Ciera is a Deeply Rooted alumn; she performed her spoken-word poetry for us in May 2017 and November 2018. She is a courageous, authentic person who writes deeply about her faith, doubts, discoveries, and struggles. Check her out here!
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Anita Scott will not be able to join us in November, but please pray for her as she is completing graduate school with the hope of becoming a principal! Which would be the coolest school ever.
We want to gather talent locally, diligently searching for women who are furthering the kingdom with their words, their art, their very presence.
I reached out to Rediet Mulugeta of Mission Year (check them out!) and asked her if she knew any spoken-word poets she could throw my way. She did!
Ciera Smith, a Chicago transplant from Philadelphia, has a passion for youth, teaching, and writing. A Spring 2014 graduate of the University of Maryland—College Park, she received her B.A. in English. Immediately following graduation, she went on to do Mission Year in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago’s west side. It is here where she fell in love with the neighborhood and grew a passion for investing and walking along side the youth that she was serving.
She is currently studying Urban Studies and Youth Development at Eastern University where she will graduate in the Spring. She is also currently a lead teacher for the 7th and 8th grade classroom at Breakthrough Urban Ministries in their after-school program as well as on staff with Mission Year as their recruitment assistant. Ciera finds joy in writing, cooking, checking out new coffee shops and restaurants in the city, and spending time with friends.
The main reason we gather women together is to provide teaching that is biblically sound, accessible, engaging, challenging, and inspiring. We pray hard about who to invite and spend a lot of time looking for gifted local women who have wisdom, integrity, and a heart for reaching and encouraging others.
We are so excited for this lineup and know these women will bring you Gospel truth with a side of humor and draw you closer to Jesus and one another. We will be introducing each of these women in separate posts.
KIMBERLY PENROD PELLETIER
Katelyn Durst is a poet, community artist, creative activist, teacher and youth worker. Katelyn hails from the northern coast of the Great Lake State. She has worked within urban youth development and urban community development for ten years in cities such as Chicago, Denver, DC, LA, Seattle and Flint (MI) . Additionally, she has taught poetry for six years and recently conducted poetry therapy workshops at a youth psychiatric hospital and Freedom Schools summer programming in a workshop focused on healing from the unjust deaths of youth of color
Katelyn is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Urban Studies and Community Arts from Eastern University. This program focuses on trauma-informed art-making to build sustainable and transformative resiliency within urban/inner-city and displaced communities. As an artist-in-residence with Flint Public Art Project, she is developing a narrative community arts project that will give voice to family stories as they process and grow through the current state of the water crisis. She continues to work as a poetry teacher and is additionally developing a food literacy curriculum for Flint schools.
Her poems have appeared in Controlled Burn, The Lightkeeper, Deep Fried Poetry, The Offbeat, Teen Ink, New Poetry Magazine and are forthcoming in Tayo Literary Magazine and the Primal School Blog. In her spare time, Katelyn She dreams of her next great adventure and becoming an urban beekeeper.
Check out one of her poems on The Mudroom!
“Experiencing a taste of heaven” is how I would describe the Deeply Rooted gathering on May 21. Truthfully, there were a host of reasons that could have kept me away. The month of May filled up with plenty of obligations. Thankfully, my husband encouraged me to make room for it. I even invited a friend! Forgetting to care for our own soul becomes tempting as we get in the habit of caring for others. Yet, we must be cautious that we don’t become parched and undernourished. We must find ways of keeping our roots sustained. The Deeply Rooted gathering did just that.
People worship our Creator in a variety of ways. The blessing that came through this gathering was the variety of worship forms through which the voice of God spoke. The songs, though familiar, took on a different perspective in this venue. Despite our differences and our church backgrounds, we were singing common music. The instruments may have been different (which I love) but the language was understood by all.
Intermingled with worship through music were speakers Rev. Dr. Velda Love, June Felix, and a poet Elyssa Salinas. We are all blessed when the Holy Spirit uses our unique gifts and talents to be manifest. I felt the characters come to life as she became their voices. In particular, I was impacted by the narrative of Hagar. So often the story is told of Abraham and Hagar takes a minor; if not scandalous part. Here, Hagar spoke of what was forced upon her. An act, which truthfully, is criminal by our standards. The pain, the humiliation, and despair she felt as she was cast away from the family that no longer had “need” of her was deep. Yet, in the midst of it, she is reminded that she is not invisible; she is not a label. She is known by and loved by her Creator.
