Pure, a Book Review and Deconstructing Purity Culture: At the Intersections of Black, Female & Womanist

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Illustration by Katarzyna Bogdańska

A few days ago, I stumbled across the book “Pure” by Linda Kay Klein. I couldn’t put it down. 

Surely, this book would provide both critical insight and compelling testimony into the insidious innerworkings of peak Evangelical purity culture. 

Unfortunately, the 35-page Introduction was the best part of the book.

At once both captivating and tediously exasperating, “Pure” attempts to investigate the interconnectedness of White Evangelical America and the Purity Culture movement of the 1990’s. And yet, the scope feels narrow and the writing stiff.
Reliant on intermittent and awkward verbatim interviews, the book lacks the ability to tell a critical, compelling, coherent story; which is unfortunate at best and irresponsible at worst.
Primarily because it was hard to distinguish between whether this was a memoir or qualitative study, the writing style impedes rather than supports the reader’s ability to connect with the author.
While it remains obvious that the author went to great lengths to provide credible, vulnerable, heartbreaking interviews and testimonies, the overall style of the book felt awkward. If you do read it, I would recommend pairing it with my all time favorite episode of the Liturgist podcast: ’40: Woman.”
Growing up in a relatively conservative Christian home in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I strongly resonate with the teachings of Purity Doctrine and the overwhelmingly suffocating and toxic celebration of all things virgin.
Maybe you can relate?
At its core, #puritydoctrine teaches that modest, God-fearing, virgin, (white), obedient women are to be celebrated and exalted. Purity culture celebrates sexual pureness and advocates for strict gender stereotypes while teaching a damning ideological doctrine: if you engage in sex outside of marriage, you are beyond redemption.

Purity culture idealizes the Proverbs 31 woman. 

They are long-suffering and patient. They enjoy hard work. They have lots of babies and obey. They are helpmeets and ever-steady soul mates. They are pure and wise.
Or, as a kid growing up in the ‘90’s you could just tell if they were pure if they didn’t wear spaghetti straps, jeans with designs on the butts, crop-tops or v-necks, lip gloss or anything Victoria secret.
Oof.

Other damnable offenses were being “boy crazy,” engaging with or questioning purity culture or identifying as anything other than cis and straight. 

In my early growing up years, we were a Focus on the Family, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, The Bride Wore White, Every Young Woman’s Battle kind of family. 
I knew names like Joshua Harris, John Eldredge, Dannah Gresh, and Debbie Pearl. 
I knew passages like this, from “Created to Be His Help Meet:”

“If you are a wife, you were created to fill a need, and in that capacity you are a “good thing,” a helper suited to the needs of a man. This is how God created you and it is your purpose for existing. You are, by nature, equipped in every way to be your man’s helper. You are inferior to none as long as you function within your created nature, for no man can do your job, and no man is complete without his wife. You were created to make him complete, not to seek personal fulfillment parallel to him…”

I faithfully read Karen Kingsbury, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Hinds Feet on High Places.
I went to Bible Study, Youth Group, Girls Club, Small Group, Lock-ins, Retreats, Sunday School and Church. 
I was on various worship teams, danced on the Church Dance team, led Sunday Schools and helped out in the Church Library.
I wore a purity ring, boy shorts, double and triple-layered my shirts and swore not to have sex until marriage. 
I listened to Rebecca St. James and MercyMe.

I dedicated and rededicated my life to Christ.

I didn’t party, drink or do drugs and for the most part I got straight A’s.

In many respects, I was a “good girl.”

And, I really tried.

But it was never enough. I was never enough. 
Boys would say and do sexually explicit things to me, and I was always the one who caused it.
You seem to cause a lot of drama, a youth leader told me once after I sobbingly confided stories of sexual harassment and assault.
Drama causing girls were stumbling blocks. Drama causing girls ‘got what they asked for.’

I never confided in my youth leaders again.

While I never engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, I was told both explicitly and passively that I was beyond redemption.

After all, sexual harrassment and abuse only happened if the girl was a stumbling block. Maybe you were leading them on? Maybe they thought you wanted it? Maybe you were just mistaken? 

