Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I’m Reclaiming My Time!

Written by: on January 30, 2024


I watched Matthew Petrusek’s entire 10- part Video Seminar before I cracked the spine of the book. After I completed the viewing over the course of a couple of days, I found it fairly easy to determine which chapter and topic that I would write about. Chapter 8, The God of my Tribe: Progressivism (A.K.A. “Wokeism”), is where I decided to focus. In sixty-six pages, this chapter touches on “White Fragility”, “Black Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter”, “Colorblindness”, “Intersectionality”, and a few other hot button topics. Petrusek is extremely critical of Progressivism throughout the Chapter. He states, “Indeed, progressivism is the Frankenstein of political ideologies. It is comprised of bits and pieces of scavenged parts from other political theories, including obscure academic ones that were once safely contained behind university walls.”[1]In the first few pages of the chapter  he sets the tone, he writes, “I’ll be using the term “progressivism” as a catch-all to describe the ideology but will also make the case that the contemporary term “wokeism’ or “being woke” falls into the same category.”[2] After reading that statement, I knew that I had to bring a different perspective to the term “woke”. I do not have enough space in this blog to address the other “hot button” topics.

As a child of the South, growing up in the 70’s in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a heightened awareness on remaining aware of your surroundings, the temperament of the crowd, the people that you were around. My parents, particularly my Father, were both very active in the Civil Rights Movement. My Father was a quarterback at the Historic Fisk University [3] before going on to lead the Nashville affiliates of The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) [4] and the Urban League [5].  My Mother was a Registered Nurse at the historic Meharry Medical College [6] and later became one of the first African American Nurse Practitioners to Graduate from Vanderbilt Medical School [7]. They were trailblazers in many ways and raised us with an awareness of how to safely navigate a dangerous, racially charged environment. Before leaving the house, we would hear a list of things to remember and one of them was, “remain awake and alert!” This is a derivative of the phrase “Stay Woke”.[8] To give you a little more context, Nashville, Tennessee is located a short distance from Polaski, Tennessee- the birthplace of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). Racism was real and the threat of race-based violence was a looming reality. I went to school with kids who had aspirations of becoming Grand Wizards of the KKK, as their fathers or grandfathers were. For many it was the family business.  I share this for the purpose of helping you understand the evolution of the term “stay woke” as I have experienced it. Its origin has a history that has since morphed into something completely different.  It was meant to remind us to be safe out in the world and remain alert and aware of the injustices in the world. Remain alert to clear and present dangers. The word has been weaponized, actually bastardized for political traction. It has become such a polarizing term that very few of my African-American friends/colleagues use it anymore.

I acknowledge that Petrusek is analyzing and giving his critical insight on Progressivism.  I also understand that it is difficult for me as I may have some blind spots and admittedly, he pushed my buttons and not in a good way. I edited and toned down this blog considerably before publishing it as it is important that I do not alienate anyone. And that is precisely why I did not enjoy this book; it built a wall and not a bridge for me. It was challenging to continue reading and listening to him because, in my opinion, he misses the mark. One of the best examples of this is Petursek writing, “The shadow side of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, “in other words is “Destruction, Elimination, and Implosion.” It is a fitting mantra for an ideology that promises peace by intestinally and systemically pitting human beings against each other.” [9] I can get this type of analysis and dog whistle language on Fox News for free, I don’t have to read a 463-page book, listen to over two hours of rhetoric, or pay $26 bucks for it. In the words of the esteemed Congresswoman Maxine Waters, “I’m reclaiming my time!”

[1] Matthew R. Petrusek and Thomas Collins, Evangelization and Ideology: How to Understand and Respond to the Political Culture (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire Institute, 2023), 303.

[2] Ibid., 302.

[3] HBCU’s (Historically Black College and University) have a rich history in this country. Fisk University has many famous alumni including W.E.B. Dubois, Ida B. Wells (one of the Founders of NAACP), W.C. Handy, Nikki Giovanni, Nella Larsen, and John Lewis.  Fisk University History – Fisk University

[4] I added the link to the NAACP website for easier access. I acknowledge that the mission and historical relevance may not be familiar to everyone. NAACP | Leading the Fight to End Racial Inequality

[5] I want to remove any barrier to gaining access to the website and reading about the organization. Home | National Urban League (nul.org)

[6] Meharry Medical College was founded in 1876 and was the first medical school for African-Americans in the South. In 1886 it began its Dental Program.  ABOUT US | Meharry Medical College Nashville, TN (mmc.edu)

[7] Vanderbilt University is an elite University that is often referred to as “The Harvard of the South.” Its doors were not always open to African-Americans. Established in 1873, Vanderbilt did not admit its first African-Amercian student until 1953. It is a significant historical event that my mother was one of the first African Americans to graduate in the Nurse Practitioners Program at Vanderbilt. VUSN History | About VUSN | School of Nursing | Vanderbilt University

[8] I have not read this in its entirety, yet it provides a brief history of the term. What is the history of the word ‘woke’ and its modern uses? | The Independent

[9] Matthew R. Petrusek and Thomas Collins, Evangelization and Ideology: How to Understand and Respond to the Political Culture (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire Institute, 2023), 339.

About the Author


Jonita Fair-Payton

14 responses to “I’m Reclaiming My Time!”

  1. mm John Fehlen says:

    This is a very important piece of writing Jonita. I needed to read this, and I need to pay attention to it. Again, this is important. You have given me a great deal to chew on, and I am grateful for a couple of things:
    1. The History. That was enlightening.
    2. Your Heart. You spoke the truth, in love. Thank you.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I appreciate you for so many reasons…you take the time to listen to what people are saying. I have no doubt that your congregation appreciates this quality in you. I am grateful for your insight and your truth.


