Ta-Nehisi Coates: Book Review & Reading List

 

I’ve followed, like so many other people, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ progressive, racially aware and socially necessary articles on The Atlantic for quite some time. I’m always impressed with his ability to speak what I struggle to articulate. As a young black writer, I find our voice is missing from most media outlets that are not, in some way, organized or published by a Black person. Coates is a refreshing voice and one whose reach, through the Atlantic’s platform, will advance the stories of Black people in America.

In reading his latest book, “Between The World and Me”, I found myself wanting to soak every page in highlighter liquid until the book was bright enough to catch the attention of any and everyone. I wasn’t satisfied with reading the book myself, so I gave it to my father. I talked about it at dinner. I talked about it while my father and brother silently watched CNN loop the video of Eric Garner being murdered by officers from the NYPD. The book is, in so many ways, a mirror to lives Black men in America have lived for generations. I believed, and still believe, America’s Black men are not only marginalized, but silenced. Their stories, their realities are not noted, written out or recognized. What Ta-Nehisi Coates has done with “Between The World and Me”, is speak to black men in a world that continues to systemically, socially, academically and financially ignore them. This is why I wanted my brother and father to touch the pages of this book and peel them back to read something that validates their existence. This book feels like a love letter and after every page  I felt as though Coates was whispering, “I am here…I know you are, too.”

Social movements are springing up across the nation to address the killings of Black people by police and white, racially zealous citizens. This book came at the perfect time when so many Black people have tried to have conversations – with ourselves, our families and the digital, academic and physical world we live in – about what the mass murders of Black people really means in America, the home of the brave, the land of the free.

I don’t feel like I have to say much else about this book. It’s amazing. It’s informational. It’s real. “It’s required reading” as our beloved Toni Morrison said.

If you haven’t read “Between The World and Me”, order a copy here.

Catch Ta-Nehisi Coates’ reading list and don’t forget to watch his amazing interview at the  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with New York Times Magazine and ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones.

To Be Praised Ministries: A Dinner Devotional

I decided, in the 4th quarter of 2014 that I would dedicate all of 2015 to living out my dreams. There’s literally no better time than now, and while that sounds completely cliché it’s also completely true.

To Be Praised Ministries, is a growing organization I formally started in 2014, focused on the spiritual and leadership development of women. Right now, there are 4 countries and 12 states represented on the weekly email campaigns. (If you haven’t signed up, use the link below!) Each week, I email a devotional about a topic pertaining to our spiritual livelihood. The point is, we study God’s Word together as women and grow in the likeness of Christ. Our digital community is growing and it’s a blessing. Community is a beautiful thing and the community of women in faith is even more beautiful!

This dinner devotional is the FIRST official dinner devotional I’ve hosted under the To Be Praised Ministries brand. While international ministry is important, I’m also eager to build community with women in person. I’m excited to have reached my goal of 20 women who have committed to attend. We will have food, fun, fellowship and then step into the Word together and get a jump start on the Bible study series, “An Appointed Time”, which will launch in September!

To keep up with To Be Praised Ministries, sign up for emails here: http://eepurl.com/4E6BD

& don’t forget to follow on social media!

Instagram: @tobepraised

Twitter: @tobepraised

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ToBePraisedMinistries

 

God loves you & I love you! Blessings! Stay UP!

Midsummer Night's Dream

“Behold I do a NEW thing”: To Be Praised Ministries

 

At 15, I began teaching Bible studies for  women. I’ve heard women in the church mourn mistakes they wish someone would have warned them about. I’ve sat with women in college study rooms who wept over reckless sexual behavior and undesired abortions. God has used me in such a special way to be able to truly have a heart for quality of life every woman posses.

Ministering to women has been a growing love and passion. I believe it’s ONE of the things I am called to do in this lifetime. One off Bible studies turned into organizing and developing the first Young Women’s Bible Class in the churches of Christ in the region. This class, which ministers to young women ages 18-31, is an authentic reflection of God’s heart for women. We are all restored. We are all redeemed. We are all still growing in Him daily.

