Faithfully Magazine spoke with Ekemini Uwan and Christina Edmondson, two of the hosts of the “Truth’s Table” podcast about their new book, Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation.
Associate Editor Timothy Isaiah Cho spoke with Uwan and Edmondson about the story behind the Truth’s Table, themes they discuss in the book, and the growth of their popular podcast.
In the introduction to your book, you talk about the humble beginnings of how “Truth’s Table” the podcast began. Can you talk a little bit about how things may have changed since the beginning to now?
Edmondson: I would say like broad brushstrokes that we have always been thinking about our response to the present social moment. And the social moments have changed over the last five… I don’t know how long we’ve been doing this, because we’ve had two COVID years they feel like seven years added, you know, they’re like dog years. I think in that sense, you’ve seen us work through our emotions and our own racial trauma and our own joys and hopes. I think if you go back, you can probably see or listen in for the ways in which we shift and we work through how we’re processing what’s happening in society, how it’s impacting us.
We’ve become even more clear about some things that were assumed. We’ve said them out loud. And we did that very early on. We did that in the first season. But I think we have always tried to be clear about the making of the table, who the table is for who we are centering and why that’s important to us. And I think we’ve all we’ve all pretty consistently maintained that commitment, even as we do work that crosses various kind of cultural boundaries, so to speak.
Uwan: Yeah, beautiful brushstrokes, Christina. I would just add that we’ve grown by God’s grace. The little podcast that could. When we first started, it was just us and our producer. And now it’s us and we have a video producer, we have a second producer, and we have staff, we have a whole social media team. I mean, we’re coming up by God’s grace. And we have a community that we’ve built on Facebook, the Black woman’s discipleship group that’s been really, really great and fun. They’ve really enlivened over the recent events that have occurred (The Oscars), and so it’s been really interesting to get to know them and them get to know us.
And we’ve shifted, and I think that’s a good thing. And I think like Christina said, you can track our racial trauma journey through the show, if you’re a keen observer, and have some discernment you can kind of catch where we are. And I’m grateful for this good work that God has given us.
Now you have gone from podcast hosts to authors of a book. Tell us about the backstory about how the idea of a book came into being?
Uwan: Funny enough, this was not “Truth Table’s” idea. We were not like, “We need to write a book,” said no “Truth’s Table” member ever. Honestly, we had been approached by a few publishers to write a book, but the publishers whom we love and have relationships with just did not have the resources in order to be able to fund the project in such a way that me, Michelle, and Christina could say no to speaking engagements, could say no to other projects that paid, right?
And then, in 2019, I got approached by an editor at Penguin Random House for me to write a book. And I was like, I do have an idea. It’s still germinating, it’s not yet ready to go. But then she was like, “Yeah, but you know, I’d like to talk to you about a Truth’s Table book too,” because she was a fan of the show. And she thought that our analysis needed to definitely be captured in a book. And so I went to Christina and Michelle and kicked it out to them. And we had been thinking about it. And then the onset of the pandemic began, and everything was shut down. And we weren’t going to speak places. And so it was honestly just really God’s providential I would say timing. And so we moved forward and we got a deal in summer 2020. Started writing in early 2021, and now we’re here. C, did I miss [or] leave anything out?
Edmondson: No, I don’t think so. I mean, we’ve developed and tried to contribute different written offerings through the course of “Truth’s Table.” We’ve done some partnership with Jude 3 before, for example. But yeah, I think all of us individually have had people who have approached us about individual projects to write on. I’m a person who enjoys collaboration; I like partnering with people to do things. I think all of us individually have individual projects that we are doing or about to do, as well. And then I think they’re also the dynamic of the pandemic. It’s quite possible that had that not happened — and happening — we would have probably spent more time touring on the road, because we had just started to really invest in Truth’s Table live, where we had the opportunity to do our podcasts in front of live audiences with musicians and art. I think in a lot of ways that really is where we. We enjoy being with people, like bringing the table to people, and really interacting with the people who listen to the podcast day to day. There probably would have been more of that if the last two years had not been what they have been. And so this kind of came in during a time where we needed to shift anyway.
