Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

 

by Rhonda Cooksey

Serving as blog editor for the UMKC Women’s Center has made for a joyous summer.  I chose my summer classes to help me learn ways to speak up for women, and what I have learned has been life changing.  By having the internship experience in concurrence with a class about women’s movements, my concepts of feminist political and social organizations has completely changed. I sense subtle shifts in my thinking about women’s issues that will ultimately shift my behavior, focus and trajectory. Working with the Women’s Center inspires me to learn more and do more for women and social justice.

I especially loved learning about Her Art Project. It’s for the students at UMKC and also for the entire Kansas City arts community.  We did a Stepping Stone project during Roo Connection Days that was a big success. New students did a healing arts project by choosing a colorful sculpey stone and writing an affirmation or goal on it that would represent this step in their lives. It’s a simple act that reminds women to take care of their mental health. We have a tendency to take care of everyone but ourselves.

There’s nothing like being part of a community of women helping women. It’s been an incredible experience that I will never forget, and I look forward to volunteering with the UMKC Women’s Center during the fall and spring semester. They have some awesome projects and events that I can help with. I guess its back to my home office for me, but don’t worry, I’m never alone. Luigi and his dog, Kira, are always behind me. And, Women’s Center, I’ll be visiting!

 

My Farewell to the Women’s Center

Jenna Gilio

As this summer draws to a close, my time at the Women’s Center must end. I cannot believe how quickly this time has passed! It seems like just yesterday I was publishing my very first blog introducing myself to you all. For my final post, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the things I’ve learned, the ways I’ve grown, and the experiences I’ve gained.

One of my biggest takeaways from this summer is the value of art and creativity. I have always enjoyed any opportunity to create but working at the Women’s Center has revealed how beneficial creativity can be. Many people experience art as a means of expressing their true selves. Others find connection through it. Some find it healing, both mentally and physically. The Women’s Center offers Healing Arts Workshops as an outlet for individuals to experience art in whatever way they find most empowering. My personal favorite activity was the Stepping Stones workshop. Not only are the stones beautiful, but they are also a tool to help you stay grounded in what is most important and meaningful to you. The phrase I chose to write on my stone was “You’re a goddamn cheetah.”

At the start of the summer, I decided to select a single blog topic to report on each week. One of my favorite authors and activists, Glennon Doyle, had recently released a new podcast and I thought it would be the perfect fit. Each week, I listened to a new episode and posted my thoughts and reactions to the Women’s Center blog. Sometimes Glennon spoke on topics I felt a bit afraid to write about, like religion and body image, as I didn’t want to trigger anyone or say the wrong thing. Through this experience, I learned it is better to dialogue about important issues and risk not always getting it perfectly “right” than to not say anything at all.

Finally, my favorite thing about working at the Women’s Center has been building relationships with other women and hearing their life experiences. I truly enjoyed getting to know my coworkers and speaking with new students at Roo Connection. I can honestly say these relationships have helped me grow as an individual, as a professional, and as an advocate. Though my time at the Women’s Center is up, I will always cherish the memories I made here. Farewell, Women’s Center!

 

Morgan’s Farewell Blog

Well, here we are. I am leaving the Women’s Center and going into the real world (scary). I have been working with the Women’s Center for a full year and still remember the excitement I felt when I got the email saying they were considering me for this position. It was my first zoom interview, and I was so confused about how to dress and whether to go casual because of Zoom or still go formal. I ended up doing formal and I think that helped me get the job. Along with the rest the staff of 2020/2021, I can say we had a unique experience with the Women’s Center working during a pandemic. It was different but still rewarding. And to be honest, I think we did well and stayed active during the trying times of the pandemic.

