Welcome, Y’all! I am Audra Ryes (pronounced "Rise" like “sunrise”), a first-year seminarian in the master of divinity program at the School of Theology. I have climbed up this Mountain via New Orleans, Louisiana, where food, music, and culture are more important than money and politics. Because of this, having the honor of being this month’s guest editor during Black History Month is a real treat for me. The opportunity to reflect on one’s culture and speak of the transformative people who have overcome the challenges of racial barriers in order to cultivate the Beloved Community is the melodious message I was born to clap my hands to.
What I learned growing up in a musical city is everyone, and I mean everyone, has a part to play in our orchestra of life. Sometimes it is our turn to play with others—like the time I participated in the Diversity Equity and Inclusion meeting with Ruby Bridges, who desegregated a New Orleans School in 1960 as a first-grader. Sometimes it is our turn to watch and learn from others—like the time I met Bishop Phoebe Roaf. I only said hello to her, but I was forever changed because she was the first African American priest I had ever seen. Her representation made a lasting impression on me, because here I am following her example and improvising my way to spiritual leadership that, in the past, would have never been possible at the University of the South. But that is what great music is all about. Listening and learning from others so that you can personalize a song of your own. I hope you read something inspiring in this month’s edition that will get you moving towards your own rhythm of loving humanity with your whole heart and soul!