gail song bantum

blog on identity, leadership, discipleship

women of color ONLY | the protest

well, it’s been a year! in fact, it’s been a crazy year – a year for many people of color, being confronted by lamentable tragedies and injustices in both personal life and on their screens – almost on the daily! so, when january 1, 2015 rolled around, i told myself that my resolution and protest this year would be to ONLY read things by women of color. women. of color. only. all year. meaning, every book/article/blog post i read this year were by women of color.

how hard could that be?! okay…there were a few exceptions:

  1. i had to read my husband’s manuscript draft before he sent it off to the editor. it’s a book on race, he’s my boo, and it’s BRILLIANT! so, he got a pass.
  2. the bible. i actually thought about only reading jesus’ quotes… well…cuz it’s jesus. but, recognizing that i love psalms too much and the fact that i’m on the preaching rotation here at work makes it hard to pick and choose. and, because it’s the bible, it too got a pass.
  3. articles online are hard to navigate whether the author’s ethnicity correlates to their name. most often, it doesn’t. so, if the article seemed like a “must read” and it was a female sounding name, i read it and they got a pass.
  4. i did read excerpts of jennifer harvey’s book “dear white christians.” it was goooood! it’s a book on race and reparations so she got a pass.
  5. and, finally, i do admit that i read most of brené brown’s new book “rising strong.” some of you know that i had a difficult few months this year that totally took me for an unexpected spin. i needed these words to get myself back up, so she got a pass.

other than those 5 exceptions, it’s been a year of filling my mind, thoughts, imagination, and creativity with female authors of color. it’s amazing how difficult it is to only consume words by women, much less, women of color! have you tried? have you ever tried preparing sermons with only commentaries/resources by women of color? have you ever opened a news article or commentary and trained yourself to first look who the author was and then have the discipline to close it if necessary? have you ever had a student ask you to read their seminary paper for them and you tell them you can’t because they’re white or a man? have you ever had a brand new book sitting on your table that everyone was talking about by ta nehisi coates, and couldn’t read it?

well, amidst some surely frustrating moments, i find myself at the end of the year now struggling to allow this protest to end. i have read books and articles by people i may never have heard about otherwise. i have felt empowered by these women’s voices. i have even experienced a righteous anger arise realizing how rarely we allow women to speak into our lives. if you look, you can find them. but, we’re often too lazy to look! how often do we only quote men in our sermons or read books, articles, blogs by white folks? who’s informing our knowledge? who do we think has authority on particular topics?

the struggle…

i sit here today, grateful for this protest. i’m a richer and wiser woman because of it. i’m especially thankful for all the sisters out there hustlin’ and living into your gifts and calling like a BEAST! i see you.

for this new year, 2016, i think i’ll expand my protest/resolution a bit and commit to only reading things written by people of color – men and women.

all that to say, to my white brothers and sisters, don’t be offended if i can’t read your stuff right away. i’ll get to it eventually…like 2017.


**a few of the good books i’ve read this year:

  • citizen by claudia rankine
  • sister outsider by audre lorde
  • ferguson & faith by leah gunning francis
  • daughters of thunder – a collection of black women preachers and their sermons, by betty collier-brown
  • the next worship by sandra van opstal
  • finished reading my beloved world by sonia sotomayor
  • read excerpts of god help the child by toni morrison
  • read excerpts of roadmap to reconciliation by brenda salter-mcneil




advent RE-DO!

as i prepare my mind, heart and spirit for the season of lent, i’m reminded of this powerful status update i read not too long ago by a brilliant biblical scholar named dr. wil gafney, whom i deeply respect and appreciate:

“Lent is coming and I am almost out of laments – and I do not want any more.

Lent is coming and I do not want to spend any time in self-reflection because the world is on fire.

Lent is coming and I can’t focus on my personal frailties and foibles because people are being shot like dogs, beheaded, crucified and burned alive.

Lent is coming and working on my own soul’s health feels shallow when Nigerian and Yazidi girls have been sold into sex slavery and nobody is bringing back our girls.

Lent is coming and my prayers are screams. 

Lent is coming and all I can see in the scriptures is the hurt, pain, violence and death.

Lent is coming and I want to sit in dust and ashes all 40 days.

