Transcript: Season 2 / Ep. 3 Beyoncean Theology

Beyoncean Theology.png

Transcript: Season 2 / Ep. 3 Beyoncean Theology

// Transcribed by Heather Hoyle, Edited by Jia Lian Yang

(Intro music, guitar, percussion and rhythmic melodic repeating, Aysia BerLynn’s smooth voice singing:

You raised me to be-- yeahhh

You raised me to be-- ohhhh

You raised me… to be…

You raised me to be strong

You raised me to be loyal

You raised me to be free

 

[bass guitar enters]

You raised me to be bold,

You raised me to be happy,

And I owe it all to you yeah

{Music fades out}

 

POET SPEAKS:

Stephanie K Williams, a.k.a. Surreal Sista, "Transdimensional Twin Sisters"

 

Exactly a year before my birthday

give or take

my sister Whitney's brain boiled with fever

and in her first trimester of transformation

as preparation for meeting her maker

she regressed back to the fetal position

and waited patiently

like a lost angel in an invisible waiting womb

anticipating reinsertion

in the next dimension.

During the trimester that followed

as preparation for meeting my makers

I transformed from a family of cells

to an embryo in stasis

to the fetal position and existed obliviously.

Throughout this stage of transition

We were transdimensional twin sisters

She, imprisoned in her own skin,

and I, cocooned in amniotic fluid

A symbiotic subsistence where I thrived

on the silenced cries of her tortured, terminal life sentence

for sustenance.

The last trimester was the beginning of the end when

at just seventeen months old, 

Whitney let go.

She was breaking in her delicate, paper thin wings

while I suckled on the minerals cloned from bone marrow moans

The vitamins inside vandalized entitlement

and all the other identities separating supplements

within two interstate family funerals, 

our daily bread winner's job loss

and an unfamiliar change of address.

My stages of development stuck

between various layers of death.

Defeated cries were my mother's lullabies

My sister's name was only spoken with marked tones of sympathy

forming in me subconscious memories

made solely from emotions so strong

they could've hitchhiked off of smoke ribbons

escaping the first grenade bomb, a teenage Vietnam war soldier

ever threw.

I was lucky enough to have my fetal eyelids still fused shut

and brain too new to retain first hand war stories

just cycles of melancholy euphoria

pulsed through my veins in flashbacks

that only prozac junkies understand

hands, desperately clutching keys to new life, so tight

their dark knuckles turn white 

salivating like gratuitous snitches 

who anticipate the Whitney witness protection program

my family groomed me to be a war veteran

wounded with the quest for eternal ecstasy

and Whitney was the martyr 

awarded the medal of honor

her heart will forever bleed purple.

When I was born, the moon was full

as mother's breasts

as old baggage in a brand new home.

Hope broke the fever, broke the cycles that ended

with cut cords and hair

like us sisters, in split ends, landing on firm floor,

growing since the year before.

 

(violin with synth beat fades in and out)

 

Treasure: The blasian sensation is ba-aack!

 

Jia: I'm Jia Lian Yang, Jia for short - I'll explain later. Last season, I was going by Karen, it's still me. People change their names, it happens. 



Treasure: I'm Treasure Shields Redmond, same name, same mission - to hold space for the voices that mainstream media ignores. Who Raised You? Podcast is back baby!



Jia: ...and better than ever! We're the 2018/2019 Start Up Competition winners for The Arts and Education Council of St. Louis. They gave us $10,000 (Treasure: woo woo!) and office space to transform the Who Raised You? Podcast into the Who Raised You? Listening Collective. 



Treasure: This year, we're creating a digital audio archive to combat our region's historical amnesia. We're bringing together artists, poets and change makers of all kinds to record stories of ordinary wisdom.



Jia: Stories by citizen sound agents. Coming to a city near you at whoraisedyoupodcast.com



Treasure: In the meantime, enjoy Season Two of Who Raised You? Podcast. A traveling conversation between Jia Lian Yang and Treasure Shields Redmond, as we explore how culture, family and intersecting identities pave our way toward liberation. We want to know: who raised you? Dig deep, we're finding our roots.

 

Jia: Today, Who Raised You? Podcast goes to Oakland, Treasure's old stomping grounds. We visit Marvin K. White, a Facebook statustician, workship facilitator, and poet who has books published by Redbone Press.

 

Treasure: Hennessy in hand, we went to black queer theologian Marvin K. White's house to discuss the theological implications of the slay motha herself...

 

Jia and Treasure: Beyoncé. 

 

(violin with synth beat fades in and out)

Treasure: Marvin, we are so glad to have you today on The Who Raised You? Podcast. And to be in Oakland! Can you believe we're actually here!

 

Marvin: Yes, welcome home, welcome. I am so glad you're in my home. My grandmother's uncle's home, which then was my grandmother's, which then it was my mom's, and now it's mine. And now you're here. So...

 

Treasure: Mmmmmm...

 

Jia: Is this called an ancestral home then? (laughing all around)

 

Marvin: Yes, yes, on record at the tax collector's office, it's listed as 'ancestral home'. 

 

Treasure: Wow!



Marvin: No, it's not... (Treasure bursts into laughter) I just have this voice, when I lie (Treasure cracking up) Yes...



Treasure: Well, I actually, you know what from now on I'm just going to call it ancestral home in my mind.



Marvin: I like that.