How did you think about the specific topics that each of you wrote on?
Edmondson: I would love to hear Ekemini’s thoughts too on this, but I would say they’re all topics that we’ve already talked about in some way, shape, or form. I talk about leadership, ethics, church discipline by a variety of names, but the need for accountability for leaders and the ability for people within the congregation to know how to be a part of the system of accountability for churches to bear the witness that Christ has called us to bear. But it wasn’t like this is a new thing that I want to talk about. I think probably for all of us our chapters represented us. I’ve had a number of people throughout the years ask me to write on or talk about marriage. And so that is one that I think that my co-host specifically asked me to talk about in the book. And I was like, Sure, why not? And then forgiveness is something that I had been working through for a number of years, so I decided in some ways to share kind of my journal thoughts about that topic. So yeah, I think all the topics are things that we’ve hinted at, and maybe in some cases, even had shows about to some extent on the actual podcast, and some things will feel brand new to people.
Uwan: Yeah, I think just ditto to that. We didn’t assign topics. It was just like, alright, in the proposal, put your four, I’ll put my four, you put all the things you want to talk about, you know, what are the things that you know…
Edmondson: That’s how we planned our seasons, too. It’s kind of like, what you want to talk about? Who you want to talk to? Well, that’s what we’re gonna do. Was there a table? So that’s kind of how we roll.
Uwan: That’s exactly how it goes. So yeah, we just went ahead. What’s something that we’ve been wrestling with, what’s heavy on our heart? What are we passionate about? That’s where we ended up writing about. And I would say that, I would say we have talked about quite a bit of these things on the show, but not to this extent. But I would also say that there’s some things that we haven’t talked about. Like divorce. That has not been on the table before but that was going on. There’s a difference between speaking and writing. You really being able to read somebody’s stories is much different than even just hearing it. I’m curious to hear how people are going to receive our stories, our analysis contained within our musings. So yeah, that’s how we came up with the topics. It was just what we were wanting to talk about, and it all worked together well.
Edmondson: And I was gonna add that the topics are not exhaustive. We’re not saying like, these are all the categories of concern for Black women. This is what kind of a bubbled up for us, and since we’ve stopped writing, we’ve had conversations about what additional chapters we would have added. Like if we started all over again, or if we had a volume two to this book. We’ve already began to brainstorm what are some of the other topics? What are the other chapters that would have certainly got space in another book or in this book potentially?
There’s a temptation for Christians of color to feel like they need to make White audiences comfortable in their speaking and in their writing. Can you talk about how you fight back against the “White gaze” in your creative process, both in the podcast, but also in writing this book?
Uwan: I don’t give much thought to it, to be honest, but I do think I am wired a little bit differently in that. I mean, let me back up a little bit. So I mean, truthfully, when “Truth Table “started, I had just graduated from a predominately White seminary. Very racist, period. It was founded by Southern segregation. And so anybody that wants to run up on me, and tell me, it’s not, is going to have to provide the receipts to the contrary. Okay. So anyway. So I just left that environment, so I was still very much dealing with racial trauma mode and all the things. So in those spaces, I was beating back and having the fight against what Laura Pritchard calls the “wall of whiteness.” I had to fight against that, because it was so deeply ingrained in that institution and in their interpretations. Coming out of those spaces, you still kind of have one foot there, because you’re just coming out. But in those places, my goal was always, always, always to lift up, to honor my people, period, because God loves us just the way He made us and made us Black on purpose. And so that was my goal, was always to uplift the cause and the plight of our people and the beauty of blackness. So that that hasn’t changed.