And yet, God is and always has been, the God of increase. I knew, the class was merely one step in a larger staircase. I continued to pray and seek His will in my life and  To Be Praised Ministries was there all along, the answer from God. Six months ago, I created an organization to address a need I see in churches and in the world: fellowship among women who are studying God’s Word. Growing up in church, I felt a growing chasm between the women in the church and the women in the Bible. As founder of the organization, please read our mission and vision below. If you’re a woman or you know one, encourage them to check out the site! There’s a strong community of women growing, I pray you find it within yourself to join and learn more about God, yourself and the woman He’s created you to be.

 

What is To Be Praised Ministries?
To Be Praised Ministries is a community of women who study the Word together to learn how to become and encourage other women to become a biblical woman worthy of praise and an obedient follower of Christ.

What’s your vision?
Our vision is women across continental, country and state demarcations will unify through the Word of God to create an authentic sisterhood which encourages women to study the Bible and transform their lives into the life of a godly woman who accomplishes God’s will.

What’s your mission?
To Be Praised Ministries is committed to the spiritual and leadership development of women through Bible studies, devotionals, event hosting, and small learning communities.

Join over 150 women from across the United States, France and Trinidad in our current Bible Study “Grace Upon Grace”. Don’t forget to sign up with your email address (in the header at www.tobepraised.com) to receive the Bible studies in your inbox!

God bless!

 

Summer Reading 2015

Books are made, in part, for summer. Warm summer nights at the park or in my back yard, beach days, flights and vacations; the lush, green, sunny days of summer beg for a book to be brought into its midst. This year, I kept my Summer Reading List shorter than usual. My goal is to enjoy these books and NOT be deadline driven, do more research on the format/style of each text and incorporate additional resources into my reading experience (documentaries by the authors, interviews, movies, etc). So, without further delay, here are the books on my Summer Reading List 2015!

 Summer Reading '15

  1. Jesus Is___. by Judah Smith: I read a lot of religious books for personal encouragement and to help teach at To Be Praised Ministries and the Young Women’s Bible Class. This book, Jesus Is___, has really brought out such large theological principles such as authentic friendship, the sin in self-righteousness and grace. While I’ve already gotten knee deep in this book, I wanted to add it to my list because I plan on reading it and doing a review along with the follow up book, Life is _____.
  2. Paper Towns by John Green: I chose this book because I absolutely loved The Fault In Our Stars & Looking For Alaska. Green’s approach to young adult literature is artful and compelling. In each book, Green steps into the vulnerabilities and desires of teenagers and augments them, projecting them onto much larger canvases that make every reader, regardless of their age, question who and what they are. After every John Green book, honestly, I’ve never been quite the same. Paper Town is also in production to become a movie, check the trailer here.
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: This book, winner of the Newbery Award and National Book Award, ties together three things I love: poetry, history and African-American culture. I remember walking through bookstores with my mother during the summer months as a child; I would do anything to get her to buy more than one book! I’m confident Brown Girl Dreaming will speak to my inner brown girl who dreamt of writing books for other brown girls.
  4. NW by Zadie Smith: I have never read a book by Zadie Smith before. I know, I deserve severe punishment. I’ve had her on my Amazon Wish List for years and never had “time” to do the research I wanted to do prior to reading one of her books. So this year, I decided to watch a few interviews and conversations curated by Smith to get a feel for what issues compel her to write. While walking through the bookstore, I turned around and there, this book was staring back at me. It felt like fate so I picked it up. I’m very excited to read NW and unpack the social complexities of urban life and the relationship between self and city and others.

If you’re reading anything this summer, I’d love to know what it is! If your’e interested in reading one/some of these books, comment or email me. If not, check back in for a review of each book as well as additional info about the authors. 

Happy reading & happy summer sunshine!

#ErikaKimberlyreads

 

#2 Scripture of the Week: Wonders In The Deep

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.” Psalms 107:23-24 (NKJV)

I am fascinated by cities and oceans. The two are extreme in some ways, but eerily similar in others.

You can get lost at sea and you can get lost in an ocean. Sometimes, when I walk through New York City I love that each person passing by is a stranger I love the air of their untold stories, I love that we swim among each other on concrete slabs without knowing anything about each other. Oceans are the same way. Vast waves beat against the shore and when you’re in the middle of the sea you can lose yourself to the waves and under them.  