Treasure: Marvin is someone who is not from St. Louis, you may be able to tell. And The Who Raised You? Podcast usually focuses on artists, activists, organizers who are from St. Louis, the surrounding metro cause we kind of want to tell the stories of fly over country. But, there is a St. Louis connection.

 

Marvin: Mmmhm.

 

Treasure: So, recently, you and I had a conversation on the corner of Arsenal and Kinghighway, no-- Arsenal and Grand, when you were in St. Louis. Why were you there?



Marvin: I was there as a part of an immersion course for the school I was attending, Pacific School of Religion, and we did an immersion course to um--



Jia: *interjecting* Called "The Black Lives Matter Immersion Course" - very straightforward in terms of subject matter.

 

Marvin: Called The Black Lives Matter Immersion Course, yes, yes and we were there to be co-students with students at Eden and also participate in a Moral Monday protest and understand what was happening on the ground in Ferguson. Both as a political event but also as a prophetic event, what was going on in the Spirit.

 

And also, for me as a poet, what was going on in the language and how it was being framed and what does it mean to get to the scene of a crime before the news gets there so we can actually control the story. So we can tell what happened spiritually, what happened poetically, what happened politically and what does it mean to get there. And so, we learned a lot about narrative, about Spirit, about community organizing, about trauma, about joy. And how to think about this as a prophetic and as a spiritual event. So, I was there for that.

 

Treasure: (reverently) Beautiful.

 

Jia: And can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and how that influenced what you are seeing?

 

Marvin: Yeah, so I grew up here in Oakland, north Oakland - Bush Rod, North side Oakland, North Cole - I wish you could see these gestures I'm making, they're kind of vague...

 

(laughing)

 

Treasure: Right... These hands are being thrown up!

 

(laughing)

 

Jia: We'll take pictures.

 

Marvin: Yes. All Oakland Public Schools. Peralta year round school which was one of the first year round schools in the country. Claremont Middle School, and then Skyline High School. And I give that story because my siblings all went to Oakland Tech. And I couldn't go to Tech, I couldn't go to the Tech because I couldn't do athletics. And my family's legacy is athletics. So, I would walk in and they would hand me a ball and I would go...

 

(long pause... laughing all around)



Jia: (clarifying) That was a wordless gesture!

 

Marvin: What am I supposed to do with this? And that happened continually and when it was time for high school, I was like, I can't do this for you know this kind of expectancy that I was supposed to perform athletically. And so I went to Skyline.



Treasure: So, because, you are in what birth order?

 

Marvin: So there are five of us. It's two boys, a girl, and then I'm the fourth and I have a younger sibling.

 

Treasure: Mmm, ohhhhh. So you guys are the babies. And how far apart are you from the youngest?

 

Marvin: We're all two years apart.

 

Treasure: Two years apart.



Marvin: Yeah, yeah and the only other, the other interesting part of family is my mom wanted twelve kids. And my dad figured that out after five and left. You know--

 

(Treasure cracks up laughing... Jia: oh no... everyone laughing)

 

Marvin: That's the way I tell the story.

 

Treasure: He's like, I'm good for roughly half of that.

 

Marvin: Yeah, I don't think she told him that plan. You know, and I really think he was like, yeah, no... I see it, I get it,  you go on... deuces, qua deuces.

 

Treasure: Cinqo deuces (laughing all around)

 

Marvin: Cinqo deuces! yes. And so we were raised faux Jehovah's Witnesses.

 

Jia: Faux? Ok.

 

Marvin: Yeah, so my parents I think were Jehovah's Witnesses during the time when we didn't have money, when they couldn't buy us presents. So we were Jehovah's Witnesses on some Christmases...

 

Treasure: Oh! Because they don't celebrate Christmas! Oh-ho! (giggles

 

Marvin: Right! Right! and then they weren't Jehovah's Witnesses when they were having poker parties from Friday to Sunday night when they were having poker parties to raise rent.

 

So there's this thing called raising rent with a deck of cards, is what my grandmother used to do. She would host these card parties from Friday to Sunday and take a cut of the kitty of everything and raise money for whatever she needed. And usually it was for rent or something that was needed for the family.

 

So we weren't Jehovah's Witnesses then, you know, um, when we were teenagers we were more Jehovah's Witnesses because my mom was then a single black woman and needed a father figure that was omnipresent and always looking and always watching. And you know so we were at the Kingdom Hall Sunday, Thursdays, and then book study and bible study on Wednesdays for a while. Then I think the end of the world had been predicted at least once in our lifetime.

 

(Treasure giggles, “yes…”)

 

Marvin: And then, we were just so over it cause like you say goodbye at the end of the school year, and we're like... no, you don't understand (laughing all around). Bye for real, the world is ending.

 

Then you show up in 8th grade, and you still ashy, still poor, (Jia whimpers: oh…) and you're like... it's one thing to say I'm gonna get a car this summer and nobody believes you  you know and then you show up the next year and you still on foot. But when like, the world is ending and you show up... you lose all credibility.

 

Treasure: Oh man...

 

Jia:  I'm just crying with the ashy part, that's just awww....

 

Treasure: But somehow the religion doesn't lose credibility. That's interesting.

 

Marvin: Yeah, and so but that was the beginning of me, none of my siblings returned to any kind of church until we were like in our thirties or our forties. We were just scared to go anyplace else cause that's the remnant of being Jehovah's Witness that everything else is wrong and unnecessary. And is not godly. You know, no one else's faith, no one else's ritual is as pure and as clearly connected to God as what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe in.

