Now Reading: “God Is a Black Woman”

Janice R Littlejohn
Published in
4 min readAug 31, 2022

“The Birth of Eve”, 2018, from ‘New World Consciousness’ by Harmonia Rosales on Dazed.

Last night, jet lagged and feeling immense gratitude for my recent travels through New York, I started reading Dr. Christena Cleveland’s God Is a Black Woman, a souvenir from my visit to The Lit Bar in the South Bronx. (More on that in a forthcoming post).

After spending the day getting my brain and body back in line on West Coast time — and with the work week ahead — I grabbed Cleveland’s book from the middle of the book pile stacked on my nightstand. It was just after 10PM, and my phone was already in bedtime mode. I was wide awake knowing I needed to be asleep, too. I considered meditating. Then She (the Black Madonna, not Cleveland — or both, maybe) whispered: Be still…and read.

So, read I did.

God is a Black Woman was one of those books I picked up both drawn to its cover and the title. I felt like whatever it was about, I needed this work in my life — and sweet Black Jesus, did I ever.

Journeying to find the more than 450 Black Madonnas around the world, Cleveland, a social psychologist, theologian and activist, taps into an understanding that I have always believed: I am the creation of a deity who not only looks like me, but IS me.

Listen to an audio sample of “God Is a Black Woman” at

In the opening chapter, Cleveland tells the story of an old immigrant woman of color who, after making fires for cooking her food and heating water for bathing, would sift through the ashes each night to find the feminine form within the burnt wood — and when she’d find it, she’d cheer that “She is here with us!”

You see, the old woman knew of the Black Holy Mother and the wisdom she carried. That “…the Sacred Black Feminine not only exists in the ashes of life, She also has the power to heal us and make us grow despite white patriarchy’s devastating impact on us.” (Wooo…ain’t that a word, y’all!?!)

As Cleveland contends: “We still hold our Holy shapes, no matter what fire we’ve been passed through. Black Madonna says, ‘Behold my dark face, my burned body, and grow, grow, flourish, flourish. Let nothing hold you back.’ Black Madonna forged in the fire leads the way.”

Janice R Littlejohn

Career journalist. Writing things I’m passionate about incl. sharing Black women’s stories — and my own. Connect with me at