In middle school, I told a classmate that a friend of the family was pregnant. The boy told the teacher I was talking about pregnancy
The teacher wrote my name on the board and made me sit in the front of the class for the rest of the day.
We don’t talk about inappropriate topics, she chastised.
In junior youth group, a familiar purity adage was that of a used car. Virgin women were fancy sport cars. But, those who didn’t wait to have sex until marriage were old cars. Nobody wants a used car, I was told in between phrases like “modesty is hottest,” and “true love waits.”
Pool parties during church retreats often had strict regulations. Females were required to wear one-piece bathing suits and cover-ups or be asked to change and/or leave. 
There were no regulations for men. 
Excited to wear my new (quite modes) tankini to the pool, I found myself humiliated when a lifeguard told me that I needed to wear a T-shirt. Your bathing suit is too revealing, he said.
As a 13-year-old, I already knew that my adolescent body was dangerous and damning.

My adolescent body was so tempting that it could lead men away from God.

Mortified, I walked back to my room and sobbed.

A few days later, a family member would joke about my clothes. Look what B is wearing…when I get older, my kids will never be allowed to wear that. 

My body was bad and dangerous. My body was not even worth being a role model for future nephews and nieces.

I was devastated.

Sexually abused and harassed from a young age, I knew that sexual purity would never include me. Purity Culture didn’t distinguish between consensual od non-consensual sex. Sex was sex. Touch was touch. Virgins were pure. I knew that I would “never make the cut.” That I would forever be deemed unworthy, unloveable and unwanted.

Nobody, not even God, could cleanse me.

The revelation that my body damned me forever as unredeemable was horrifying and deeply painful and abusive.

What use did I have for a God that would damn me because of my body?  What use did I have for the Church?

During a youth group discussion about sex, a youth leader advised: Don’t do anything with someone that you wouldn’t do with Jesus.

Told by numerous boys that sexually harassed me that I would never be marriage material, I finally broke down and begged them to tell me what was wrong with me. You are too opinionated and ugly. They told me. You should wear long skirts, another advised. You boss too many boys around, another one confided. My parents told me that people like you can never be a Proverbs 31 woman, another confessed.

In high school, four classmates that were known to date around were featured on the front of a student led, admittedly “illegal” school newspaper. The headline? “FO-FO-FO’S” for Four-Foot Hoes. 

In college, another boy later admitted that he thought I would be more attractive if I would stop being so intimidating. How am I intimidating? I asked. You come across as too confident, he told me. And you are too outgoing. Boys like quiet girls.

At the intersection of black and woman, I internalized not only racist and sexist tropes regarding my body but also theological ones.

Historically and contemporarily, Brown and Black bodies are overwhelming sexualized, demonized and degrated.

Purity culture capitalizes on this.

My butt, breasts, hips damned me. But, my skin verified me as someone whom couldn’t be credible.

I wrestled with the ideology that I would never be pure. And, it wasn’t lost on me the symbolism of purity culture: white virgin girls.

As a black girl, I would never belong.

Afterall, how could God possibly love me if I was a ‘stumbling block?’ 

How could God possibly want me if I wasn’t a Proverbs 31 woman?

How could God want me? 

Often, critiqued by family and community members for my clothing and body, I came to regard my body as both dangerous and evil. 
So, I internalized sexual abuse and harassment.

I was a black girl. A sexualized girl.

It was all my fault, right?

After all, I was just an Eve that was too tempting.

Nice girls didn’t interrupt. Nice girls didn’t speak up. Nice girls didn’t listen to secular music.
You want to be a nice girl, right B?

In 9th grade, I went on a youth group trip to Louisiana. Our youth group was partnering with relief efforts from Hurricane Katrina. One day while working at our assigned site, a secular song came on the radio: ‘Sweetest Girl’ by Wyclef Jean, and all the girls started dancing. I knew almost all the words by heart and started singing along with the radio. 
A female chaperone took her purse and spanked me with it in front of the entire youth group. “This is from your mom,” she said before adding: “You will never marry or be with a nice young man, especially not my son,” she whispered.
I was mortified, humiliated, angry and embarrassed.
No one stood up for me.
Later, I would tell my dad and watch him confront her. I don’t remember what went down but later that evening her son would find me and apologize.
It didn’t make me feel any better.
At the time, I didn’t have the language to name the incident as abuse.