 

Treasure: (solemnly) Mmm hmmm, that is their rhetoric.

 

Marvin: That is their rhetoric. So there is no - all paths lead to God - this is the only way to go. So we suffered under that for awhile, then when I started writing poetry I found a language and a way to open up and a way to remove those kind of curses from my language and from my body.

 

And to begin to think metaphorically and begin to tell stories and because I needed to free myself to be a black gay man that meant I had to free myself from God. Of the construction that my mom gave it to me.

 

And once I did that work, and realized that the best things I could write had to come out of my freedom, then I was like God must want me to be free in this sexuality. Then it was just on. And it allowed me to have this diasporic idea about what faith is, and all paths and all spiritualties that are good and right and holy coming together for me. But right now my practice is Christianity because I can't get back to Africa unless I go through Christianity.

 

Treasure: Mmmm. Mmmmm.

 

Marvin: And for me it's always about trying to get back somewhere, trying to return somewhere, trying to gather my people. And what is the language of my people? If it's Christianity, then that's the call that I have to use to get them back together. You know I can't just be, trying to call them using some language that they're not listening out for. That the clues, if it's inscribed in their DNA, then I gotta use the language that will be familiar to them.

 

Treasure: Mhm. You used the word "raised" thank you - and Marvin just raised a glass of Hennessey, thank you, Hennessey (laughing all around)

 

Jia: We're not... we're not...

 

Treasure: He just crossed himself with the holy, the holy liquor (laughing all around)

 

Jia: We're not sponsored by Hennessey. (Treasure cackling) If you want to change that company, please talk to us.

 

Treasure: Right, right. Any black owned, queer owned, women owned liquor companies, holla at your girls.

 

Marvin: Yes, yes.

 

Treasure: But you used the word raised - at one moment you said raised by your mother, and then at another moment you said your grandmother raised rent with a deck of cards. And we were remiss in not starting with our very first question, which is:

 

Treasure and Jia: Who raised you?? (Jia giggles)

 

Marvin: And I love that question. You know, without discrediting my mother, I feel like I was raised by my grandmother. I was, I was, I believe that I was groomed by her at an early age to return to take care of her. I believe amongst all her grandkids, she kind of went through, kind of tried to spoil a couple of them, you know, but it stuck with me.

 

And every chance that I got I would go to my grandmother's from my mom to the point where my mom was like, you know, he's yours. (Treasure giggles amusedly) I can't do nothin. I can't do nothin with him. So, I really give my grandmother credit for raising me. Yeah, yeah... Bessie Lee Blow Ford. Is who raised me.

 

Treasure: Bessie Lee Blow Ford.

 

Marvin: Yeah. So, Blow is her father's name. Harry Blow. And Ford was the man she married. And neither, and was not the parent of my mom or my mom's brother.

 

Treasure: Okay.

 

Marvin: Which is an interesting thing cause my great grandmother also had three different kids with three different fathers. My grandmother had two kids with two different fathers. And my mom had five kids with one. But there is, I love my grandmother ‘cause she always had boyfriends.

 

Treasure: Mhmmm (starts laughing)

 

Marvin: Usually some woman's husband. So, I had an Uncle Gator and Uncle Sam. I loved her so much.

 

(Treasure starts giggling and then cracking up amusedly)

 

Jia: Taught you a lot about family relationships…!

 

Marvin: When you say that though, that's what makes my leaps of faith so exciting because I'm like, you know God getting the Virgin Mary pregnant is a way to talk about getting rid of this idea of traditional family.

 

Treasure: Mmmmm. Mmmmhmmm.

 

Marvin: You know? Like we can make family in all kinds of ways. My grandmother pointed to that by the ways that she had boyfriends. And when I was in seminary, I would have to say things like - this is how I'm deploying my grandmother epistemologically... you know, my grandmother made family in all these unique and different ways.

 

So when I talk about my grandmother and kinship with Naomi and Ruth or whoever, this is why she's able to talk to this. Because she's experienced this life. And so her stories allowed me to open up my faith stories as well. And open up the ideas about how the stories of the bible and scripture work.

 

Jia: So thank you so much for bringing up your grandmother in this space. I'm curious, because people talk about a lot of names for God. So I'm really curious for you, what are the different names of God that you most love to think about and how, if at all, has your relationship with your grandmother influenced those names?

 

Marvin: Wow. God who one gets a washing machine out of. God who is the PG&E bill payer. God who is the watched pot never boiled - I think about the ways in which we were, the culture of our family which was surrounded by gathering. And a lot of food, and a lot of kitchen. And a lot of women talking to each other. So God is woman to me. Or God is, if God is-- the part of God that is male knows God's place among women. Like the women have a space and if they let you in, God, you should feel lucky. But don't think you have access to women's interiority because you’re God. There's still a space outside of God that women gather.

 

And I was lucky enough to be, my therapist would say I was a spousified child. I was the one that grandma would say "oh this is grandmama's little man." So I had the title without all the rights and powers and privileges. So it messes you up a little bit but at the same time it gives you an intimacy with women. So when it was time for me to take care of her, like change her wounds, change her diapers, hand feed her and make decisions about end of life you know stuff, I knew her body. There are a couple of questions I had. Like I had to call my girl Nancy, like how does that work in there? 

