As part of Black History Month, the dynamic Womanist celebration included: a co-presented interdisciplinary lecture by SFTS’s Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Rev. Yolanda Norton and Rev. Dr. Courtney Bryant-Prince (Visiting Instructor of Theological Ethics, Union Presbyterian Seminary), a special student-planned worship as a part of Professor Norton’s Beyoncé and the Hebrew Bible course, and the seminary’s first-ever Womanist Symposium, featuring Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown.
Presented to a packed audience at Stewart Chapel, the symposium was prefaced by a moving video compilation of Black women throughout history who acted in the face of injustice, and paved the way for all women who come after them. The video set the tone for an evening of deep social and theological discussion around intersecting issues of race, class, and gender, and their impact on the well-being of all people.
The evening’s event was grounded by a riveting lecture from the Rev. Dr. Teresa Fry Brown, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Emory University. Noting “the resilience and resourcefulness of Black women,” Brown provided a historical theological insight into the struggles of Black women in the academy. Quoting the 20th-century author, Zora Neale Hurston, Brown said “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
Rev. Yolanda Norton described Rev. Dr. Fry Brown as “someone who offers wisdom and wit.” This sentiment was affirmed time and time again throughout Dr. Fry Brown’s visit to SFTS.
In addition, to a her lecture, she captivated the broader SFTS congregation with her compelling sermon, “Surviving Justice Fatigue.” Here, Brown used the analogy of the eagle, who though born to be a strong, soaring figure, is also subject to times of weakness during its regeneration process. She likened the eagle to those who have no choice but to fight for justice in their daily lives, quoting hip hop artists Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.”
Though Brown named “justice fatigue,” as a reality for all who seek to make change, her lecture and preaching conveyed strength. As American Baptist Seminary of the West MDiv student, Kescha West commented, “Rev. Dr. Fry Brown offered words of fire—she gave women the space and the voice to create their own agency and walk and live in their own truth.”