I didn’t have the language to describe how that incident would go on to shape much of my psyche.

I didn’t have the language because these kinds of things were normal.

You know, the spiritual ‘slut shaming.’ The ‘Christian’ gossip mongering. Like, the super innoent prayer requests like: I just want to lift up my friend in prayer because she is currently having sex, and I just want to pray that she would feel convicted that…


I didn’t have the language then.
Now, I do.
See, the thing is, I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I understand why parents believe and teach abstinence. I get it.
But, I also see the Lie and the way Purity Culture has condemned a generation of girls and women into thinking they were unloveable and unwantable.
See, I believe that Jesus is the ultimate breaker of chains.

I also believe that women are more than marriage beings designed for sex. That women are more than sexual experience.


Scared of an “oversexualized” generation, the Churches purity culture created the perfect cover for sexual + spiritual abuse.

Who would believe women that had reputations of being a stumbling block or causing drama?
After all, if you could package sexual purity as the ultimate Christian goal, women wouldn’t even believe their own abuse.
Women are more than virgins waiting for the altar. 
I believe that women are called into the liberating relationship of Jesus Christ. And, that that relationship isn’t a relationship based on shame. That relationship isn’t a relationship based on guilt. It’s a relationship based in liberating, fearless, welcoming, radical safe love..
The church is called to radically exemplify this kind of love.

What happens when it doesn’t?

How do we reconcile that?

Growing up, I knew and still know too many women whom were denied entrance to the Churches version of love because they were too sexual.

I have girlfriends that have fully faced the sort of insidious, passive, Christian abuse for being sexual beings.

I have experienced that.

How do we reconcile that?

I would like to suggest we start by naming the pain, trauma and spiritual and sexual abuse that were committed in our own Churches, homes and communities.

We must listen to stories of survivors and offer spaces to tell our stories. After all, what we resist, persists.

In the wake of #metoo, Evangelical and many persons abused by the church started a new hashtag: #churchtoo

In the wake of #churchtoo, more and more women spoke out. Men spoke out. Persons identifying within the LGBTQIA community spoke out. 

These are the stories that are too often unheard.

These are the stories that are too often demonized.

These stories are also ubiquitous.

As I write this, I am furious and exasperated, exhausted and hopeful.
I fully believe that Jesus welcomes us as our human, gritty, vulnerable, raw, messy, sexual beings into his liberating love. 
There is redemption in that love.

There is no fear in that love.
There is no shame in that love. 
There is no Lie in that love.
We must create space in our church to hold and name the pain and trauma of Purity Culture.

There are many of us hurting. There are many of us in pain.

We must make space to deconstruct.

We must find space to hold space with one another. 

Over the past years, I have had to unlearn my ideas about womanhood and sex. About purity culture and redemption.

Things I know to be true about my experience with purity culture:

1. Purity culture enabled ( and continues to enable) sexual predators

2. Purity culture de-emphasizes truth and centers shame

3. Purity culture often contributes and perpetuates rape culture

4. Purity culture’s core curriculum functions on an ideology which advocates that young females are responsible for others thoughts and how men will treat them.

5. Purity culture reduces women to the state of their marketability vis-à-vis marriage. Ironically, nobody talks about how purity culture reduces “Godly” men to the drive of their penises.

Oof. There is a lot to unpack. Power and privilege. Abuse.

There is a lot to name and deconstruct.

Know if you resonate with this post that you are not alone.

I see you.

Honestly, deconstruction has been a rough, emotional, vulnerable journey. It requires a commitment to stick with the raw, messy, often emotionally exhausting process. It is uncomfortable and often alienating.

But, it is SO worth it.

Beloved One, if you are reading this and this resonates with you, know that your body is valuable, holy and valid. Your experiences matter and your voice is powerful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You were created in love and your body is a design of love. Beloved one, love your body. Delight in your body. Honor your body. For Your body was declared a good thing.

