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Dear alumni/ae and friends,

I was raised in a world of beauty parlor philosophers. We were a black trans-class of college professors, public school teachers, lawyers, secretaries, beauty shop owners, tobacco factory workers, a house of ill repute, police officers, nurses, doctors, principals, insurance agents, piano teachers and retired folks. In that colored orneriness world, the children of my generation were consistently told that God loves us, adults love us, and that we needed to share the love that had been showered upon us with others.

It was a world where people mattered, no matter where they fit into the structure of our community. And it was also a world in which we learned about racism and how to survive it; and that there were folks in our community who were bit odd (now we call them queer), but they were still a part of our community and we must love them as well. It was a world in which I knew that Jesus loved me, God loved me, and the Holy Ghost scared me. The church gave me a place to grow up and learn how valued we all are because we are made in the image of God and this marks us with humanity and possibility.

These early lessons rest in me now. I find myself going over them again as I do what the writer James Baldwin reminds us—do your first works over. This means going back through your journey and looking at the places you have been and who you were. Tell the truth about it to, as Baldwin says, “know whence you come.” As we begin this new year, doing our first works over is a good thing to do. This is very different than the New Year’s resolutions many of us begin with. To do our first works over means that we stop what we are so busy doing and slow ourselves down to take time with our memories and with God, and take a candid look at ourselves.

This candid look then becomes our launching pad for the year and any list of resolutions are framed by our faith journeys, rather than as a simple (or not so simple) list of do’s and don’ts for the year. The possibilities are before us and so are the challenges. We will then be doing the work our souls and intellects must have.


Emilie M. Townes

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair
Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society

Click here to view the January 2017 Spire






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