A Feature Review of
Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love and Liberation
Christina Edmondson, Michelle Higgins, and Ekemini Uwan
Reviewed by Ope Bukola
“Truth’s Table is a show about wordy women…We exist as Black women who live by and because of God’s word, in Jesus, who we know as the Word of God: the Word who made all things in the beginning, the Word through whom everything was made. We all work through words every day, in ministry, in our communities, and in lives that interface speech and action.”
– Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation
In March 2021, I was feeling particularly separated from the church. I was burnt out on virtual church and, with vaccines not readily available, lamenting that digital worship would be a fact of life for the foreseeable future. One digital habit I still enjoyed was listening to Truth’s Table, a podcast hosted by Christina Edmondson, Michelle Higgins & Ekemini Uwan. The show, created “by and for Black Christian women” dissects culture, politics, and more. The season started with an announcement that they would host a virtual discipleship for Black women. Zoom fatigue notwithstanding, I signed up for the first six-week group. On the first Wednesday evening, I joined the call with about 20 women, and the leader Theresa Ordell explained we’d be spending the weeks studying the Bible together. Then she gave us instructions for reading. When it was your turn to read a passage, you were to begin with the phrase “The Word works!” And you’d better say it like you mean it or you might have to repeat it. In the weeks that followed, through confronting personal shames and grappling with the Chauvin trial results, we confided in each other and leaned on the Word.
This refrain – “the Word works” – was in my mind as I read this book, a compilation of essays by the three hosts of the podcast. Like its namesake podcast, the central idea of this book is that Black women have a word. We have something important to say to each other and to the church at large. The book centers on the experiences of Black women while inviting others– our friends in the “standing room section”– to observe and learn. After years of hearing these women’s voices on the podcast, I was surprised to be so enriched by reading their ideas in written form. Having gotten used to hearing them in conversation with each other and with guests, the individual essays were an opportunity to hear from each author directly. While the chapters are still in conversation with each other, each essay is a glimpse into the particular story and experience of one Black woman. We are a sisterhood, but not a monolith.
The book is split into three parts: life, love, and liberation, with each part containing one or two essays. As they describe their upbringings, successes and failures in romantic relationships, and their hopes for the future, several themes emerge. One is a deep love for the church, especially the Black church, and a lingering disappointment with the ways the church fails to live into its full power. The book opens with a painful essay on Colorism by Ekemini Uwan. Uwan is, like me, a Nigerian American who has seen the global impact of white supremacy and the way it penetrates the mind and soul of individuals and of the church. She recounts the historical complicity of the church in colorism, and calls for repentance and repair. In an essay describing her experience with divorce, Higgins describes her experience with a church community that “cared more about my marital status than my own self” and refused her the care she needed in a difficult time. This essay, like others in the book, does not call people away from the church. Instead, it calls the church to move towards what it could be: “the Black church can speak, because God has spoken through His Word and through His Son, Jesus Christ.”
While the authors don’t shy away from discussing the particular hardships of Black Christian womanhood, they also celebrate its unique joys. For example, we see the joy of sisterly discipleship, and the impact of Black women of faith on each woman: Uwan’s grandmother, Higgins’s mentors, or Edmondson’s mother, and more. Often denied the platforms to speak in an official capacity, Black women have nevertheless taught and pastored future generations, and continue to build faithful women who are holding the church together. Perhaps my favorite thing about the writing is the way it weaves the professional practice of each woman – Uwan is a public theologian, Higgins an activist, and Edmondson a PhD psychologist. It is at once history, scripture exegesis, sociology, and therapy. This is especially evident in the last part of the book where each author casts a vision for liberation. Higgins’s vision is inclined toward multi-ethnic worship that is rooted in love, justice, and righteous action. Edmondson’s is a vision of rebirth, where Black Christian women shed the burden of trying to be everything to our families and our churches, acknowledging our limitations and resting in God’s provision. Uwan describes a “Black Diasporic dreamscape” where we understand Blackness as made in the image of God and evidence of God’s goodness.
Like many fans of Truth’s Table podcast, I’ve wished the authors would write a book. While I enjoy the audio format, the ability to read and revisit these words in text is unmatched. It is the wise words of wise women. It is a word of grief, of wonder, and hope. And it is a form of prayer – an offering to a merciful God who is the Word.
The Word works!
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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