 

(Treasure laughs)

 

Jia: You got really incarnational there... (laughing)

 

Marvin: But I think about God, you know, not as name but as a circumstance, as a way. When we lived in public housing, you know the way I think about public housing it's usually - the world thinks about public housing as a place where women are relegated to - I think my mom wanted to raise black children amongst other women and chose public housing because that's the only place where you could do that.

 

Treasure: Mmmm. Mmmhmmm.

 

Marvin: Because you know you couldn't have two incomes so there could be no men and no fathers in public housing. So my mom chose to raise her kids amongst other women and I think that was a spiritual, and God visited that space. It wasn't godless.

 

There's the God of public housing. There's the God of women who decide to choose to raise their children among other women. And even when I think about the sex workers in a time, like I don't know if sex work has always been bad and I need to know this more?

 

But my mom was in relationship with the sex workers. Like they were like the front line. They knew who was coming, so my mom had to be in relationship with them. And often folded them in to the village when they were hurt or needed to hide or in recovery from something or trying to get out. And so, I don't if that answers what the name of God is...

okay...

 

Jia: It does... yeah… yeah... So you've named a lot of circumstances under which you've seen divinity and sacredness happen. And at the center of it all is black women.

 

Marvin: Yes. Yes.

 

Jia: And that's something that me and Treasure constantly talk about where our guests-- we don't prompt them at all. They'll talk about black women being central to their raising. We're mindful that later on this evening we're gonna be meeting with Adrian Walker of Black Women Over Breathing and just really kind of thinking of the importance of black women in making a lot of amazing things and people that we should be thankful for.

 

Marvin: Yeah… yeah!

 

Jia: Related to that, earlier me and Treasure were talking about a Beyoncean Theology that you came up with...

 

Treasure: (excited) Yes!!!

 

Jia: …And all your brilliance as a Facebook statistician. We have some ideas. One idea might be for you to read this post out loud, I have it in my hands right here. Or for Treasure to, but either way, for us to somehow react to that and for us to hear from you what you were thinking in all this.

 

Treasure: No, he must read it.

 

Marvin: I would love to read it.

 

Jia: Proclaim it.

 

Marvin: I would love to read it. Let's do a lectio divina - so I read it, and then Treasure reads it, and then we talk about it. So let's do a lectio, a Beyoncean lectio...

 

Jia and Treasure: Oohhhh. Mmmmm. Yes… (Treasure snaps: ‘cause I slay!)

 

Marvin: Maybe this status from Sunday, February 12, 2017 will have to do if this sermon for Sunday does not come through with a quickness. Somewhere it is happy hour. Let me just go ahead and play fast and loose with a pop theology, a Beyoncean Theology, if you will.

 

There is no time for over thinking Beyonce's performance - it happened. She slayed and the power of a pop hermeneutics of suspicion (stay with me, and the whiskey) - shows Beyonce offering her body on the last supper table. She took the seat at the head of the table, she made it a birthing chair.

 

She said, do not only remember his dying but the circumstances of his birth. Remember who he came through. There is no salvation without women. Do you remember being born? Do you remember the last time you were hungry? Do you remember the last time you thought your last supper was your last? Do you remember any last thing, getting on my last nerves or this, the last time we decide the contributions of and the healing of and the remembering of women's powers happens on that table. She asks, if you want to know where women were in the meal, they probably prepared it. Actually, her performance reimagines the foretelling of Christ's pending death and resurrection, reimagines his impending slaying of life and death. Her performance speaks of the incarnation, not as God becoming a man, but as God becoming a uterus...

 

Treasure: (loud) Mmmmmmmm...!!

 

Marvin: Becoming a woman to give birth to the God-self. Beyonce puts the story, not in the mouths of men gorging themselves off of the fixings of women, hanging on every cross word coming out of Jesus's mouth, and not on the bread and wine - but puts the story, a new account of the gospels, a new eucharist, in the mouths of women. A Beyoncean institution of the fellowship table makes the claim that Jesus was saying - this is no longer about me, it's about my momma. This is about women knowing that under patriarchy there is never the last supper. Do this in memory of the mother-God, the one who all life comes through, beyond bread and wine remember the birth and the after birth. #even Adele worships at the Beyoncean temple. #I did a shot every time Adele thanked Beyonce. (Treasure giggles, Jia: hahaaa!!) #And then the Beyoncean miracle - two white women wished that Beyonce was their mother. #theological slay.

 

(laughing... Mmmmmms... all around)

 

Marvin: That is some small print! (laughing)

 

Treasure: I'm gonna have to get my glasses.

 

Jia: Let me zoom it in for you. Thank you for making it through.

 

(disappointed) Oh-- it doesn't zoom. Oh well.

 

I'm very excited for this lectio divina. Maybe you can tell everyone about, a little bit, what your workship services have been like.

 

Marvin: Yeah...

 

Jia: Cause we're about to do some work. So we're modeling this for everyone.

 

Treasure: Right.

 

Marvin: Yes. I'm thinking about what the new church looks like. And like Treasure said earlier, our job is to create a vessel for the things we love and I don't think I can gather my people if I'm not doing it with the things that I love to do. I know if I cooked, people would come. And writers, I think, are looking for a space to make their writing sacred. And so I'm thinking about a sacred space for writing and ritual and how do we make writing a ritual act so writers aren't out there by themselves and giving it over to institutions like academia. But actually, their work being made sacred - so the workship service is creative writing workshop and worship service where we would actually write.

