A couple months ago Fast Company made a significant oversight by releasing a list of “25 of the Smartest Women on Twitter” which included the brightest women in business, politics, news, and innovation, but excluded women of color. The Brandfog Founder and CEO Ann Charles wrote, “As a woman CEO who writes about women in leadership, I’m frequently looking to make connections with other women on Twitter. The main stumbling block to fully engaging professionally on Twitter is that it can be a challenge to find the most valuable thought leaders, who tweet about the most relevant topics for you.” Charles is correct in presenting this challenge. She is also correct in stating that, “the key to extracting the most value out of Twitter is to find the new voices in the crowd. It can be exhilarating to discover people and communities that share the same interests and passions as you.”
In response to this oversight, BlogHer editor and TWiB host Feminista Jones started the hashtag #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter. In her words, “It seemed to me that this was yet another case of the invisible Black women and I wanted to do something to shine a spotlight on the Smart Black women I know and follow on Twitter.” I was pleased to see the national sensation of Black women raising their voices to be seen and heard in the crowd of over 550 million Twitter users. The hashtag: #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter documents Smart Black Women on Twitter and I would like to see its continued use.
Fast Company did take note of the #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter and #SmartLatinaWomenofTwitter hashtags and followed up with a Twitter list which included women of color. However, their initial oversight speaks to the deeper issues of whose voice and presence is worthy of recognition and how we respond when we feel like we are ignored or devalued. It is so easy to go on the defensive when we feel disrespected, but the #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter presented a gracious response and simple acknowledgement that “We (Black women) are here. We are showing up in this space and taking our place at the table” and “We have been doing this for a while, so please don’t overlook our contributions.” There is a confidence and self-awareness that is present when we respond in such a way. Overacting in a negative sense may not have had the same powerful affect.
The Christian Worldview
Additionally, watching the events unfold as a Christian added layers to my understanding of the conversations. Gracious responses even to minor offenses sends a message about how we as people view ourselves, how we believe God sees us and our purpose in the world, and how we are perceived by others. As I contemplated these thoughts, I thought about the Egyptian woman, Hagar, whose life was changed when she had a personal encounter with God who spoke to her about the future. She said, “You are a God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me (Gen. 16:13).” I do believe that the lives of women, Blacks, or any overlooked group of people, respond differently once they come to the understanding that they are known and loved by God and that He alone holds their future. It is with this basic theological understanding that I as a Christian—who happens to be Black and a woman—engage and respond in boldness to the conversations that are shaping our world.
The second part of this conversation acknowledges my concern that publically professing Christians are rarely considered or invited into these “worldly” conversations. It’s almost as if there is an assumption that Christian women are not seriously thinking about business, politics, news, innovation, or leadership, and therefore are uneducated on the issues and cannot speak into these public spaces. The reality could not be farther from the truth. I am a Christian woman who cares very deeply about leadership, character development, and mentoring across generations. I also care about matters of biblical justice (specifically the disparities of social/economic class structures and the inequality of access and opportunity within our public education system, bridging the great divides between cultural challenges surrounding race and ethnic groups in America, and empowering women to use their influence to change the church, their communities, and culture). Because I am passionate about these issues, I speak, teach, and write about them.
There are bright Christian women of color who are discussing business, politics, news, and innovation and are serious about using their God-given influence to lead and have a positive impact on society. So I want the #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter conversations to include Christian women as well. If you are looking for #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter who are Christian leaders and thinkers and who are raising their voices to engage culture and change the world:
Follow me @asistasjourney and allow me to introduce you to these other Smart Sistas –
Christina Cleveland @CSCleve is a social psychologist with a passion for overcoming cultural divisions and seeing true reconciliation in the church. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and is an award-winning researcher, speaker, and gifted teacher. Christina blogs regularly at www.christenceleveland.com and just released her first book, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.
Lisa Sharon Harper @lisasharper is the Director of Mobilizing at Sojourners. She is the author of Left, Right, & Christ and Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat. Lisa is a justice advocate who regularly writes for publications like Huffington Post.
Trillia Newbell @trillianewbell is a rising voice in the evangelical community. She’s a freelance journalist who writes for publications like The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and Desiring God. Her first book, United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity will be published by Moody in 2014.
Enuma Okoro @TweetEnuma is a writer, award-winning author, spiritual director, and international speaker. She holds a M.Div. from Duke University. She recently released her fourth book, Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith.
Rahiel Tesfamariam @RahielT is a columnist for the Washington Post and founder of UrbanCusp online magazine. Rahiel is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a M.Div. from Yale. She is a social advocate who is passionate about exploring the tensions of life, style, faith, culture and justice.
Who are the other sistas we should add to this list?