Wednesday, December 8, 2010


insanity |inˈsanitē|noun
extreme foolishness or irrationality : it might be pure insanity to take this loan | the insanities of our time.

ORIGIN late 16th cent. : from Latin insanitas, from insanus (see insane ).

I am in sunny, beautiful, and (extremely) cold Orlando with hubby. We are staying at a beautiful property not far from Downtown Disney. The weather here has been unseasonably cold. But the pool, despite the cold weather, is a sight to behold. Look at it...

It has been calling my name all week. Up until this morning I had been ignoring its call. Seriously, it is virtually freezing out!

But today I could resist no longer. It was insane, but I put on my bathing suit and made my way down to the pool. Without a doubt, it was pure foolishness. I must tell you that I had layers upon layers on top of my bathing suit: long sleeved tee, long pants, sweatshirt, shawl. When I waled outside the pool staff (all bundled up in jackets and hovering around one another) looked at me with disbelief. One guy noticed my handy-dandy googles in my hand. It was clear to him that I was serious about getting my swim on. So he assured me that while it was only about 50º in the atmosphere, it was a toasty 77º in the pool.

As I lapped around the pool all I kept saying (aloud and to myself) was, "This is INSANE!" Despite the insanity, I kept swimming. And surprisingly it felt good. The water was not warm, but bearable. More than that, it felt good to do something INSANE. I mean, honestly, I'm so straightlaced and put together. This was the wackiest thing I've done in a looooooong time and I am glad I did it!

For the record, hubby thinks I'm insane...but that's nothing new!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

For Colored Girls...

I've read Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuff more times that I can count. I was introduced to the choreopeom when I was an MFA student at Howard University. I have a cassette tape—yes, a cassette tape—of the original performance. I have a VHS tape (another dinosaur) of play produced for PBS (see clip below with Alfre Woodard). I have quoted this choreopoem in my academic work. I have quoted with choreopoem with my girlfriends while walking down 18th Street in Washington, DC. I have made artwork using this choreopoem as my subject. I have recited from the monologues to rock myself to sleep at night—I found God in myself and I loved her, fiercely. Shange's work of art has shaped my life, my scholarship, and my ministry. In many ways, I am fiercely protective of it. Needless to say I was less than thrilled when I first heard that Tyler Perry (and not Nzingha Stewart) was directing the work.
I managed to avoid all reviews of the movie--on television, in print, and online. I didn't watch Tyler Perry and the cast on Oprah because we all know that Oprah is notorious for giving away an entire move. I respectfully asked my friends to limit their remarks about the movie. I didn't want to know a thing. Not a thing.

Well, I saw the movie today. As much as I wanted to walk in as a critic, looking to see if Perry's work could stand up to the work that I knew and loved, as soon as the credits began to roll, I was a colored girl...
Watching the move, I shed more tears than I imagined I would. I cried tears of pain for the girl I once was. I cried tears of joy for the woman I am becoming. I cried for the daughters and mothers and aunties and grandmothers in our midst. I cried for the mothers of the church and the babies mother's in our midst. I cried. Tears are telling. Tears are cleansing. And I'll let my tears alone be my review.

image of book taken from
image from film taken from
image of tissue taken from


After reading my blog post, "Musings on Romans 8:28 and Ironing Shirts," my mother called me and suggested that I take the post down. She was nervous about my father reading it. (My parents are my "amen corner" and faithful readers of my blog.) I assured her that I did not purposely burn his shirts. It was in my carelessness I burned the shits. Thinking back, there were a host of things destroyed at 111 North 3rd as a result of my carelessness. Lord, have mercy.

Anyway, a day after my conversation with mom, my father asked me the question, "Is there a statute of limitations on burnt shirts?" He said it with such seriousness. But then a wide smile graced his face followed by a hearty laugh...Is that funny, or what?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Musings on Romans 8:28 and Ironing Shirts...

In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul wrote these words, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Notice what he said:
Not one thing, but ALL things;
Not some things, but ALL things;
Not most things, but ALL things;
Not nothing (no thing), but ALL things...

There are times when this just doesn't feel true. But it is amazing how time and the Spirit of God has a way of making me realize the power and truth in this statement. Let me give you just one example.