What’s interesting about water is that it’s not man made. You see, cities tend have a certain glory about them. Busy streets filled with cars zipping past pedestrians, tall buildings and unspoken rhythm are all reflective of mankind. Who we are. What we make. On the contrary, the ocean’s glory belongs to God.  

The next time you’re in the ocean, think of this verse. Remember how beautiful God’s created Earth is. We, in our finite power, can never duplicate the world God made for us to live in. Through enjoying God’s creation we see Him clearly. He shines through the Sun, He whispers through the wind, He cradles through a gentle wave. God’s glory is evident. Will you take some time this week to acknowledge it?

#01 Scripture of the Week: Keep Walking

“You shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.” -Deuteronomy 5:33.
I don’t know where 2015 will lead us. I certainly don’t know where it will lead me. I do know, every step of the way, God is with us. I do know, every bend in the road, leads us deeper and deeper into His grace. 2015 will be a year of ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, no doubt. I pray it is also the year we keep on walking. 
On the track this summer, lap by lap, I’d stake out a marker a few feet ahead. Instead of thinking of all the steps I needed to complete in order to accomplish 2 or 3 miles, I decided to focus on shorter goals. One day it may have been the end of the bleachers, another it could have been the end of the football field. In any event, the shorter goal made the larger goals so much more possible.
I wonder if we can apply the same logic to our spiritual lives in 2015. Can we commit to walking with God faithfully one day at a time? Can we pray each morning in hopes to create a habit of talking to God before we start our day? Can we carve out enough time to read the Word for 7 days straight instead of the lofty “read the Bible in a year” goal? 
I, by no means, want to minimize larger goals…we should certainly have them! I do, however, want to encourage us to find ways to locks hands and arms with Jesus and follow in the commands of God. He doesn’t want us to stumble through the year; God didn’t design us to stumble. He designed us to be victorious, conquerors made in His image. 
Let’s make a commitment now, all of us together, to keep walking and pressing into God’s commands and into His Word. May this be the year we keep on walking, even if we walk slowly, towards God the Father and into His hand. 

 

Poetic Protest: We are a discrimiNation

I was (and still am) sickened by the disgusting comments being made on social media in the days and week after Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s murders. My only encouragement came from people who were actively speaking out about the injustice in a productive and meaningful way. Yes, this about color. Yes, this is about right and wrong. Yes, this is about how we can do better as a country when African American men as disproportionately jailed (often wrongfully) and murdered by police. I am a descendant of many hard working, God fearing black men. My father is a black man and my brother is a black man so the ignorance swirling around these deaths aren’t about theories for me, they have so much to do with my life and the men I love the most.

Civil disobedience and freedom of speech against social injustice were critical pieces of the civil rights movement, a movement that has led us back an America where change is needed.

As a poet, I knew I wanted to pen my observations and feelings despite the difficulty I had in doing so. That’s when I made an open call to my Facebook friends to join me in a poetic protest. I had no idea who would respond, I just felt obligated to create a space for others to think, feel and write; I welcomed anyone to mourn, grieve and purge themselves through words. The response was so beautiful and overwhelming. It took me so long to edit the responses into the poem below partly because I was in awe of the thoughtfulness each person gave this project. Thank you ALL who participated, each of you are my muse. Thank you for giving of yourself and giving of your time. May you continue to speak and write and may you continue to dream of a better tomorrow. Each of you vary in age, gender and race which is why this poetic protest is so beautiful, it is a reflection of the kaleidoscopic America we’ve all pledged allegiance to.

Please share, and share, and share this link! The world deserves to hear us.

 

-Erika Kimberly

 


poeticprotest
Photo originally found on: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jonpremosch/ferguson-michael-brown-darren-wilson-protests-photos-grand-j#.qi52XV5AM

We are a discrimiNation

Under the whip
Grew an industry, the new empire
Tobacco the cash crop, but no cash
Shared by sharecroppers.

Corporate persons’ interest
Protected by beat coppers –

Ironic we kill black men for stealing—
selling cigarettes
Excuse me sir, I believe those were already paid for
When you rode the non-existent coattails
Of our slave beholden brethren
For surely you can see we stole their coats,
Their rights, their boots
The boots you now ask them to pull themselves up by
Forgetting the forceful boost we once received
And still benefit from
Those straps never arrived for them
Placed on back order until the laces got twisted
Into ropes suspending strange fruits from Southern trees

What does it mean?