 

Lately I've been following the lectionary which is the calendar that order the bible through a liturgical lens. So there is certain bible for advent, for the birth of Christ, for Easter and I've been doing the workship services with the scripture according to the lectionary. So we would read, create writing prompts according to the scripture. So we are writing new sacred text in this workship service. The stories that come out are in response to the bible, so the new bible that I'm gonna write, that is being written...

 

Treasure: Woooo!

 

Marvin: That is being written will have blank pages in it, (Treasure: woo!) so you can respond to it. (Treasure: wooo!) Right now there are no blank pages in the bible. And that's a problem. Cause you can't respond to it in writing. There's no written witness testimony. And that's what writers in a writer's church is.

 

Treasure: That was subversive AF. The new bible that I'm going to write. We need to raise a drink.... (laughing all around). So, do they get the prompts prior?

 

Marvin: No.

 

Treasure: Do they write during the service?

 

Marvin: Yes.

 

Treasure: And do people get to share what they've written?

 

Marvin: Yes. Yes. (Treasure: Wow…) That is so important, that is it not a passive church experience. That everyone gets a chance to utter and gets to be spoken through. And gets to speak into everybody else. I just give the prompts and open the container. And then people, you know, and guide people. Because I think we're worship leaders, so our job is to open the container and spill it out and let people do with it what they will. 

 

Treasure: It's so frickin powerful. Oh my god. Okay. So... The second reader has come forward.

 

Marvin: Hey!

 

Treasure: Maybe this status from Sunday, February 12, 2017 will have to do if this sermon for Sunday does not come through with a quickness. Somewhere it is happy hour. Let me just go ahead and play fast and loose with a pop theology, a Beyoncean Theology, if you will. There is no time for over thinking Beyonce's performance - it happened. She slayed and the power of a pop hermeneutics of suspicion (stay with me, and the whiskey) - shows Beyonce offering her body on the last supper table. She took the seat at the head of the table, she made it a birthing chair.

 

She said, do not only remember his dying but the circumstances of his birth. Remember who he came through. There is no salvation without (pause) women. Do you remember being born? Do you remember the last time you were hungry? Do you remember the last time you thought your last supper was your last? Do you remember any last thing, getting on my last nerve or this, the last time we decide the contributions of and the healing of and the remembering of women's powers happens on that table.

 

She asks, (quietly) if you want to know where women were in the meal, they probably prepared it. Actually, her performance reimagines the foretelling of Christ's pending death and resurrection, reimagines his impending slaying of life and death. Her performance speaks of the incarnation, not as God becoming a man, but as God becoming a uterus...Becoming a woman to give birth to the God-self. Beyonce puts the story, not in the mouths of men gorging themselves off of the fixings of women, hanging on every cross word coming out of Jesus' mouth, and not on bread and wine – (slows down) but puts the story, a new account of the gospel, a new eucharist, in the mouths of women.

 

A Beyoncean institution of the fellowship table makes the claim that Jesus was saying - this is no longer about me, it's about my momma. (Marvin: Hm!) This is about women knowing that under patriarchy there is never the last supper. Do this in memory of the mother-God, the one who all life comes through, beyond breath, bread and wine remember the birth and the after birth. #even Adele worships at the Beyoncean temple. #I did a shot every time Adele thanked Beyonce. #And then Beyonce miracle two white women wished that Beyonce was their mother. #theological slay. (long pause) Hoooo!!



Marvin: Chile.



(laughing all around)



Marvin: I've never heard it read back to me. (Jia gasps, moved: Aw!!) And that's the, I am, because I live in my head and in my creativity, and the natural end of my creativity is to speak it. I never—I rarely get it, hear it back. You know, so I don't hear my words or the words, that have come through me given back to me. And it's always out - so to hear it, I feel so less crazy!



(laughing all around)



Marvin: You know. I feel smarter, ‘cause I think people think I'm silly writing on Facebook and because of the medium, because I'm not saving it for major literary publications, or I'm not in major prophetic and spiritual publications, that I choose Facebook that somehow it's not rigorous and it's not important work. But you read it and I felt important. And yeah, and smart and it felt like scripture being read to me. I felt like this was bible study. Yes, and I'm grateful.

 

Jia: Well, you know, I think it's because it...

 

Marvin: (interrupts immediately) --And God bless Della Reese on her journey!!

 

(laughing all around)

 

Marvin: Sorry, she just came to me. She's like, if you gonna be touched by angels... Della...

 

Treasure: Yes. (sings) Angeeels...

 

Jia: You're totally fine. I'm glad you've been playing with this. But also, what we're doing I think is flipping the circumstances under which something is sacred or something is important. Because earlier you were talking about how a lot of bibles or treatment of the bible has been that-- okay this is the scripture, this is a sacred text, it's locked in stone.

 

But the reality is, if we look at the history of how the cannon was created, that's not the fact. And the fact was that people were playing with what is considered sacred all the time except that it was only specific people who were allowed to do that.

 

Marvin: Right. Right.

 

Jia: Specifically often white people. In churches that were really connected to empire. And then prior to that, you had to be a certain class. And so now with technology what we see, although some people might call it silly, instead if there's more community surrounding it and more voices surrounding it then that's what's actually making it important.