One thing I especially loved about working here was being able to create. I always knew I had a creative side to me, but I think the Women’s Center brought it out in me. I was able to create many projects while informing the community about women’s issues. A program called Afro Femme was one of the favorite contents I created. The program focused on using Instagram to educate the public about the history of Black feminists. Not only was I able to create but I learned a lot about these great women. I also enjoyed creating information for International Women’s Day. That event showed me what I can do under pressure to meet deadlines and it still came out well.  Besides creating content, I was able to learn from our other events. I recommend the Start Smart Negotiations Workshop for anyone looking for a job. It taught me what to do and where to go when it comes to your salary. I plan to use this knowledge for my first career job. Another informative event was the Who I Am: The Model Minority. I learned how model minority affects the Asian community and was able to listen to many stories about what it is like to be an Asian American, especially during Covid.

I know that working here has prepared me to work in the real world. I had never worked with an office staff and gained a lot of knowledge about how an office operates. I was able to learn email etiquette, which I think every school should provide a course to teach this valuable skill. I also learned how to execute an event in a professional setting and the standards it must fit. I am grateful for the Women’s Center, and I plan on continuing to get involved with organizations to serve my community.

 

 

We Can Do Hard Things: Our Bodies

by Jenna Gilio

On this week’s episode of We Can Do Hard Things, Glennon Doyle poses this question to listeners: “Why are we at war with our bodies and can we ever make peace?” Glennon begins by sharing her own experience with body image. At a very early age, she learned that a woman’s worthiness is beauty, and beauty is staying small. From the age of 10-26, she struggled with bulimia. Though Glennon overcame her battle with bulimia years ago, she admits that approximately 50% of her thoughts today are still concerning food, working out, and her body. She refers to these intrusive thoughts as the “opportunity cost” of obsessing. “The thoughts I’d think, the art I’d make, the activism I’d unleash if I had those thoughts back again,” Glennon imagines.

The solution society offers to those trapped in this internal battle is the one-size-fits-all phrase: love your body. But what does that even mean? Glennon suggests that in order to love our bodies, we must trust our bodies. And in order to trust our bodies, we must stop trying to control our bodies. The idea of relinquishing control can seem impossible because society and the media are constantly reminding us that “we can’t trust any part of ourselves,” Glennon adds. We are ingrained not to trust our anger, our ambition, our hair, our skin, our desires. “I have to believe that my body has a wisdom and a way that is better than my controlling plan for it. Because by the way, my controlling plan for it was never my plan for it. It’s a patriarchal idea that has been planted in me that now I am imposing on my body and have been forever,” Glennon shares. If we can’t learn to trust our bodies, we will never know their power. The wisdom our bodies use to tell us they want to eat or indulge is the same wisdom they use to tell us something is not right when we walk into a room. “When we deny our bodies, we lose this wisdom,” Glennon asserts.

This war we are at with our bodies can feel daunting. Rather than tackling it head-on, consider taking a single step towards peace. The Next Right Thing this week is to simply identify some of the masterpieces we have created in our lives and reflect on how our bodies contributed to them. This could be a relationship, a piece of work or anything we have been a part of creating that is beautiful. As always, when things get hard this week, remember that we can do hard things!

Thoughts on BBLs 

By Morgan Clark  

Recently there was a tweet on Twitter showing a line of women in wheelchairs waiting to be wheeled onto the plane from the Dominican Republic. All of them just received a BBL or Brazilian Butt Lift. There are many debates about the woman’s body and the beauty standards of today, but, as a woman who claims to be a womanist, this makes me wonder, is getting a BBL something that should be encouraged, or does it feed into the patriarchal views of our society? 

 To be honest, I am torn about how I should feel about BBLs. On one side, I see it as a way for a woman to gain confidence. Women who do not have the “ideal” body type can change their bodies to make themselves feel good. I have seen many posts about how women feel so much better about themselves after the surgery. And that’s what I want for a woman, to look at her body and be happy with what she sees. I also know that having a BBL can help with a woman’s livelihood, because some sex workers have seen an increase in revenue after their surgeries. How can I be upset about that? 