June challenged the listeners to embrace the wonder of God. She drew us in by sharing a bit of her personal story involving her mother who had recently passed. She was left with unanswered questions regarding her mother’s life. Not having answers can leave us unsettled yet we’re reminded throughout scripture of the mysteries of God. For example, as she pointed out, many people know John 3:16 by heart; however, John 3:7-8 is not a popular memorized passage. June stated that “trusting God requires learning how to be comfortable with the ‘unknown knowns.’” “Unknown knowns” are the promises of God as revealed through scripture and a personal relationship. I appreciated her reminder that God gives just what we need for the moment. So often, I think of the “what ifs” down the road but forget that God’s already holding onto that for me. In a humorous illustration, our life hidden in Christ was compared to a “Turducken.” The closing challenge confronted our own legacy. By embracing the “unknown knowns,” others may look at our life and wonder “Who is this Jesus?”
Rev. Dr. Velda Love’s presentation exhorted women to reclaim their true identities. She began by referencing the choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Written by Ntozake Shange, the poem (and play) “is concerned with the victimization of women and with finding the young black woman’s voice and self.” The characters’ narratives bring a voice to both the individual and collective suffering at the hands of those in power. By expressing verbally and orally the violence against them as black women, they fight to break up a system that has perpetuated the oppression. Rev. Dr. Love asked us to consider what our own play would be called. Furthermore, the challenge lies in asking ourselves questions such as, “Who writes your story?” “Who has power over your existence?” “Who is mending your soul?” Such significant questions, but how often do we ask them? The answers have implications concerning how we view faith, our understanding of scripture, how we view God, and our relationship to others.
As we examined key passages, Rev. Dr. Love deconstructed common interpretations and provided historical and literal background. So much of what we come to understand biblically has its roots in source materials written in patriarchal societies. All miss out on the full implications of scripture when it is viewed through a lens that is skewed. Acknowledgement of that truth is necessary to embracing our identity as God’s creation. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost “is a sign and message to women; you are empowered by God to be whole, to speak and create, to worship, and not fear or feel threatened by life or life’s circumstances.” The Holy Spirit does not differentiate. That is reason to rejoice!
My friend and I are still basking in the glory of the Deeply Rooted gathering. The beauty of the Holy Spirit is manifest in the deepening of our relationships to each other as we are nourished individually. The insight gained from that evening continues to feed our conversations. Speaking of feeding, treats are always an appreciated part of any gathering. The hospitality was appreciated—not only did it allow for more opportunity to engage but the yummy snacks were a simple gesture of sharing God’s love. I’m quite sure my friend and I received an abundance of it! I look forward to the next Deeply Rooted gathering and more connections to feed my hungry soul.
Elyssa Salinas performed spoken-word poetry for us at our May gathering. Her words were a clarion call to self-awareness and strength, as she took on Hagar’s hurt and shame, and pleaded with Frida Kahlo for wisdom. Even if you think you don’t like or understand poetry, please watch this performance. You’ll never look at poetry the same way, and may even be inspired to write your own!
A Conversation I Never Expected to Have
I was made with more than flesh in mind;
A mind! Imagine that.
A mind that reasons & wonders why
All you see are body parts;
Mountains & valleys that you can walk over & conquer.
Not afraid of rough terrain or how it will fight back,
Just looking for a place to stick your flag.
A claim for all to see that you saw, you came & you conquered.
I was made with more than flesh in mind.
Given the gift of womanhood,
Of soft curves, short stature & the hope that one day
I will meet her.
The woman I’m supposed to become –
The woman everyone seems so excited to meet.
I was given the gift of womanhood.
A package filled with more than
Sugar in the raw &
Spices to fill the rack.
My womanhood lay underneath
Tissue paper and ribbon.
Gently laid and ready to be assembled.
My limbs were put together by women;
Women older & wiser than me who
Fastened me, piece by piece.
Putting my arm in a socket,
Showing me how to embrace
A mother &
Telling me one day I won’t need any instruction
To embrace a lover,
I’ll get enough practice when I find him.
Placing my hips low to the ground,
With a laying on of hands
Showing me how to sway when a beat calls to me.
