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Throughout the #BlackSkinWhiteSin forum I was asked the question, “so sis, what’s next?” The truth is, this work intentionally leads to a variety of openings – within academe, the Black Church, black families, black collectives, black institutions, black interiors and beyond. My hope is that these portals commission a shift in how we engage black women and girls’ bodies, sex lives, histories and futures. And so the aim of this momentous work was to ignite and mark a material, intellectual, cultural, social and political move, movement, and modification, where we recognize black women and girls as deciding, desirable, desiring, sufficient, deliberate, autonomous and intrinsically sacred honest bodies invested in and insistent on self-love, self-definition, consensual liaisons, sexual pleasure, bodily exploration and sacred communion. It was to un-closet, name and celebrate that which is “messy, sticky, and…joyous” (Morgan 2015) as not only a fundamentally human right, but as a legitimate expression of those – rich black earthly figures – made in the image of the Divine. It was to unequivocally posit black women and girls are sacred sexual subjects – all at the same time. And not theoretically, but in real time, real space and in the flesh. Thanks Be to God.
So what’s next is more reading, writing, thinking and doing – on our part and yours. More theorizing, theologizing, working through, pushing back-against-and forth, and living. In terms of theorizing and theologizing, some of us (as well as some others) will be participating in a Special Issue at Black Theology: An International Journal in 2018 titled, “Black Bodies in Ecstasy: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Politics of Pleasure.” The Special Issue differs from #BlackSkinWhiteSin in that it explicitly theorizes and theologizes a way forward; forging an alternative discursive gateway, if you will. In addition to resisting explicit puritanical sexual ideologies and implicit cults of dissemblance, erotophobia and hyper-moralism – wherever they exist, the Special Issue introduces a range of sex positive theologies of the messy, gray, slippery sort, thus marking a ‘significant break’ in black feminist theoretical, womanist theological and Black Church discourse.
So what’s next for you? A reading group? A dissertation? A song? An apology? A movie? A paper? A sermon? A conversation? A course? A curriculum? A bible study? A talk with your children or loved ones? A mirror affirmation? Whatever it is, I hope that it honors black women and girls’ autonomy rather than police and violate it. As the old saying goes, “once we know better, we do better.” Of course this isn’t always the case. But nevertheless, the tools to do the latter have been granted. We laid the groundwork. But please be clear: this here is collective work. We invite you to read, re-read and share all of the works in #BlackSkinWhiteSin, to sit with them, and to wade the deep, dizzying, roily and uncomfortable waters again and again with us. The issue of black women and girls’ sexual impurity and consequential sprint toward virtuous drag, that is, the interminable nadir oscillating from ho-dom to holiness, is bigger than Bynum. And more, it’s larger than the Black Church. Yet both, among many others, are pivotal to its conservation. With this in mind, I offer a gift: a working bibliography ‘toward black feminist/womanist sexuality theory/theology’ (in no particular order) full of helpful texts for your perusal, musings, and deployment.
Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective and Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant by Kelly Brown Douglas
Loving the Body: Black Religious Studies and the Erotic edited by Dwight Hopkins and Anthony B. Pinn
Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology by Pamela Lightsey
Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Religion by M. Shawn Copeland
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Black Feminist/Historical Texts
Hine Sight: Black Women and the Re-Construction of American History by Darlene Clark-Hine
Black Feminist/Theoretical/Historical Texts
Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture by Kimberly Wallace-Sanders
Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture by Hortense Spillers
The Black Woman: An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara
Reconstructing Womanhood by Hazel Carby
“Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” by Audre Lorde
Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture by Janell Hobson
Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French and Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting
A Taste for Brown Sugar: Black Women in Pornography by Mirelle Miller Young
*”Why We Get Off: Moving Towards a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure” by Joan Morgan (a genealogy)
“Searching for Climax: Black Erotic Lives in Slavery and Freedom” by Treva B. Lindsey and Jessica Marie Johnson
Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism between Women in Caribbean Literature by Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley
The Black Body in Ecstasy: Reading Race, Reading Pornography by Jennifer Nash
The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography by Ariane Cruz
Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures by L.H. Stallings
Intimate Justice: The Black Female Body and the Body Politic by Shatema Threadcraft
Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred by M. Jacqui Alexander
The Life and Times of Sara Baartman: “The Hottentot Venus” by Zola Maseko
Adina Howard 20 by Gezus Zaire
Tamura Lomax, curator of #BlackSkinWhiteSin and “Black Bodies in Ecstasy: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Politics of Pleasure,” is an educator, writer and believer in social justice. She received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Religion where she specialized in Black Religion and Black Diaspora Studies. In 2014 she published Womanist and Black Feminist Responses to Tyler Perry’s Cultural Productions (Palgrave Macmillan), a co-authored edited volume with Rhon S. Manigault-Bryant and Carol B. Duncan, and is presently finishing up her first single authored monograph, Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Black Religion and Black Popular Culture (Duke University Press). She is co-founder, along with Hortense Spillers, of The Feminist Wire.