An interview with Robert Monson (he/him)

share your spiritual biography in 10 words, or less:

Black curious atheist turned Christian turned…still becoming

where are you turning for soul nourishment / joy / aliveness?

I’ve been turning towards the sunlight. Months ago I started going to the top of a stadium near my place and watching the sun come to life over the mountain tops. And…I sit in the mornings and watch the sunlight stream through my window bit by bit until I feel enveloped in the light. Then…I usually cry.

what is a text you hold sacred?

I love this question. Toni Morrison’s book ‘Beloved’ is a text that I hold most sacred. I turn to it when I am confused, when I am overwhelmed, when I am depressed, and when I need words to hold me. When I die I hope to be buried with a copy.

what is a spiritual practice currently sustaining you?

Writing poetry has been such a gift to me in the past year. I write a few lines every morning. Or, at least I try to. I would be embarrassed if anyone found my poetry book because the poems contain my rage, confusion, lament, thoughts on oppression in the world…and I even have a poem on potato chips.

how would you describe the work you feel called to do in this world (even if it is not the work you get paid for)?

My first work is to love me. After a childhood bent around pleasing others and an adulthood serving as a commodity, my first work is to reclaim me. Then, my next work is to love Black flesh, nourish it, encourage Black bodies and minds. I feel that strongly in my bones. I want to see Black people smile. Feel safe to breathe. Laugh.

knowing that none of us “has it all together,” what is one question you are wrestling with, or bit of wisdom you are struggling to enflesh in your daily life?

Using pleasure as my guide. I am working every single day to be in tune with what my body needs and those things that I find pleasing/good/profitable/nourishing. I want to be able to ask myself genuinely what I need and desire every day rather than coasting on autopilot.

who is one elder / ancestor / mentor whose guidance you draw from? what is one piece of wisdom they have offered?

Sooooo many. I will name Lucille Clifton as a mentor and dialogue partner almost daily. But, also June Jordan currently. “I am Black, alive, and looking back at you.” As well as when she says “My heart is not peripheral to me.” Whew.

what’s one oppressive untruth you are practicing unlearning / divesting from?

That as a man I should express myself mostly through dominance and anger. I don’t want to be hard. These days I classify myself as a soft man. I am learning to be soft despite the world pushing me in a different direction.

what is one thing you wish were required listening / viewing? (please link to the song, poem, art piece, podcast, etc.)

Ella Fitzgerald. Period. All her stuff but especially this:

any of your website and/or social media handles you’d like us to include / highlight?

Three Black Men Podcast and Black Coffee and Theology Podcast

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