 

Marvin: Yeah, no-- that's good. I believe that this technology, that we showed up as poets at the same time that this technology is here, is a huge cosmic happening. That we showed up as poets and writers and lovers and thinkers with open hearts still at the end of the world - to usher in a new world. You know, we're not recording this for aliens to discover it, we're trying to broadcast this out now because there's a word we're trying to get out.

 

And something that is sacred and will touch people and ignite them and turn something on in them and connect us. We're sending out a signal to our people. And that is sacred work to me. I said in a sermon yesterday - in a lot of belief systems, in a lot of cosmologies, we believe that we chose to come to earth from wherever we were. But I believe that earth and humanity sent out an invitation - and said, “We think Treasure is interesting, we want her here on earth and you gonna have to live and die... but it's gonna totally be worth it...”

 

(laughing all around)

 

Treasure: Don't worry about that! There's Hennessey to help you.

 

Marvin: You know, we think Karen would be so cool here... and we responded. So, to think about being here as an invitation, as opposed to a sentence, I think is a good flip. Again when we think about sacred texts - I'm not a bible scholar, don't ask me about the Nicene creed, Alexander, the early church.

 

I operate out of a prophetics that says if all I have on me is what the new church and what the new holy writ will be written from, then I gotta trust that I don't get any more books, any more lessons, any more anything. So I have to speak it from what I have. And it could be, I could add it up all wrong, but I'm gonna speak into this moment. And I can only use what I have. And you see what it is. It's pieces of fabric and disco balls... and ironing boards made into saints....

 

(laughing... right... right)

 

Marvin: I have a 3-D printer machine I have to learn how to use.

 

Jia: I love it-- we're looking around Marvin's house and we're going to record a short episode of cribs for you... Marvin's cribs...

 

(laughing)

 

Jia: But going back to the lectio divine, I want to know, Treasure - from this reading and from this morning, what were the things that stood out to you. And then from you Marvin, when Treasure was reading, what was ringing new to you as someone who authored this text.

 

Marvin: Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

Treasure: Well, I'm gonna have to tell you. I am gonna have to put something under a little bit of pressure. Because, this is for me, obviously black feminist theology. And black feminism says not just having choice is feminism - there's often an argument between younger women who call themselves feminist, or who are interested in feminism and older women like myself in that younger women often believe that choice is feminism. So, if I sleep with who I want to sleep with, that's feminism. If I dress the way I want to dress, that's feminism.

 

Marvin: Right. Right. Right.

 

Treasure: And they leave out a critique of markets and systems...

 

Marvin: Got it. Got it.

 

Treasure: So they leave out the fact that, you know, Caribbean and Latin and Asian women who are now our new domestic force don't get to choose who they sleep with. Sometimes they have to do survival sex. Right? And where can they fit into feminism? How can feminism serve them, their material needs?

 

So! Coming back to a Beyoncean Theology, she's often pulled in by young women as "that's feminism" because, see, I do what I want, I'm sexy, I deploy my sexuality the way I want to. So, how do you reconcile what can be called Beyonce's blindness to critique of the market with her holiness?

 

Marvin: Yeah, yeah. You know because I know the market, capitalism, the industry was only created to make money off of us and not for us to make money within it - I feel like her moves, you know, says that I am both in the system and created by the system and exploiting the system. I believe in the crafting of image and a popular exterior that can be commodified. I don't think there is without, for her, from her fingernails to her headdress, a move that is not curated to make money. You know?

 

But also to be creative, I think that black women participating public art and commercial art doesn't mean that there is not a subverting of black cultural production within it. And so I think when I about Beyonce participating in this cultural production and in capitalism, I'm like and white folks still don't get it. But my friends who are on the boards talking about Beyonce in African diasporic traditions - like her gold dress meant something to my friends who are Yoruba. They saw something completely different. My friends who practice..... saw something completely different when her chair tilted back and her legs were open to the table, people saw things and then there are like the conspiracy theorists on the boards who are like, what do they say that Jay-Z and Beyonce are? The um?

 

Jia, Treasure: The Illuminati? 

 

(laughing)

 

Marvin: I love them!! But I think there's a way in which she's also saying - I'm going to participate in spectacle. Like, Blackness is spectacle - it's spectacular but spectacle is the capitalization and the capitalizing, it's participating in capitalism when the spectacle becomes, when you can buy it. She's like - I'm Black, I'm from Houston, I got a drawl and I am now creating from this this image that you will buy. It's not even like the chattle slavery auction block, you know? I'm putting myself.

 

And I don't know... it's problematic... I don't-- I've not thought about it fully because the words came to me before the theory came to me. But I don't know who else gets to hold her up, but I hold her up as a theology that speaks against capitalism, that speaks to black cultural production and flaunting it in such a way to say…  

 

It's like my friend, I met her once… She said - I put 'lesbian' on my mailbox so people can find me. But it will never tell you who lives here. I want my community to be able to find me. I want folks to know that I'm a part of this tribe and so I make visible signs that you can find me. You know, I make myself a target and I make myself available to this cultural production called lesbian, black lesbian, so you can find me. But she's very clear, that don't tell you who live here because it's on my mailbox. That just makes me able to be found.

 

So I think about it like that. And yes, like even, we're all a part of the system. If you have a social security number, a driver's license, applied for a grant or a job, had a background check, had a loan, got a ticket, we're all working within the system. And whether that system is the academy or the entertainment industry as a system, we're all in it. Are we holding up the system, are we dismantling the system, are we learning how the system works and transforming it or at least extracting from it as much as it's extracting from us.  But... all that to say... I don't know.

