There is a chapter in Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, titled, “The Container We Have Built for You.” It is an elaboration on the ways society has expectations on who occupies certain spaces in our culture. Octavia Butler, an African American woman, author, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, is one of those people who lived and worked inside a container that historically had not been meant for her to occupy. Butler wrote science fiction and her work explores the areas of racism, sexism, and earth’s deterioration in that context. In fact, her characters, Lilith, Lauren, and Dana, are the main protagonists of some of her stories – all black women.

Octavia Butler was born and raised in Pasadena, CA. Her father died when she was a baby, so she was raised by her grandmother and mother (also named Octavia, which is where the nickname, Junie, comes from). As a ten-year-old, Butler began writing as a way to escape boredom and at twelve acquired an interest in science fiction. It was at this age she saw a “bad science fiction movie” and decided she could do better. This is when she started writing in this genre.

Butler’s mother worked as a maid and she would often accompany her mother to various jobs. It was during these times she was told that black girls could not become writers. But she persevered and became one of the field’s most important authors. Her breakthrough novel, published in 1979, is Kindred. The protagonist in the novel, Dana, travels back in time to save the life of her ancestor, a white slave owner. Butler won a Hugo Award for her novel, Parable of the Sower. Its storyline reads like it could have been written recently. In 1995 she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius Grant. She left us too soon at the age of 58, with her last novel, Fledgling, surely being the first of a series.

Butler’s perseverance and decision to create and write in the container of science fiction, being female and black, despite the obstacles, is more than admirable. That combination caused people to put me inside a container that on some occasions is not mine to occupy: “Yes, I am in the right place if this is the workshop for ministers. Why are you asking?” or, “No, I am not the singer for today’s service” (from someone who did not know me and made an assumption because I am black and was dressed a certain way), or “No, I am not a current student’ I am an alum,” (which is the question they asked everyone before me) “and on the organizing committee for these events” (a seminary alumni gathering). If I had to choose a song that epitomized Butler’s life and influence, and one that resonates with me, it would be the freedom song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Roun.”

Rev. Carolyn Matthews
Pastor for Christian Education
Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
Former Executive Assistant to the BST President

March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate we have asked female members of the BST community to write a brief article that highlights a woman who has had an impact on their lives, whether personal, historical or theological. Each week throughout the month of March a different female BST community member will honor a woman who is significant to them and tell us why and how this woman has impacted their lives and/or their thinking.

When asked by the Weekly Touch coordinators to honor women’s history month by contributing a brief article that highlights a woman of significance in my life experience, I immediately thought of one of the shining stars that has recently left this world, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women's rights, winning many arguments before the Supreme Court. She advocated as a volunteer attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsel in the 1970s. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton. Between O'Connor's retirement in 2006 and the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, she was the only female justice on the Supreme Court. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents, notably in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007). Ginsburg's dissenting opinion was credited with inspiring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009, making it easier for employees to win pay discrimination claims.1

BST is so excited to welcome our new Chaplain, Rev. Natalya Johnson, who has recently joined our staff to support our community, especially in these difficult times.

Rev. Johnson, is an alum of BST, and has served as a certified hospital chaplain in the Bay Area for 16 years. She now joins the BST staff part-time to serve students, faculty and staff. If anyone wishes to make an appointment with Rev. Johnson she can be contacted at:

Welcome Rev. Natalya Johnson!

Are you interested in a representative from BST preaching or presenting at your church?

REV. Dr. James Brenneman, President
Rev. Dr. LeAnn Flesher, VP of Academics & Professor
Rev. Sam Fielder, Executive Assistant to the President

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