Women’s History Month: Safety for my Black, Woman Story within Kingdom Rice

Most of us can pinpoint with accuracy where we were in March of 2020. Particularly the weekend of March 13-15, when many states started to impose restrictions on movement with the shelter in place orders. I was boarding a plane on March 11 to go see my daughter, plans that had been made months in advance. She was in grad school and as when she was in undergrad I would make some time for a visit. 

There was anticipation to see my daughter, her new apartment, and the fun places she had discovered in her new neighborhood. My mind wasn’t really processing the changing, often conflicting, information coming over the airwaves in the many news reports. Sure, I was concerned, but nothing was going to keep me from seeing my daughter. Each day of our visit was filled with great food, great fun, and a little adventure through the city. 

This story takes me back to March 13, 2020 when another daughter was gunned down in her apartment. A story that got lost in those early days of the pandemic. But what was not lost on the Black community was the age-old pandemic of anti-Black sentiments resurfacing. It’s hard to know that another mother’s heart was being ripped apart while I enjoyed time with my daughter. Sure, we were impacted by the pandemic, but at least she was alive for me to commiserate with. 

March is Women’s History month and it only seems right to remind us that the mother of Breonna Taylor, four years later, is still awaiting justice for the senseless shooting by overzealous law enforcement that entered Breonna’s apartment on March 13, 2020. While I was spending time with my daughter, Breonna Taylor took her last breaths in Louisville, Kentucky

As prominent as this story has become, our social media newsfeeds remind us to say her name, I don’t know if without the loss of other Black lives in 2020 would we have ever heard Breonna’s story. Would it have just been lost amidst the Covid pandemic headlines? Often quoted are the words of Malcolm X “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Now, imagine being a Black woman and the mother of a Black woman. These realities grip my heart daily. 

For many of you reading this I’m sure you have your own stories of which news headlines mattered to you in 2020, ways your community was impacted and how your lives were forever changed by fear, confusion, and trauma. Sometimes it can feel as if there is only enough room for one marginalized community at a time to take up space in the news cycle. The unfortunate consequence of who and what gets centered in the media can make us feel as if we are in competition to be seen and have our stories be important enough to be told.

It is not lost on me that 2020 was filled with bias and prejudice against the AAPI community resulting in harm to those young and elderly. In direct response an AAPI organization offered a Bystander training online to help those who would like to stand up against various forms of bullying in an effort to deescalate situations before they could become physically harmful and require involvement of law enforcement. I attended one such training because it was important for me to learn from the community being impacted how best to help. 

One thing I learned is that not every community has the same approach to resolving conflict. Though shame and honor are found in all cultures, AAPI culture’s unique manifestation of shame and honor means conflict resolution are said and done differently. In AAPI communities, saving face is the goal when attempting to stand up on behalf of someone in their defense. Nuance is important in cross cultural interactions, so learning from a community in order to be helpful if/when needed seemed important, so I invested the time on more than one occasion. 

None of this is to pat myself on the back, but to share that as a Christ follower who believes every life has value I could not stay focused only on my community when another community was being harmed. It’s easy to be tribal and stay inward focused. It takes some work to go outside our bubbles and try to understand how others are experiencing life from their context. Getting involved can be complicated, uncomfortable, and require of us more than we intended to give. But the willingness to try is always appreciated by those who are at the margins in need of empathy and understanding. 

Our stories matter and it’s the power of a shared story that I’ve found to be the gift of the Lenses Cohort. This invitationby Kingdom Rice to learn to embody our story is not at all what I expected. Truth is I didn’t know what to expect the first time. Being the only Black woman in a predominantly Asian space I was not sure how my story would be received. If I’m honest I wasn’t sure if I would be regarded with suspicion or if people would be guarded in the sharing of their personal lives because I, as an “outsider”, was listening in. 

The Black and AAPI communities have long been pitted against one another, so I wasn’t sure how this would go. But I decided to trust that having our faith in Christ in common this may be a safe place to show up, listen, learn, and share. I was not disappointed. 

With what seem like very simple questions there is a layered affect that gets beneath the surface to depths of our experiences. That’s the beauty of what happens in the safe space curated for people to bring their whole self to be enveloped in a community that will hold the raw, the mundane, and historical narrative one brings. Welcomed is each story from its social location, cultural background, and familial lineage. 

Nothing is rehearsed, and it doesn’t have to be sensational to be important. Each person is invited to be honest with themselves and those holding space. There were times when things one may have never planned to share were offered hesitantly, but there is something different about this space that beckons one to bravery. 

The power of the Lenses Cohort is in the fellowship of sharing that can only be experienced. I have participated in two cohorts in 12 months in which I was privileged to hold space as others excavated parts of their story and they held space for me as I did the same. Our stories matter and we need a safe space that is willing and able to hold the narratives that surface in a given season. 

Christ is the common denominator that makes much of this kind of deep work possible. In each cohort experience I was met with kindness, curiosity, and love. I offered the same and healing was gained by all in various ways. Unearthing stories is worth the journey.

Grace & Peace, 

Felicia Larson ~ Kingdom Rice Board Member

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