And I’m not, but I do think that BBL should be criticized just a bit. First, BBL is a fairly new procedure started in the ’60s by Ivo Pitanguy, the plastic surgeon known for creating the Brazilian Butt Lift. With it being a new procedure, we really do not know how it will affect the body when the patients are older. Also, there is a high mortality rate, one in 3,000 can die according to the American Plastic Surgeon Society. That’s a high number if you ask me. There are also critiques on how the BBL allows white women to achieve a shape that is looked down on in black women. There is truth in that statement that deserves another essay, but there are also a lot of black women getting this procedure. I believe that the standards of beauty have changed, and now women with small waists and protruding butts are deemed more beautiful/desirable. I feel as though although BBLs make a lot of women happy, but it can also be a way to conform to certain patriarchal views. We know from history that society has always placed a certain body type to be more desirable than other body types, and I think this time around it’s a BBL body. So, if a woman is getting a BBL, can one argue that she only wants to appeal to the male gaze? Or, does this surgery allow women to have agency over their own bodies? 

I think to answers those questions you must ask: “Why are you getting a BBL?” And, depending on the answer, you can see if it’s for them or to fit into society.

 

Must Read: Tony Morrison’s Jazz

by Rhonda Cooksey

Tony Morrison’s novel, Jazz, is not a single performance piece but an entire concert with narrators as fascinating as the characters. Their narrations are instrumental—instruments of storytelling that lead us through various riffs, solos, movements, and cacophonies to end in a somewhat harmonious rebirth of a marriage. The narrators might be male, female, a character, the City, jazz, or Toni Morrison, but they skillfully play out stories that make us like Violet, who tried to steal a baby and stab a dead girl, and Joe, who killed a 16-year-old girl for dumping him for a younger man. The narrative structure leads us to celebrate their love story. By starting with a condensed version of the facts, Morrison creates a mystery, not about what is going to happen but why things happen. The whys take us on side trips through Joe and Violet’s pasts to reveal the instability of the Black family in the Jim Crow era due to the legacy of slavery.

The characters are like members in a jazz band. Viola’s grandmother, True Belle, was a slave who had to leave her husband and family behind to accompany Vera Louise Gray, the disgraced daughter of her owner, to Baltimore. Vera Louise was not just unwed and pregnant, but pregnant with the child of a Black man. Slaves like True Belle had no legally binding marriages, and spouses were often sold away from each other and told a substitute would be provided. Frederick Douglas explained in his narrative, that he seldom saw his working slave mother but was raised by a granny who could no longer work the fields. Most slaves had no concept of a stable family life, but they did know the pain of watching their children and loved ones sold away. Violet’s father travelled for work and cared for his family but failed to provide a stable home life. Her mother, Rose Dear, had been abandoned when True Belle left for Baltimore and was often abandoned by her husband for long periods. When Rose Dear commits suicide, the children have to make it on their own. Neither parent could create a stable home life for Violet and her siblings. Violet claims not to want children but mourns her miscarriages, and, when she tries to walk off with a baby in her arms, a narrator tells us, “comfort settled itself in her stomach and a kind of skipping, running light traveled her veins,” and she thinks, “Joe will love this.”

Failed by their parents, Violet and Joe fail to become parents. Joe’s mother, Wild, had been about to deliver him when Golden Gray rescued her. We never learn if she was born with a mental disability of destabilized by rape, but she wants nothing to do with her child and is unable to live in society. Joe looks for both parents but becomes obsessed with his idea of the wild mother who rejected him. We are told, “There are boys who have whores for mothers . . . boys whose mothers who stagger through town . . . mothers who throw their children away or trade them for money. Joe cannot abide being abandoned by the wild Dorcas who symbolizes both the lost mother and the lost daughter. When Felice asks him why he killed Dorcas, he says, “Scared, didn’t know how to love anybody.” In that simple line, Morrison brilliantly sums up so much human tragedy that makes no sense. Under the oppression of Jim Crow, many Black Americans struggled to create the healthy family life they had never known. By interweaving the fragments of Joe and Violet’s childhood traumas, the narrators lead readers and characters alike to a state of forgiveness.

