The Journal of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America October-December 2017 - 25

sTorIes oF PeaCemakers

How I Keep Doing This Work

An Excerpt from Crossing Borders in Fort Worth:
An Interview with Dr. Melanie L. Harris

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ditor's note: the following is an excerpt from a two-part
interview with dr. melanie harris, Associate Professor of
Religion and Ethics at texas christian university (tcu) in
Fort Worth, tx. A singer in the African-American Spiritual
and Sacred Art songs tradition, dr. harris is a third-Wave
Womanist scholar whose teaching and scholarship engages
African-American literature and Religion, media and Religion, Womanist Ethics and African-American Environmental
Religious History. An extensive interview with her, "Crossing
Borders in Fort Worth," appeared in the Summer 2016 and
Fall 2016 issues of Baptist Peacemaker.
The BPFNA staff has tried to include stories this year that
give hope and energy for peaceful resistance in our chaotic
times. This excerpt from "Crossing Borders, Part 2" speaks
to that desire. It seems even more profound now than it was
when dr. harris said these words in August 2016.

PEACEMAKER: How do you keep doing this work?
hArriS: I have Sojourner truth and harriet tubman as my
inspirations-to keep going back into the classroom to see whom I
can help, to raise their consciousness, to help them live on the planet
as conscious human beings rather than people who are shaped by
dehumanization.
We need to recognize that each step of that kind is justice work,
and we need to count it as justice work. Activists get extraordinarily
fatigued because we don't always get to see the crop grow; we don't get
to see the harvest. justice takes time. It takes a long time, sometimes.
We need to remember that the small things that we do-the
lighting of the candle, the embrace of someone's hand, the active
listening to someone on the phone-that, too, is justice work. It's
imperative for all of us to recognize that, in order to keep ourselves
encouraged and renewed for the hard work ahead.
the gift of womanist religious thought, for me, has also been
the imperative tenet of self-love and self-care that comes out of that
movement. Self-care is crucial if you're going to continue in justice
work for the long haul. We have a number of powerful activists
whose health has deteriorated because of the passionate nature of
their work, and because of the cost that must be paid every time one
confronts racism, classism, sexism and heterosexism.
the work can be very hard on the body, on the person and on
the psyche. In one way, this is the awful design of oppressors and
systems of oppression-to break a being's soul, to cripple their self
worth, to level them to far less than their divinely appointed dignity.

I appreciate that womanist religious thought recognizes this truth-
and has the intelligence and the audacious spiritual courage to
demand justice in the face of injustice. Womanist thought empowers
one to take care of oneself, even as one takes care of others as we
move through the various seasons of our lives.
that is what the clergy needs to be about, learning to create
healthy, healing communities, learning to create healthy individuals
who can walk the walk and talk the talk, but remain strong enough to
sustain justice. that is true faith work. n

Activist Theology
continued from page 23
So the book will include a collaboration between the theological writing and poet-organizer Brittini Gray, who writes under
the name Ree Belle. She is a recent seminary graduate and is
based in St. louis, mo. (See the cover and page 24 to read some
of these profound poems.)
dr. Robyn and Ree Belle are employing Kickstarter, a
web-based fundraising tool, to make a way for the community
at large to support the unique forms of art that are planned for
the book. one of the challenges, dr. Robyn writes, is helping
people realize the importance of different forms of beauty:
I believe the poetry of Ree Belle is one such form of beauty. I also
believe artist folks who are on the ground doing activist theology
are the ones whose voices we need to hear and whose art we need
to experience.
Both of the collaborators are also hoping to raise funds so that
they can commission cover art that will be created by a person of
color.
Keep your eyes open for this book, which is due out in the
fall of 2018. It could be a game-changer.
Also, mark your calendar for the 2018 BPFNA ~ Bautistas
por la Paz Summer Conference July 2-7 in Kueka Park, NY. Both
dr. Robyn and Ree Belle will both be leaders during that week.
-katie Cook is the editor of Baptist Peacemaker, hunger News
& hope, and Sacred Seasons. The quotes in this article are from the
book's précis, from Robyn henderson-espinoza's website and from the
"making Activist Theology" kickstarter website: www.kickstarter.com/
projects/1857622159/making-activist-theology. See also @irobynActivist
on Twitter and irobyn.com on the Internet.

Baptist Peacemaker

Oct-Dec 2017 25


http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1857622159/making-activist-theology http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1857622159/making-activist-theology http://irobyn.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Journal of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America October-December 2017

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The Journal of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America October-December 2017 - 31
The Journal of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America October-December 2017 - 32
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/38-1
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/37-4
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/37-3
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/37-2
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/37-1
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/36-3
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/36-2
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/36-1
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/35-4
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/peacemaker/35-3
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/35-2
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/35-1
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/34-4
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/34-3
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/34-2
http://www.nxtbook.com/allen/peacemaker/34-1
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com