 

(laughing all around)

 

Jia: I think that what you're touching on is that it's tricky - because there's one kind of way of thinking that says, if you're talking about something and you see something good in it then everything about it you've said is good. And I think even theologians think that way or people of faith, you know, there's very binary thinking of okay I subscribe to this sacred text and I believe some things in it and therefore everything must go. Or even the reverse, everything must be thrown away.

 

But part of what I was thinking was that, in writing the status itself you were giving meaning to what you saw, and that in itself is like, okay-- Marvin put his Marvin stamp on it. That was transforming the original art that was there. And you know people debate all day about what author's intend and all of that. And I think being in the post-modern era we get to say WE make meaning of, not only of the things we're consuming and the things that we're reading, but even each other. This conversation itself, whenever I speak into it, I'm adding something to it, into it and same with Treasure and you as well.

 

Marvin: Yeah. And I know I have to be conscious and careful that I am not exacting what patriarchy has always done to women which is try to tell their stories. And I looked at that and there is something else happening on these Grammy Awards. And, you know, let me try to both take the wind out of the wind of the bible and Christianity and also to add a sacredness to this pop expression. And the best way for me to do that is to blow it all the way up, you know, and make it sacred text. And to think of pop as ritual and as sacred goes against - I mean there are faith traditions that are like we don't watch TV, we don't wear skirts, we don't wear make up...

 

Treasure: We don't even play instruments in our worship service.

 

Marvin: Right. We don't play other, we don't play with gods, we don't put crowns on our heads. Or wear all this ornamentation or move in certain ways. I just wanted that to be a divine moment. Yeah - and I love that same night, I think Adele won some award that everyone thought Beyonce was gonna win and...

 

Treasure: (with conviction) That she should have won...

 

Jia: Mmmm hmmmm

 

Marvin: Yes. And Adele's like Beyonce should have won this. And then the two hosts, like Tina Fey and the woman Tina Fey always hosts with were like 'I wish Beyonce was my mother' - so I love to hear two white women saying that. Because I was thinking about the ways in which

 

(laughing)

 

Jia: There's all these critiques too...

 

Treasure: Right... right...

 

Marvin: Well I was thinking about the ways in which, well, women have been like... here... let me show you a picture.

 

Treasure: He's getting up. He is getting a picture for us to see.

 

Jia: Sounds really metallic in there. What?

 

Marvin: This is a scale...

 

(oohs all around)

 

Marvin: This is a photo of my grandmother holding white children that she raised. And so this is about the weight of that you know...

 

Jia: Dang…

 

Treasure: (instructing) Photo.

 

Jia: So, we're gonna take a picture for you all but on the scale there's usually all these lines onward - it almost looks halo like - and I'm sure you did that on purpose because you do so many things with intentionality.

 

Treasure: Mmmm. Yeah, my grandmother, there's a picture in one of our photo albums too of her holding a very fat and satisfied looking white baby. (laughing)

 

Marvin: And I thought of that when they said, I wish Beyonce was our mother...

 

Treasure: And you thought - she was! She was.

 

Marvin: She was. She was. If Beyonce wasn't doing that performance, she wouldn't have a job.

 

Jia: Dang.

 

Treasure: Mmmmm.

 

Jia: So Treasure, do you have anything to speak to that? Or have we really exegete this text for however much we're going to do today?

 

Treasure: You know what? This text is un-exegetable.

 

(laughing all around)

 

Jia: Okay, okay!

 

Treasure: It is so rich and layered that it would take many more bottles of Hennessey for us to get to the kernels, the final break it down, to break it down to its base components. So what we're gonna do is to let it live out there - in the virtual world the way it does. I think that what we're doing is coming to the end of the recording conversation, even though we're gonna keep talking afterwards. 

 

Jia: Right. Treasure has so many other questions lingering in her mind. We talked about it and we were so excited to come here.

 

Treasure: Yes. Yes.

 

Marvin: But can I stay there for one second...

 

Treasure: Please do...

 

Marvin: Cause again, to hear it back and to even have the pressure applied to it, is just huge to me. Because people don't critique the work on Facebook. It's like those professors in seminary who said - a good paper's a done paper. And I think people don't know that there's a rigor, that I actually construct and write and pain over some of the statuses to get to this place. So to hear it in this setting, to hear it read back, to hear it critiqued, to hear it questioned, means that there is something in it.

 

Treasure: Oh yes.

 

Marvin: And so, and I know that in the system of Facebook, a like, I have to figure out what a "like" and a "love" and a "frown" or a "tear" - those mean, ‘cause people don't usually-- And I get a lot of that's good, that's right, yeah go girl. But this, like I think has made the text richer and has given me an opportunity to go back into it. So I appreciate that. Thank you both.

 

Jia: So with that gratitude, I did want to say the first time you were talking about our reactions to it and how that made you feel, immediately what popped into my head is - Is that how the Creator feels? (Marvin responds: Yes, yeah, yeah after every statement) Because you are, in writing this, and also in having us repeat this back to you, you are in a position of creating, right? And there is this saying we're made in the image of God and so for us to speak it back to you, in a way, is to bring meaning back into that and bring it to life.

 

Marvin: Yeah, I love that. I love the process, the God in process, the process theology God - that cannot even become God until we call God's name. God is not sittin around being God. God only becomes God when we call God.