Shalom always.

**Sidenote** There are many people that I respect whom adhere to conservative ideologies and purity culture doctrine. This is not a post to shame them. Instead, I wish to speak my truth and claim newfound liberation. 

Bonita, Bonita, Bonita

Reading Time: 10 minutes
I have wanted to be beautiful for as long as I can remember.
Ironically cursed with severe acne as an adolescent, I was used to teachers that, during roll call, would chuckle at their amazing propensity for Spanish and ask: Do you know what Bonita means?
Numbly, I would nod my head and pray to white Jesus that they would leave me alone.
No one listened. Every teacher would excitedly explain, thrilled to pay homage to the A they got in 9th Grade Spanish: It means beautiful. Beautiful name for such a beautiful (they would scan my face and see the acne)…smile. Such a beautiful smile.
Afterwards, a smart aleck with perfect white skin would inevitably turn around and declare: They should’ve named her the Spanish word for ugly. And the class would erupt.
Adopted into a large, white, Mennonite farming family in rural Pennsylvania, I knew that beauty wasn’t supposed to be a high priority. Afterall, you didn’t need to be beautiful to feed the cats, check the chickens, shovel manure, hang laundry, take out the garbage and do a myriad of other chores.
You didn’t need to be beautiful to can beans, peaches, cherries, applesauce and jam.
You didn’t need to be beautiful to go to Church every Sunday and Small Group on Wednesday.
You just had to show up and get the job done.
I grew up on a small chicken farm in Lancaster County where there were not many places where my last name was not known. A few farms over a distant cousin had played outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies in the ‘70s. A few miles away, a great uncle owned a large agricultural business. Other uncles owned dairy farms, chicken farms or pig farms. We were farming people. We weren’t supposed to care about beauty.
As a child, I would watch as my white family members would change various shades of tan throughout the summer.
I would watch them become effortlessly sun-bleached blonde and tan and beautiful. Powerful and pure. Desirable and innocent. White and strong.
In the mornings, I would slather my body in sunscreen and in the evenings, I would layer myself in cocoa butter and Vitamin E oil, wrap my hair and pray to wake up a white skinned, blue-eyed blonde.
I wanted to be the you look just like your mom rather than a is-she-your-fresh-air-kid or were you adopted as a crack baby kind of beautiful. I wanted to be the farm tan and sun-bleached blonde kind of beautiful. I wanted to be the kind of beautiful that fit in seamlessly. The kind of beautiful that you didn’t question.
The kind of beautiful that everyone just recognized as beautiful. Without questions. Without stigmas. Without doubt.
Somewhere around middle school, I discovered relaxers. I don’t remember what first made me realize that wearing my hair in braids and beads was ‘so elementary.’ Was it a locker room conversation? Did someone ask me one too many times why my hair was so kinky? Was it after my white brother loudly declared that girls with short hair like me would never be pretty?
Whatever it was, something shifted.
I wanted to feel the wind in my hair. I wanted to ‘put my hair down.’ I wanted to be beautiful.
And, beauty could be mine for $7.99.
During the next few years, my mom would occasionally relax my hair with home relaxers. The paper cartons showed light-skinned girls with long smooth tresses and wide smiles.
Relaxers for black hair, unlike relaxers for white hair, rely on sodium hydroxide which can cause hair loss and third-degree burns.
Despite the intense burn from the relaxer and the countless horror stories from friends (bald, burns, hospitalization), I would grit my teeth and close my eyes.
Tell me when it starts to burn and we will rinse it right out, my mother would caution, and I would nod and grit my teeth.
Afterwards, I would stand in front of the mirror and swish my hair and wince with pain.
Beauty was pain, right?
The first time I remember being called ‘beautiful,’ was the first day I visited a Waldorf School. I was in 1st grade, extremely talkative, emotive and already classified as a handful.
