Abstract

In her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength, Chanequa Walker-Barnes (2014) offers a theological analysis of the myth of the “StrongBlackWoman,” a trope that suggests that black women do not have the same human needs or experience pain like others. Walker-Barnes suggests self-awareness as one of a myriad of interventions to combat the internalization of the StrongBlackWoman myth and the multidimensional manifestations of dis-ease it produces in black women. Offering greater specificity to Walker-Barnes’s strategy, this paper identifies the practice of confession as a strategy of self-awareness that facilitates black women’s capacity for vulnerability. The author employs the theology of feminist theologian Meehyun Chug and reflections of black feminist Audre Lorde to argue that the act of confession operates as a practice of conscientization, or a new, more valid way for black women to discover their feelings and understand their reality. It does so by reconnecting them with their physical and spiritual being, offering a theological reinterpretation of strength that privileges vulnerability and reconciling the dissociated parts of their humanness while embracing a sense of community with God and with others. This intervention takes seriously a womanist ontology of isness, which articulates the coherent and unified relationship between the body and the soul by attending to the inextricable connection between emotional, spiritual, and physical health through the interplay of material, psychological, and spiritual experiences. Through the practice of confession, black women employ the many dimensions of their being to debunk the ideologies of discursive powers that attempt to stifle their well-being. In doing so they establish for themselves, in conjunction with God and community, a more liberating vision of strength.

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