 

Treasure: Mmmmm. Mmmmm.

 

Marvin: God is not sitting around rehearsing you know with these rehearsed tears, God is crying for the first time when we cry out to God. So you know, when we read and respond to what is supposedly God's word. God is like - I wrote that? I said that?

 

Jia: What do your tears mean?

 

(laughing all around)

 

Marvin: That's dope... I gotta rise up to that occasion? I'm that God? Damn.. that's a lot out of me. All that shit I've done - floods, pettiness, locusts, kill people, they think of me like this? Sheeit...

 

(laughing all around)

 

Marvin: (with emphasis) God rubs God's goatee...

 

Jia: As Marvin rubs his...

 

Marvin: God takes a shot of Henny. (liquid splashes)

 

Treasure: Right.

 

Jia: So we conclude with questions for listeners. What are the questions in our minds? I think one of the questions in my mind is - in what ways are you creating? And in conversation with others who bring that creation alive?

 

Treasure: I think another question I would ask would - how do bring out the theology in the ordinary? What is it in your everyday, material lived existence that you're finding holiness in?

 

Marvin: And, if you are as far as your people's story has ever gotten - how are you responsible for telling that story? This, the three of us, is as far as our stories have gotten in our family's history. So what are we required to do, knowing that we hold that. And what does that, yeah, how does that propel us to do something different?

 

Jia: And how can our listeners support you? That's something that we...

 

Marvin: Um, my Venmo—no!  

 

(laughing)

 

Treasure: Go there.

 

Jia: You go there! A. Reparations. B. On your Facebook statuses as a professional Facebook statustician, you put your PayPal, Venmo and Cash App tithes and offerings. So explain that a little bit and then say your handles.

 

Marvin: Yeah. Um, I don't know them. I'll have to find them, yeah, unfortunately but I do believe that I'm having church and I liken Facebook to old time radio church and I think I want to give people the opportunity to sow into this ministry.

 

Treasure: Yes. Yes. To sow seed.

 

Marvin: If they have been moved, have been inspired, something has been sparked in them. Even if they say, hell I could have wrote that. My work is done. For you to see the divine in your ordinary, cause this is just, I'm writing from what I have laying around and from what I saw on TV. And you should be doing the same. And if it brings you into creation just by participating in my madness that I'm putting out, and you appreciate that, you know show it. And rarely, you know, do people give but... I was at a fundraising conference once and people gotta be asked, people gotta know that you that you're willing to accept, what was your word? Renumerations?

 

Jia: Support. Love. Help. Appreciation. High fives. Fist bumps…

 

Marvin: Yeah, and when you're us, and people don't think that you need help because you're so creative and so generative and so you know now we're doing this thing and this thing. People don't know that we need help. You know, even at Cave Canem, I've felt like I came through the side door and not the front door. That I felt like I've not had mentors, my mentors died, who should’ve been my mentors during the AIDS pandemic. And the ways that a fuller bellied Marvin would mean more posts and more things. So, but because of the way that I show up in the world, I don't people think - I wonder if Marvin needs anything? So this is like me beginning to make that available if folks want to because you're supposed to, people don't know what to give unless you ask them. Or give them an opportunity to.

 

Treasure: Yes. So we're giving them an opportunity to now and so that what is that Venmo? (laughing)

 

Jia: He said he's got to look it up! I was scrolling through on my Facebook. If you don't find it right now Marvin, we promise you we'll put it on our website.

 

Marvin: Yes. And it's on my website: marvinkwhite.com

 

Treasure: That's it!

 

Jia: That's it! Go to marvinkwhite.com, read more brilliance. There's some photography on there, is that correct?

 

Marvin: I have everything. I have everything on there.

 

Jia: Everything on there. I heard speaking on there as well.

 

Marvin: I have sermons on there. I have artwork on there. I have the calendar on there. And it's growing. I have recordings of house music theologies that I've participated in and house music rituals that I love to create are on there. And it's just... yeah... it's just church.

 

(music fades in)

 

Jia: Thank you for listening to the Who Raised You? Podcast, a storytelling project brought to you by the Who Raised You Listening Collective. Featuring media by artists of color in the St. Louis region. To support us, rate and review Who Raised You? Podcast on every platform.

 

Treasure: Visit Who Raised You? Podcast.com to book us for speaking and consulting on arts and storytelling projects. While you're on whoraisedyoupodcast.com, donate to support The Who Raised You? Listening Collective. Put groceries on our table!

 

Jia: We are the 2018-2019 Start Up Competition winners brought to you by your friends at the PNC Foundation, and Arts and Education Council of St. Louis. They gave us an office! For this year. Podcasting for the Centene Center for the Arts.

 

Treasure: If you'd like to sponsor us and have us share your products and services with our audience, let's talk about it. Email us at whoraisedyoupodcast@gmail.com. We'd love to partner with you and share your story.

 

Jia: Connect with us on social media.

 

Treasure: Like Who Raised You? Podcast on Facebook.

 

Jia: Tweet us @whoraisedyoupod on Twitter

 

Treasure: Slide into our dm's @whoraised on the Gram.

 

Jia: (singing) On the gram!

 

Treasure: (singing) Ooo Ooo! (laughs)

 

Jia: Say hi! 

 

{music fades in}

You raised me to be…

You raised me to be yeahhh

You raised me to be…

Ahh…

{music ends}