Brittany Howard, notably the former lead singer of band Alabama Shakes, debuted her first solo project with a message that went straight to my heart. You’ll have to forgive me for how on the nose this is y’all, but she took it there and I couldn’t think of a better message for a Pride Devotional.
Request: Listen to the song before you read this. Collect your own ideas/feelings before you consider mine.
Howard is giving her testimony in this song. She is unraveling her theological thought process here for us. Spliced with the familiar sound of a Black southern preacher, Howard’s roots are reified. It’s as if she is saying to us: Yep, it is possible to be queer, be southern, be Black, be disabled and simultaneously loved by the Divine.
“I don’t need to know why
‘Cause I know what love means”
I was raised a Christian and there have been people that told me (or my parents) that I couldn’t be all the things at the same time. That some of my identities would contradict or invalidate the others. They claimed that choices had to be made in order to be worthy of Divine love and acceptance and, for many years, I believed them.
What I know now is that my Blackness, queerness, nonbinary-ness, and my spirituality all harmoniously exist in the same soup that is my life and purpose. I came to understand that through experience. The evidence I have of an ever-present Divine is an experience more than it is a prescription, idea, or aspiration. I recognize that may not be enough for some people and I have perfect peace with it. I don’t stand in the need to defend my experience, rather I sing along with Brittany and an infinite choir of those who know:
“He loves me when I do what I want
He loves me.
He doesn’t judge me.
Yes, He loves me.”
Love is the message, y’all. I am loved by many (here on this Earth and those who are no longer). I hold all of that love as a gift. I hope that you do too, this Pride month and forever after.
Olivia LaFlamme (they/them) is a Black queer nonbinary person residing in Durham, NC. By day the Program Director for ELM and by *evening* avid knitter, dedicated eater of anything sweet, and amateur TV critic (because I watch everything). Current knitting project is a baby blanket featuring fluffy clouds for friends’ first baby!