I see the characters as movements in a long jazz piece that repeats a similar musical phrase but in a different chord or sequence or on a different instrument. Dorcas knows Joe is coming. It is repeated over and over: “He is coming for me. He is coming for me.” It’s a refrain that she can’t escape. Honor is a 13-year old boy working for Joe’s father, Hunter, who helps Wild, the wild girl who gives birth to Joe. In the next section, 13 years have passed, and Joe is the thirteen-year-old boy. The themes repeat but never in the same way. Echoing Homi Bhaba’ s concept of mimicry, the discourse of the colonizer is repeated but in a discordant way.  Alice and Joe want the American Dream–family, friends, a home, a comfortable living, and to be comfortable in their own skin, but they fail to appreciate their inherent value in a society that has devalued them since birth. Music helps them do that, and that’s the best part of the story. Frederick Douglass spoke about slave songs and how the white masters mistook their singing for happiness when they were filled with sorrow. Those songs gave birth to the blues. The slave songs were often messages and warnings for workers in another field. They were a way of bearing the pain and asking God for help to bear that pain.  Jazz is a musical force that bends the blues and points to the possibility for music to heal the broken in heart and spirit. There is still pain, but there is a sense of power that is building and promising to set them free to live outside of domination and oppression. They are empowered by improvisation that moves them through cacophony to harmony.

The narrator in the final section seems “to have an affection, a kind of sweet tooth for” pain.” Pain for the characters and for the City.” Morrison as narrator tells us, “It was the City that distracted me and gave me ideas. Made me think I could speak its loud voice and make that sound human. ” The City plays an important role in this postmodern tale. In modernist texts the city represents alienation, isolation, and the loss of coherence, but Morrison’s postmodern characters love the City and celebrate its contradictions . . . “the range of what an artful City can do.” Anonymity among strangers and the possibility of danger is part of the allure. Even for Alice Manfred, fear becomes a well-known friend that leads her to war-thoughts. Black women in the City had to be armed, armed against policemen who put fists in their faces to break their husband’s spirits. Even unarmed women were armed by churches, “leagues, clubs, societies, sisterhoods,” because “any other kind of unarmed Black woman in 1926 was silent or crazy or dead.” Disarmed women and girls like Dorcas might end up with a bullet to the head. Morrison turns arms into a disturbing symbol. Not just pistols and switchblades, but the dead arm of Neola Miller. Her arm froze when her fiancé deserted her, leaving her to tell tales of moral decay “made more poignant by this clutch of arm to breast.” Men could also end up one-armed. Worried about meeting his father, Golden Gray thinks, “I thought everybody was one-armed like me . . . I am not going to be healed, or to find the arm that was removed from me. I am going to freshen the pain, point it, so we both know what it is for.”

In the final chapter, Morrison refers back to the pain that is like the loss of a limb, like the loss of an important part of the self, when the narrator claims to be in the hands of the very characters she invents her stories for.  Stories that end up revealing the author’s own helplessness, as “the characters danced and walked all over [her]” even as she made them busy, “busy being original, complicated, changeable—human.”  Morrison’s final chapter represents experimentation in the way she steps into and out of her own story. She pauses her authorial narration long enough to tie a bow on the ending; Violet and Joe get a sad bird that, like them, learns to harmonize with the music of the City and find pleasure in life. The narrator that is also the authorial voice turns back into an instrument and riffs about true love. It could be a saxophone, a piano, or a typewriter talking to a page that says: “But, I can’t say that out loud; I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that being chosen to wait is the reason I can. If I were able, I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.”

I have read other books by Toni Morrison and worship the pages she walks for her incredible literary art. I do not believe she intends to excuse Joe and Violet’s bad behavior but wants us to consider how disfunction gets passed from generation to generation. For some reason, Joe’s foster mother made him feel like an outsider, which added to his longing for his biological parents. Dorcas represents the troubled child Joe and Violet would never have. In a way, not bearing children breaks the cycle of poor parenting passed to Joe and Violet during their own childhoods. They had no way to learn to be good parents.  For me, hope comes from the fact that Alice and Joe show kindness to Felice. They heal enough to break the cycle, and they listen to music and nurture a young woman who is the right age to be their daughter. Reading Jazz, makes me ask: What cycles of gender and racial oppression are we continuing to repeat in our own lives in the twenty-first century?