When I was growing up, around my middle and high school years, I was responsible for ironing my father's work shirts. Ironing dad's shirts really annoyed me. I was good at it, but it was a chore that I absolutely despised. Like any chore, I enjoyed it when I first started doing it, but when mom would call me home from a friend's house or my sister's house or would wake me up to iron his shirts, well you can imagine what happened. Add to this, EVERYONE made fun of me because of it. It was, and still is, the biggest joke among my sister's friends. And I hated it.

For the most part, I was good at it. But the fact that I despised the chore coupled with teenage girl rebellion and laziness led to many a burned shirt. (I did not rebel by cutting school or hanging with the wrong crowd, I dragged my feet in my chores.) Anyway, my dad's good shirts were ruined because I did not want to do the task. I did not understand why I had to do it. I hated the interruptions of my life because I had to iron his shirts. I hated the monotony of ironing his shirts: right sleeve, flip, left sleeve, flip, back panel, flip, right front, lift, inside right, slide over, left front, lift, inside left, lift shirt, collar. Did I say I hated it?

But today, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

But how could an annoying and monotonous chore work for my good?

In the mornings, as hubby is getting ready for work, I choose his shirt for the day and head into the laundry room to press it. The first time I pressed one of his shirts, I was grateful that I knew how to iron a shirt. (Thanks mom!) Hubby is crisp and sharp when he leaves the house. But more than hubby looking good, I now understand the time not as a monotonous chore, but rather as an intentional time of prayer. I pray for my husband's commute, his day at work, his health, his strength, and all things concerning his life. As I flip and press, slide over and press, lift and press I pray for God to bless him and give him peace. Instead of complaining, I pray. Instead of being annoyed, I am overjoyed for the opportunity to go before God on my husband's behalf.

And so, in this small thing and in all things, whether I understand or not, whether in a storm or in not, I now recognize that ALL things really do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.

Amen and so be it.

image taken from

Monday, November 15, 2010

And Your Daughters...

Although there is a shift in progress, in some places ministerial leadership is still an all boys club. I can recall my first semester at Drew. I heard the rumblings and grumblings from women whose ministerial gifts and graces were ignored, devalued, and outright rejected because they did not posses the correct genitalia that qualifies one for ministry. They were hurt. They were angry. They were silenced. They were confused. Most of these stories were voiced by women in historically and predominantly Black Baptist Churches—the very place where God has called me to serve. I must admit, I was frightened by these stories. I also must admit, I tried to make these stories my own. As much as their stories were true for them, their stories were not my story.

I am grateful to be under the leadership of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led man, the Rev. Dr. Allen Paul Weaver, Jr., who recognizes that God has called women and men to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His recognition goes beyond the surface. He is not simply pleasant to women preachers; He demonstrates his understanding of Scripture by nurturing and training both women and men in the ministry. He was the first Pastor in Bethesda's 122 year history to license women to preach, to ordain women to the Gospel ministry, and to ordain female deacons (not deaconesses). He has catechized a host of women from churches in the Metropolitan New York area as they prepared to be ordained into the Gospel ministry. I am the second woman clergy person to serve in the role of Assistant to the Pastor. Currently, our ministerial staff is equally balanced female and male. He invites gifted and powerful women into our pulpit to preach beyond Women's Day and Mission Sunday. Dr. Weaver understands that gender and genetalia do not make one more (or less) fit for ministry. He understands that it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, obedience to a call from God, being a student of the Word, and a love for God's church that makes one fit for ministry.

The prophet Joel uttered these words—from the mouth of God—to the people of Israel:

“ And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days."
(Joel 2:28-29 NKJV)

Lest we think these words are part of the old covenant, the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the people, used these words as fodder for his sermonic message. The Spirit of God can, does, and will use men, women, boys, and girls to proclaim what thus saith the Lord.

And your daughters...

I have had the pleasure, two weeks in a row, to witness an amazing move of God in ministry in predominantly Black Baptist churches. These events let me know that God is still on the throne, God is still moving, and that eventually people will catch God's vision...

Last Sunday we attended an ordination of deacons service at the Calvary Baptist Church in White Plains, NY. This was no ordinary ordination service. This was the first time in Calvary's 75 year history that they were ordaining women to the diaconate ministry. I felt chills as Dr. Weaver preached a word of challenge and blessing over the church and the women being ordained. I felt joy for the church and for those girls and boys who will grow in the church seeing women and men servings as leaders. I felt the Spirit as authority was conferred upon these four women.

Last night, after a marathon day at church, Pastor and I traveled down to St. John's Baptist Church in Harlem for an ordination service. The ordinand was a women that Pastor had catechized and prepared for ministry. She was also a women who went before council for examination the same night that I did. Although we were strangers on that night, as we waited for our turn before council, we affirmed each other, prayed with each other and encouraged each other in the Lord. She is now my sister and a co-laborer in the Gospel ministry. I was blessed to be counted in the number of those laying hands on her as God elevated her from Minister to Reverend. I was blessed to be able to extend to her the right hand of fellowship, welcoming her into this beautiful and strange vocation. If that wasn't enough, I found out in between the laying on of hands and extending the right hand of fellowship that she was the first woman ordained to the Gospel ministry in St. John's history. In that moment, I heard the shouts of that great cloud of witnesses—voices of those Daughters of Thunder—Jarena Lee, Amanda Berry Smith, Sojourner truth, Florence Spearing Randolph, Pauli Murray echoing in my heart.

One of the most poignant moments in the ordination service was during the charge to the ordinand delivered by Dr. Weaver. He charged the ordinand to be a preacher.
A preacher—nothing more and nothing less. He challenged her to be mindful of the nomenclature used to describe her ministry. He noted that when we mark ourselves—and are marked—as female preachers, we mark a distinction (which some might read as an inferiority). He called her attention—our attention—that in Christ there is neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, bond nor free (Galatians 3:28). He reiterated the fact that it is her Spirit given gifts that will make room for her in ministry, not her gender. Although his charge was for this particular ordinand, I must admit that I kept his words and have been pondering them in my heart (Luke 2:19).

Amen and so be it.

image of Florence Spearing Randolph taken from

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A cop out, I know. But I want you to know that I am here. My direction has changed a bit. I have been enjoying God, my life, my husband, my family, and my church.. I have been taking it all in. I have been living so as to have something to write about. But for now, I am...

speechless |ˈspē ch lis|
unable to speak, esp. as the temporary result of shock or some strong emotion : he was speechless with rage.
unable to be expressed in words : surges of speechless passion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Think on These Things...

When I dare to be powerful—
to use my strength in the service of my vision,
then it becomes less and less important
whether I am afraid.

Audre Lorde

Thursday, September 30, 2010

So Long...

In the Northeast, Summer seems to be kicking and screaming as she makes her exit. Autumn has been gracious, giving Summer a chance to dance her last dance. But still, she waits behind the curtain for her moment in the spotlight. Autumn is a time of deep, rich colors, falling leaves, cool mornings, and hearty foods. Autumn is a time when days get shorter and night comes quicker than you know it. Autumn is a time of gathering with family and friends to watch Sunday football on cozy couches that hold you gently. Autumn is also a time of gathering the harvest--when you get to feast on the fruit of the seeds planted during the Spring.

But, seasons are tricky...

As I made the bed on this gloomy Autumn morning, it dawned on me, "I am in the Spring of my life." In the metaphorical sense, I experienced Autumn a bit early this year. God granted me a bountiful harvest in my graduation, my marriage, my position, and my ordination. And while Winter--a time of rest and hibernation--usually follows Autumn this is not the case in my life.

Why all this talk of seasons, you ask? Well, as I mentioned before, it is Spring in my life. It is time to plant seeds and prepare for what comes next. That said, while it is day, I must be about my work. October and November prove to be busy months as I visit campuses, take the GRE (again), and get my applications completed so that I may begin doctoral studies in Fall 2011.

So family, friends, and passersby, I must go for a while. I'll be back in December. Until then, keep me in your prayers. I will be praying for you as well...

So long, for a while...

...And a 10K Rocks!!! (Guest Blogger Nikki G)

These are the reflections of Nicole, my friend and partner in racing crime from the weekend!

On last Saturday, I competed in the Boardwalk Relay for Hunger in Asbury Park, NJ. I placed 11 out of 32 women in the 10K individual. My time was 58:15. This is the race that prompted the 12 wk training program that I've logged on FB. This all started because of my friend Donna, who asked me to participate in the race with her. I gladly said yes as we competed in a 5k together 4 years ago. Ironically, we haven't run together since. It just so happens that we actually didn't run together for this race either because she's had 3 wonderful events take place in her life in a matter of 2.5 months, which led to us having different training schedules.

Needless to say, it was a warm 80 degrees in Asbury Park on Saturday. This was a beautiful race on the boardwalk right next to the beach. Since it was 8:30am, there was nobody out there. Just the waves, the sand, and the sun for me to look at for little less than an hour. Thanks so much for the love and support during the past 12 weeks.

I might be running a half marathon this Sunday that starts in New Rochelle @9am. After that, I have no idea when I'll be racing again, but of course I will keep you posted.

5K beats Zero K...

On Friday night, as hubby and I made our way from my pastor's 30th anniversary banquet just shy of midnight, I remember thinking, "Jesus, I'm going to need you to wake me up in the morning because there is no way I am waking up, let alone running. No way."Just in case Jesus didn't come through, I was preparing the excuses in my mind. I was going to be a flake. Again.

A few months ago my girlfriend Nicole and agreed to train for and run a 10k together. She took of running leaving me in the dust. After the wedding and ordination it was tough to gather the strength to even get out to walk. Just shortly after signing up for the Boardwalk Race Against Hunger in Asbury Park, NJ (close to my neck of the woods), I backed out. I was going to try to run it. It probably would have killed me. (dramatic, I know) My hubby looked at me one morning as I made excuses as to why I wasn't going walking and asked, "Are you going to be ready for your race?" "Yes," I replied confidently. He saw through my feigned confidence and asked me again, Are you going to be ready for your race?" "No," crawled from my lips as the tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt like a failure. Not only did I feel like a failure, I also felt like I was going to be disappointing Nicole. Again. So, I took the punk road and instead of calling her, I emailed her to let her know that I wasn't physically ready for the race but that I'd be there to support her. She was disappointed, yes. But she was also graceful and understanding...

Somewhere between backing out completely and race day, I decided to run the 5k instead. I figured 5K beats zero K any day. I emailed the race organizer and signed up for the race that would challenge me, but wouldn't leave me for dead.

Back to race day. I woke up that morning at 5:45am ready to go. Jesus came through as always! We showered, got dressed, ate, and made our way one hour to the race site. It was a beautiful (and hot) day. There were loads of runners. They were serious runners. We felt like amateurs in their presence, but we were prepared to do what we came to do. Nicole did her thing! She placed 11th in the female 10K runners group. I, on the other hand, ran. I did not run fast, but I finished the race (sort of, there was a blip in the turn around point so I was a bit shy of the 5K). And in the end, I felt strong, I felt beautiful, and I felt empowered! It was my first race in over 3 years.
I cannot tell whether or not I'll run another race this season or if I'll wait until Spring (my time) to train and run again. What I can say is that I am grateful to God, my body, and my friend for making sure I got through this one...

Just Fine...

Some months ago, I posted something about finally being comfortable in my curvy, fleshy, womanly body. I have to admit, this is nothing short of a miracle. I have been aware of the size of my body since I was in kindergarten. My weight, my thick thighs, my round belly had always been a source of consternation. I can honestly admit that for much of my life I did not like me--the outer me, that is. In my twenties and early thirties I fought with my body. I treated her unkindly. I starved her and worked her out mercilessly only to, a few months later, gorge her and give her permission to sit and do nothing for months and months on end. As a result, my weight went up and down and up and down and, well, you get the picture. My closet reflected this change. I had skinny clothes and fat clothes and really fat clothes on hangers and in bins just waiting until it was their time.

But this is a new day...

I am good with me. And, my husband is good with me. And, my doctors are good with me. But it seems there are some folk who haven't quite gotten with the program. I went to the gym today and decided to take them up on the one free personal training session. Well my trainer after pleasantries and required, but not authentic, compliments, asked me my height and weight. She then asked me my goals. I told her that I wanted get fit and lose about 5 pounds (picked up in the hustle and bustle after the wedding). She then ignored my goals and tried to persuade me that I needed to get to 125lbs and that she could get me there. I bucked. She bucked back throwing out numbers and words like dangerous and types of fat that she couldn't pronounce, let alone explain. But I stood my ground. First of all, I am quite healthy. Second of all, I am not my fittest, but I am no slouch. Thirdly, my head alone weighs 115lbs! Plus, and most importantly, I am good with my body. No one, especially not a stranger who is trying to milk me for 40 bucks a session, is going to lead me to believe that I need to be a size 4 to be healthy. I have been in this body for 34 years. I have been aware of her size for about 29 of those years. I am tired of hating her, hating me. I am tired of obsessing over every bite of food and every calorie burned. In fact, I had an aha! moment today while on the treadmill: Working out is much more liberating when you aren't obsessed with the results. These days, and for the rest of my days, I will be working out for self-care, not to be skinny....

So my goals, the ones I will share with ole girl when I meet with her on Monday morning are:
1)To have fun when I work out...
(I've already gotten back into my up, Zumba!)

2)To establish a routine...
(I want working out to be part of what I do like eating, sleeping, worshiping, etc.)

3)To build up my arm strength and my confidence enough to make that cartwheel happen...
(See an earlier post from January, I think)

If her harassment wasn't enough, I was accosted in the elevator of my mother's building a few hours ago. I was talking with a woman who has lived in the building all of my life. Apparently she had been literally watching me grow. She said, "You're gaining weight since I saw you last." First of all, grammar lady, grammar! Second of all, I saw you last week but you were too scattered to notice. And thirdly (what actually came out of my mouth), no I'm not gaining weight. She then tried to clean it up, put her foot in her mouth again, and thanks be to God, the elevator reached the seventh floor, our stop.

Why do people feel the need to comment on your weight? The audacity! What she didn't realize was that I am good with me and that I was feeling especially dynamite in my leopard print dress and knee high boots.

I was reminded of a comment my grandma made about my weight last November. At that time I was just getting on the road to where I am now. As always, my grandma made some comment about me gaining weight--this time used the word stout. What woman wants to be called stout? Huh? Anyway, I usually stay quiet when she brings up my weight, but I guess I had had enough. I politely said, "Grandma, are you trying to lower my self-esteem?" (I couldn't believe it had actually come out of my mouth.) She replied, "huh?" I knew she had heard me, I guess she wanted to know if she heard what she though she heard. I may have been an adult, but I still had no business sassing her. I boldly repeated the question. Instead of saying something harsh, she said, "I reckon not." That was the end of our exchange. That was also the last time my grandma said anything to me about my weight/body.

This is kind of random, but also related. I am moving to a place where I am refusing to participate in conversations when my girlfriends obsess over and speak negatively about their weight/body. There are so many productive things to talk about. We are too beautiful to wate our time on such chatter. Plus, it does more harm than good. Just as I am (finally) just fine, I want my friends--and all women in general--to be just fine with who they are, inside and out.

So, with that, I leave you with the wonderful words of Mary J. Blige. If I am not mistaken, this song is on every one of my workout playlists. It reminds me that I am good with me. It reminds me not to compare myself with others. It reminds me not to internalize the insecurities of others. Also, this particular video shows just how much of the joint this song is. Peep the news guy getting his groove on.

I like what I see when I'm looking at me when I'm walking past the mirror...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unheard Of...

Hubby and I went gym shopping on Friday. Not gym clothes shopping, but gym shopping. We traveled around our area to five different health clubs in search of the one. I was tired of ducking and dodging cars and deer on my walks in the neighborhood. It was getting a bit dangerous!

I'll spare you the details of our trip. (We did settle on a gym with a pool and classes and racquetball courts!!!) Let's just say, our day was kind of like this Loews commercial:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Parking Space Musings...

So, y'all know that I have been working as the Assistant to the Pastor at the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle four months now. (Time flies!) Well, said position comes with my very own reserved parking space. A parking space. For me. What?!?!?!

At first I was reluctant to pull into the space, like someone was going to come to my car and tell me to move. I wasn't yet ordained and I felt like I hadn't earned the space (as if anyone ever does). Every time I pulled up, I felt like a little girl playing dress up in her momma's heels.

But sometime over the summer, in between services when the church parking lot is poppin', I came to be grateful for the space. It is a good feeling to pull up to the church and know that you know that you know that you have a parking space.

And, if I may tell the truth for a moment, when I pulled into the lot for Wednesday night Bible study, I almost lost my mind when someone was in the spot. Gasp! How dare they? You know good and well that you ain't the Assistant to the Pastor, so why is your beautiful, shiny, luxury car in my space? In an instant, God reminded me that the work I do for Him is not about titles or amenities, but about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

But still, I have to admit that more than feelings of inadequacy, ease, and entitlement, the parking space invokes deep laughter within me. Sometimes I crack myself up! No matter how I felt otherwise, somewhere deep down inside, every time (yes, every single time) I pull into the church parking lot, ease into my space, hop out my car, and lock the door, I feel like I am in an episode of Amen. I can hear, "Turn on the Lights from Heaven Lord, Shine on me..." in the background. I can see Sherman Helmsley jumping rope and praising God that he didn't break his hip! Won't you laugh with me...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Beautiful Feet (Part III)...

This was written in March of 2009 for my Sacred Feet: Pathways to the Soul class. I am grateful for the women who shared their feet stories with me...

My fascination with feet, and the relationship with black women and their feet was prompted by the following quotation from bell hooks’ 1993 book Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery:

Another area of the black female body that receives little or no focus, but usually indicates the degree of body self-esteem, is the fact. Recent studies on women and shoes reveal that the majority of women in this society stuff their feet into shoes that are at least one size too small. Many black women have large feet and again find it difficult to find reasonably priced shoes. Yet even the black females among us who wear regular sizes also abuse our feet by stuffing them into shoes that are uncomfortable or too little. Since many black females have learned if we are to acknowledge that the happiness and comfort of one’s feet in daily life are crucial to well-being. This unlearning can begin when we pay attention to our feet. (hooks 92)

If care of our feet speaks to care of our whole selves, I wanted to know if hooks’ findings about care of feet, care of self, and shoe selection were still true 16 years later. I interviewed 25 African-American women, whose ages range from 18-73 (avg. 39 ), occupations range from student to anesthesiologist, and shoe sizes range from 6.5-12W (avg. 9). I asked the following questions: Age; Occupation; Shoe Size; How do you feel about your feet?; Do you care for your feet? If so how?; When it comes to shoes do you opt for comfort, style, or both?; What is your shoe of choice?; What is one word that describes your feet?; How many hours a day do you spend on your feet?; What is your most memorable feet memory?; and How do you feel about yourself?

My limited research speaks volumes about the nature of reeducation and self-care among African-American women. In fact, JW (73) cited her best feet memory as the healing of the gangrene in her toe as a result of a blocked artery. Since the healing she has not only cared more for herself, but she “diligently” cares for her feet.

On the subject of self-care, eighty-eight percent of women surveyed, do care for their feet. BS, a wise twenty year old, noted, “Of course I care for my feet. When your feet hurt, your whole body hurts.” 60% of the women surveyed get regular professional pedicures. The students I surveyed get professional pedicures when funds allow, but in this economy they have taken to caring for their own feet. All of the women who care for their feet mentioned a daily routine of drying in between the toes and slathering with cream. Other care includes foot massages and reflexology. For some the self-care is year round, while for others the idea of baring their toes in flip-flops or sandals in the summer months increases the likelihood that they will get a pedicure.

Speaking of flip-flops (the shoe of choice for summer months), the women I surveyed have an equal love for sneakers and stilettos! The sneaker is an obvious choice—32% of the women surveyed spend between 2-10 hours/day on their feet, and 28% spend more than 10 hours/day on their feet. Younger women (under 30) cited sneakers or flats as their shoe of choice. The thirty and forty-somethings are the stiletto lovers. Not surprisingly, the women over fifty cited flats as their shoe of choice. DS (56) even cited being barefoot as her shoe of choice!

While hooks’ observation that “ Many black women have large feet and again find it difficult to find reasonably priced shoes” still rings somewhat true today, the women I spoke with overwhelmingly choose shoes, regardless of kind, based on comfort first and style second. Gone are the days, especially for women 35 and older, of stuffing feet into uncomfortable or cheap shoes. In fact three women specifically mentioned purchasing well-fitting, good-quality shoes as part of their care for their feet. And while BT (21) may sacrifice style for comfort for a night on the town, and TC (33) cannot resist a “bad” pair of stilettos despite comfort level, comfort is important to 92% of the women I surveyed. In terms of shoe selection, retail stores have left much to be desired. KS (34) cites the difficulty in finding shoes that she likes to fit her size 11 feet. DT (56) used to despise her feet because they limited her style selection, but she grown to be “grateful for the large feet that carry this body.”

A large majority of the women I surveyed were, indeed, grateful to their feet, although some were not. The women described their feet in the following ways: beautiful, ten, long, flat, boney, skinny, supportive, deceptive, unpredictable, cute, big, durable, appealing, small, strong, important, painful, friends, sturdy, tired, and functional. While most women love their feet and love themselves, many are learning to love and care for both themselves and their feet. I believe this learning will further elevate the level of self-esteem among African-American women.

Among the most memorable feet stories, were beautiful experiences of digging one’s toes in the pink Bermuda sand, “standing knee deep in mud after a good rain in Mississippi,” using one’s long toes to pick up things off the floor, and a woman who learned to dance while standing on her father’s feet at her aunt and uncle’s wedding. BT (18) loves the way that her feet help her to praise God through dance. DW (31) and LS (32) have fond memories of their mothers playing with their toes as girls, however TR’s (32) mother was so obsessed with her daughter having pretty feet that she pedicured T while she slept. T recalls, “While not pleasant, it brings back fond memories of my mother teaching me the importance of self-care and upkeep.” Two women have feet memories that they cannot “share out loud.” Both women hinted at their feet memories being part of a pleasurable sexual experience. Perhaps they are like KB (43) who was told after a pedicure that she had “suckable toes.” BS (20) is pregnant and cannot wait to “resume unswollen feet.” Perhaps she will shout Hallelujah like Rev. DS (39) who “only had to wait 4 months [after giving birth] to wear a perfect pair of shoes that were absolutely gorgeous.”

What have I learned. Well, we have come a long way since hooks wrote Sisters of the Yam in 1993, but there is still a ways to go. There is certainly a correlation between foot care and self-care/esteem, however, based on my limited research, foot care (and self-care) among black women is on the rise. African-American women who care for their feet and speak positively about their feet, also engage in life affirming behavior and speak like affirming words about their whole selves. At a later time, I hope to continue this research in a more formal way. I believe there is much to be learned about the state of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health of African-American women from this kind of query. In the meantime, I’m caring for my feet more, loving myself more, and I just purchased two new pairs of good-quality, well-fitting shoes!

Beautiful Feet (Part II)...

This was written in February of 2009. As vulnerable as our feet are, this letter is equally as vulnerable.

Dear Tootsies (and Pinky, too),

Where do I begin? We haven’t talked much. I apologize, let me rephrase that. I’ve been talking all of my life, but rarely have I taken the time to actually listen to you. I’ve heard you, but I haven’t listened, heeded, or considered what you have been saying to me. In the almost thirty-three years that we have been together, I have only paid attention to you when Pinky bumped up against a wall, bed post, or some other large object whose presence my eyes failed to recognized. Pinky would yell, scream, holler, bawl—so loud that I couldn’t ignore her. Otherwise, I haven’t listened, and for that I am sorry. In fact, it wasn’t until I reread Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks, in 2004, that I even recognized that you need me to pay attention to you. In a chapter entitled “Dreaming Ourselves Dark and Deep: Back Beauty,” hooks wrote:

“Another area of the black female body that receives little or no focus, but usually indicates the degree of body self-esteem, is the fact. Recent studies on women and shoes reveal that the majority of women in this society stuff their feet into shoes that are at least one size too small. Many black women have large feet and again find it difficult to find reasonably priced shoes. Yet even the black females among us who wear regular sizes also abuse our feet by stuffing them into shoes that are uncomfortable or too little. Since many black females have learned if we are to acknowledge that the happiness and comfort of one’s feet in daily life are crucial to well-being. This unlearning can begin when we pay attention to our feet.” (hooks 92)

In few words, hooks spoke volumes about the way in which women in general, and black women specifically, relate to their feet. If I can be honest, when I reread the text, it was as if hooks was writing to me, about me, for me, on your behalf.

In many ways, your presence has always troubled me. Imean, with me being 5’2” and you being a size 10W or 11, you have always had a presence. I’m a short girl. That being said, you should be a size 7 or 8. But you are not, and we are an odd couple of sorts I was always told that from the knees down that I resemble Beaulah Powell, my maternal grandmother. Truthfully, if you take a photograph of both she and I from the ankles down, we are identical twins. That doesn’t sit well with me. My grandmother has never struck me as a glamourous woman. Strong, yes, but never glamourous. Her feet, my feet, are the same-strong, but not glamorous. Her feet walked cotton-fields—thick skinned, rough, spread wide like the fields.

