitude and security, my church is the beach. I am comfortable and confident in my spiritual relationship with my God. I do not believe God judges me because I wear pants, pays respect to the moon and nature or that I curse in my prayers( my mother doesn’t agree with my unconscious occasional curse word in prayer). I don’t pray in a monotone, rehearsed manner, I talk freely and openly.
Challenge your preconceived notions about religion, about God, about yourself. Don’t just accept what’s been handed to you regardless of who it comes from. Read something other than the bible. Reason with different opinions and beliefs. Don’t be afraid of not knowing. I know nothing still but in my learning I have gained some knowledge that forces me into action of creating a better self.
Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day are times to reflect upon the continuing struggle of how far women have come in our need for equality, peace and development. We need to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change all year round.
I wish more women would support each other locally and globally. I wonder now where are the women’s voices, the leaders, the mothers and aunts, the lionesses. Did you know black women are more likely than other racial/gender groups to go unnoticed or unheard? And it seems as if we have just faded into the background. African American girls and young women have become the fastest growing population of incarcerated young people in the US. However the number of black girls who are actually committing crimes is not rising. I felt like the young black men needed us most and I have even forgotten about the young woman. It seems I’m not the only one because there doesn’t seem to be any major efforts to stop the mass incarceration of black girls either. The cause for this epidemic has been attributed to national zero tolerance policies and a justice system that treats girls of color differently than white girls. The Thelton Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley’s Law School saw the void in support and organized a day-and-a-half free event, “African American Girls and Young Women and Juvenile Justice System: A Call to Action.” All it takes is someone to see an injustice and to stand and speak up. What are you standing up for? Beyond work and school, family and friends what are you lending your time to that will advance the community around you? In the absence of many there are still great works that are being done.
There was a recent study done by The Economist- 150-page report on women’s economic opportunity around the world. They addressed the factors most affecting women’s ability to access business opportunities. As well as which countries best empowered women by advancing both policy and programs to produce a better economy.
- It showed that Western European countries had the most economic advancement opportunities for woman and Chad, Yemen and Sudan scored the least.
- The US has no mandatory maternity leave rights for woman and they do not like to sign international treaties including ones that protect women’s rights.
- The best educated women are in Europe then America.
- Most countries have equal pay for equal work laws but do nothing to enforce them.
Women are underrepresented in government throughout the world. Although in Rwanda women make up over half of Parliament which is rare. Sojourner Truth said it best “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” So despite the results in this study there have been vast efforts across the world to promote investing in women. Investing in women would drive up economic expansion in developing countries because they run the majority of small businesses and farms. If women are in control of the family’s finances more of the income will go towards food, education, medicine and other family needs. It is a fact that the investing and empowering women will contribute to the strengthening of international peace and security.
If the world can rally and organize for women globally what are we doing to support our young women here in America? We have become a society that blames an 11year old girl for being gang raped by 18 men. Instead of coming to her rescue she has been persecuted by the media and women in her own community. Woman rather say how they dont like other women and rather befriend men. People have become too self-centered to even help anyone else. Because of my black feminist beliefs I am driven to always think deeply about the human condition and global realities, especially as they affect people of color, women and children. I believe that it takes a village to raise a child. You are a part of a village, a community. It needs your voice to support and speak up for the young women at home and abroad. It is imperative that we envision a world in which we are all free from the ravages of oppression, poverty, war and inequity. That world requires the active participation of men and women. So I ask where is your voice in the community for the social progress and human rights of our women?
Click on links of a few organizations supporting women:
- ONE– grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease…check out videos!
- Forward – campaigns to tackle gender based violence and in particular female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
- African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) – supports local, national and regional organizations in Africa working towards women’s empowerment.
- Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) – convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
- Women Deliver 100– List of 100 most inspiring people who deliver for girls and women
- Global Fund– support the efforts of women’s organizations that are working to advance women’s leadership and decisionmaking at all levels of society.
- National Council of Negro Women– lead, develop and advocate for women of African descent as they support their families and communities.
- WILPF and Voices of African Women – is the oldest women’s peace organisation, campaigns for peace, justice, equality and the full enjoyment of human rights for all.