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Colorful Community

September 13, 2011

There’s a unique aspect of my novels that I tend to forget until someone highlights it in a review—the characters are racially diverse.  It wasn’t always so.  My first novel, Heavenly Places, featured six women in a Bible study, and all of them were black.  I didn’t give it a single thought.  I was planning to submit the manuscript to Walk Worthy Press, which had been formed to give a home to African-American Christian fiction.  And I’d rarely seen authors on either side cross the color divide in Christian fiction.  My characters would be black.  End of story.

But then I was signed to Thomas Nelson Fiction.  They wanted to publish the manuscript that would become Faithful, but they wondered if I’d be willing to diversify the characters.  (Yep, once again, they were all black.)  My flesh had a question—Are they asking all the authors to diversify their characters?  But God spoke to my spirit.  This was His doing.  He had already transformed my heart and mind to be “More Christian than African-American.”  He had given me a heart to minister to all, regardless of color.

And writing about diverse characters with rich friendships wasn’t foreign to me.  I wouldn’t have to wonder how that looked.  That’s how I live.  So why would my novels not reflect that?  Doesn’t God’s kingdom reflect that?

I love that that’s now my “brand.”  I love that people are pleasantly surprised that that’s the community they find.  And today, it hit me—that’s this blog community as well!  I love that we have a diverse group of people regularly stopping by and offering encouragement to one another.  I can only imagine how much God delights in His people dwelling together as one, as He intended.  It’ll be that way for eternity.  We might as well start now, even in fiction. :)

Are your friendships diverse when it comes to skin color?  Are you willing to grow in that area?  Have you prayed about it?

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23 Comments

  • Reply Tamara Davis September 14, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Kim, Kim, Kim! I’m going to need for you to stop reading my spirit mail!!! LOL My sister and I were JUST talking about this on Sunday. Our Pastor has been saying for a while now that in the kingdom of God there is no color. Our church is all African-American but he’s begun to confess a diverse church with one thing in common: the love of God and His people & the desire to advance the Kingdom. The more I mediate on this, the more my desire grows to move beyond my skin color. That’s one of the MAIN reasons I love your site. I am transitioning and growing for real because my inner circle is all African-American and I never once thought of growing or changing it, until now. When I read FAITHFUL, I noticed the diverse characters and how beautiful they all got along. Christ was their center. Then, I checked out the Women of Faith website and I was like “That’s it God! That’s what I want to experience!” And, I WILL experience that.

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Spirit mail…I love it!! LOL Praise God for your pastor! I truly believe if more pastors spoke on this from the pulpit, hearts would change as minds are renewed. “I am transitioning and growing for real because my inner circle is all African-American and I never once thought of growing or changing it, until now”…WOW! If my blog (and books) have played even a small part in that growth and change, I’m blown away. Never did that cross my mind when I started blogging regularly. You just never know what God will do! We are all ever growing in so many areas, and this one brings me much joy because Jesus prayed that we be one before He went to the cross. If can all grow continually in oneness, what an awesome praise that brings to the Father. Bless you, sis!

      • Reply Tamara Davis September 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

        I told my sister about the Women of Faith and now she’s interested in going. My neighbor is from Hawaii and I must say, she is the first person that I’ve gotten close to outside of my circle. She’s a believer as well and I LOVE her spirit. She made it clear to me that when we moved next to each other last year that we are a family–and she meant that!!!

  • Reply Debbie September 14, 2011 at 8:31 am

    So glad that you heeded the Spirit. So glad that you are “more Christian than African American” . So glad that we are sisters. May God bless you big today! (P.S. I have not disappeard. I was away for 3 weeks. But, now I’m back!)

    • Reply Debbie September 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

      (p.s. I’m glad your African American too, though.)

      • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm

        Me too! Hehe…but seriously, I’m thankful God gave me the skin color He did, because He has purpose in everything. May He use it all for His glory! :)

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      I was just thinking about you this morning (before you posted)! So glad you didn’t disappear! :) And definitely glad we’re sisters! Hope God is blessing you big today as well. Big hug to you!

  • Reply PatriciaW September 14, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Kim, I love that your books feature a diverse cast of characters. But more importantly, I love that you do it without giving long physical descriptions of every character. I read one of your books expecting the majority of the characters to have African-American traits, but not all of them. When you need to include physical description, you do. But I can tell from language and behavior more often than not, which is preferable for me as a reader and a writer.

