I really had to go to the bathroom. and I was sick of wearing that stupid orange tee-shirt. I was mad. I was mad about everything. I was mad about everything that I thought was so important before June 9th. And by this time I hadnt bathed in almost 30 hours. I couldn’t stand myself anymore. I thought my orange tee-shirt might actually walk off my body and have it’s own protest right there in the den.
It was time to get out of the chair that I had spent the last eight hours in and go to the bathroom. and I figured that I would take a shower while I was at it.
I went into the bathroom and I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time since this had all happened. I didn’t recognize myself. My facial muscles had settled into a position that they had never been in before. It was a cold and sad and angry face. It was a helpless face. It was an empty face. My hair was a rats nest. My curly tendrils had turned into nappy knots. I didn’t care though. Nothing mattered.
I took a shower and changed into a pair of dark blue jeans and a black tank top. Black felt appropriate. And I came back downstairs, but this time I went outside. It was a beautiful day, I must admit. It had rained on June 9th (appropriately so), but today the sun was shining. It was just before the heat wave that struck the nation. The weather was just right. but I only cared a little about the weather, Kesner was still dead.
I sat on one of the lounge chairs on the patio. This is where I would spend the next eight hours and most of the remainder to the weekend. Soon Monet came out to join me, she had a can of canada dry in her hand.
Monet and I have a bright and vibrant friendship, a really fun friendship. Monet and I became friends during her last week of seminary. she was in the class ahead of me. we had been friendly before that, but we became FRIENDS that last week. We later decided that it was for our own good. Had Monet and I been friends a minute sooner, neither one of us would have graduated. Seriously. We have too much in common. God protected us from each other.
If you have been reading these posts in succession then you know that Monet is a minister. Monet is very gifted in preaching, she is wise, and she is a deeply spiritual person. when I am preparing a sermon, I love talking out the scripture with Monet. She is always showing me new things.
She also has a health ministry. she is strikingly beautiful, 5’10’, and is in impeccable physical shape. In undergrad she was a heptathelete in track and field at LSU. She is also an aerobics instructor, the kind that has people lining up to take her classes. Monet is awesome.
One of the greatest gifts that she has ever given me is that Monet helped me launch “The Vagina Project.” She was working for an historic baptist church in brooklyn that received a grant to promote HIV and AIDS awareness. Monet was the administrator of this grant and she called me up one day and said : “I want to get a group of women together. I want to make Vaginas. I want to have a Biblically based conversation about sexuality. And I want you to be the facilitator…”
Of course there is a back story…:
During my first year of seminary I was preparing to preach in the Spring. This was going to be my trial sermon and I was petrified. In order to prepare myself for this endeavor, I began to do a series of things that I had never done before. I danced on the liturgical dance team, I coached an intramural basketball team, and I performed in a play:
The Vagina Monologues.
In the last week before the play the director asked the cast members to create a visual expression that captured the experience of being in the performance. These would be displayed on a board in the lobby on the night of the show.
What should I do, I thought??
I decided to go to Michael’s craft store, buy a plastic frame for 7.99, and make a vagina. It was an abstract piece of art. kind of looked like a flower, or a butterfly. It was made out of silk flower pedals, colorful feathers and a little fur. And I placed a peacock feather in the center. It’s pretty. the kind of thing you hang in your bedroom or on your bathroom wall. And after the play, I hung it on display.
well the most interesting thing began to happen…
first monet saw it. she said “Make me one! I want one!” so I did. Then my friend Tasha: “I want one, I want to make my own!” and she did Then Jessie “I want one too friend, and I want to make my own.” And she did then Maya… same thing.
So you get the point. different friends of mine wanted their own vagina flowers and each time they would make one it would be a little different, it would reflect their distinct style. How they felt about themselves as women.
I thought to myself: hmmm… what happens when women start thinking of their vagina as a flower? how does that change our relationships with this veiled part of our anatomy? What if a woman had previously been assaulted? Violated? Abused? or simply ashamed?
Perhaps if women thought about our vaginas as beautiful flowers then maybe we could be more careful about who we invite inside….. hmmmmm?? Perhaps (by thinking of our Vaginas as colorful flowers) we could experience a resurge of connectedness to divine feminine energy…?
But these were only thoughts. things I pondered deeply in my heart. “The church” was waaaaay to conservative for this ministry – I thought. especially “The Black Church.” So I was content to have this remain my little underground ministry. A friend would stop by, want to make a Vagina and I would talk her through the process…
But not that Monet. She said “if we are going to talk about HIV and AIDS we are going to make vaginas. We are going to build a Bible study around it and we are going to talk about sexuality. And you are going to be the facilitator of this workshop!”
