Our “usual” emotions are amplified right now, so dealing with things like stress, grief and more can be a lot more exhausting than usual. Be kind to others as you want them to be kind to you.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rev. Dr. Neichelle Guidry.
Rev. Dr. Neichelle R. Guidry is a highly sought-after teacher, preacher, leader and commentator. As a global thought leader, she is highly regarded as a subject matter expert on millennials and faith, breaking gender dynamics in the church, womanist and liberation theologies and praxi, and faith and social justice issues.
Dr. Neichelle is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree and Yale Divinity School, where she received a Master of Divinity degree. Dr. Neichelle went on to further her studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where she completed her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Liturgical Studies with a concentration in Homiletics. She is a member of the Society for the Study of Black Religion and the Morehouse College Collegium of Scholars.
Dr. Neichelle currently serves as the Dean of the Chapel and the Director of the WISDOM Center at Spelman College in Atlanta. She is also the creator of shepreaches, a virtual community and professional development organization that aspires to uplift African American millennial women in ministry through theological reflection, fellowship, and liturgical curation. She also hosts a podcast called, Modern Faith, the premier podcast for the spiritual nourishment of African American millennial women.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Icome from a family of preachers, so serving others was put in my heart at a very young age. That, in addition to my experiences in college and beyond, set me on a path to give back to the women who look like me. I’m very passionate about the work I do for young people and the communities we exist in.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My entire career has been an interesting story! The experience of being a Black woman in spaces where I may be the only one in the room, where my voice may not be heard as much as others, is very difficult. That’s why I’m so passionate about what I do — supporting and uplifting young Black women as their authentic selves.
The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
The crisis of antiblack violence and recent events have been weighting heavily on my mind. Recent images, stories and reports have broken the heart of community, and illuminated the reality that white supremacy remains real and rampant throughout this country. This resonates with me, and many others, because it encroaches upon our sense of safety and dignity as human beings. We are simultaneously fearful for our lives and those of our loved ones, while mourning the ones we’ve lost and the realities that killed them.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The unmitigated killings and racial aggression have been complicated by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black communities. The footage of Amy Cooper knowingly weaponizing her tears against Christian Cooper, who was simply holding her accountable to public regulations, further revealed the fragility and privilege of white Americans and their willingness to put Black lives in danger. The story of Breonna Taylor, a young African-American EMT, being killed by police while sleeping in her bed continues to break our hearts, even as we are still demanding justice for her. And, certainly, the image of George Floyd being asphyxiated by the police officer, and his cries for help, continues to fuel this movement. Altogether, these events have led us to this point of no return.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
I’ve spent many years studying and practicing theologies of liberation that focus on centralizing the lived experiences of Black people, particularly Black women, in the United States, and alleviating the evils with which we wrestle for survival. This work started as an undergraduate at Clark Atlanta University, an historically Black university, and continued through my graduate studies at Yale University and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. My many experiences with racism and sexism have driven me to be a model of moral leadership that is rooted in values of truth-telling and casting vision for a world that is free from these toxins. My current work as Dean of Chapel at Spelman College, and my podcast, Modern Faith, are largely focused on teaching these canons of liberation and Womanist theologies.
Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
1. Read. This changed my life and perspective, and continues to help me show up more responsibly and knowledgeably in my community. Many lists of antiracism resources have been compiled and are easily accessible online.
2. Support Black-owned businesses. For example, I am a coffee fiend, and have chosen to support brands such as The Coffee Enthusiast (https://www.tcecoffee.com/home) , Sailor’s Brew Coffee (https://sailorsbrewcoffee.com/), Portrait Coffee (www.portrait.coffee) , Gilly Brew Bar (www.gillybrewbar.com), and Boss Blend Coffee (bossblendcoffee.com). All of these are excellent and ship their specialty coffees throughout the country.
3. Get involved in local efforts. Whether you show up to a local demonstration or a city council meeting, anyone can advocate for more just social and political environments.
4. Follow the leadership of Black women and LGBTQ+ leaders. Leaders such as Rev. Traci Blackmon, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Jamilah Lemieux, Latisha Portis-James, Alencia Johnson, and many others are showing us the way to a better world.
5. Be vocal. Speak out against the violence, racism and apathy that are killing Black people. Speak to your family, colleagues, and friends. Contact your elected leaders and demand systemic change. When you know your facts, and can speak with clarity and conviction, you can help move the needle towards justice and equity.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Be alone, but not lonely; self-isolation isn’t mean to replace all human connection, so make sure you’re still putting forth effort to connect with others.
- Come up with a wellness routine and really stick to it; that consistency of our day-to-day has been taken away and can do a lot to keep you calm.
- Be careful about how much media you consume; I like to call this “conscious content consumption.” It’s easy to lose track of time watching TV or become exhausted from news coverage. Be mindful of what you take in because it really does affect you
- Be mindful of what you’re feeling; it’s also easy to get caught up in emotions with so much going on but please remember that there are so many factors that go into everything we’re experiencing. The things we all face are nuanced and have multiple layers that need to be looked at and examined
- Be mindful that there aren’t “us” or “them” issues. Everything going on right now is a human issue and the only way to get past it is together
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Reach out to people who you know are particularly vulnerable, whether it’s your neighbor who just got laid off, or your great aunt who’s physically alone.
- Encourage others to stick to their routines or even join you in parts of your (socially distant or virtually, however).
- Remember that this time will not last forever; yes, many of us are restless and ready to get back to work or a sense of normalcy. But it’s not going to last forever and the steps we take now will help us progress.
- Remind others, and yourself, that no one is alone right now; community does have that word unity in it for a reason. Even just providing a listening ear can do a lot.
- If they need it, allow others the space they need to process everything. Our “usual” emotions are amplified right now, so dealing with things like stress, grief and more can be a lot more exhausting than usual. Be kind to others as you want them to be kind to you.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Being mindful, even during this time of perceived chaos and uncertainty, means giving yourself the chance to focus on you — the physical, mental and emotional benefits of that are endless. We are not just bodies, brains or spirits — we are all these things which are intertwined and deeply connected. What we give to one, impacts the other two. We need to be gentle with and mindful about ourselves, in all aspects.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
I’d suggest finding those books, movies, TV shows, podcasts or even songs that make you feel like your best self (again, I call this conscious content consumption and it’s very helpful). Also, considering different apps like Calm for meditation. And I’d suggest people take a second look at that list of books they want to finish (or start): is there anything there that’ll feed your mind or spirit?
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Lately, I’ve been rereading Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” It’s a long-time favorite of mine, but I picked it back up as a way of unwinding and that brought me to something enjoyable and familiar.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Transparency and honesty is as important as ever. With so many changes going on in everyone’s lives, be honest about where you are. Our work and home lives are more intertwined than ever before.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Listen for ‘the sound of the genuine’ within yourself and others. Learn to be alone without being lonely. Be yourself, know yourself, learn to like being with yourself.” — Marian Wright Edelman
I felt the power in this quote before, but like so many other things, it’s more relevant now.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Listen to each other — everyone’s voice deserves to be heard and all stories are valid. The only way to move forward and find solutions to our issues is together.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter, my handle for @neichelleg. On Facebook, you can find me at Rev. Neichelle R. Guidry, Ph.D.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!