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      Patricia, I’m really thankful for your comment, and thankful that you’d even notice something like that. But of course I shouldn’t be surprised since you’re a writer. :) Sometimes it’s awkward to stop and give a long physical description, so I’m really glad that you don’t even prefer that. This is wonderful feedback that I’m going to keep with me! :)

  • Reply Kara September 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

    A friend and I were just talking about diversity in the church. We were discussing the fact that in many of those churches you seem to notice that there is such a freedom there. I think it’s great that you exhibit the same freedom in your novels. My friendships have been diverse but lately not as much…I am sure it has to do with the circles that I am currently involved in, yes I am willing to grow in that area and I will definitely pray about it!
    See you tomorrow!

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      So interesting you were just talking about this! You have such a heart for God…I love that you’re always willing to grow in whatever area. That should be the case for us all. And thank God He gives us grace and more grace. Yes, see you tomorrow, sis! Can’t wait!

  • Reply Kristian September 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Kim this was such a good one for me. You’re talking to the girl who everyday someone asks “What are you?” simply referring to race. I usually tell them, that I’m Christian. Truthfully, I have five races in my family, if u saw me, I look like all five of them and more….LOL. Growing up in a black city (New Orleans), going to black school, having black friends amd living in a black neighborhood, it is truly all that I was exposed to. And speaking of a church background, my family started gonig to church when I was 12, we had white pastors, but more blacks than any other race in the church. Needless to say it was still diverse. I love being around different ppl. I love being around different cultures and nationalities. My friends are all primarily African American, but its not because of race, its because we are all Christians and see things thru a different lens than the world does. But I def do welcome more diversities in my inner circle, hey I’m made up of everything, lol. So glad that u write with such diverse Characters. The funny this was when I read Faithful, it was my first Christian Fiction book (with an African American author) to ever read about other races, and trust me I read a lot. It opened my mind up, and I could see so much more of what God had in store for those ladies and gentlemen’s freindships. Cannot wait to read Cherished! Love your heart to wards ppl.! :)

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      I love that I learned something new about you, Kristian! I can’t see you, of course:), so I didn’t know you had five races in your family and people ask you, “What are you?” I have a friend who likes to say that God makes some people that way to throw others off from being able to categorize the way the world likes to. You’re ready-made to have a diverse circle because you’re diverse all by yourself! I love it! :) And you’ve got the right answer to that “What are you?” question!

  • Reply Tanya September 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    This post is so on time because today (after being on break since the spring), a racially diverse women’s inductive Bible study that I’m part of resumed.

    We’re a group of about 60 women. I love the fact that we’re diverse not just in race but also in age. We’re roughly 30s to abt 80 years old! And we come from different churches as well.

    I certainly did not grow up in a diverse environment but am thankful for those people whom God has placed in my life who don’t look like me. :).

    I love that it’s your brand too! 10 years ago I went to a bookstore looking for one thing and then “happened upon” More Christian Than African-American; I was instantly intrigued by the title. And here we are now.

    Tanya

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      I love that Bible study group!! That is so awesome. That’s what it’s all about, to be diverse on many levels. What a rich experience. Smiling about 10 years ago….I still remember when you contacted me. Who knew what a God-connection it would be?! So thankful! And praise God for your hunger for truth and desire to do His will. May the Lord richly bless that Bible study!

  • Reply Jessie September 14, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hi, Kim, and the rest of the blog community! My how I have missed you! We’ve talked about how much online communities can be a part of our life, and that is so true about this community. I’ve not drifted away, but it is hard to respond from a phone. So, here I am logged into the computer! Yay!!!!

    I think my friendships are pretty diverse. My family alone has always been pretty diverse. My grandma was married to a man I grew up believing was indian. Well, years later, after she had passed away, I was going through some family albums and found some pictures of some very dark people. When I asked my mom who they were she said they were Bill’s family. It is still possible that he was indian, from one or the other side of his family as I don’t think I made that assumption as a small child on my own. My uncle is married to a woman who is mexican and I have an aunt who was married to a Cuban. So, diversity definitely exists in my family.

    When I was really young, my dad’s best friend was African American (I was going to say black, but is that appropriate, I often wonder that as I would never want to disrespect anyone or make them feel insulted). I remember that for awhile we lived with this family. Because they ate rice, what seemed to be every night for dinner, and I didn’t like it at all, for awhile I believed that all African American’s ate rice every night. I know, crazy, right.

    For the longest time, I didn’t think that prejudices existed in my life time. Really!! I guess to me people were people no matter what color they are, language they speak, or where they came from. I truly struggled to understand how people could be prejudice. Even today, I struggle to understand it. I struggle even more with it since my best friend’s children are mixed. As their Godmother, or aunt as they refer to me, I get pretty protective. I would love to take them to meet my mother in Kansas, but I also fear that my mother’s husband would use a word around them that would send my anger soaring. I’ve told him how much I hate him using that word before, but it would bother me even more in their presence.

