You’re new to the Fortress editorial team, so my first question is, what attracted you to apply and ultimately join the Fortress Press team?
My attraction to the Fortress Press team flows from several streams of experiences and callings. First, I’ve known since about the second grade that my life would revolve around the printed word. Meanwhile, my vocational understanding of ministry is centered on using whatever skills God has placed into my hands. And I’m good with words and helping others express what they want to say through words.
Along the way, I also began understanding my calling as a healer. As such, I believe that the healing many people, especially minoritized communities, need requires two types of activities in the world. First, people need support for their recoveries from internalized wounds—theological, psychological, and social—that diminish their human flourishing and identities as people formed in God’s image. And people need the transformation of social and ecclesial structures that create or exacerbate those wounds in the first place.
Joining the Fortress Press team allows me to use my gifts to amplify voices of folks doing transformational and healing work within various disciplines that complement my trainings and orientations. Although I grew up in the Baptist church, most of my seminary-based training has been in Methodist circles. As such, I’ve adopted John Wesley’s understanding of the world as my parish.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and how that informs the types of books you’re looking to acquire?
I grew up steeped in Black church culture, and my family evolved to become a ministerial one. My brother pastors a local church in our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. And my father just came out of retirement for a second time to serve as an assistant pastor at a church near Raleigh, North Carolina. Ironically, my brother and I have been clergy members longer than our father. My mother and sister keep the three of us white-collared ones grounded. My family also emphasizes education, although much of my childhood was lived in working-class neighborhoods. Among my immediate family members, we have way too many degrees.
Vocationally, I’ve also been a newspaper journalist with accolades in column and editorial writing as well as new product launches. Those experiences helped me hone my approach toward observing and leading public discussions about everyday ways that various systems hinder or help people’s human flourishing. They also helped form my approach toward harnessing convening power and platforms for love, justice, and righteousness. After newspapering, I turned to Christian life coaching and, eventually, pastoral care and counseling with a stint in African American Christian publishing along the way. My areas of acquisition—womanism, social justice, the practices of the church, leadership, and pastoral care and counseling—are natural extensions of those backgrounds.
While I’m not a theologian, I’ve heard that our personal theology arises from our own experiences. If you’re willing, could you provide a brief snapshot of your own theology?
I’ve simplified my theology over the years. My basic theology is that we, humans, are in evolving relationships with God, ourselves, creation, and others to figure out what love is from God’s perspective and how to love like God as individuals-in-community. Though I say my theology is simple, I consider myself a womanist, narrative pastoral theologian, and I acknowledge that label takes a bit of unpacking.
As a narrative theologian, I believe that we best understand what’s happening in our evolving relationships by exploring our lived experiences and the stories they tell rather than subscribing to a set of prescriptive doctrines. As a womanist, I believe that I can only authentically start theological inquiry from my particularity. And the same goes for others and their authentic starting points. From my lived experience, I can examine how identity-shaping encounters—systemic, social, cultural, cosmic, and individualistic ones—affect my capacity to fully love myself, God, others, and creation. As a practical theologian, I specialize in pastoral care and counseling to explore ways that faith communities help or hinder human flourishing and liberation from oppressions.
What is a piece of media you’ve consumed recently that has resonated with you? It can be a book, TV show, or movie. And why did it resonate with you?
I’m currently leaning into the Starz television series P-Valley and Beyoncé’s newest album, Renaissance. Both pieces of media highlight ways that sexuality can be used subversively, particularly by Black women and queer folks, as a form of humanization and liberation from oppressive forces, even if the dominant culture labels these ways of accessing sexuality as taboo.