We were deeply honored to have EbonyJanice agree to do an Innovator Interview with us. EbonyJanice is a minister and in her own words, a… Life Strategist, Freedom Consultant, Transformational Mentor, Dynamic Speaker, Coach, Author Advocate, Publisher, Activist, Author and FREE GIRL extraordinaire. Her interview left us feeling motivated and inspired and we know you’ll feel the same way after experiencing it as well!
Visual Description: She identifies as a Black woman
Please tell us about what you do in the world…
I am a minister passionate about proving hip hop is sacred text. And my work is centering hip hop womanism. Womanism is a spiritual/religious/and socio-political methodology that centers Black women and then marginalized individuals in its conversations. And in a theological perspective, it’s the way to ask the question: Who does this text (whatever the sacred text is) favor? And, who does it benefit to believe it this way? Womanism wants us to ask it that way.
Hip hop womanism is understanding that I am as influenced by Paul and John in the New Testament as I am by Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle. And possibly even on a deeper level, Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle, that hip-hop is just the language of my life. So, it would be impossible for me to talk about anything without using that language, particularly something I feel passionate about, which is the spirit.
My spiritual awakening is I was born in the Black church, so that’s awakening number 1. And I would say, getting grounded in what Dr. Brittney Cooper calls Grown Women Theology, which is the belief systems that you create separate from what your family or institution of your family tells you is the truth.
So, my grown woman theology, or the theology of my adulthood, of my own understanding, that happened in 2013. I returned from Nairobi, Kenya after a 10-week missions trip there, where I was creating curriculum for a school there in rural Kenya. And it was the first time I asked a question of the introduction of Christianity to Black people as a result of slavery. And that was a journey that led me to the other side of being certainly Christ-centered in my language, and my communication, and in my belief system but additionally just incorporating and understanding and having some deeper African spirit religions traditional practices that feel very necessary and real to me. Most specifically having ancestor relationship.
One or two spiritual texts that I return to again and again I am always returning to the Bible, my favorite text are scripture about power of language: there’s a scripture that says there’s life and death in the power of the tongue, there’s scripture that says “speak those things that are not as though they were,” there’s a scripture that says “I am that I am,” and I understand all of those texts to be very literally the language of manifestation. And additionally I returned to what I consider sacred text, which is hip hop lyrics on a regular basis. And in fact, probably the most quoted thing out of my mouth on a regular basis, etiher from hip hop or the bible, is a lyric from Jay-Z that says “Do you fools listen to music or just skim through it?” which is really a major part of my hip hop womanist methodology which is saying, “are we just lookkig at te surface of this or are we actually listening, are we actually lopoking, are we actually asking questions and interegating the ethics of excluding this experience from what is good and what is worthy?”
How would you describe your own style?
I don’t know that I have a sense of fashion, honestly, I don’t know that I genuinely can be bohemian today and have on a 3-piece business suit with stilettos tomorrow. I don’t think that I have an intentional “this is my style, this is my go-to.” But, what I will say is my clothes tend to be very form-fitting. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not. I’m just a shapely Black woman so it just is what it is, and I, when I was younger, both from a Christian perspective and from a societal critique, would have probably have worn some looser clothes than what my current wardrobe reflects and wouldn’t have shown certain parts of my body or emphasize some parts of my body because that’s what this conversation about Black women’s body ownership as a justice issue is about, it’s about the fact that when people say “Your clothes are too tight, too inappropriate, too whatever for this environment,” what they’re really saying is “Your body is wrong.”
They’re not saying your clothes are wrong, they’re saying your body is wrong. Because if those same clothes were worn on a different body type, then they wouldn’t be considered “wrong.” Yeah I do tend to lean into a more form-fitting attire, but I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a specific “THIS is my style.”
Could you tell us about your tee-shirt designs, Protect Black Women and What Would Erykah Badu– and possibly future designs?
Yeah, I created both of those projects, they support the tuition of high school age girls in Pace HS in Yahoruba Kenya, it’s the school I went to in 2013 to teach and implement this curriculum that I created. SO I’m constantly thinking about other innovative ways to share new designs that emphasize Blackness and most specifically Black womanhood, and I do have a couple new projects coming out, actually, that I think will be a blessing. But because I haven’t put them out there yet, I’m going to withhold. I will say, that they have something to do with Nipsey Hussle and Notorious BIG and Tupac.
What’s something about your heritage that makes you proud?
Everything. I love being Black, to the point that I am having some conversations and writing about Blackness as religion. Blackness as my actual religion. Because even though I am a follower of Christ teachings, I would not necessarily call myself a Christian for a lot of reasons. But, I would say Blackness is my religion in that what does it mean to honor and to lift and to center and to draw inspiration from and to be encouraged, there is nothing that does that more for me than being Black. So, I would say everything, everything about my heritage makes me proud!
Ways to support the work of EbonyJanice
Visit her website The Free People Project and be blown away by the array of ways that EbonyJanice can support YOU and your purpose in the world!!