Leadership: Women Who Inspire

I was honored to interview Mae Cannon while attending The Justice Conference a couple weeks ago. I look forward to spending more time and hopefully learning from her in the coming months. Mae is a minister, writer, and academic who cares deeply about God’s heart for the poor and the oppressed. She is the author of Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World (IVP, 2009) and Just Spirituality: How Faith Practices Fuel Social Action (IVP, 2013). Cannon is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), was formerly the executive pastor of Hillside Covenant Church located in Walnut Creek, California, and has served as Director of Development and Transformation for Extension Ministries at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois. Prior to joining World Vision, Mae lived in East Jerusalem and served as a consultant to the Middle East for child advocacy issues for Compassion International. Cannon holds an M.Div. From North Park Theological Seminary, an M.B.A. from North Park University’s School of Business and Nonprofit Management, and an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She is now a doctoral candidate in American History with the minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University of California – Davis, focusing her dissertation on the history of the American Protestant church in Israel and Palestine. Mae is a Godly woman who inspires me.

When I asked Mae to share about a Godly woman who inspires her, Andrea (Andy) Smith immediately came to mind. Mae’s reflections:

Andy is one of the most profound and influential intellectual minds of the 21st century. She is a Cherokee Indian and a Southern Baptist, a committed evangelical who has devoted her life to ending global oppression.
I consider it a great privilege to count Andy a friend. Her resume is stellar including a tenured position in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California – Riverside. She is sitting for the bar exam this summer and is completing her law degree from University of California – Irvine. She was recently awarded the prestigious Skadden Fellowship to provide legal services to the disabled in Los Angeles. She is the author of several books including Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (2005) and Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances (2008).

Nonetheless, Andy’s most significant contribution to humanity is her authentic commitment to love, serve, and confront injustice. Andy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for her work confronting violence towards women of color. She is the co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. In her book Conquest, Andy calls on activists engaged in antiviolence to strategize against empire and as dependents on systems: “of kinship, respect, and reciprocity.” In her revolutionary activism against colonialism and empire, Andy recognizes the need for truly authentic beloved community as an alternative to the systems of power that abuse and destroy.

Over the past several years, I have seen Andy tirelessly commit to her friends and loved ones. She daily sacrifices self in order to contribute to the needs of those around her. In addition to her full-time work as a faculty member at UC Riverside, she has thrown herself into the study of law in her program at Irvine. All the while she has maintained custody and support of her nephew, a young man fully disabled from a crippling accident when he was only six years old. Her most recent endeavor as a Skadden Fellow will allow her the opportunity to focus on providing legal services to others in similar circumstances as her nephew. Her sharp mind, intellectual acumen, and capacity for diligent commitment to her cause will allow Andy to continue to make a profound difference in the world. She is truly an inspiration.

Are you inspired? Who are some of the women who inspire you and why?

© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson and Mae Cannon 2013

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