A Sojourner’s Truth: Choosing Freedom and Courage in a Divided World by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is the book we need right now. I am a lover of history, a fan of Sojourner Truth, a sucker for memoirs and a believer. This book checked all the boxes. Sojourner was born into slavery and was a devout Christian. She was sure that the Spirit told her to preach the truth and she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and went on to be an activist, and abolitionist and a truth teller. Natasha definitely follows in the footsteps of Sojourner Truth by telling the truth about the things we would rather ignore and talk around. In a totally inspiring and transparent way, she tells the story of a Black girl from Orangeburg, South Carolina who finds herself at the US Naval Academy, seminary school and navigating life and all of its challenges. She does all of this, while intertwining her story with the story of Moses, Pharaoh, Egypt and the wilderness. Each chapter ends with questions for reflections, meditations and affirmations to help you on your journey to truth.
There were so many timely themes and gems and in this book and I would like to share a few.
ON BEING A STRONG BLACK WOMAN: Black women have learned to be strong – to our detriment. Natasha shares what the loss of her mother and her son was like. It is our natural reaction to believe that we can shoulder loss and grief and keep moving as if nothing happened. “If healing is to come, then this pain must be named and confronted.” We cannot continue to suffer in pain and silence. Moses teaches us that God hears the prayers of the oppressed, but we have to ask and not stay silent about it.
ON CREATING THE COMMUNITIES WE NEED: Natasha is from my hometown and this book reminded me of what an amazing community we had. We had family, mentors and support. It’s the kind of community I want to create for my children. We each have a responsibility to create the types of communities we need to sustain ourselves on this faith journey.” If we really look at ourselves and are truthful about what we are doing to make this place greater for the next generation, are we really working to create what we know is needed…or are have we become complacent?
ON HOW WE GET FREE: “We all need to wake up! Knowing our history and facing tragedy make us more conscious people. Becoming conscious and demanding justice must to be the revolutionary acts of a select few in a society. Deep and lasting change will happen when we see the sacrificial and strategic actions of a unified body of justice seekers working together to demand it.” The United States is in the midst of an awakening. This is where we are. And finally, we are seeing other people make the conscious decision to actually join the fight and not sit on the sidelines. It will take all of us! This is the only way it will work.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY: There is power in remembering. There is even more power in knowing. America and Americans have this funny thing where we only want to remember the good or we really don’t want to know the whole story. Natasha draws upon her trip to Rwanda to drive home this point. “With their motto “Never Again, Never Forget,” the Rwandan people have taught me that choosing life includes remembering and speaking truth, even if that feels like I’m living as a foreigner, a pilgrim, or a sojourner in my own country, Cultivating this discipline of remembering and truth telling motivates us to prepare and build for th life of freedom that we want.”
ON NOT GIVING UP ON THE JOURNEY: These are trying times. Between a global pandemic and a national reckoning, it’s A LOT. “We must collectively persevere until the end.” Natasha reminds us of Dr. King’s philosophy on enduring hardships and finding the bright side of living in tumultuous times. MLK said that he was happy to live in a crazy time in history because “only in the darkness is God’s beautiful light revealed.” We will make it to the end if we stick together and do the work we have been called to do.
This period in time in certainly comparable to the wilderness. Yet, in all of the trauma, drama and reckoning, we are able to see things more clearly than ever. We may have to wander a bit longer, but we must believe that the promised land is near.
Again, this was a timely read. We are at a point where people seem more open to have real conversations around the things that have divided us for so long and some are finding the courage to actually make changes. This conversation needs to happen, especially in the church, and this book is a great start.