And after Lent comes…I can’t even think of it. The world is crucified and crucifying. The scent of lilies cannot cover the stench of death.”

dr. gafney writes this in the midst of what has seemed to be an endless barrage of brutal killings, countless injustices, and just plain evil happening in our nation and around the globe. i feel her cry! honestly, this last year has been ROUGH!

because of this reality and the fact that i feel robbed of experiencing an advent season last december (because it felt more like lent), i’ve decided to turn this lent into my advent. i’ve decided i’m looking for light. i’m searching for good news. i’m hoping in the promise of an infant life amidst the stench of so much death in our world. i recall that god saw it was good from the beginning. and, i look to the ashes as that which will soon rise again. so, i am going to let these truths take me ALL THE WAY to resurrection sunday!

i am. i will. i have to.

and, not in an ignorant way, but i choose to find something of promise each day that reminds me that god is ever present in the midst of it all.

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #25

wow…it’s day 25 and what a journey it has been! i find myself today so honored to have shared glimpses into the lives of these 25 beautiful individuals and families with you. it got emotional there for me at times because of the circumstances that have driven me to protest in this way. but also, in the recalling of these lives, i’ve profoundly realized that i am because they were/are. these narratives are a testament to the power of relationships and that we are continually formed, shaped, sharpened and better people because of the life we share with those around us.

so, as we round out this advent season, i share these 4 men with you – men who are not only bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, but the ones who give my life meaning and my breath each morning its purpose.

day 25 – december 24

my main boo – brian; my 1st born boo – caleb; my middle boo – ezra; and my baby boo – joseph


it’s one thing to endure rejection and disownment by a parent because of your love for a black man. it’s a whole NUTHA thing to endure being the one always told that your body is a problem – that the color of your skin somehow makes you unworthy of someone’s daughter! that was our story. i praise god everyday for brian’s love, his strength, his patience, his witty humor, his brilliance, his handyman-ness, his creativity, his back massages, and his love for the little things in life.

i’m especially grateful for the ways he loves and cares for our sons. as beautiful mixed-race young men in this world, we long for them to love and embrace every part of who they are. brian has and continues to help shape the narrative of their blackness – teaching them the historical and present realities of race, and teaching them the power of their own words, thoughts, and presence (carried and evidenced in their own bodies) to help inform and transform the world around them. my sons are truly blessed to have a father who calls out the very best in them and sees their unique gifts and encourages them in that space. these 4 men together give me so much strength, remind me of god’s redemptive grace, make me feel like a QUEEN BEE up in this house, and love me with every fiber of their being! they are truly god’s gift to me. and for that, i’m beyond grateful.

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative… i hope you were as blessed by this journey as i was. as we celebrate the birth of christ tomorrow, i celebrate god’s incarnate presence already evidenced in the witness of these beautiful black lives! as we continue to wait for the “not yet” of god’s shalom and justice here on this earth, i choose to stop for a moment today, to turn back and give god praise for the many gifts of love and possibility already in our midst.

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #24

today, i’m reminded of the reason why i started this whole advent journey. writing in protest, doing my small part in lifting up the narratives of beautiful and powerful black lives in the midst of such tragic and ill-formed narratives we’re continually exposed to, is largely due to this sister right here.

day 24 – december 23

ashley june moore


i first met ashley just over 2 years ago when she relocated to seattle from st. louis, missouri. needless to say, born and raised in the heart of st. louis, the transition up to the pacific northwest has been a difficult one for her. as one of her pastors, we’ve had the chance to share stories, meals, life transitions, laments, and joys together over the past few years.

in the midst of so much tragedy, injustice, grief and pain displayed in ferguson and all around this country, reality struck a little too close to home for ashley. being hundreds of miles away from her family and close community in st. louis, i’ve had the privilege of journeying alongside her more intensely over the past several months. from the news of brown’s death, to the images of his body, to the televised memorial service, to reading and posting articles, to the announcement of wilson’s no indictment, to hearing about the subsequent and continuous brutality happening to black women, men, and children witnessed all around the country, to attending local vigils, to the announcement of garner’s no indictment, to watching videos of his death, to hearing his last words… – we’ve journeyed together through it all! whether through fb, twitter, angry texts, phone calls, joining me at work, coming over to the house, long hugs, tears, overwhelming sighs, silence, or just a forced laugh at dumb things to grab a moment of sanity…

upon news of wilson’s no indictment, when protests intensified and looting of property in the st. louis area broke loose, ashley shared with me that she feared it could further cause the image/narrative of black folks to be seen as violent and destructive. never mind the fact that it was all in response and in protest of the grave injustices that continue to befall black bodies –  the sheer anger and eruption of emotion that comes with facing injustice after injustice – the feeling that you and your people have been pressed up against the corner for far too long!!! but this truth was irrelevant in that moment, because what i heard in her voice was the reminder that certain narratives are rarely ever controlled by the people themselves but by those in power.  from that space, i could literally feel the tension and near despair in her voice…

