My Take: Birth of a Nation (2016)

This week I participated in an advanced screening of the much anticipated film, Birth of a Nation (2016). The invite reached me as a member of the Homebrewed Christianity community where I am a loyal podcast supporter. The film's production company is offering a plethora of advanced screenings seeking to appeal to the faith community.

Prior to receiving the invitation I had just recently decided that I would not monetarily support this film as a result of the 1999 sexual-assault case against film star and director Nate Parker, and his co-writer Jean Celestin . I reached this decision after reading up on the case in what was perhaps too much detail, reviewing portions of the court transcripts, and hearing from Nate Parker himself in interviews. Someone, please tell him, he desperately needs a new publicist.  

Before I wrestled with the question of separating the art, from the artist, I already questioned whether or not this was a film that I wanted to see, on its own merit. See, I am in the number of Black folks who are pastttt tired of feature films portraying the centuries of our bodies being beaten, raped and slain in the name of white supremacy. Particularly, with current affairs as they are, I would love for filmmakers and artists to draw from a different narrative. I encourage us to be more imaginative and to research and tell the stories that are sadly much less likely to be told. These are the stories that will reveal unknown, perhaps even unexpected truths. These untold stories have the ability to inspire and empower us during these troubling times.

So let's talk about the film itself.

Birth of a Nation was an above average film, in some moments it was even better than that. There was beauty, quality cinematography, and brilliant acting all present. The religious and spiritual undertones were significant to the storytelling. Though it was based on the true story of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion, Parker certainly generously took up creative license with the story-line.

Sidenote: I learned Parker sought out Mel Gibson to consult on the film. (Yep, let the irony of that sink in). Gibson's contributions were visible in some of the pacing and imagery of the film. If you squinted, you may have found yourself in a Braveheart scene.

My reading on the film was that it was both unnecessarily violent and unnecessarily sanitized. I grew up watching horror movies as a kid, so I've never been described as squeamish but both my sister and I found ourselves covering our eyes at different portions of the film. Most of my time in the theater was endured by me squirming in the large red recliner seat, and breathing so audibly deeply throughout that I mirrored what you might hear at a Lamaze class. Other portions of the film, seemed to romanticize the violence itself and felt self-righteous. I would say more, but I promised no spoilers here.

 Birth of a Nation, offers up some theological questions. Parker forces us to hold both religion and violence. The God of love, and the God of wrath. Where was God, during slavery? Where is He now?

  In addition to the historical story, there is a line in the film where Parker clearly invokes our current cries as Black Americans within the context of our #BLM movement and the war on Black lives. 

What the film offered in some ways, was the striking unveiling of how Black folks have long suffered at the hands of White Supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, etc. but have not lost their joy.

When faced with the bleakest of circumstances (i.e. slavery, police brutality, inequitable access to education, etc etc), Black folks have kept their joy. Such power is present when considering the strength of a people to worship God and magnify his Glory, all the while being faced with no empirical evidence that He is good.


Overall I found watching the film to be physiologically and spiritually taxing and I have no doubt it will certainly be triggering for some. It's a film I put in a category of "one and done." I cannot imagine myself watching it again, it was in total, too unsettling and painful. The sadness and discomfort I felt did not simply come from the film itself but from the irony and reality of the controversy Parker is facing, and the unfortunate and saddening loss of a woman's life.

For those of you reading who would like to see the film, I offer up one key recommendation:

Watch and debrief the film within a diverse community.

This is not a film you should watch in isolation. I would only recommend you see this film, if you participate in critical reflection and discourse among others. I was grateful enough to enjoy a Chocolate Stout and sit for three hours with an ethnically diverse group peeling through the various layers of the film and the rhetoric associated with it. Without that time together, I would have easily simply left the theater disturbed and frustrated. The fruitful discussion afterward was in my opinion, much more impactful, more than the film itself. 

As for Nate Parker, I'm still not here for him.

I've decided that if I'm for justice, I'm for justice. This means that I have to name injustices when I see them, even at the risk of stirring up Black male fragility. With that said, I do believe the Nat Turner story is one of importance. How important? Important enough for you to dust off your library card and get a more fruitful and through account of the rebellion and its implications.


Reflections: "Clothed with the Sun" Women of Color Retreat

"When was the last time you were in a room full of women of color?"

This was the opening prompt from our MC, Zakiya N. Jackson during Clothed with the Sun, a Women of Color (WOC) retreat located in downtown Los Angeles earlier this month.  For me and many others within earshot, it was difficult to locate ourselves in a past gathering reminiscence of this one. 

Clothed with the Sun brought a diverse group of women across Diasporas. The retreat was a post-conference event to the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) national meeting.  While only in its is second year, it was clear to all involved that the demand for spaces such as this only continue to grow. This year there were a couple hundred women in attendance. Our numbers grew so substantially that on the first day I was forced to practice patience as the attentive hotel staff squeezed several more rows of chairs in our meeting space.