And we did it; and it was incredible. First with a group of college women. Then with a group of women, age 30-60. We did the workshop in private homes. Even though this was sponsored by a church, Monet wanted to create an intimate and free atmosphere. And what came out of that project was amazing. Life giving, in fact one of the participants wrote an article about the experience in Brown Eyes Magazine (a Brooklyn based publication).
Here is a exerp from her article:
“The women there took turns expressing their passionate stories. These sistahs were nurturing, intelligent women who were comfortable with themselves. We talked about our upbringing and how that played a definite role in how we express our selves, sexually. How culture and shame in families left us with too many painful secrets. We spoke of how the separation between sexuality and spirituality often leads to unhealthy suppression or expression, causing projection. That’s when other folk’s sexual depravity becomes projected onto us. We discussed the three women types that have been imposed onto women, the mammy-mother figures, the sapphire- masculizing woman and the Jezebel – over sexual, loose and immoral women.
I believe that becoming more involved in women’s spirituality encourages us to appreciate more positive images of ourselves. This goes against all of our social conditioning. Our vaginas are to be recognized and held in the highest regard, first by us, then taught to whomever we choose to invite. We need to uphold and project healthier thoughts toward that part of our bodies, the place were life finally emerges. Our bodies are sacred, part of nature, and deserve to be loved and cared for as part of the Divine.” – Yendys Nefur-Adam , Brown Eyes Magazine – March 2009
Monet had taken my little underground ministry and had the audacity to go public with it.
And after the last event with her church, there were a few materials left. I took the leftover frames, feathers and fur to womanspace (the leading provider of domestic violence services in Central NJ). We did the project there with a small group of Domestic Violence survivors. it was a beautiful night. a healing night.
thank you Monet, for giving me the courage to violate expectations….
Monet is also a fighter. I remember this one time that we took on NYPD. We had been falsely accused of running a red light. It was police harassment. Monet was driving in my car and the po po gave us a $200 ticket!! I was mad but I was ready to concede and split the ticket with her. But Monet said: absolutely not! we’re going to court!
I contacted the NAACP. we got some great advice and we won the case. a victory!!! nobody beats NYPD… but we did with the help of the NAACP!!
And one more short story, once Monet and I were on this “spiritual retreat” together. Really we were just taking a short vacation to Bethany Beach Delaware. We had a lovely time. One night we were sitting on the screened in porch of this beautiful lake front condo and we were literally having what can best be described as a talent competition. I don’t think there is another way to describe it. Monet would sing a song, then I would sing a song. Monet would say a poem – then I would say a poem. We finally ended with a duet: she recited the poem “Deep River” while I sang the song in the background. It was ridiculous.
So now you know about Monet and our special fun friendship. She is a wise, deep, bold and gentle soul and I am lucky to call her Friend.
So there we were, at the country house. I was sitting miserably in a lounge chair on the patio. Kind of like a rag doll. weak. sad. angry. And Monet joined me in the lounge chair next to me with a can of Canada Dry. By this time everyone was busy doing something:
Klay and Jessie had gone out to run errands. Andrea had a conference call for work. She also had taken over with phone duty and was managing my incoming phone calls. And Monet and I were just sitting outside looking at the grass and the trees and the sky. Not saying a whole lot. Just sitting.
Monet turned to me and said: “You know I feel like everybody here has a job. Klay and Jessie are running errands. Andrea is taking calls….
And it’s my job to sit here and be easy with you.”
In that moment, she unscrewed the top if the Canada dry can and pulled out a neatly rolled joint…
And so we sat… Easy and together.
We were silent mostly, calm… numb….
but then I turned to her and I asked: “Will you sing to me?”
You see there was this song that had been in my head all day. As much as I wanted to be like Job’s wife, to curse God and die, I also didn’t want God to forget about me. I felt like God had taken everything away from me. ….all I kept thinking was please God.. please… do not pass me by.
‘pass me not’… please Lord… ‘pass me not.’
I hadn’t communicated this. I had not communicated much of anything all day. But as Monet opened her mouth to sing, guess what came out:
“Pass me not o gentle Savior… Hear my humble Cry
While on others thou art calling…Do not pass me by”
It was not a talent competition this time. Instead I just breathed the words as she sang them. I breathed my desperate pleas to God:
Please do not pass me by…
help my unbelief….
hear my humble cry…
you took my Kesner…
you took him…
while on others thou art calling…
do not pass me by….
Please God. Please do not pass me by…
I was breathing these desperate pleas to God while she sang. Please help me. Please help my unbelief…
That moment was so real. So authentic. I was at God’s throne of mercy and for a moment, while Monet sang, I did find sweet relief. Just for a moment. While she sang.
I sat…. and I cried… and I breathed…. while my friend sang me a healing song.
thank you, Monet.
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011