They place my feet firmly on the ground & tell me
Each step I take will lead me
Through pain unbearable &
Toward pleasure unimaginable.
I was given this gift of womanhood,
As much as you might think my hips sway only in your direction,
My body submits simply to your touch,
& my lips never speak anything but your name.
You are mistaken.
My body is not a present for you to unwrap &
Discard when you’re done playing.
My body is a gift from God with
My name on the tag.
A God that gave me the ability to create or wait,
Or just to say no if I choose.
My hips are not just childbearing –
They are weight-bearing, rhythm making, melody moving &
Cocked from side to side, depending on my mood.
These breasts are not meant for you to unclasp & set free,
To fondle as you dream.
They were meant for me
To push down, push up, fill out my dress if I see fit
& if I want you step
From that plate to touch a new base
I will tell you.
And what I hold between my legs
Was never meant to be called
Chastity, virginity, purity or honor.
It was never meant to be
Property, a bicycle, or a revolving door.
What I hold between my legs is not called
It has a name
all its own,
but one I choose
& do not have to share with you.
What I hold between my legs is
Beauty beyond measure
Ecstasy without ceasing
A point of pleasure & pain
Of life & death
& it is by invitation only that you get to come.
I have the God-given gift of being a woman &
What rests between my legs is divine pleasure,
What resides between my thighs
Is something more than a switch
Madonna & Whore
Virgin & Slut
Prude & Pleasing
What I hold between my legs is more
Than a fleshy existence
More than a quick night or fleeting fancy.
It is a place where life begins
Where existence is known
And where more women have been hurt
Then you can imagine.
I never thought I would have to explain
That my body belongs to me.
That it is my own,
That it does not belong to you.
I never thought that my decisions would give you ownership
Of a body that you do not take care of.
A nice dinner might fill my belly,
But do not think of it as admission
To play games and ride around as you please.
Take a whirl all the way to the top &
If you like it,
Make it spin again.
Pay a little extra and maybe it will go backwards?
I was made with more than flesh in mind.
I have the God-given gift that you try to turn
Into something I should hide
Or something I should give away.
But I have decided to keep this present,
This ever present gift that is God given,
The gift of being a woman.
Of soft curves, short stature &
That ever present hope that one day
I will be her,
The woman that everyone seems so excited to meet.
We are absolutely ecstatic that Dallas spoken-word poet Anita Scott will be performing at Deeply Rooted again! Anita is a high school teacher with a gift for creating powerful poems that capture audiences, leaving them wanting more. She is the Poet in Residence at The Mudroom, contributing a spoken-word video each month, and has performed her poetry nationally. Join us November 4 & 5 for our next gathering. Watch this video for an introduction to Anita Scott.
“Thank you for a wondering evening with Deeply Rooted. The speakers affirmed in me that my voice as a single woman is valid and my story is worth telling. I have been making a lot of art about my journey—these women gave voice to all women who need to encouragement to stand rooted in their faith and rooted in their womanhood.”Rev. Dr. Velda Love had this to say: “Thank you for the invitation to speak. I just did what you asked and look at God . . . always doing amazingly more than we could ever expect or imagine. The women were lovely, beautiful, ready, receptive, and very present. I had an opportunity to hug and talk with young women and more seasoned women. There is so much work to be done in our lives, so anytime you need me just call.”
Anita Scott performed three breathtakingly beautiful poems for us, and you can watch them here!
Sandra Van Opstal pastors at Grace and Peace Community in Chicago and is the author of The Next Worship and The Mission of Worship. A liturgist and activist, she is passionate about mobilizing Christians for reconciliation and justice. She frequently consults, speaks, and writes on topics of racial identity and global mission. Sandra serves as a board member for Evangelicals for Justice and the Christian Community Development Association.
Rev. Velda Love is the director of justice and intercultural learning in the Office of Diversity’s Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning at North Park University. Velda collaborates with various academic schools to develop curricular and co-curricular opportunities with an emphasis on social justice related issues.
Velda completed a MATS from North Park Theological Seminary and is Ordained to Specialized Ministry in Social Justice in the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is a pastoral assistant at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Ill., and serves on various boards and task forces that address interfaith dialogue, homelessness, and youth incarceration. She is completing her DMin in social transformation from Chicago Theological Seminary.
We hope and pray you will join us. We can’t wait to meet you.