I am in some ways impervious to most people’s criticisms or critiques or thoughts about me. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m Nigerian. I don’t know. I’ve never really been like a people pleaser, if that makes sense. So I’ve never really cared too much about, in this case, the “White gaze.” And so I just tried to really make sure, like, would this Black person feel like they’re seen with what I’ve just said, with the lecture I just gave, with the sermon I just preached, where they feel like they were seen, let’s say they’re in a White setting and they’re the only one there? Do they feel like I was talking to them? I was talking to them as a representative of the Lord, because I’m also a prophet, priest, king, right? So that’s all that really mattered to me. And if they’re getting that and I’m preaching the Word, then there’s a word in there for the White folks, too, that White folks need to de-center. You cannot walk around thinking you’re a demigod. Come on, there’s only one God. There’s only one true God.
I don’t think about the “White gaze,” honestly, truthfully, and particularly in this book. If I’m writing for a White audience then that’s something different. You need to be writing to the people you’re supposed to be writing to. I think that’s about respecting and honoring people for who they are. But in this case, it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to in many, many years.
Edmondson: Yeah, I agree. One of the things I think people need to understand is that respectability politics is a survival strategy. Whether you are aware that you’re doing it or not, the roots of it are a strategy to survive against the suppression and violence of White domination. And so, when people implicitly and explicitly employ respectability politics, I understand it through a psychological and empathetic lens. So I think sometimes people of color particularly as they’re working through their racial trauma, and now they feel a bit more enlightened, they may look back and say, like, oh, that’s posturing. That’s respectability. And I’m like, quite possibly that’s what’s happening. And it still is a survival strategy. Because people die because of racism. Racism is not just the people’s thoughts and feelings. There’s blood that cries out. There’s a body count attached to racism. So, I want to give that opening statement because when people consider the so-called “White gaze,” it’s not necessarily because of their internalized racism. It also could be an expression of their own safety and honoring the history and legacy of the necessary violence of White supremacy and racism.
With that being said, yeah, I think it’s really helpful to know who your audience is. And we’re unapologetic about like, our first and foremost audience is Black women, Black Christian women. And that’s who we’re talking to. That’s what we love. That’s what we identify with. We’re not the end all be all of their experiences by any means. I’m certain there’s some that will say like, Hey, I’m nothing like them or whatever, which of course not, right? But, we’re really grateful to be clear about that. I think one of the things that happens is there are a number of people who have conferences and books and institutions that are clearly designed for a particular population, for example, White men, and they just don’t say it, because they’re like, “We’re for everyone.” No you’re not. Stop it. And you don’t want to be, right? And so I think it’s probably surprising to people when we were on the nose about this is who we’re having this conversation with. And I felt a lot of freedom in writing this. I feel like I have said, and we have said probably pluckier things. Maybe I’m just so used to saying what people consider to be plucky things. But as I look at the book, I’m like, “Is this provocative?”
Uwan: We’ve got some provocative things in there.
Edmondson: You think so? Let me go back and look again. I’ve got long-term COVID memory.
Uwan: I said “White Jesus is going to hell,” which is true!
Edmondson: Oh, I’ve said that publicly. And of course that’s what we need. We want all idols to be cast down into the pit and we want to see the real and true Jesus as He is, high and lifted up. That’s the One that can save us. And so I get why people are like, that’s pinchy and all the things because even the word “White” makes people get in their feelings. But that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with it, right? Just because someone’s gets in their feelings about it doesn’t mean that it’s an intentional insult either. Anyway, all that to say I agree with Ekemini. I felt a sense of deep freedom in writing. I wasn’t thinking about the “White gaze” or what White people think. I mean, I feel pretty solid on the research, present research, social science-wise, as well as the historical analysis that we have.
We kind of know how White people as a collective feel about this stuff. So it’s not like I’m speaking and being like, what are the White people going to think? As a collective, I already know what White people will think and can probably predict a response to that. And yet, we’re going to breathe. We’re going to live. We’re going to grab a hold of the freedom that we have and we’re going to share. Again, we know that that means that there are doors that are open to us, and there are doors that are not. There are some people that are going to be like, “Hey, we want you to come” and people will be like, “We don’t want you to come.” And I enjoy being clear on the front end so that people will know. I don’t like to go places and people act shocked by what I’m saying. It’s not hard to Google us, like you know where we are. So there should be no surprises when we say the things we’ve consistently said.
