In Memory of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon
We at FSR, Inc. are mourning the passing of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon.
Cannon was a member of both the FSR board and the JFSR board from the organization’s beginning.
Cannon was a woman of many firsts: “the first African American woman ordained by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.; the first woman who earned a PhD from Union Theological Seminary, the first scholar in theology to introduce Black women’s literature as sacred text; and the first to accept Alice Walker’s invitation to womanism as an area of serious and essential study and practice.”
In memory of Cannon, we are publishing select quotes from her upcoming Across Generations interview with Alison Gise Johnson, entitled “Dancing Redemption’s Song, Across Generations” (JFSR 34, Issue 2, Fall 2018).
Alison: Why do nurture the way that you do?
Katie: Toni Morrison says, there is always a “Before” that makes our “Beginning possible.” Before I began to mentor and nurture students, there were others who mentored me. There were teachers and especially my Grandma Rosie. Grandma Rosie was probably my first teacher. She talked to me about slavery times, about reconstruction, and how to pronounce words properly; and because she always read, along with my mother, she made it the norm to read. Grandma Rosie, was very formative for me in terms of nurturing my brain, my mind, my creativity and my love for reading. Because I loved to read and though I was only three years old when I started school at Mt Calvary Lutheran Kindergarten, I did well; and fell in love with school. I was affirmed there.
To some degree, even then, I read when the lights were out. (This was a directive given to the students at the Interdenominational Theological Center by Otis Moss, Jr.). I was then and am now always reading and creating because what I want to do is take the best from the Black teachers that formed me and bring it to my teaching. Every Black teacher I had told me, “I’m going to give you the best that I have; and I want you to be better.” It is from that perspective that I approach nurturing and mentoring my students. […] Though much of my life has been formed in that academic world, my sense of mentoring was not deformed by it. Nurturing is my ministry. And I have to do it in a way that offers to every student an experience of school as sanctuary.
Alison: If you had to write an essay concerning the next twenty-five years for womanism and your own legacy, what would the nature of it be?
Katie: […] As I think of my own legacy and the next twenty-five years of womanism, I don’t necessarily think about a book, I think of many books. I do not necessarily think of my students enshrining me, I am clear that after these thirty-three years of being situated in the academy, womanism needs its own proper space and intellectual center to chart its history, set trajectories for new vistas, and to mentor the next generations who will continue this work, globally. I dream of a space located at the nexus of academy, community and church. Not only am I dreaming, but now, I know at this moment in my life it is within my reach to build. […] So this is the Third Chapter for me. I want to step into my time. I’m willing to step into the spot light because now it is not all on me. Incarnation of the “We” is what I am committed to doing. Replicating spaces where doing the work your soul must have and no one can say that you are wrong. It’s the space that I got glimpses of while working with my peers at Union. I got glimpses of it mentoring the women at Temple University. I got glimpses of it with every class taught and every womanist meeting. For my Third Chapter, I am willing to continue excavating my own soul and work to make The Center for Womanist Leadership happen.
Alison: Thank you, and Ashe, Dr. Katie G.
 Alison Gise Johnson, “Dancing Redemption’s Song, Across Generations: Interview with Katie G. Cannon,” JFSR 34, Issue 2 (Fall 2018).