 

Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself, Life Empowered Publishing, 2020.

Morrison, Toni. Jazz, Vintage International, 2004.

 

Zora Neale Hurston’s “Black Death”

by Rhonda Cooksey

Born in Alabama in 1891, Nora Neale Hurston set out to study African American folklore in search of the commonalities between races. As one of the first black, woman anthropologists, she travelled through the South collecting African American folktales. Bullied by white anthropologist, Franz Boaz, and others during graduate school, her fiction features strong, assertive women who refuse to submit to male domination. Known for her battles with fellow artists such as Langston Hughes, she is considered one of the great writers of the Harlem Renaissance and an early proponent of black feminism. Hurston’s stories celebrate subtleties and overtones that illuminate how survival techniques give power to those in powerless positions. Her conjure stories combine folklore and fiction in ways that defy dominant ideologies and restore pride in her cultural heritage from Africa and slavery.

Hurston’s short story, “Black Death,” tells us that whites consider the negroes in Eatonville ignorant and superstitious, but it is the black community who knows—knows their witch doctor, Morgan, is armed with skills the whites can’t see. We get a captivating list of testimony by the Eatonville villagers to substantiate Morgan’s magical abilities: “White folks are very stupid about some things. They can think mightily but cannot feel.”  While religion centers on proper behavior and supplication, magic manipulates reality with invocations and spells. Even in the 21st century, folk healers use spells, chants, poultices, concoctions, and charms. I once met a man in the Ozarks who has healing abilities because he is the seventh son of a seventh son, and I interviewed a granny woman who asks plants to become the medicine she needs. Her belief that plants respond through the bio-photons in their DNA combines magic with science. Folk healing tourism is still big business and so is hoodoo and voodoo.

Hurston subverts the dominant white point of view prevalent during the 20th century. By telling us that whites believe in what their eyes and ears tell them, not in hoodoo, while black people “see with the skin,” she validates black feelings and agency. Her short story voices the triumph of black women during the Jim Crow era who not only suffered economic and social disadvantage but domination by white and black men. Folklorist Roger D. Abraham’s African American Folktales, includes a story called “The Man Makes and the Woman Takes” about a woman constantly beaten by her husband. She asks God for the same strength as a man, but he refuses. She turns to the devil who tells her to ask God for a set of keys. They turn out to be the keys to the kitchen, the bedroom, and the cradle. The man complains to God about being locked away from food, sex, and his progeny. He asks who gave his woman the keys. God says, “I did man, I gave her the keys, but the devil showed her how to use them” (44). Folktales use magic, religion, and humor to bring meaning, relief, and possibility to difficult situations.

In “Black Death,” Docia Boger is misled by Beau Diddley, a name that implies a suitor with “diddley squat” to offer. Docia is pregnant, a fallen woman with few prospects. It initially seems that Northern born Beau holds dominance. He brags to Docia and her mother that he is not a “Southcounty” sucker. He brags to the other black waiters about his escape from marriage, and the community of men agrees “the worst sin a woman could commit was to run after a man.” Although Mrs. Boger cries when she learns that her daughter is pregnant, her tears give her the heart of a tiger, and “all Africa awoke in her blood.” She takes power into her own hands by purchasing a magical solution. The witch doctor, Morgan, makes her look in the mirror to accomplish her goal. The mirror reflects a woman empowered; a woman holding a gun and not just another victim of skin color, gender, and heritage. Beau’s reflection moves from “glaring and sneering” to fear as he faces the angry mother in the mirror and her conjured gun. When he dies from heart failure the next day with a mysterious powder burn over his heart, “the Negroes knew instantly.” Morgan’s spells galvanize the community during a time of cruel segregation and Jim Crow slavery. Docia, Mrs. Boger, and the black Eatonville village accomplish justice with the help of an unseen power.

It’s a story about racial and gender struggle that has an especially happy ending for the Boger women and the story’s female audience. White folks never know, because “he who sees only with the eyes is blind.” The black community asserts agency over their destinies in ways the white people can never see, and even black women can take vengeance on a man who wrongs them. In an act of ultimate revenge, “Mrs. Boger and Docia move to Jacksonville where she marries well.” This conjure tale voices the possibility for African American women to find and make their own justice in a society that places them at the bottom of the rung under white men, white women, and black men.

Hurston was a pioneering ethnographer and recorder of folktales and hoodoo stories in America and the Caribbean. She published numerous books and produced her works in film and on the stage. Sadly, her genius was underpaid and underappreciated. She died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave. Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) discovered her grave and had it marked in 1972. Hurston is now celebrated as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Black Death,” Hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick: stories from the Harlem Renaissance, edited by Genevieve West, Amistad, 2020.

Black Women in the Olympics Trials 

By Morgan Clark  

It seems like Black Women are showing up at the Olympic trials these past few weeks. Whether it’s breaking world records or demonstrating a protest, Black women are in the headlines.  

Sha’Carri Richardson If you follow track and field, Sha’Carri isn’t a surprise to you. She won the NCAA 100 meter race in 2019 and the Bowerman award, which is the highest individual honor in collegiate track and field. But for those of us who were not aware of her accolades, we now know who she is.  She has gained a lot of attention during the past few weeks, showing that she is someone to be reckoned with on the track. Sha’ Carri has one the fastest times in the 100-meter dash with a 10.89, which is .24seconds short of Flo Jo’s world record. Not only are her skills recognizable, but her style is, too, as she is known to have colorful hair at meets and qualified to go to Tokyo with bright orange hair and long nails. After winning, Sha’Carri ran to her grandmother to celebrate, only later revealing that she had lost her biological mother a few weeks before the Olympic trials. Unfortunately, she will not be competing in the Olympics because of her positive test results for marijuana. Many people were betting she would win the gold in Tokyo, and she will be sorely missed.  

Gabby Thomas, a Harvard graduate, qualified for the Olympics in the 200 meters. She also has the second-fastest time with 21.61 just a few milliseconds under Flo Jo’s world record. During the qualifications, she ran against Allyson Felix, a decorated Olympian. Gabby almost did not make it to the trials after her doctors found a benign tumor on her back, which caused the doctors to question if Gabby had cancer. Luckily it was only a benign tumor, and that day she made a promise to God that if she was healthy, she would win the race.  And she did! 

Sydney McLaughlin is the first woman to run the 400 meters under 52 seconds. Impressively, she did this while running against the previous world record holder, Dalilah Muhammad. Muhammad and McLaughlin have a history of competing against each other over the years. It was only a few weeks before when Muhammad broke the world record at the U.S. National. In her interview, Sydney recognizes her coach Bobby Kersee for improving her skills.  We will see both Sydney and Dalilah in Tokyo. 

Lucile Bluford

by Rhonda Cooksey

“Black women’s contributions to the American women’s rights movement and the efforts to recognize their distinctiveness in the struggle for gender equality have long been ignored primarily because of the social construction of race and gender.”  –– from Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice by Sheila Brooks and Clint C. Wilson II

In this Missourian archives file photo from Feb. 1, 1989, Lucile Bluford answers phones while working at the Kansas City Call.

Lucile Bluford was an iconic Kansas City journalist who fought for racial and gender equality on the national stage. As a black woman born in the North Carolina of 1911, she lived through Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. Working for seventy-one-years at the Kansas City Call, an African American newspaper founded in 1919, she served as reporter, editor, publisher, and, finally, owner. For more than seven decades, Bluford used her journalism to attack racism and sexism and replace them with tolerance and equality.

