My name is usually pronounced exactly as it is spelled: A Lease.
I’m fine with not using the the long “A,” as well, for a pronunciation of: uh lease.
I grew up in Roosevelt, Long Island (New York City suburb) to working class parents. I was the first in my family to attend college. I’ve did my undergraduate work at Smith College, then obtained a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I practiced as a litigation attorney—a New York trial lawyer, more specifically—for a number of years. Eventually, I decided to change the direction of my life. I returned to school full time to study theology, which is my first love, completing an MDiv at Duke Divinity School. From there I completed a PhD at Stellenbosch University.
My life has been shaped by the Christian church. I began in the Black Church, moved into a non-denominational evangelical church as a young adult, and after beginning my formal theological studies, I joined the United Methodist Church and began the ordination process.
Early in 2019 I became a a postdoctoral fellow at the University of the Western Cape (Cape Town, SA). I work with the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. Our research agenda encompasses three areas:
Religion and Gender Justice
Religion and Educational Justice
Religion and Political Justice
My work is in the area of race and gender justice, researching issues related to race, gender, and Christian Theology. I am particularly interested in the topic of human dignity as it is realized by, or impeded in, the lives of Black women of the African diaspora. The main emphasis of my research has been protest, resistance, and discourses of (non)violence. I engage critical theory, Africana, gender, and postcolonial (decolonial) studies, biblical studies, and early church history.
Just prior to beginning in my current role, I completed my PhD in Systematic Theology at Stellenbosch University (Cape Town, SA). My dissertation was titled: The Violence of Jesus and the Justice of God. The study analyzed the ways in which “violence” is discursively understood, and it described the ways in which the issues of honor/shame that are evident in the Gospel, can underlie eruptions of physical force that occur during protest movements of Black persons.
In addition to my academic endeavors, I am currently a candidate for ordination as an Elder in the United Western, NC Conference of the United Methodist Church. Meanwhile, in Cape Town I am a lay preacher. I preach at my local church and at other congregations where I am invited. I’m known for introducing historical and theological context into the sermon.
I love to read scripture and draw new theological meaning from familiar passages, especially those that relate to women.
After I preach, I typically hear one of two things, sometimes both. Either, “How are you able to read scripture like that? What can I be reading to understand the way that you understand?” Or, “God brought me here today to hear this. I was not going to come. Today I felt seen and loved by God in a way I really needed.”
I preach because I love it, and because, like Joan of Arc said, I was born or this.
“I was born for this.”
Me paraphrasing Joan of Arc.
My husband…has yet to show up, win me over, and marry me. Thus, I’ve gotten on with living my best life without him. I’m hoping at some point (soon) our paths will cross. No kiddiewinks, but 11 (!) nieces and nephews who hold my heart.
Fun fact: I share a birthday with Maya Angelou.
When I am not researching, writing, lecturing, or presenting at conferences and workshops, I enjoy being out in the sunshine. Rainy days and Mondays bring me down. I love to walk and cycle, and to relax at outdoor cafes. I also enjoy cooking, reading and coloring (it’s very relaxing). My favorite store in Cape Town is Mr. Price Home, which, if you don’t know, is the Cape Town version of Target’s home ware department.
Three all-time favorite books might be: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, Little Drummer Girl by John LeCarre, and a tie between The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams. A recent surprising favorite, purchased hastily at the airport this summer, was Less by Andrew Sean Greer.
Weightier books that I am working through or that are on my shortlist:
Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture by Tamura Lomax
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
The Future is Black: Afropessimism, Fugitivity, and Radical Hope in Education, edited by Carl A. Grant, Michael J. Dumas, and Ashley N. Woodson
Violence and Personhood in Ancient Israel and Comparative Contexts by T.M. Lemos
Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics, edited by Vincent W. Lloyd and Andrew Prevot
Reimagining Hagar: Blackness and Bible (Biblical Refigurations) by Nyasha Junior
And that’s me! Click around the site to your heart’s content. There are pages with more details about my academic life, about my preaching, snippets of things I’ve said on social media, and soon there will be stuff to buy.
Hopefully your looking around will give you a good sense of what I am about, and your time here will make you want to come back. You should. I tinker and update.
Peace and cake (because I love both),