In the Midst

Vanessa Riles -- November 20, 2016

Scriptures for today:
Psalm 46 | Colossians 1:11-20 | Luke 23:33-43

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Vanessa Riles is a Black, queer, sex positive, body positive, womanist. She is an Oakland native seeking freedom from white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and American exceptionalism for all those marginalized and disenfranchised by these oppressive forces. Over the past several years Vanessa has served as a member of this congregation in a variety of capacities and has grown spiritually through that service, her connection to this faith community, and her growing and developing relationship with God and Jesus Christ. Currently, Vanessa serves on the diaconate, the Worship and Arts team, and the Voices of Praise choir. She is a regular worship leader, and an occasional preacher, and she is deeply honored to be given the opportunity to offer herself as a vessel once again.

Vanessa participates in direct actions throughout Oakland to protest the persistent and pervasive war on Black life. She has organized with Second Acts, #Interfaith4BlackLives, black.seed, the East 12th Coalition, Bay Area Restaurant Worker’s Movement, Stop Urban Shield Coalition and various other groups fighting for the lives and freedoms of Black, POC, LGBTQI2S people and communities. Through that work, with amazing groups of fierce freedom fighters, she has: shut down streets; shut down Oakland city council meetings; spoke, prayed, and sung at rallies and marches; co-created public altars; become a member of the #Interfaith14; and a member of the #BayBridge25. Vanessa’s participation in direct action and her commissions of civil disobedience are deeply rooted in her faith and her beliefs that “it is our duty to fight for our freedom; it is our duty to win; we must love and protect each other; [and that] we have nothing to lose but our chains,” (Assata Shakur).

Vanessa is searching for meaning and fulfillment in a world that keeps telling her that her voice, her vote, and her very life don’t matter.