catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 19 :: 2007.10.19 — 2007.11.02


Adorned with stories

Jo Ann's robes

My robes

My ordination was almost upon us. I had been preparing for years. Many pastors at their ordination receive clerical garments and stoles. My mom had come months earlier to select the fabric for my ordination robe. We hunted the region for fabric. My father gifted us with the funds to purchase the fabric. My mother lovingly stitched the garment together, praying as she went. A dear saint and mentor in ministry offered his blessing as he conferred the ministry of gospel of grace to me. In it, I offer grace and peace in the benediction of the Lord.

Jo Ann's robeMy doctoral graduation was quickly approaching. Again I wanted special “doctoral regalia” I had sought and received permission to have custom “feminine” regalia made by my mom. Off I went in search of fabrics, but this time I knew where to go. I purchased the fabric and sent it off in the mail.

“Mom, have you started on my robe yet?  I’ve been telling everyone how special my ordination robe is to me. How it is a worshipful work of art. My classmates and professors are anticipating something different, yet some wonder if it will be worthy of the dignity of doctoral graduation.”

My family arrived from both coasts for graduation; my classmates and professors, from around the world. My robe was stunning, worshipful, and lovingly assembled.

In my clerical and academic robes I know there are none like them in the world. I know each stitch was carefully, prayerfully and lovingly sown. I know they exhibit the artistry of the Creator. I know the Lord is pleased and rejoices over the ministry performed while adorned in them. I know I am uniquely and wonderfully made, as are they, designed for the Master’s use, displaying God’s creativity and sense of beauty.


My “authentic” African hat

I have an authentic Kenyan “pill box” hat. I had to have it, you see. I like to wear baseball caps backwards, especially when I want to find non-verbal methods of claiming my cultural identity. I am an African American woman and it’s deeper than my skin. It is both history and heritage, an American woman of African descent.

During a semi-annual performance review, I was informed that I was performing my job at or above expectations. My supervisors were “99.99%” pleased with my execution of the required tasks. However, members of a local social service club were offended that I would come to lunch wearing my “backwards baseball cap.”  Other attendees could wear t-shirts, cut-offs and flip-flops; this was not a business lunch. Yet, I was directed to “lose the hat.” These were important people and their sensibilities would not be offended.

Truth be told, they were white. And white people neither care for, nor respect, persons of color declaring their cultural identity with headwear, least of all, baseball caps worn backwards.

I searched the Internet for African hats, I found one in Kenya that suited my taste and paid outrageous shipping fees to have it. I coordinated my entire wardrobe to match the hat and wore it almost daily.  I have my own sense of style.

When will we stop oppressing individuals and making them conform to some obtuse set of rules? I am an African American woman and I declare that truth in with style. No one has to like it, but me.

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