I guess the teacher had told the class that I would be visiting for a week because as soon as I arrived at the school small white heads poked out of a third story window screaming ‘hello.’
It was equally traumatic and exhilarating.
A tall brick building with a large arched door, Waldorf felt both enchanting and historic.
Large doors with brass handles opened to reveal hallways and classrooms painted in soft fairytale hues: caerulean, rose, dandelion, moss and ultramarine. Pastel silks stretched across windows as elegant curtains and hand painted artwork covered gallery walls in neat, straight lines. Handmade felt puppets, beeswax figures, wooden bowls and spoons crowded in corner tables and display shelves. Chalk art featured fairies and gnomes and whimsical woodland creatures embellished the daily schedules: Circle time, Main Lesson, Snack & Recess, Beeswax, Handwork, Lunch & Recess, Eurythmy, German, Painting.
The first-grade room was on the tallest floor of the building. A bright corner room with large windows and rose colored walls, the room featured wall-length chalkboards, a balance beam, a braided circular rug and twenty-three desks including one with my name.
A teacher appeared at the door, his hands chalky and his eyes kind. I don’t remember what pleasantries were passed or how long I hid behind my mom and sister, astonished and horrified that I was actually expected to spend a full week with strangers.
But I do remember that a girl came barreling through the front door, brown ringlets bouncing and picked me up. “You are so beautiful!”
It was easy to be beautiful then. And, it was hard to be beautiful then. I was a black kid. An adopted kid. A girl kid. A loud kid. A sensitive kid. A don’t make me tell you twice kid. I had isms and quirks. I was hyperactive and talkative.
And, I was desperate to be beautiful.
Beautiful people were wanted by their parents. Beautiful people didn’t have other kids ask them what it felt like to be an orphan. Beautiful people didn’t have abandonment issues. Beautiful people didn’t get asked if they were ‘real’ or not.
Beautiful people were just beautiful people. They weren’t pretty for a black girl. They weren’t you’d be almost hot if you were white. They weren’t my mom said I’m not allowed to date black girls. They weren’t oreos or monkeys or n****rs. They were just always human. And, they were always beautiful.
Right?
I wanted it. I wanted the bluest eyes and saccharine smiles. I wanted blonde hair and white skin. I wanted to be able to buy my hair products from stores that didn’t offer skin bleaching creams in the same aisle. I wanted to be able to feel the air flip ponytails across my back. I wanted boys to stop asking me if I would have a big butt when I grew up. I wanted teachers to stop telling me that if I ever wanted to be taken seriously, I would need to change my name|hair|speech. I would need to apply for diversity scholarships. I would need to tell my story and make sure to say that I was adopted.
I just wanted to be beautiful.
In Elementary School, I was one of 3 black girls in the whole school. The others were a biracial girl named after a flower whose name matched her beauty and my twin sister. The school was small and the whiteness was blindingly ecofriendly. It was May day flowers and wreath dancing white. It was handmade knit socks and crochet scarves white. Sugarless organic fruit roll-up and babybel snack kinda white. Composting and save the trees white. Liberal white. TV turnoff week white. Tie-dye shirt birthday parties white. Handmade purposefully didn’t comb my hair dreadlocks white. Inclusive white yet exclusive white.
And, I was allowed to play.
Waldorf boasted diversity and inclusivity initiatives before they were a “thing.” Every classroom was mainstream and persons with mental health illnesses were included and expected to participate and engage with the curriculum and the community.
At first blackness seemed like a constant show and tell.
Do you need sunscreen?
        What kind of lotion do you use?
                Why does your hair stand straight up?
                            Why does your hair smell like coconut?
Kids asked me questions in between asking another why he sniffed people or why she ate her boogers and didn’t clip her fingernails.
