In honor of Black History Month, the SisterStory podcast producers have created a mini-series inspired by the voice of black sisters throughout history. The monologues presented in this series were derived from the interviews shared by author Dr. Shannen Dee Williams and of sisters who attended the first National Black Sisters Conference in 1970.
Upon entering her community in 1949, Sr Daniel Marie Myles faced prejudice from her own community members. She speaks about her encounters with prejudice and racism as a sister and the personal toll it had on her self-identity.
The National Black Sisters Conference (NBSC) was established in August 1968. NBSC was organized by Sister Martin de Porres Grey, R.S.M to confront racism in the Catholic Church and in society by supporting, communicating, and educating Black Catholic women religious. What began as a support system for Black women religious has turned into a national support and communication system for members of the Church, congregation, and surrounding society.
As an organization, the National Black Sisters Conference uses its platform to speak and act on social justice, educational, economical, and religious issues in the United States and the world. As a collective, NBSC promotes a positive image of the Black community, and serve to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in the communities that they serve and live. As an organization, National Black Sisters Conference vows,
“As women religious and associates, we draw strength and courage from God, support one another in the faith; and hold our elders in high esteem. We study, speak and act on issues that impact the social, educational, economic, and religious milieu of the United States and the world community. We promote a positive self-image among ourselves, and all African Peoples. We believe that through the power of the Spirit working in and through us we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ in the communities where we live and serve.”
This is SisterStory Presents! And, I am Rocky.
Pa Ying Vang:
And I am Pa Ying Vang.
In honor of Black History Month, we at NCSW will be doing a special limited series focusing on the untold stories of Black Catholic Sisters.
Pa Ying Vang:
The stories from this series were discovered with the help of a news article from Global Sisters Report that was highlighting the dissertation of Dr. Shannen Dee Williams. Dr. Williams’ dissertation documents the history of Black Catholic Sisters.
Through further reading of Dr. William’s dissertation and further research, we learned of the National Black Sisters Conference. And, as we read, we found wonderful interviews with and commentary from sisters who were part of the conference. Their words provided powerful insight into their experience as sisters and the importance of this conference.
Pa Ying Vang:
Inspired by their words, we set out to create a very unique kind of podcast project. We read about the sisters interviewed, and, from that, wrote monologues inspired by them.
As these are monologues, they are best heard as they would be performed. So, we recorded them as they were performed on a stage.
Pa Ying Vang:
And, unlike our other series, where Rocky and I are the main voices, we have invited other women to participate.
*break*stage curtain opens and footsteps start*
In her dissertation, Dr. Williams’ wrote, “...black sisters are the forgotten prophets of American Catholicism and democracy.” This is performance inspired by one of those sisters. Performing as Sr Daniel Marie Myles, this is Fatou Conteh.
I entered the community in 1949. And, to the best of my ability, I tried to be a good sister. But, being a good sister did not mean working hard or being the most devout. It meant being a white sister. I had to act and talk and live white, because it was the only way I’d be accepted at all in the convent. I forgot my own culture. I forgot my own black parents down South. I tried to be what the white nuns wanted me to be. And, I was laughed at. As I walked, they laughed. As I talked, they laughed. As I served beside them, they laughed. But, the joke was on them because they could not see. All that made me who I was, that made me equipped for religious life, was exactly what they demanded I forget. So, I laughed along with them.
Global Sisters Report: http://globalsistersreport.org/news/trends/forthcoming-book-documents-hi...