I’m a black female religious scholar, but I’m not sure I’m a womanist. I was a black feminist before I heard of “womanist.” I discovered black feminists in college when studying the black arts movements of the 1970s. I identified black feminism with the 1970s—black power, poetry, literature, and defiance.

In my eyes, black feminists were radical, fire-eating, justice-loving, law-defying women. Later in my college career, I came to the term womanist through hterature. While writing a paper on Their Eyes Were Watching God, I read Alice Walker’s essays about recovering Zora Neale Hurston. I appreciated and related
to Walker’s quest for a role model: “I write all the things I should have been able to read.”‘

I later learned of the womanist movement in religious scholarship. While looking for religious themes in black women’s writings, I came across Katie G. Cannon’s Black Womanist Ethics (1988). It was the first time I read about black women’s literature from the perspective of a religious scholar. As a result of Cannon’s work and that of otlier womanists, I never once doubted that I could have a place in religious scholarship. I never felt the pain that no one was talking about my experience, my literature, or my role models. I know that the first generation of omanist religious scholars worked hard to create a world where a young woman could have this kind of experience. They gave me the experience they wanted to have; the experience they should have been able to have.

For this, I am grateful beyond words, and I think of them as my godmothers. They mothered me into the academic study of God…

Continued at monicaacoleman.com.

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