One recess a classmate asked why my knees were ashy and I didn’t know what to say so I made something up: it’s a super power I have that tells me when I need more lotion.
Awestruck, he leaned closer. Woah, I wish I had a superpower.
For at least the first half of second grade, daily recess rituals included hopeful girls asking one another: May I play with you? Status was determined by whether you were the one doing the asking or if you were the asked. Recess and social politics dictated that playing as a threesome was the most desirable. Any more and it became difficult to control dynamics. Any less and your status suffered. After all, playing wild horses required two people to actually be horses and one to narrate the storyline.   
As a child, I would often proudly announce that my schedule was booked – couldn’t play with anyone until December I told a child once…in October. Reasons not to play with someone included if they smelled, if they said something mean about you to another classmate or if you were worried they might become more popular than you.
As an adult, I cringe remembering moments like this. And, in moments of desperation, I want to defend myself and write it off as immaturity and ignorance.
After all, it was immature and ignorant.
And yet, child’s play often mimics real-world scenarios. Somehow as seven and eight-year-olds we knew, innately, what we were doing. We knew these were acts of survival.
As I grew older, I would find that reasons to play with someone would evolve to include hair type and skin color. Reasons that would sometimes include me and exclude other black girls. Reasons that would sometimes exclude me and include other black girls. Reasons that would sometimes exclude all black girls.
In middle school, I transitioned from Waldorf to a small Mennonite school. Out of the over 300 plus children in attendance in K-8, I was the only black girl. An adopted black girlfriend of mine transitioned out of the school just as I began, and I quickly learned from my classmates that there were expectations with being black.
Average at basketball, I tried out for the team and, to the utter dismay of my coach, was only good enough to be a part-time player on the ‘A’ team and a full-time player on the ‘B’ team. Where was my skill? Didn’t I watch basketball at home? C’mon, where was the hustle?
As a seventh grader, a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy I liked gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. When I did, his mother informed me that he wasn’t allowed to talk to “people like me.” I remember hanging up the phone in shock. Later, I cried myself to sleep.
The next time I saw him, I ignored him. He followed me around after choir practice, apologizing Then he told me we should stop being friends. He had prayed about it and it would make things easier for him. And, that was okay, right? I understood?
A few weeks later a classmate, whom often called me an ‘Oreo,’ told me that his parents said that people like me could never be a “Proverbs 31” girl. I walked into the bathroom and cried.
People like me. Oreos like me. Things like me.
In eighth grade, a classmate would, much to the hilarity of my teammates, lift my field hockey skirt to see if I had a big butt. I was too horrified and embarrassed to report him.
In class, a cocky white boy would sit on my lap and apologize with an oops, I didn’t see you there. On the bus rides home, he would whisper sexually explicit things to me and shove me into the wall.  
Late night bus rides after basketball and field hockey games would turn into weekly nightmares. Forced to sit in between horny adolescent eighth grade boys, I would have pens shoved in my hair, pencils shoved down my shorts and hands grope my back, chest and butt.
They would only stop if I cried.
Their apologies were often bold threats and excuses: you are such a baby. Can’t you take a joke? It’s not like we actually like you. You should be flattered we are paying you attention. If you tell anyone we will make it worse for you.
After asking one boy why I was always targeted, he laughed and said: because you’re not, you know, like the other girls.