In the book, you also stress how the three of you each individually have different wheelhouses of expertise. What is the most significant thing that you’ve learned from the other two hosts of the podcast?
Uwan: Oh boy. What haven’t I learned? My goodness. Well, from Christina. I’ve just learned so much from Christina. Christina has so much wisdom. Like, my goodness, you would think it was the fruit of the Spirit. May I tell you, she has a lot of wisdom. Definitely one of the wisest people that I know. And I just learned a lot about grace and patience, remaining prayerful, hopeful from Christina.
I would say from Michelle, I’ve learned more about the beauty of worship. Because Michelle was born to worship. She’s really in her element when I see her worshiping the Lord. And I’ve learned so much from her about learning from Black women. You know, coming out of the racist seminary I was at, I just learned how to broaden my horizons on reading Black women, reading Black theological women, women I just didn’t know. I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know this was opening up a new world for me.” Poetry too. Even me quoting poets now. I definitely learned that from her, and just even her own passion for justice to that just continues to like, complement my own as well. So I would say those are the things that I’ve learned from my sisters at the table.
Edmondson: I think anybody that knows us… you know, there are people who think they know us, and there are people who actually know that we do really get a kick out of each other. And it’s not necessarily always our similarities that we enjoy. It’s the differences, right? The distinctions.
So with Michelle. Michelle is like dynamic. You know how people talk about a party in a box? She is a party in a person. She is really, really smart. It’s very often that Michelle is probably the smartest person in a room in terms of being just well-read. Her ability to synthesize and to pull it into poetry. She doesn’t think of herself as a creative, but I think of her as a creative. And I think I’ve learned a lot about worship as a form of protesting the flesh, the world, sin, the devil, like all those things. I think just in terms of her being an organizer, you know, how you make noise for things that people need to draw their attention to. I mean, I think she’s skilled at that. That’s not just like intuitive; she trains for the work that she does. I’ve learned about those types of things. And also, both Michelle and I both are part of multi-generational homes and just what it means to be a part of clergy families, we have some shared understanding and support of that.
And I think I’ve learned from her as in Michelle’s case of a PK. I’ve learned a lot about lessons through the way she lives and moves through the world that I take into my parenting and of my daughters who are PKs. So I’ve been given that gift, I think, through friendship with her.
But with Ekemini, I’ve learned a ton. So Ekemini is a hoot. She embodies to me a constant reminder of the diasporic beauty of people of African descent because she kind of lives between these different cultural worlds, and so very, very much Black American, but also very much able to give us a reminder for others who are multiple generation American, so to speak Black American, a reminder of our home, our West African home. And so when she talks about that we are cousins like that’s for real. That’s for real. It’s a real gift to me as a Black American who’s a descendant of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to have this cousin as a friend who reminds me of home, home that my ancestors never got back to. But in some ways, this friendship is something that my ancestors would have dreamed up that they cannot have to be united back with someone from home, so to speak. So anyway, that’s really beautiful.
You know, she’s really gifted at business marketing. You know, she gets it done. She is our table fashionista. So I’ve learned about really the importance of embracing beauty. If you think about some of the bizarre teaching that comes out of complementarianism, about like the beauty and aesthetics of women, right? I think in some ways, Ekemini is kind of a corrective to that, beauty as a form of power, beauty as a form of worship and appreciation to God for the way that we have been made. And I think she just embodies that without vanity. And it’s a unique balance to be able to do that. Like she’s known as the fashionista. But at the same time, also known for being genuinely, deeply humble. Those are some of the many, many things that I have learned and I enjoy about her. And also she’s really sensitive. She is by far the most sensitive person. Although she does get this reputation I think because of colorism and because of people, all their issues, that she’s like the tough one. I’m like, well that because y’all don’t really know me. But she is incredibly sweet, very sensitive and very thoughtful. Michelle is as well. So these are just really kind, sweet women.
In your book, you also talk about some fairly difficult stories and life experiences, and so readers will likely get a more humanized sight of all three of you. Why did you think it was important to humanize yourself as a Black woman as you wrote about these life experiences?