In true, WOC style, the retreat was a showcase for how diverse and multi-layered we are as Women of Color. There was a Beyonce "Lemonade" viewing party, a Bernie Mac impression, and multiple syllabi references. It was all about sisterhood, keeping it real and walking unapologetically in our badass WOC identities. Many women exclaimed how they’ve been enthusiastically awaiting this event all year long while others confessed they hesitated when deciding whether or not to participate. We were all sisters together, but as a collective, we resided in various places on our respective developmental spectrum's, albeit racial identity, theology, or otherwise.

Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim delivered the opening keynote, providing a timeline of Asian-American history and spoke passionately about 'han.' In the context of her talk, Grace defined ‘han’ as unjust suffering caused by systems of patriarchy and racism. She further explained how the "model minority' trope has been a way of hedging the divide among Asian and Black Americans. This term also suggests a dismissal of the longstanding injustices undergone by our Asian-American brothers and sisters.

In addition to gifted keynote speakers the format allowed time for workshop sessions on multiple topics. The workshop I attended was "Wholly Single" with Dr. Christena Cleveland. If you're familiar with her work you know that she epitomizes #BlackExcellence, so to say it was a great privilege to glean insights from her in an intimate setting is an understatement. Dr. Cleveland delivered what I believe to be the most affirming and encouraging talk I've heard on this topic. Given I've been single and a Woman of Color in the church all of my life, this isn't a flippant statement.  Christena reminded us that the reality of marginalization of single women in the church is a justice issue, and one we must pay close attention to. She was passionate, serious, funny and incredibly vulnerable. One of my favorite moments was when Dr.Cleveland led us through an exercise where she called upon the work of mindful self-compassion. Based on the feedback from the room, the activity led to a lightbulb moment for many of us where we began to shift our focus and perspective on how we view our own singleness.  I left feeling empowered and committed to being kinder, gentler, and much more compassionate to myself in my identity as a single Christian Woman of Color. If you're interested in learning more about this check out "Singleness: Theology, Spirituality and Practice" from Fuller Seminary and Dr. Cleveland herself.

Sunday morning we heard from a diverse panel of sisters addressing how they navigate their context as Women of Color. I'm very grateful for these women as they were so honest and open with us. There were laughs, tears and nursing taking place simultaneously. (I told you these women are badass). Much of what was shared was courageous and incredibly personal so I continue to honor their vulnerability and the mutual trust we granted one another in that space. I am able, however, to share some golden nugget takeaways that I hope stir up some things within you:

  • On dealing with the BS: Birth (create) something from your pain.
  • On transitioning: Leave well.
  • On staying put: Why do we stay? We stay for those who can't. 
  • On sustaining yourself: Make moments for pause. Create space for lament. 
  • On self-care: Remember, often no one will remind us to "take care" of ourselves. Risk letting people down. Create a strategic plan for self-care.
  • On not feeling enough: Reclaim/own your gifts.

CCDA Board member and local Pastor, Marya Nolan led our closing keynote and helped us see how we receive strength by way of weakness and pain.  She declared mightily over all women in attendance, asserting that "Women of Color are uniquely gifted and positioned to be bringer's of God's hope, healing and justice to spaces that are defined and bound by fear, by blindness, patriarchy, and white supremacy." While this statement doesn’t often reflect the empirical evidence of our realities, I think it’s an empowering and factual statement nonetheless.

Opportunities for connection and engagement such as Clothed with the Sun are so desperately needed. My personal belief is that Women of Color benefit from these sacred opportunities. We lamented, questioned, laughed, and dreamed together. But most of all, we left with a sense of hope and persistence. We were strengthened and sharpened.


After spending a number of hours with a room full of brilliant and power women, you don't leave empty handed. You leave with new formed relationships, budding thoughts, renewed hope, and a booklist to help navigate what sometimes feels like a weary and even lonely journey. Here are few texts that will get you started though I'll be looking forward to a full #WOCSyllabus from Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and friends:

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength

Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-first Century

Redefining Realness

The Color of Violence

The Maria Paradox

Embracing The Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love

                                                                                                                                                            - Khalia Ii

The Resting Place

" Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts'. For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. " (Hebrews 4:6-10, NIV)


Often faith is pictured as something we "work up", something strived over...but in these beautiful verses above faith looks REST. And seeing that God rests - we, justlike our Father, should be resting too.

Of course there's many things to worry & freak out over ...but our God? He can be trusted. And He's worked it all out. We no longer have to strive, fear, or manipulate. We can instead operate from a place of love. A place of faith.  A place of assurance that is,  knowing we've won because KingJesus is Victorious . How can we not rest?

This is faith.


Where God's grace runs out

Tell me - does Gods grace run out? And if so - how? can you outline what disqualifies grace? And how long must one "participate" in the disqualifying act in order to be ...well ... Disqualified? These are big questions. But I believe there is a simple answer: 

"It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not.They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23,amp) 

Thank God. His mercy is all about Him and Not about us.

ROYALTIES :: A Declaration

We are KINGDOM CROWNED, members of the royal priesthood

Carrying His light within us, overcoming darkness

Mighty worshipers, giant killers

Hungry for our inheritance!

By His grace we are new creations, victorious on our everlasting journey

With excellence, humility and honor we disciple nations

Not led by ambition but walking by the Spirit

With pure hearts we submit ourselves fully

We are KINGDOM CROWNED, faith-filled believers