In desperation, I went to the school’s guidance counselor and confided in her what was happening. She was one of the boy’s mom and told me that she didn’t believe me. Her son would never participate in things like that. Certainly, I was mistaken. This sounded like drama and she heard that I caused drama.
I never went back to her again.
Another time, during track and field practice, a popular classmate wanted a select group of girls to watch her run and then tell her if her butt bounced while she did the long jump. I just really want to have a bouncy big butt. She whined, and then she pointed at me. A big butt like her.
In 9th grade, after a classmate grabbed a hold of my breast in the middle of gym class, I remember feeling astounded that my white male teacher, Mr. T, stepped in. The boy was sent to the principal’s office and Mr. T asked me if I wanted to file a complaint. He said that he was going to and that it would be my decision to write one, but he recommended that I did.
Out of all the times I had been sexually harassed in class and at school, this was the first time that a teacher stood up for me.
This was the first time a teacher didn’t say that it happened because I caused drama.
This was the first time I was believed and supported.
I wrote the damn report.
Later, when a popular classmate would slap my butt, hard, in the hallway in front of a crowd of boys, I chased him down and slapped him across the face.
Never touch me again, I warned. “I just wanted to see how firm it was.” He laughed before declaring: never touch me again, crazy b**ch.
The next day a rumor went around that I was crazy and slapped him for no reason.
No one sat with me at lunch that day. Another told me that I should apologize. No one wanted to hear what had actually happened because no one cared.
People cared what happened to be young, white beautiful people. Once, after the same classmate that wanted a big, bouncy butt told another that a boy had looked at her weird, he was shunned from the next class party.
Just like that.
No one told her stop causing drama. No one accused her of being mistaken.
She was believed because she was popular. She was believed because she was white and beautiful. She was believed.
Just like that.
Historically, the first time I verbalized my ‘otherness,’ was when I was four. My aunt recalls this moment by my alleged declaration: there were “too many white people” at the family reunion.
While I don’t remember this incident, I do remember the first time I learned to associate my skin color with items that were dirty or burnt. The first time I was called a n****r. The first time I was spat on.
Transracially adopted into a rural, white, farming family, my modes of representation were limited to the very few black adults and families I encountered in public places
Although my family was a part of a small, vibrant community of transracial adoptive families that met once a month, I struggled to find racial representation in media, literature, education and music. Many of the adoptive families were large white conservative families that adopted one or two Black or African children.
While, as an adult I can recognize that the transracial adoption group’s goal was to normalize transracial families and provide support and resources for families and adoptive parents; as a child, I dreaded the meetings for many of the same reasons. Abandonment and trust issues, while ubiquitous, are also an integral marker for many adoptees.
Knowing that my story would be told to others without my permission, terrified me.
What if nobody wanted me? What if they told my parents to un-adopt me? What if everyone only knew the worst parts about me?
What if I was truly unlovable?
I would often overhear my adoptive parents talking about my issues with other adoptive parents and I felt overwhelmingly betrayed, hurt and angry.  
Didn’t they know how much it hurt me? I would wonder. Didn’t they know?
As a child, I would often wonder if every black woman I saw could possibly be my mother. If every black boy could possibly be my brother.
I was desperate for representation but struggled with the cognitive, linguistic and emotional ability to articulate this.
I was desperate for something to make me loveable and wanted. Inherently trustworthy and honest. Innocent and pure.
Beautiful and white.  

