12. Testify

“Even our Black women’s style of talking/testifying in Black language about what we have experienced has a resonance that is both cultural and political.”

Is there such a thing as Black language? Or Black women’s style? Maybe there are many non-normative language practices and many manifestations of black femininity. In this passage, the authors of the Combahee River Collective Statement draw on a tradition of “testifying” most commonly remembered as statements of faith spoken by members of black churches, and black southern churches in particular. We say that testifying can also be used outside of churches when people express the profound and sometimes difficult truths of their own experiences. We have seen breakthroughs in analysis, relationships and action when people speak deeply about where their faith in movement and their energy for organizing comes from.

What are 3 things you can testify to as important experiences that have built your faith in the world you want to create?
Check out the piece from Ashon below:

Ashon Crawley

Ashon Crawley

Leave your 3 testimonies as comments here or email us at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!


One Response to “12. Testify”

  1. Ashon T Crawley Says:

    And they shall speak with tongues
    I grew up ever-so Black and Pentecostal. I went to church. Often. I learned that to experience the divine meant one encounters God with intimacy of the deepest level. The Pentecostal Christian tradition teachers its followers that God not only wants to guide you in your daily actions and wants to have a close communion with each individual, but that God through God’s own spirit wants to live in individuals and speak out of individuals. Yes. We believe in clapping hands, stomping feet, running around the church, spirited dancing. And yes. We believe in God’s spirit speaking through individuals.

    We speak in tongues. Yet, I was a gay boy. I am a gay man. And if I learned anything in church other than the spirited aesthetics, I learned that being gay created a huge chasm between God and myself. How could I ever encounter the divine in that deep, intimate, closely personal way and be gay concurrently? Would I have to relinquish my queerness? Tried that; didn’t work. Praying the gay away did not suit me well. Would I have to I cry many tears, real tears, authentic tears; didn’t work. Crying the gay away did not suit me well.

    But I remember a day in church while living in Philadelphia when I was fully aware of myself as a sexual being, fully committed to knowing myself as a Black, gay man without a desire for change; fully committed to knowing myself as a deeply spiritual individual with an already wonderful communion with the divine. It was on that day that I had my first Pentecostal experience. I spoke in tongues. And it was that experience – fully conscious of myself as a sexual and spiritual being, committed to the viability of myself as a whole person – that convinced me of the correctness of my queerness, even of its necessity.

    I can testify that it was my Pentecostal experience that not only opened up a realm of spirituality heretofore unknown to me but also that experience opened up a realm of selfhood and acceptance that was not fathomable. The world I seek to create is one where all voices are heard, where all voices are given space to speak from their depths.

    Like Arthur and Crunch…
    …in James Baldwin’s novel Just Above My Head, having had their first sexual experience with each other heard the same gospel songs they had always sung anew, my Pentecostal experience gave me a new appreciation for music.

    I am a musician, a singer, a songwriter. Before that experience, music and song certainly were spirited but did not open up into the way the world could be. I have faith in the viability of all humanity, to the sustenance of all creatures and I have this faith because music and song exists. Music and song, it seems to me, allows for the documentation of the past and present, and also permits a radical imagination and posture towards future possibilities. Music and song, as such, are not only are-the-fact of occurrence but can titillate one to commit to justice for the world.

    I testify, simply, that love is a mandatory need for the world in which I seek to create. Love of friends, of family, of earth, of all creation. Love allows us to stand in solidarity with each other, to be justice-oriented, to be peace seekers.

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