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On the Shoulders of Our Sisters! An exhibition by Kaiya Jennings

View the photographs. While you explore the art, we invite you to listen to the prayers of these pastors.

Artist Statement

This exhibition explores the ministry and faith of Black Clergywomen in the Commonwealth of Virginia through audio recordings and photography. The women portrayed in this exhibition lead or pastor in various regions of Virginia, including Northern, Eastern Shore, Central, Hampton Roads, Southern and Southeastern. They have all helped to guide other women in their ministerial callings and have had a direct effect on my own ministry. The images of these women share a visual story that testifies to the fact that no matter the issues that they may face due to factors such as race and gender, they still show up daily to care for those who need them the most, their congregations.

Virginia has a troubled history of issues relating to race, discrimination, and ideologies that perpetuate harm against minority groups. These problems are not limited to secular spaces; they have seeped into the bones of our religious institutions, including the Christian Church. From the outside looking in, one would easily believe that within the church, women would occupy roles of power since the entity was built on their shoulders and service for generations. Yet, those in leadership tend to be heterosexual, married men. However, there are countless faithful African American women in Virginia, who have been called and affirmed to pastor churches or to lead as staff pastors and community liaisons, even though they face much opposition.

There are a number of churches and denominations that still believe women should not preach, occupy the pulpit, or be in any type of position of power that will cause them to be over men. The text from the Book of Acts 2:17-18 rebuts this notion: In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. Much of the patriarchy found within the Christian Church can be seen in its traditions, sermonic discourse, staffing, and rituals. Nevertheless, Black clergywomen are still answering the call to ministry and community, despite the opposition faced within their denominations or context.

It is my desire that through this exhibition people will be able to see themselves in the stories and work of these Black clergywomen in such a way that it challenges their faith and increases their love for all humanity.

Artist Biography

Kaiya Jennings is a graduate student in the Duke Divinity School pursuing a doctor of ministry degree. Jennings is a clergywoman in the Baptist tradition, who has been licensed for eight years and ordained for two years. She is an adjunct professor and faith and service coordinator at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. She grew up in Suffolk, Virginia, where she was shaped by the ministry and care of Black women pastors in her community.

Kaiya Jennings

Contributing Photographers

Savannah Coker and Samia Minnicks

Photographs

Pastor Littycia Clay-Crawley

Richmond, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Dr. Lacette Cross

Richmond, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Pastor Rose M. Curry

Lancaster, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Dr. Lesley Francisco McClendon

Hampton, Virginia | Photographer: Savannah Coker

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Rev. Dr. Patricia Gould-Champ

Richmond, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Dr. Patricia Gould-Champ, Pastor Ciarra Smith Bond, and Rev. Dr. Alison Gise-Johnson

Richmond, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Dr. Yvonne Jones-Bibbs

Richmond, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Pastor Anita Lewis

Suffolk, Virginia | Photographer: Savannah Coker

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Bishop Sharma D. Lewis

Glen Allen, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Dr. C. Diane Mosby

Glen Allen, Virginia | Photographer: Samia Minnicks

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Rev. Lucille E. Turner

Virginia Beach, Virginia | Photographer: Savannah Coker

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Rev. Dr. Brennetta Williams

Chesapeake, Virginia | Photographer: Savannah Coker

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