Black Women Doing All the Things
I grew up as a preacher’s daughter. My daddy was and still is, an amazingly impactful pastor of a Black Baptist church in North Carolina. But please don’t get it twisted… it's not “evangelical”, his sermons centered on Black Liberation Theology.
But even with the church’s drive and mission to empower all of its members, its engine was powered by strong Black women working from behind the scenes.
Much like how the Civil Rights Movement operated. My mom, alongside countless other women, did all the things. They organized events, such as missionary activities, and “teas,” they directed choirs, ushered, cooked, cleaned, and kept the men in order, among a gazillion other duties.
All the while, the men, in their smaller numbers, held big titles, sat on the front row, and “policed” religious operations.
I am happy to say that today, this culture has shifted at my dad’s church, and many other Black churches. Women are in positions, with titles, power, and impact.
Much of the above changes were due to systems thinking and systemic changes in church leadership.
Systems thinking is a way of thinking that helps us understand how things work together. It looks at the relationships between things, rather than just the individual parts.
Systems thinking can help us see patterns and connections that we might not otherwise notice. It can also help us find creative solutions to problems.
So why isn’t everyone a systems thinker?
Well, it’s not always easy. Systems thinking can be challenging because it requires us to think about things in new and different ways. But the rewards are worth it. When we’re able to see the world as a system, we can begin to understand how it works — and how we can make it work better.
The changes I’ve seen among some of our Black churches, I hope to see within our greater society — one that has shifted the burden of our toughest challenges onto Black women across the diaspora.
At this moment, here in the U.S., our houses are on fire. (rising wealth inequality, gun violence, white supremacist racist targeting). And it’s not just our homes that are on fire, it’s everybody’s homes. It’s systemic.
For decades, the burden of “getting stuff done” has fallen on Black women…(my mother at church, Angela Davis, Stacy Abrams, … a myriad of grassroots leaders). All while this country continues to fail to address all the “bandaid” policies and initiatives, such as Jim Crow, redlining, single mother — “no father” public housing mandates, war on drugs and crime, anti-terrorism, stop and frisk. These initiatives keep setting our houses on fire.
The Boiled Frog
Daniel Kim shares the parable of the boiled frog. If you toss a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out to save itself. However, if you place it in lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog will happily swim around until it boils to death. This is because the frog only has the ability to detect sudden, large shifts in temperature rather than small, gradual changes. Even with improved temperature-sensing mechanisms, if the frog keeps hopping from one pot to the next, sooner or later that frog is going to get cooked.
We can’t continue to treat our problems with solutions that only address the symptoms. Instead, we must continuously strive to refine our mechanisms for detecting slow, gradual changes that lead to massive levels of homelessness, toxic communities, poor health, incarceration, and so forth.
Once detected, it is imperative that we understand our leadership role as systems citizens.
We can no longer allow THE SYSTEM to continue to shift all the burdens within underserved communities onto Black Women without Black Women having a seat at the systems dismantling table. We need to live and function as though we are the system.
Because we are the system. A diverse, multi-dimensional, multi-perspective group of women. We must also learn to communicate across boundaries. Because we are also one part of an even larger dynamic system.
Kim, D. (n. d.). Shifting the burden. Moving beyond a reactive orientation. The Systems Thinker. https://thesystemsthinker.com/shifting-the-burden-moving-beyond-a-reactive-orientation/