The first church I ever knew was Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For the first 13 years of my life, it was my sanctuary and safe haven. I ushered and sang on the choir. There, I welcomed visitors, read the church announcements and stumbled through my Easter speeches. I can even recall two spankings in the church bathroom and walking out to all eyes on me! Zion Hill was the space where I first learned about God and who we should be to each other because of God’s love for us.
It would be years before I learned Zion Hill wasn’t always my mother’s church home. She was going somewhere else and, while she was an active member of the congregation, things got sticky when she became pregnant and unmarried. At the time, both of my parents attended the same church and yet–only my mother was charged with standing in front of the congregation to publicly apologize and repent for having a child “out of wedlock”. Believing I was not a mistake, therefore my conception was not a mistake, my mother refused to stand before the congregation and began the search for a new church home. At Zion Hill, she was welcomed with open arms and found a space where she and her daughter could spiritually thrive and flourish.
Zion Hill became the place where I developed the leadership skills that have proven fruitful in this life. And, it is also where I was encouraged to ask questions–even if those questions ruffled feathers and made my Sunday school teachers uncomfortable. After all, Zion Hill was a space where the renegades could find a home and, even though I didn’t know it at the time, that’s exactly who I am.
I believe I’ve been called to help us explore our relationships with God and each other. In ways that often challenge traditional and conventional logic, I believe it’s the Spirit pushing me every time I push the envelope. And now more than ever, people are hungry for tools to reimagine who God is and who they are. Through new forms of media and creative projects, I believe I can help point the way to those tools and create new ones. With a charge to advance progressive religious thought in the Black community through stories and conversations that foster hope and invite healing, Zion Hill Media Group enters into the world.
ZHMG has three specific projects and areas of focus:
“The Clearing” understands many Black women and women of color turn to “digital hush harbors” to find messages that lead to wholeness and freedom. Named in honor of the sacred space in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Clearing is a multimedia project that grounds the spiritual experiences of women of color as instructive for living. It is comprised of a website and podcast community. The website will function as a faith and lifestyle magazine, featuring new weekly digital content and a monthly digital magazine. In addition to feature stories, profiles, book and entertainment reviews, the magazine will feature news stories, spiritual teaching and direction, physical and emotional health content, necessary discussions regarding sex and sexuality, and intergenerational dialogue. The podcast community will feature current women of color faith podcasters and develop new shows for the targeted demographic.
Educational Projects are a central focus of Zion Hill Media Group and the team endeavors to produce quality, theologically progressive content. These projects will include a monthly book club that will include conversations with the author or a theologian/practitioners, social syllabi initiatives much like “The Lemonade Syllabus” I created in 2016, guided social media sabbaticals like the Red Lip Theology “Get Clear in August (2019)” Digital Sabbatical that drew over 600 participants, resources for Sunday School and bible study.
Scripted and Unscripted Content become a vehicle that allows people the unique opportunity of engaging in deep introspection while also being entertained. To that end, ZHMG will fund and produce faith based entertainment. Selected as its first series, “Divine Dialogue” is a web series that follows me having necessary conversations with influencers, thought leaders, activists and faith leaders.
All of Zion Hill’s projects will be grounded in its 3 core values:
Unique and Innovative Theological Content – All ZHMG content is grounded in progressive religious thought and draws from the contributions of respected theologians, practitioners and faith leaders. Our content will inspire our consumers to think and explore the contours of faith, encouraging repeat site visits, participation and product purchases.
Quality Technology and Vibrant Design – ZHMG believes in creating bold and refreshing projects and all projects will adhere to high standards of technology and visual aesthetics. ZHMG will use top tier website and graphic design, as well as the best video production equipment and editing services.
Community – ZHMG will build a strong community of people who have similar interests in our programming and content. This direct communication between our sponsors and consumers will allow for the exchange of information, fostering individual growth and consumer loyalty.
To create ZHMG, I’ve partnered with my Uncle Dean, who has been like a father to me. As deacon in his church, Uncle Dean is committed to faith communities that heal us and he sees the potential of our work inspiring people to grow and thrive–and as my voice of reason, he’s always going to make sure my vision aligns with the budget! I could think of no other person to do this with and I’m grateful that he’s standing beside me!
Though ambitious, I’m raising $50,000 towards start-up expenses and operating costs. This will help to establish ZHMG and become seed money to build The Clearing and work on our first digital series, “Divine Dialogue”. Take a look at our crowdfunding site and consider partnering with us. If you’d like to make a larger investment in the company, a full proposal is available upon request.
I hope you will take this journey with us and we can grow together.