THUS, the emergence of this advent series on my blog – my meager attempts to help control and re-frame the narrative. it’s been my voice of protest, my voice of solidarity, and my voice of declaring that not only do #blacklivesmatter, but many, many, many black lives have been integrally woven into my life and have profoundly shaped who i am today in beautiful, unimaginable and powerful ways! ashley is one of those lives. she is a passionate, driven, no-nonsense, creative, intellectual, and encouraging woman of god! she’s currently a full-time graduate student at fuller theological seminary and serves with intervarsity fellowship as well. she and her husband thomas, have been married for 2+ years and together make an incredible team and partnership in life! so much love for them and grateful for their presence in my life. #blacklivesmatter

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #23

this sister and brother duo just inspires!

day 23 – december 22

caenisha warren and elijah warren


as i’ve gotten to know caenisha and her story over the years, i am so moved by many things – her ability to persevere, her desire to see possibility in others, her tenacity, her willful determination, her compassion, and her embodiment of loving mercy, acting justly and walking humbly – it ALL inspires me! caenisha works at the john perkins center on the campus of seattle pacific university as the budget manager, coordinator for events and student clubs. in addition, her presence and leadership is felt and known throughout the city in her pursuit and commitment to issues of advocacy and justice.

more than all that (and that’s a lot!), I’m particularly moved by her care for her younger brother elijah over the years. there was much courage, sacrifice, and love she poured into his life, believing that god had something great in store for him despite the many difficult circumstances they faced. actually, as i was perusing through their pictures on fb, i came across this one above taken at his high school graduation. elijah’s caption read: “we did it!” and, my eyes welled up… what a testament!

truth be told, every time i see caenisha, i find myself praying for god’s continued and lavish goodness upon this sister – for god’s grace, abundance, and that she might also reap and bear witness to the many seeds she has sown into the lives of others.

i see elijah each week now and my heart is reminded that there’s no gap too wide in life that love cannot redeem! elijah is not only thriving as a college student at seattle pacific university, but he is also one of our youth leaders at quest church. i know…god’s faithfulness is AMAZING! elijah is amazing. my two older boys have had the privilege of getting to know him and absolutely love this brother and his presence as one of their leaders. his fun-loving, vibrant, gracious, gentle spirit, and love for our youth is absolutely beautiful to witness. the two of them just make me wanna give god some praise!

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #22

as i’ve been on this advent journey, i’m finding that it’s really amazing how god brings people into our lives – from all over – at the right time! this family is one of those gifts.

day 22 – december 21

pastor mike and kim thomas


let’s imagine the strengthfinders leadership test for a minute… if there was EVER a person who has the gift of positivity at the top of their results, it has to be this brother right here! the sheer energy, momentum, and a “nothing is impossible” spirit by which mike embodies this life is so contagious and life-giving. but FORREAL!!

kim is no bench warmer either! she’s such an encourager, a gatherer, witty, intelligent, creative, and a joy-filled presence to be around. so much goodness and strength in this marriage, family and partnership! and, we just recently found out that, between the two of them, you don’t wanna play any kind of movie trivia…they will straight CRUSH you! #donteventry

the thomas family recently relocated to seattle from chicago to plant a church called radiant church. i’m so proud of them and the ministry that’s growing and unfolding at radiant already. they have a passionate vision for pastoring a multi-ethnic church, who love and serve the people in the community they find themselves among. may god continue to bless the work of their hands and show favor on them as they faithfully pursue the call to love, serve, lead and live out the gospel of jesus christ. grateful for their friendship in our lives. much love and respect!

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #21

when god was giving out gifts, this sister was at the front of the line…

day 21 – december 20

marshaé sylvester


shae is such a gifted woman with an entrepreneurial spirit. she has managed to successfully plant two different campus ministry chapters in two different states and is now currently serving as an assistant area director for intervarsity campus ministry and the director of black campus ministry at university of washington. i’ve had the privilege of watching shae in action and she’s a dynamic leader – always looking to mentor and cultivate emerging student leaders on campus. a multiplier is what she is!

shae is also an amazing chef. i do believe (and i speak it forth!) that one day she’ll run a successful food truck business “on the side” – making korean bbq, spicy fried chicken biscuit sammies, mac & cheese, korean tacos and other things i love! let it be so!

this sister also plays the congas, is fluent in sign language, and is a rower and runner!!! i feel so inadequate right now…

more than ALL of that though, shae is a dear younger grown sister, my armor bearer, and a true presence of encouragement in my life. love me some shae!