She had an interesting battle with the University of Missouri. When twenty-one-year-old Bluford became a reporter for the Kansas City Call in 1932, the paper was covering what her biographers call “one of the most significant civil rights cases of the 1930s” (6). Lloyd Gaines was denied admission to the University of Missouri School of Law in 1936 because of his race. He filed a lawsuit that challenged the separate but equal doctrine established by Plessy v Ferguson in 1896, arguing that there was no separate but equal law school for Blacks in the state of Missouri. He lost the court battle after the University of Missouri offered to pay his out-of-state tuition but took the case to the Supreme Court. The Court found in his favor but sent the case back to Missouri for a new state ruling that aligned with their decision. Lloyd Gaines never showed up for the rehearing of his case.

Brooks and Wilson point out that before the new hearing Bluford accompanied Gaines to Union Station to see him off to Chicago, where he was going to stay at the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity house for the summer. They quote her as saying, “But here’s the way he disappeared. He was staying at the Alpha house and one day he said to his landlady, ‘I’m going downtown. I’ll be back for dinner.’ And she said, ‘Well bring me’–I don’t know whether it was a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk, but something simple like that–’bring that when you come back.’ He said, ‘All right.’ But he never came back”  (7).  He never returned from Chicago and was never seen or heard from again. 

In 1939, Bluford applied to the University of Missouri School of Journalism to further test their Jim Crow policies, which she called “delaying tactics used to forestall racial integration” (8). Her biographers call her “undaunted in the face of institutional bigotry”  pointing out that she applied to Missouri’s journalism school eleven times and was denied admission every time (8).Throughout the struggle for civil rights, Bluford used the Kansas City Call to advocate for integrated schools, fair housing, and equal employment for women and Blacks. In 1984, The University of Missouri awarded Bluford an honorary doctorate and Honorary Medal for Distinguished Service to Journalism. 

Brooks, Sheila and Clint C. Wilson II. Lucile Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for social Justice, Lexington Books, 2018.

Queer Freedom: How Can We Be Both Held and Free?

by Jenna Gilio

On this week’s episode of We Can Do Hard Things, Glennon and her wife, Abby, discuss their experience of balancing their queerness and spirituality while combatting institutions that require them to deny themselves. Abby tells the story of her involvement with the Christian Church from a very young age. Abby shares that, though she felt deeply connected to certain aspects of the Church, she ultimately decided to abandon her religion altogether, because she did not feel she was accepted there. The message Abby received was that she could not be both gay and a Christian.

This story – Abby’s experience – causes Glennon to pose the following question to listeners: “Can I disagree with you and still love you?” Glennon asserts the answer to this question is no. She argues the word “disagree,” is disguised as a nicer, softer way to say “reject.” When you interchange these words, the question becomes, “Can I reject you and still love you?”, and the answer becomes a lot simpler.

Glennon and Abby discuss how some people and institutions who hold anti-queer beliefs are not as blatant as others. However, Glennon states that there is no such thing as an anti-queer private belief. In her words, “You are either for us or you are against us. There is no complicit middle.” She argues that there is no place for silence when it comes to anti-queer ideas. Glennon’s sister, Amanda, adds, “Those who are not dealing with this trauma need to work to create a world in which people don’t have to throw away what they need from a place because society has allowed it to become so unhospitable for them.”

Glennon wraps up the podcast by tying in Abby’s story. She asserts that it is indeed possible to have a spiritual community, if that is something you desire, without abandoning yourself. In her words, no one should have to “break themselves” to fit at the table. However, she stresses the importance of knowing when it’s time to either “raise hell inside of” or leave the institutions that require you to deny who you are or what you know is true. She adds, “Question when you are asked to swallow something that insults your soul.”

This week’s Next Right Thing is this: Is there anything that is tolerated or allowed to grow in the spaces you are involved in that you are currently complicit about and may require you to speak up? I will be pondering this question throughout my week. If you are interested in joining me as a member of my “Pod-Squad,” you can listen to You Can Do Hard Things through most podcast services, including Apple PodcastsAudible, and Spotify. Remember, when this week gets hard, we can do hard things!