Presence as Rebellion

Never has a quote so resounded in my life as this one right now: 

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
— Albert Camus

My name is Monique Harris and I am thrilled to be joining Still Harbor as a Senior Associate. As a graduate of the Spiritual Director Practicum at Still Harbor, I am very drawn to the focus on social justice and anti-oppression work.

This quote is a nexus from which I live and work as I struggle with what it means to be free. As a Black woman in America, that question has to begin with the fight against racism. 

Dr. Camara Jones - a medical doctor and scientist - studies the impacts of racism on health outcomes for Americans and uses allegory beautifully to break down systemic racism in her TEDx Talk: Allegories on race and racism.
Her narrative reminds me why I seek to do my work in such a way that my simple presence and perseverance will impact the world. I look up to those who have come before me in doing this work. Toni Morrison, as a Nobel Prize winning writer, helped me locate myself as a Black woman in the world. And her words help me in my efforts to not become consumed by the very things that I seek to eradicate in our racialized and divided nation:

The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.
— Toni Morrison

Another inspiration of mine is Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall. She was as formidable in the fight for racial equality as she was behind the pulpit. By breaking barriers in Christian ministry and in the Civil Rights Movement, she has encouraged me to pursue what she calls: “Freedom Faith.” She is also credited with coining the phrase “I have a dream” that was later used by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is a snippet of a rare audio recording of her sermon, "Between the Wilderness and the Cliff:"

The context of our ministries is between the wilderness and the cliff. But we are able to escape the cliff. We can escape the cliff, but we can’t escape the crowd. He (Jesus) escaped through their midst. We escape the people, but only through the very people who would hurl us over the cliff. The temptation at the cliff is contempt for the crowd. But don’t you surrender to contempt. Your escape is not in their hands.
— Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall

Though my ministry is yet evolving, I am truly blessed to join Still Harbor with the goal of continuing to serve my community in life-affirming ways.

As a starting point, this year, I will be offering spiritual direction and facilitating Emotional Emancipation Circles for Black people. For me, holding space for others to heal and seek freedom is work that lies precisely at the intersection of spirituality and justice. You can learn more about the necessity for these healing affinity groups in the article: “Emotional Emancipation Circles Could Bring Wave of Freedom for Blacks”.

Please stay tuned for more information about when and where we will be offering Emotional Emancipation Circles.

And, of course, if you would like to partner with us in bringing such spaces for healing to your organization or community, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:

In love,