Marcia Dixon says the black Church has hugely benefitted from the people who lift the lid on taboo subjects by telling their stories.
We live in an era when it’s easy to think that people have stopped reading – but that is not the case.
The increased popularity of platforms such as YouTube and the high numbers of people listening to podcasts has piqued people’s interest in any published works YouTubers or podcasters produce. People are interested in other people’s lives; they want to hear what they have to say or learn from them.
One major development that’s taken place within the black Pentecostal Church in the past decade is the rise of self-published authors. I personally jumped on the bandwagon with my book Black Christian and Single, released in 2022.
Sharing stories and expertise
As a result of rarely being considered for book contracts, black Christians are going it alone: writing and publishing their stories. They are sharing honestly on subjects like abuse, domestic violence, church abuse, trauma, marital breakdown to name a few. Or they are publishing books where they share their expertise on subjects like parenting, marriage or business entrepreneurship. Others are publishing their autobiographies.
The clamour to self-publish has resulted in opening up discussion on topics once considered taboo within the black community, causing some to experience healing, forgiveness and even reconciliation – with God and with their fellow human beings.
Stop Hurting Me – Time To Get Out!: How to identify and eliminate physical & emotional abuse by Kim Bacchus is one book that struck a chord and sparked a major conversation about domestic violence and abuse (DVA) within the black Pentecostal Church. Statistics highlight one in four women will experience DVA, however, it was rarely spoken about openly in black Church circles. Kim helped to change that.
She wrote candidly about her experience of domestic abuse, how her faith helped her overcome it, and provided advice on how others could deal with it. After publishing her book, Kim hosted in-person events, providing a platform for others to talk about their experiences, and shared her story on radio. She definitely kick-started important conversations. Some women confided in her of their own experiences. Others raised the issue in their churches. Kim is now part of the Black Church Domestic Abuse Forum (BCDAF), which is committed to training church leaders how to support DVA victims in their congregations.
Other books like Woman Thou Art Loosed (WTAL), written by world-famous bishop TD Jakes, have served as a symbol of empowerment.
WTAL started life as a self-published work, based on a course Jakes had run at his then small church about the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34) healed by Christ through her faith. Jakes used her as a metaphor to demonstrate how women can break free from the relationships, mindsets and traumas that keep them bound.
Through word-of-mouth, interest in the book mounted and it eventually became a bestseller. It also spawned the annual Women Thou Art Loosed conference – one of the biggest events for women in the black Church calendar – and a film. I have never been to the conference (I’ve seen YouTube clips, if that counts) but I know women from the UK who have. They returned determined to fulfil their God-given purpose while dealing with issues from their past that had kept them bound. TD Jakes has now stepped down as head of WTAL and passed the mantel to his daughter Sarah Jakes Roberts.
Still relevant today
It’s a fact, however, that the most important book a person will ever read is the world’s bestselling compilation: The Bible. Written over a period of 1,500 years, the Bible covers every subject imaginable.
Although we live in what is often referred to as a post-Christian society, I believe Jesus’ parables (which are great stories) still resonate with the wider public. There can’t be anyone person on the planet who can’t identify with the life lessons of parables like The Good Samaritan – which teaches us that everyone is our neighbour; The Prodigal Son - a reminder that God love can reach us, no matter what we do or how low we fall and the parable of the Mustard Seed - which lets us know if we have faith anything is possible.
Choosing to share our own stories
In her speech, The Danger of a Single Story, internationally renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”
And she’s totally right. When individuals see themselves in someone else’s story, they can be empowered, strengthened and renewed.
Books have the power to transform and bring about change – if we allow them to. Be the change you’d like to see and consider writing a book. And if you can’t write, read. It’ll be worth it.