  2. mm Tim Clark says:

    Jonita, thanks for writing this. I was deeply moved by the background of the word “woke”. In 2020 I had a black friend tell me I was woke, and I wore it as a badge of courage until the word and its meaning got so mangled. It still makes me sad that we ‘lost’ that word (and now even sadder that I’ve learned where it came from).

    Thank you for sharing your experience (and even your frustration with this book) with us. It’s really important to be challenged if we’re ever to learn and grow. I really appreciate your voice.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I’m not surprised that your friend said that about you. I agree that growth comes out of challenging situations. I remind myself of that when I am stretched by conversations, people, readings, and situations…I know that it is critical to growth and development. I’m trying, I’m stretching and prayerfully, I’m growing. Thank you for listening to heart of what people say…It’s appreciated greatly.

  3. mm Russell Chun says:

    Your point of view is piercingly poignant. It touches a chord in me. (1892) The Chinese Exclusion Act – Banned Chinese laborers from immigrating for the next 10 years and authorized deportation of unauthorized Chinese immigrants. Any Chinese immigrant who resided in the U.S. as a of Nov 17, 1880, could remain but was barred from naturalizing.

    BIG SIGH….

    I am reminded, however, that Chinese have been killing Japanese, Japanese killing Koreans, the list goes on.

    I can tell an Orientals background based on the shape of their eyes (I am not immune).

    I am in an interracial marriage and along with Mario Hood and the rest of the gang…I am voting with my heart.


    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      Thank you for your response. I appreciate the background that you provided on The Chinese Exclusion Act. What an unfair and cruel piece of legislation. I want to clarify what the focus of my blog is. My blog was about three things:

      1) My story
      2) The origin of the term “woke” as I have lived it
      3) My opinion of Petrusek’s analysis of Progressivism.
      After reading your response, I feel like it would be beneficial if we talked outside of this platform. Perhaps, before our Friday meeting…I’m open!

      Sending love and blessings to you and your beautiful family!

  4. Travis Vaughn says:

    Jonita, thank you for writing this post. I especially enjoyed reading about the history of your family. Seriously — thank you for sharing about your life! Speaking of Vanderbilt, our niece is finishing her Master’s at Vanderbilt (she serves as Director of Equity and Inclusion at a private school in SoCal).

    Alas, because I inspectionally read the book, I did not read the section you referred to where Petrusek addressed progressivism. Now, your post makes me want to go back and read that chapter and more. I did do a deeper dive on his “goal behind the goal” of writing the book, and I decided to write my post by asking questions, especially about the role Christians “should” (or shouldn’t?) play when it comes to engaging the public square. I thought that maybe there’s a better way for Petrusek to frame things. At any rate, I started to write a more critical piece in my blog post. However, I too edited my post. Ha! Question — what stood out to you as the biggest difference between Petrusek’s book and Mounk’s book?

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      I appreciate you reading my blog. I am excited that your niece is leading the DEI work in the private school sector.

      I think the most striking difference in the two is the tone. I couldn’t quite find the word to describe Petrusek until I read Kally’s blog. She described it as “Snarky”…I agree. I also feel like Mounk was explaining and Petrusek was criticizing.

  5. Jenny Dooley says:

    Jonita, Thank you for sharing your family story and heart. I must admit I never got around to watching the videos or reading Chapter 8. I will do so! I found the book hard to digest because of its’ size and because it was hard to read without a confrontational tone.
    Your defining and giving the history of the term woke was extremely helpful. You wrote, “Its origin has a history that has since morphed into something completely different.” Can you unpack that a bit more?
    What a great post!

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      The word had now morphed into a phrase that covers every liberal cause. To be “woke” now means to be aligned with all causes the people feel are a part of the liberal agenda. That’s not where it started.

  6. Scott Dickie says:

    “…it built a wall and not a bridge for me.”

    If I have great intellectual capacity and can argue my opponents into the ground…but don’t have love…It doesn’t amount to anything worthwhile.

    My context-applied version of Paul’s instruction to the church in Corinth…chapter 13.

    Thanks for sharing your story Jonita…..and I’m sorry for your experience reading this book (no one likes running into walls).

    Your statement (building walls not bridges) is a concise and easily-memorable way to describe a good and right goal for God’s people (of course, the opposite: to build bridges not walls), even when we might not agree with other people’s perspectives. There HAS to be a way to both disagree and, in the way we communicate and listen and engage with others (ie. love others), still build bridges with others who hold different ideologies. I would love for the church to lead the charge in this regards instead of building walls and worse, lobbing grenades over the wall to the ‘other side’. God help us.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:


      I like this statement that you wrote, “(building walls not bridges) is a concise and easily-memorable way to describe a good and right goal for God’s people (of course, the opposite: to build bridges not walls), even when we might not agree with other people’s perspectives.” YES! Even when we don’t agree with other people’s perspective, let’s build a bridge.

  7. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    it built a wall and not a bridge for me.—-YES

    I also zeroed in on chapter 8 as well. I came across an article “laid out” in a room my children sleep in at a families home that was entitled “how to help our children not be woke” or something to that extent. It felt passive aggressive to me, and as you absolutely wrote, it builds walls around my heart. I am confronted often with agenda’s and feel very little bridge building from the other side. Thank you for sharing your experience and truth!! That is the book I want to read. Also, I know there are a lot of people out there who think and feel this way and so I’m glad to have read this for that reason, as I will always choose to build a bridge. (I also already gave it to my dad to read, I’ll borrow it back as needed, but it won’t stay in my library! Reclaiming my space:). Love you and your heart!

  8. mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

    Yes, Jana…reclaim your space. Let’s keep building bridges together. Love you!

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