Uwan: Well, you know, that’s an interesting question, because a statement there is that we are not seen as really fully human, right? Because I was like, “Well, I think of myself as a human because I am a human being!” That might be news to some people. But we are human beings in the image of God, and so I didn’t think of myself as humanizing myself. I can’t make myself more human than I already am, and God has already made me. Now, anybody that didn’t see me as that has a problem. They have the issue, as Toni Morrison would say. But I thought it was important because to be vulnerable and to be honest about past challenges, present challenges — and when I say challenges, issues, concerns of the heart in my life — because I know that our narratives are portals for people, and they are entry points for people. Like when you tell your story, people can find resonance or dissonance — and that’s fine — with your story. It makes them wrestle with their own origin, helps them to locate themselves, or maybe even reorient or relocate themselves.
And so, to me, it was important to share that. And I don’t know, when you’re talking about colorism, as a dark-skinned Black woman in America, it’s gonna be hard to talk about colorism without talking about your own story around colorism or what you’ve experienced or what you’ve internalized. Or talking about dating and singleness as a Black woman, it’s gonna be hard to talk about that as a single Black woman in America without actually talking about your own experience or non experience. How about that? I’m throwing a wrench in there on that. And so, so it was important for me to share those things. It was not easy. I did not want to share all those things. But you know, writers are gonna write. And the Holy Spirit gonna Holy Spirit. Especially in the singleness chapter, I shared more. Colorism, I was I knew what I was gonna share. It was just hard for me to enter into and write that chapter. But singleness, I shared more than I wanted to share. But it was necessary. So I thought some things were gonna get cut. It did not get cut.
Edmondson: Ditto to all that. I was trained as a therapist, and so one of my one of my supervisors once told us that whoever does the most talking is the person that is the patient or the client. I was trained in a medical center, so “patient” is the language that we used. But anyway, all that to say is, I was actually trained to say less. If I had a lot to say, to figure out how to say it as concisely as possible and to move out of the way to let whatever needs to happen happen. So that isn’t like a place of low self-esteem, like I don’t have something to say. Clearly, I have things to say, right? But it is a unique training that says you use your voice strategically so that you can unlock something else. All that to say is that the idea of writing and sharing parts of me really required me to have to see that the way that I was trained and to appreciate it, but also to try to enter in despite that.
There’s also things that I consciously just don’t share. I mean, I was like, “I’m not sharing that.” And part of it is because I really think that people have a right to parts of their own story and they’re still working through parts of their story. And the other part too is that there are parts of our story that are deeply attached to other people. And so while we have a right to share our story out, our stories are never really fully independent. They’re connected to other narratives. And so I indeed mindful of that, the fact that it’s shepherding my story, it’s also connected to other people’s stories, too. And so I try to write in a way where first and foremost, I honor myself, but also I honor other people, even people who I think — not just think, that I know — are a problem. And their behaviors or actions, right? I talk about forgiveness. I still want to give people wiggle room to be something different than where I last left them, you get what I mean? So even when I’m training, I’ll often say to people… they’re like, “Can we record this?” and I’m like, “You can record what I’m gonna say, but you probably don’t want to record what you’re gonna say.” Because you might change your mind in five years, in five days, in 10 years.
And so even in my writing, I wanted to — as weakly as I can do this, right? I wanted to leave room for the grace of change for myself, but especially for people who I’m like, ooh, you know, I got issue[s] with you, right? I wanted to leave room for change for them. And I know that once you write something, it’s almost like things get stuck in time forever and ever and ever and ever. And people look at tweets that way. They look at social media that way. And so people dig up, you know, something someone said 5, 10, whatever years ago, and I just think that part of grace is obviously the grace of justice and holding people accountable, but also giving breathing room for the work of the Spirit to change people.
What do you hope readers will uniquely be able to take away from your book?
