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Womanist Theology: Recognizing Black Women’s Leadership, Contributions to the Black Church

“To do womanist theology, we must read and hear the Bible and engage it within the context of our own experience,” Dr. Jacquelyn Grant said. “This is the only way that it can make sense to people who are oppressed. Black women of the past did not hesitate in doing this and we must do no less…”

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Rev. Dr. Martha C Taylor
Rev. Dr. Martha C Taylor

Part One

By Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor

During this Women’s History Month as we review the history of the Black Church we are reminded of the development of Womanist Theology that recognizes the lived experiences and contributions of Black Women.

The white, middle class Feminist Movement did not perceive Black women as their “sisters.” The focus was on their equality to white men in the workplace. They were not concerned with racism and class that impacted Black women.

James Cone, the “father” of Black Theology and renowned professor, critiqued the teachings of theology in seminaries that overlooked the lived experiences of Black people and the Black church.

Drs. Jacquelyn Grant, Katie Cannon and Delores Williams, Ph.D. students of Cone, told him that Black Theology excluded the lived experiences of Black women. Cone later said, “When I read my book today, I am embarrassed by its sexist language and patriarchal perspective. There is not even one reference to a woman in the whole book!”

These women scholars began to develop a theology that considered the lived experiences of Black Women using the oppressors of racism, classism and sexism. Womanist Theology affirms the previously ignored historical contributions of Black women who have been silenced and ignored in other theologies.

“To do womanist theology, we must read and hear the Bible and engage it within the context of our own experience,” Dr. Jacquelyn Grant said. “This is the only way that it can make sense to people who are oppressed. Black women of the past did not hesitate in doing this and we must do no less…”

In the Fall of 2011, when I was serving as an adjunct professor in the Doctor of Ministry and the Master of Divinity Programs at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, I approached the late Rev. James Noel, PhD, the only African American to head a department, namely Black Church/Africana Religious Studies Certificate Program.

With his support, I gathered a group of Bay Area Black women scholars, professors, and pastors. To our authenticity as Black mothers, grandmothers, other mothers, sisters, and aunties, who lived in the Black Community, we brought our theological education and lived experiences as Black women to the “kitchen table” and brainstormed about how we could bridge the divide between the seminary and our beloved Black community.

We were not naïve that sexism was alive and well in the majority of Black churches. However, not all male pastors practice sexism.

We linked theology, anthropology and sociology in terms that could be understood by non-seminarians. We used the words of Jesus who posed a question to His disciples: “But who do they say I am?” [Matthew 16:15] to brand our symposiums.’

Workshops did not focus on pain and sorrow only. We emphasized the strides of Black women across the board. Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the guest speaker at our first conference.

The Womanist Project was an anchor in the community that shed light on understanding the history of womanist theology including using stories in the Bible and in our everyday lives. The work of the symposium lasted more than five years and was one-of-a-kind in the Bay Area.

There were times that sessions were standing-room-only, and attended by all peoples. Students at the Graduate Theological Union began to write on womanist thought.

The birth of Black churches in the Bay Area would not have emerged if it weren’t for Black women. Black women opened up their homes for prayer meetings, Bible study and more.

For instance, the Market Street Seventh Day Adventist Church in Oakland was founded in 1923 by three pioneering Black women. The same holds true for Oakland’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church, founded in 1929 by three Black women.

Though these women founded churches, they did not lead the church as pastors. Bishop Ernestine Reems opened the Center of Hope Church in 1968 in Oakland. I dare say there would not be a single Black church in the Bay Area or otherwise if it were not for the women.

Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor, is a long-time member of Allen Temple Baptist Church and serves as the historian/archivist. She is the past historian/archivist for the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc, Washington, D.C. She authored a first-of-its-kind epic history book “From Labor to Reward, Black Church Beginnings in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond 1849-1972.”

A former adjunct professor at the San Francisco Theological Seminary she continues as an advisor to students writing their doctoral dissertations. Dr. Taylor is dually ordained Baptist and Presbyterian and served as “installed” pastor at Elmhurst Presbyterian Church and pulpit supply for the Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

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Oakland Post: Week of February 14 – 20, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of February 14 – 20, 2024

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Oakland Post: Week of February 7 – 13, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of February 7 – 13,, 2024

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PRESS ROOM: Oakland Pic Hosts New Year’s Career & Resource Expo 

OPIC CEO Pastor Raymond Lankford expressed his enthusiasm for the event, stating: “This Career Fair is not merely a gathering of employers and prospective employees; it’s a platform for opportunity, growth, and community collaboration. We are thrilled to bridge the gap between Oakland’s talented residents and the employers who recognize their potential. Together, we are building a stronger Oakland.” 

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Connecting Employers and Talent in Oakland and Beyond 

OAKLAND, CA – Oakland Private Industry Council, Inc., is hosting the New Year’s Career & resource Expo on Thursday, February 8, 2024, at 12 noon at the Oakland Coliseum – Eastside Club – 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland CA 94621.

This exciting event brings together over 70 employers, all seeking to hire Oakland residents with various skill levels to fill a wide range of employment opportunities. Additionally, a collaborative of resource agencies will be in attendance, providing further assistance to job seekers.

OPIC CEO Pastor Raymond Lankford expressed his enthusiasm for the event, stating: “This Career Fair is not merely a gathering of employers and prospective employees; it’s a platform for opportunity, growth, and community collaboration. We are thrilled to bridge the gap between Oakland’s talented residents and the employers who recognize their potential. Together, we are building a stronger Oakland.”

For more information or to request media access, please contact Yawo Tekpa at yawot@oaklandpic.org.

OAKLAND PIC HOSTS NEW YEAR’S CAREER & RESOURCE EXPO 

  • Who:             All job seekers, with all ages and experiences welcome
  • What:              Connecting Employers and Talent in the Community
  • When: Thursday, February 8, 2024 at 12 noon
  • Where: Oakland Coliseum – Eastside Club – 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland CA 94621.

OPIC INVITES YOUR ORGANIZATION TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR UPCOMING NEW YEAR’S CAREER & RESOURCE EXPO!!!

Dear Esteemed Employer & Community Organization Partner,

Oakland Private Industry Council, Inc. (OPIC) is excited to wish you a warm welcome into 2024! A new year, a new HOPE!!!

We enthusiastically invite your organization to participate in our NEW YEAR CAREER & RESOURCE EXPO at the OAKLAND COLISEUM!!!

DATE: THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2024

TIME: 12:00 NOON – 3:00 P.M.

LOCATION: OAKLAND COLISEUM – EAST SIDE CLUB

ADDRESS: 7000 COLISEUM WAY, OAKLAND CA 94621

Participating Employer & and Community Resource Partners will receive one six-foot table and two (2) chairs for this event. Additional information, including event details and logistics, will be forwarded after you sign-up.

Please confirm your attendance by completing the online registration link below by JANUARY 31, 2024 at the latest.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bfv0LXBexc26AeE_cosSoQrpYrx2HXOIwn1bG47chwU/edit

Thanks to our invaluable network and partnership, we are giving HOPE to many community members through quality employment opportunities and supportive resources.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact Yawo Tekpa, Assistant One-Stop Operator/Events Coordinator, at (510) 419-0392 office/ (510) 499-6657 cell.

Sincerely,

Raymond Lankford                Yawo S. Tekpa,

CEO                           Assistant One-Stop Operator/Events Coordinator

raymondl@oaklandpic.org                   yawot@oaklandpic.org

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