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #20

it hasn’t been that long since i’ve been in seattle, and this sister is someone i’m coming to know in deeper and more profound ways. but, what i do know of her has inspired me already!

day 20 – december 19

michelle lang


this picture tho…i just LOVE this one of michelle! maybe it’s the artistic “in the moment” nature of it? anyway…

i first met michelle at the qcafe here in seattle a few years ago when she was performing a live concert with her band. soon after, i found out that she was serving in ministry at a church in the area as well. then, one thing led to another and i had a chance to speak at a conference she spearheaded for youth/college students and youth leaders. i think it was then, that i began to witness the impact she has had on the urban youth and youth leaders here in seattle. i love and admire her authenticity, her humor, and her love and passion for young people. it’s undeniable! as someone who is called to develop emerging leaders, i am inspired by her ministry.

she ended up moving to portland about 1.5 years ago. michelle is now the associate director of campus ministry at warner pacific college, and is KILLIN’ it! i was blessed to be able to speak at chapel there and spend some time with her recently. extremely moved by the work and ministry she’s doing on that campus – exposing, teaching, and helping to transform the culture of the student body as they engage and wrestle with the growing and diverse realities of the world they live in!

L-O-V-E IT! dynamic, relevant, creative and catalytic is what she is. MAD props to this sister and much love!

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #19

there are some people you meet in life who truly live out their convictions, no matter how much discomfort and sacrifice it takes to pursue it. such is the case for this brother right here.

day 19 – december 18

tony nabors


i met tony soon after i moved to seattle. having come from communities with greater black presence, i noticed right away that there weren’t as many black folks at our church 6 years ago…and, needless to say, tony caught my eye since he was the only black presence on the musical worship team at the time. as i’ve gotten to know him over the years, i’m continually moved by his conviction, calling, and passion to be a bridge builder in the area of racial reconciliation, within the multi-ethnic context specifically. amidst many years of being one of very few black congregants, he was convinced that his presence and leadership here at our church was necessary and would become a catalyst and entryway for others to find home as well. SO much respect for this brother! tony is the person who constantly challenges my notion of comfort in this way.

i had the privilege of journeying with him and his family through deep trials and great joys over the past several years. he’s a loving husband to his wife angela, a dedicated father to his two young boys, a thoughtful son to his parents, and a caring older brother to his siblings – all of whom i’ve had the honor to meet over the years. god has truly been faithful to this family.

tony serves as one of our deacons at quest church and is the senior admissions counselor for multicultural outreach at seattle pacific university. i’m grateful for the witness of his life within our community and his intentional words and presence of encouragement in my life.

advent, black lives, and 25 days of changing the narrative – day #18

what a journey it’s been so far! i realize there are many, many wonderful folks who’ve impacted and helped shape my life in various ways over the past 4 decades. 25 days won’t ever do it justice. but today, we’re on day #18 in this journey together and i need to make the turn toward the people who’ve helped shape my life here in seattle. i truly don’t know where i’d be right now if it weren’t for this dear sister and friend.

day 18 – december 17

rev. dr. brenda salter mcneil


i am a praying person. but, truth be told, there’s some things that i pray for more “fervently” than other things, and that’s just #realtalk. one of those things that i’ve always prayed for was a big sister – a sister i could look up to, who could challenge me, love me, laugh with me, encourage me, and keep me in my place! and, a more recent prayer has been for deep friendships here in seattle. moving to seattle was tough for me. i’m an east coaster through and through! as soon as i found out that brenda and her family were moving out to seattle from chicago, i wondered if this was god’s answer to my prayers! sure enough, god heard my cry!

brenda has breathed L-I-F-E into my soul over the past few years. not only is she a presence of joy and encouragement to me but i’ve grown to see a gift in her that brings me to tears sometimes – she is one of very few people in my life who is truly and profoundly for me…all of me. because we live in a culture that often seeks to commodify relationships, i’m finding that it’s harder and harder to sustain deep friendships that feel truthful, with no strings attached. as someone who hasn’t necessarily had the breadth and depth of family experiences growing up, i long for this in my friendships. as someone who’s had to navigate my way through life with only a tight few, i long for friends who look out for me and my best interest and vice versa. brenda is that friend. brenda is that sister. brenda is that family.

as a wife, mother, preacher, professor, mentor, pastor, and a reconciliation pioneer, she has more gifts and talents than i can possibly list here…and many folks know and respect her all over the world for what she does and the gifts she offers. but, at the end of the day, i love and cherish brenda for truly being a big sister to me – like an “at-my-bedside-when-i-die” kind of sister. too much love here and SO grateful for her life!

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