    So, have I prayed about this? Yes! Here is why. For awhile here where I live there were guys going around parking lots stealing from people. The only discription they were giving is that they were black males. I hated that every time I went to the store in the evening and saw a black male standing outside I would freeze. I feared that this was a sign that I was becoming prejudice. However, I later thought about it, and any man standing outside in a parking lot alone after dark would make me freeze up. I think that is more about being cautious. Reality is, this isn’t the safest world that we live in. Still, I hated feeling that I could be carrying around any kind of prejudice. So, yes, I prayed about this.

    So excited to be able to post and be back in the community!!! Love and hugs to you, sweet friend!!!

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

      Jessie, it’s rare to have that kind of diversity in a family. What a blessing! And how awesome that you’ve actually prayed not to be carrying around any prejudice. That might be kind of rare too. :) You’re right, seeing any male late at night in a parking lot makes me nervous, but you have such a tender heart to want to make sure you had a right heart. Oh, and I use “black” and “African American” interchangeably. Doesn’t offend me at all. The only thing that can rub me the wrong way is when someone says, “the blacks”…it often sounds like they’re referring to us in a demeaning way. But to say “my dad’s best friend was black” is no big deal. But again, I love your heart for asking, and I love that you knew you could ask. :) Excited to have you back too!!

  • Reply Iris September 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I just came across your website/blog. I am looking forward getting to know you through your books and your site.

    I love diversity! I see more-and-more African-Americans attending the church I go to. It was not always like that – I love the change!

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Iris! Wow, I’m wondering what prompted the change. That’s awesome that diversity is increasing at your church. Sounds like some intentional praying and perhaps other efforts have been going on. And certainly, there must be a welcoming spirit, which is also awesome. May the Lord continue to bless what’s happening there. So glad you stopped by! I look forward to getting to know you too! :)

  • Reply Shirley S. September 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Kim, I too am a writer (not published-YET!), and I am a black woman. I grew up in a black hood, and went to black schools. It wasn’t until college that I truly got exposed to different races. I had white roommates, Mexican roommates, foriegn teammates, and I enjoyed them all! I did however still cling on to being black. When I read your book More Christian… I related so much and saw me throughout the book, and when I wrote I wrote with a lot of black characters and whites, because I grew up reading mostly white authors with white characters. I think writing though I felt like writing about “my people” because I thought it would be eaiser. But I have white friends now and I can see why diversity as a writer could be helpful, and just as a Christian and person. We won’t be segregated in heaven, and color does not matter to God, its the heart and its always been about the heart!

    Shirley S. st.charles, MO

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      Shirley, I love this…”We won’t be segregated in heaven, and color does not matter to God, its the heart and its always been about the heart!” Amen! I also love that you are open to where God leads you. When we dedicated our writing ministries to Him and allow Him to guide it, we never know where He will take it. :) But if our goal is for Him to get the glory, then we must be willing to go where He leads. I could’ve never seen this path myself, but I’m thankful He’s led the way. Blessings as you write for Him!

  • Reply Candace September 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Happy Friday Kim!

    I’ve always hung out with a diverse set of friends. Here are some notables:

    My black-belt karate instructor was a Mexican teenager who gave lessons in his garage; I was close to his family but ultimately they kept me just outside their circle; I was never offended; I chalked it up to a cultural thing.

    My best friend Denise had a dirt-bike-camping dad who was married to a hot-tamale Mexican girl; race was never an issue.

    My friend Toni had a super cool, super chill, hot surfer dad who was married to a hot-headed LOUD Korean girl; what a trip to be in their house and I never felt the race distance.

    With my best friend Yolanda (they called us Salt & Pepper), I felt the race distance at times around her family, and she would explain but I kinda felt bad she felt she had to; I wasn’t offended.

    My friends in the music business were a diverse crowd and I don’t remember race ever surfacing; music was the common thread; what fun we had back stage with a lot of hot bands!

    My chill Hawaiian friends always dress like they’re at the beach, even in winter, maybe a wetsuit, maybe; of course, their daughter is a top competitive surfer and Tahitian dancer..ya THINK?!

    I guess I’ve always been a color-blind connecter, maybe because I connect below the surface to the soul & spirit, so then color never really comes into play.

    Love your post Kim.

    Keep writing with diversity in mind, and spirit;)

    • Reply Kim Cash Tate September 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Love this, Candace! What rich experiences you’ve had! I shouldn’t be surprised given your steady diet of missionary stories as a youngster…your heart and mind were primed to connect with people from around the globe. What I heard in each example was that even when others were uncomfortable, you were open and willing. I LOVE that you “connect below the surface to the soul & spirit, so then color never really comes into play”…the lavish grace of God!! So glad you shared this. Love your comment. Love your spirit. :)

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