I grew up listening to my momma playing jazz and blues on Saturday mornings while we cleaned the house. Well, Fats Waller’s tune, Your Feet’s Too Big, always touched a nerve:

Say, up in Harlem,
At a table for two,
There were four of us,
Me, your big feet and you!
From your ankles up, I say you sure are sweet,
From there down, there's just too much feet!

Your feet's too big!
Don't want ya 'cause your feet's too big!
Can't use ya 'cause your feet's too big!
I really hate ya 'cause your feet's too big!

All of my friend’s feet cooperate with them, but not you. It’s really hard to be nice when your presence makes me feel mannish, old-ladyish, hard-laborish. I cannot say I’ve ever dated a guy whose feet were much bigger than you are. In fact, I remember being so embarrassed when I found out that Esteban’s feet were not only smaller than you, but much smaller than you. I often wonder if your size contributed to our problems, or maybe it was my brooding over your size than caused issue between us.

Admittedly, I haven’t always treated you right. To guise the fact of your size, I often bought and wore shoes that were too short, too narrow, and too cheap. When I was partying, I wanted to be like Aloma, Stacy, and Kim and wear fiercely high-heeled shoes while dancing the night away. When I started going to church, I wanted to be like Minister L’Judie and Minister Nicola and wear fiercely high-heeled shoes while praising and preaching. And I did, but you suffered. Oh, how you suffered—ingrown toenails, bunions, and rough spots galore. But its not just high-heels that do us in. When ballerina shoes and flats became trendy, I followed along, and quickly learned that flats give Pinky corns and make your instep throb. I wish I could say that the pain made me buy more sensible shoes, but they didn’t. I’ve always been a good dresser—some would even say fashionable—and all I wanted was for you to match my style. To that end, I abused you, and I am sorry.

But your size wasn’t my only source of consternation. In recent years, I’ve come to know that you (and hands, too) suffer from hyperhidrosis. As a child, all I knew was that my feet were always sweaty and smelly. Again, not ladylike if you ask me. Not only were you big, but you were smelly. I feared changing for gym class, because it always meant taking off my shoes. I feared going to someone’s home that required me to take my shoes off. I resent the security checks at airports because it means being outed as a smelly-feet lady. You know I’ve tried everything—creams, powders, special socks, prayer. Just a few months ago I was traveling from Chicago after an exciting trip to the American Academy of Religion conference. I was on an intellectual and spiritual high until I passed through the security check at O’Hare airport. Not only were my shoes smelly, but the TSA officers made faces and said awful things about the smell. I wanted to run away, fast. It was like I was in high-school gym class all over again.

When I began to grow in my relationship with Christ, and was actively engaging in Bible study, my eyes were opened to truths about you. The psalmist wrote, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14). For so long, I hated and abused you. I did not recognize, that you, in all of your large and sweaty glory, were part of my inward parts that were made by God. I did not recognize that you had been covered in my mother’s womb. I didn’t recognize that you, like every other part of me, is a marvelous work of God. Even when my eyes were opened to that truth, I failed to act on it, for it mean forgoing stylish shoes for ones made by Easy Spirit and Naturalizer. I failed to act on it, for it meant not being able spend quality time at Nine-West with my girlfriends.

But more than that, when I answered my call to ministry, you had a totally new significance to me. The Apostle Paul, quoting the prophet Isaiah, spoke about the importance on the feet in the preaching of the Gospel. He wrote:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!”” (Romans 10:14-15).

The most significant piece of this writing is the naming of the feet of preachers as beautiful. I’ve never thought of you as beautiful before, but you are. Even your size is a blessing. You are my foundation, you keep me from toppling over, you keep me standing tall. You may look like Beaulah’s feet, but you are mine, and I love you. You may not look be glamoroust, but you are mine, and I love you. I love you because God made you, and gave you to me. I love you because you have anchored me for so long. I don’t have to wear fiercely high-heeled shoes for you to be attractive. I don’t have to be ashamed of your smell (although waking a few minutes early and taking to time to carefully dry every inch of you has alleviated the stink). God says that you are marvelous, beautiful, and who am I to argue that point! So, even now, I vow to treat you like the marvelous and beautiful works of God that you are. I want to be well, wholly well, so I vow to begin with you.



Works Cited

hooks, bell. Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery. Boston: South End Press, 1993.


Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible New King JamesVersion.