2018 Recap

Reading Time: 5 minutes
It’s snowing in Tucson. So, I feel better that I am a few days late on my 2018 top eight because… snow in the desert. And, as you know or probably don’t because it never happens, watching snow sit on cacti is probably one of the coolest sights.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the type for New Year’s resolutions. However, I do like to start the New Year with intentionality. At my wedding, a dear friend encouraged my husband and I to choose a specific word each year on which to reflect and meditate on together. Each year, I have enjoyed and learned to enjoy the ways in which I am stretched by this exercise.
No spoilers for 2019, but our word for 2018 was ‘listen.’ Looking back, I cannot help but notice the way in which God has continued to use that word to move my heart to and for marginalized communities, as well as towards my own and our joint healing and wholeness. And yes, I know it’s already 2019, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on my top eight resources, in addition to the Scripture, that helped me to listen more closely in 2018.  
  1. Intentional Mentorship. At a recent church gathering, someone tossed out this think piece: what is the meaning of church? It was just quippy/ironic/taboo enough that it immediately caught my attention, and a couple of giggles. I was hooked. What would people say? One of the most concise and profound answers was something like: it is hard to follow Jesus by yourself. Okay, so what does this have to do with mentorship? When people ask me why I advocate for mentorship, I have found myself saying something similar: it is hard to do life by yourself. We desire and need human interaction. And mentorships help to fortify and restore us.  These past two years, I have been blessed to form a mentorship of sorts with a black woman who has encouraged me to radically reconsider my understanding of social justice, womanism and the deconstruction of racism. Mentorship invites accountability and vulnerability – both stretching and powerful! If you haven’t already, I would invite you to consider a mentorship.
  1. Friendship Circles. What is that old saying about friends? Friends are a rare commodity? Growing up, I have been fortunate enough to find, usually, the right friends at the right time. Some have been long-lasting while others have been there for a season. These last few years, I have been fortunate enough to find friends that have continually spent time invested in and connecting intentionally with me on more of the gritty aspects of life. And, for that, I am forever grateful. Where do you feel safe enough to be vulnerable? I have been blessed with a variety of friendships which can hold my questions and can be soft, safe places to land. Where are your safe places? Whom are your soft places to land?
  1. Literary Resources. The other day, I was listening to an NPR podcast between a Syrian refugee and her American friend. During the interview, after doing her best to communicate her empathy for her friend, the American friend said something particularly profound which has stuck with me. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was essentially this: “You know, I have done my best to read and to educate myself on Syria, and I can’t imagine what living through that profound trauma must have been for you or how it continues to impact you. I can’t know…but, I want to tell you that your story impacts me, and I have held it and made it a part of me and what I carry.” While there are pieces of this sentiment that are, perhaps, problematic, I particularly appreciate the image of carrying the stories of others. That resonates with me as well as the idea that educational resources can only provide the smallest glimpse of historic, shared and lived trauma. That being said, don’t stop with your own due diligence. Read. Learn. Educate yourself. But also, don’t forget to invest in and get to know real people. And, because this section is titled “literary resources,” you already know you are going to get a few of my favorite book titles from this last year. Check out the graphic at the top of the post for some of my favorites. 
  1. Community Investment. Nowadays, there are so many ways to get invested in organizations and NPO’s. And, usually these investments cost you something: time, money or both. I spent time breaking down how I wanted to invest in my time and money in 2018 through 4 parts:
    1. Identify my own core values
    2. Educate myself on NPO’s and organizations within my local community which closely aligned with my core values.
    3. Invest in those communities and organizations either with my time, money or both
    4. Resource out the information I have gathered with my community
  1. Educational Opportunities. You know those people that are always like, “I LOVE SCHOOL,” or even “I LOVE HOMEWORK.” Okay, so #nerdalert, but those folks are seriously my kind of folk. I thoroughly enjoy learning and living close to the UofA makes me happy for all things seminars and workshop(py). Part of my listening journey included paying attention to opportunities for growth and then maximizing my growth potential. In education, we probably overutilize the idea of turning everything in a “learning opportunity,” but I believe access to education and continual resources and supports are crucial when considering a more equitable and just future. This past year, I attended seminars on everything from toxic masculinity and black lives matter to intersectionality and wealth disparity, and I wish I could’ve hauled each and one of you to them. From attending workshops led by Jason Reynolds to listening to Harvard Professor William Julius Wilson, I am grateful for free and accessible events.
  1. Truth Warriors. Truth can sometimes be a complicated thing. This past year, I have found myself really struggling with naming and committing to living my own truth. After a few heated scenarios with loved ones regarding my own experiences with racism, I found myself resisting my own truth. I couldn’t make sense of how to navigate living into my own truth if it meant breaking relationship. I couldn’t make sense of living into my own truth if it meant that loved ones couldn’t accept my black body. Problematic…I know.  But I also couldn’t seem to imagine pretending away my blackness for white comfort.? It didn’t seem fair to ask me to make the compromise. I wanted to channel unconditional love and yet the sentiments expressed thoroughly renounced me as a black woman and as a truth teller. What did it mean to live into truth? To be honest, I am still wrestling with this scenario. It hurts me. But I have also learned to fortify myself with some additional truths. I am named and known. I have value. I can speak the truth in love and ask for what I need. I can disengage. I can choose not to argue with those whom are unwilling to see or recognize my inherent value as a human being. I can still have power.
  1. Intentional Mindfulness/Mental Health Awareness. What are the ways you unwind? This past year has been a doozy for me, and as I’ve struggled to begin to manage my anxiety, I discovered the importance of meditation and routines. As resourced in a few previous blog posts, I have particularly found supports like therapyforblackgirls, ourselvesblack and even forharriet helpful and encouraging. On the IG or Twitter, check out #blackgirlmentalhealth, #blackmentalhealth or #blackwomenmentalhealth
  1. Media. One way I listen is by exposing myself to different cultures through television, radio and media. Check out the graphic at the top of my page for my recommendations.