The fourth of July
“My country tis of thee
Dry land of inequity
Of thee I scream
Land where my brothers die
Land where black mothers cry
Praying from every graveside
Let freedom ring!”

 

Mislabel black as thy enemy
Are we free to live?
Old stories fall away
History being made by all of us now.
Can you feel it?  Can you feel this change in the air?
I know you do. Some of you are lashing out,
Some of you are finding your voice, some of you
are stepping back, some of you are stepping up.
Change is scary, uncomfortable. You are part of this
Your actions, too.
No matter how much you may not want to be part of this
you are.

We want a new normal. 

That’s the murmur of the mothers talking
low at the table nearby,
the shock of the big nothing that happened
after Eric Garner’s death,
this is nothing new to them, it’s a common tragedy.
it’s a paragraph in an afternoon talk
they watch their sons play with the castle
on the carpeted library’s floor.

Where do we go from here?
“We the people” demand true freedom and equality.
Streets, bridges, and highway fills
city to city ’til we reach Capitol Hill

No, we are not where we should be

but we will get there.

Hold on, we will get there.

written by: Joshua Fisher, Shonrael Lanier, Lance Errol Moo, Da’trelle Snell, Jennifer Jones, Susan Clarkson Moorehead, Jessica Martinez and Erika K. Stanley

“The Subway” Published!

One of the poems from my thesis was published this weekend by a fabulous website, “Woman Around Town”. I wrote this poem while thinking about all the wealth and privilege within my hometown Bridgeport, CT.  To the shock of some and to the dismay of others, Bridgeport does have wealthy residents and there are also very poor destitute people who reside in the city as well. Like most cities, Bridgeport is complicated in a beautiful and challenging way. It’s polarized politically, economically and yet the I’m drawn to it every day. 

The opening line of the poem is my offering to myself and to you.. “we all hunger. we all thirst”.

…we all hunger and thirst for something, but life isn’t in what we lack. Life is about what we give to fill another’s lack. 

 

“Thank you” to the wonderful staff at Woman Around Town. Your submission process is seamless. 

 

“Be fruitful”

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” Genesis 1:27-28 (NKJV)



You are made in the image of God. Yes, you reading this right now – you are made in His image. I don’t know exactly what God looks like and there aren’t any scriptures dedicated to sketching God’s visage through words. But by looking at ourselves in the mirror, I do believe we can find glimpses of Him staring back at us.

When I walked around the perimeter of my yard today, I snapped a few photos. Lustrous hues of honey, ravishing raspberry colored leaves, and opulent oranges littered the grass and dangled on tree limbs. In fall, everything comes alive even as it dies.

As I walked away from the line of burning bushes I thought about God telling Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. This time of year is called the harvest; it’s the time when farmers pick fruits and vegetables that entered into the Earth seasons ago as seeds. This season’s fruit still obeys the spoken Word of God uttered years and years ago when He said in the garden that seeds would bear fruit “after its kind”.

I wonder if we can obey the spoken word of God the way the Earth naturally does. Jesus said in John 8:29, “for I always do what pleases Him”. Can we strive to be as obedient? 

Instead of physical fruit, God is looking for us to bear spiritual fruit. Instead of being restricted to seasons, God allows us to bear the most beautiful and succulent fruit day by day. Galatians 5:22 & 23 says, “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”.

I’m asking you today, you who are made in God’s image, are you bearing fruit? Are you loving those who are difficult and disrespectful? Are you joyful in times of trouble? Are you peaceful amidst life’s chaos? Can you be patient and kind to those who mock you? Are you faithful to God even when you don’t understand His will and way? Can you be gentle with those who are angry? Do you maintain self-control when it’s most difficult? 

It’s not easy to harvest the very characteristics of God. It’s not easy but, it is necessary. As long as you are made in God’s image your spirit should reflect His Spirit.

In fall, everything comes alive even as it dies. May this harvest season cause you to dig deeper into the soil of your soul and pluck forth the sweetest fruit that will give you life and life more abundantly.

Be fruitful…