Uwan: I think there’s different audiences. So I’m hoping that for Black women, that they will take away that Jesus loves them just as they are in their, as we call it, as we say on the show, in their embodied blackness, right? Obviously, Jesus died for us to make us more like Him, so we are being sanctified. We ain’t meant to stay the same now. But, that they would know that their shape, their build, their skin tone, the gap in their teeth, or the non-gap in their teeth, or their snaggletooth is enough, and God said it’s good. I want them to know that you are good, more than good, in the way that God has created you. I want them to take that away from this.
Because there’s multiple audiences, I will want Black men to take away that Jesus loves you, and that they would see that even though we’re centering Black women, that they will see that we need one another. And that they would see that our symbiotic connection and that they would truly see us, our burdens, our joys — because there’s some funny parts in the book because we are we are funny women, okay? But I hope that they would see us fully, if you will. And I just hope that they would have just even a deeper abiding love for one another. So I think collectively Black women, men, that we will all just have a deeper connectivity and love for one another.
Then for non-Black folks, our standing room section people, right? So this could be our White brothers and sisters, our Asian brothers and sisters, because we know y’all in the standing room section. Our Latine brothers and sisters. And let me even say even are those who identify as non-binary because they’re in there in the house, too. They’re there in the standing room section as well. My hope and prayer is that you will know Jesus loves you. I hope this book, Truth’s Table: Black Women’s Musings on Life, Love, and Liberation would teach you how to learn from people who are further down in the margins than you are, and yet are still persevering in the faith. How are they able to hold on to the faith? I got to read their words to know how they’re tackling the issue of colorism and self-hatred, literal self-hatred, and yet still holding on to Jesus, and yet still saying, “I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good.” How did they do that? How can they do that? You know what I mean? How can somebody that was in Ferguson after Michael Brown is lynched and can still say, “Ah, yeah, Jesus is the most high God.” How do you do that? So my hope is that people are able to learn how to listen, how to read from people that are still holding on to the faith but yet are deeply oppressed too. So those are the constituencies, those are my different takeaways I would say for those different groups.
Edmondson: Yeah, I will say ditto, amen to all the things. One of the things that storytelling can do, it’s possible, is that it can it can foster empathy. It can also create introspection. So outside of my very clear evangelistic goals, we don’t make any excuses, no apologies, we would that the people see Jesus. Because my words will never be good enough to help you make it through it; they’re not going to cut it. So definitely, we want people to see Jesus and we want to see Jesus. But we’re also hoping that it cultivates empathy and introspection.
I know that for me, reading as an adolescent was incredibly important. Reading the stories and words of Black women was incredibly important. And I was surrounded in environments by Black women, Black people. For the people who are not Black women, for me, reading stories about people who are not within my cultural group specifically was also incredibly formative. So I still have memories of reading certain works that, while I did not have the same story, my humanity and their humanity held hands. And I was able to again become more introspective about myself, my own journey.
And the book ends with these blank pages for the reader to then do their own musings. And I think we’ve tried to be clear. I know I have beaten this drum as a teacher for a long time that we’re sharing our thoughts and our feelings. It’s not canon. This is not Scripture. I think this is kind of nice to be saying because sometimes we take author’s words and we’re like, “This is it,” and I’m like, no. I hope you are blessed by it. I hope the Spirit works through it. I hope it empowers you. I hope all the good things happen. I hope it agitates you if you need to be agitated. But I also hope that it stirs you up to then do your own musings. In other words, that we serve as an inspiration.
So we talked to someone recently who basically started their podcast, a Black woman, as inspired by “Truth’s Table,” and that for me as a teacher, for me, that is the kind of stuff that just makes us super happy. Like, you know, we’re just, “Woohoo!” That’s why we do what we do. And likewise, I would love for people to get to the end of this book, wrestle with what we have said, and then say, “Oh, I got something to say too,” and use those blank pages for them to use as well. And then to share this book out with whoever they want to start to share their thoughts, their joys, their hope, their tears with, right? So our hope is that this will set off a domino effect of musings — first and foremost, centering the voices of Black women, but also musings of all people who have something to say.