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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Black Liturgies by Cole Arthur Riley 
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There's no question that Cole Arthur Riley's "Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human" is designed as a literary safe space that connects spiritual practice with Black emotion, Black memory, and the Black body. It's an extension of a digital project of the same name created by Riley, an extraordinary weaving together of prayers, letters, poems, meditation questions, breath practices, scriptures, and the writings of Black literary ancestors to offer forty-three liturgies that can be practiced individually or as a community.

With "Black Liturgies," Riley holds space for readers to reflect on their shared experiences of wonder, rest, rage, and repair. She creates rituals for holidays like Lent and Juneteenth and invites deep and honest reflections about one's own personal experiences impacting life, love, and the spiritual experience.

As a white disabled male, I resonated deeply with Riley's explorations throughout "Black Liturgies." I found deep meaning in the prayers, the letters, the poems, and especially the meditation questions found throughout the book and I found myself connecting with experiences though I suppose that would be through a different cultural lens.

As someone who was kicked out of two faith communities relatively early in life, I found healing in "Black Liturgies." As someone with a disability who has frequently felt out of place and othered in life, social circles, church, and the world in general because of my physical being, I found healing in "Black Liturgies." As a survivor of significant traumas, I found safety in the words of Cole Arthur Riley.

And, as someone within 24 hours of a major cancer surgery and yet another body change, I found hope within Cole Arthur Riley's words.

Cole Arthur Riley draws us into a spiritual landscape that is more loving, more inclusive, more hopeful, more nurturing, more tender, and ultimately more safe than many of us have experienced. It's an invitation to become the human beings we have always been meant to be and a call to love ourselves and one another and a vision for what that might actually look like.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic