Elonda Clay

Elonda Clay is the Director of the Library at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She is also a scholar of religion and PhD candidate in Theology and Religious Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her work has been supported by the American Society for Human Genetics, the Forum for Theological Education, the John Templeton Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the United Methodist Women of Color, GreenFaith Coalition for the Environment, and Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (Research Institute for Philosophy Hannover, Germany).

Her dissertation, Reel DNA Ancestry: Race, Sacred DNA, and Myth in Media Portrayals of African Americans and Genetic Ancestry examines how direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry, genealogy television, and popular racialized notions of biology are mediated and remediated through popular entertainment media and the Internet. It is argued that media framing of the explanatory powers, mystical meanings, or sacred status of DNA and appeals to narratives of origins, race, and new DNA ethnicities present in popular entertainment involve remediating cultural and archival memory while concurrently mediating genomic science. Her work reframes the intermediality of genetic ancestry stories by examining how media representations stage visual materializations of race, roots, and genetic return in order to assert the importance of DNA as a crucial form of ancestral proof and self-identification. While media portrayals of African Americans and genetic ancestry popularize a post-genomic respatialization of genealogy, they are still heavily invested in reifying biological differences between populations.

Clay currently serves on the American Academy of Religion steering committees for Media, Religion, and Culture and Critical Approaches to Religion and Hip Hop. She has earned graduate degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia (M.A., Library and Information Science), the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div.), LSTC (M.Th. in Religion and Science) and received her undergraduate degree from Kansas State University (B.S., Physical Science).

At MTSO, Elonda has worked on issues of librarianship as anti-racist work and building dialogues on science denialism between scientists and religious leaders. In addition to her academic writing, her poetry collection, “Know That You Have Been Loved, blends forms and genres to address core themes of Womanist wisdom: family, love, survival, resistance, resilience, and laughter. For more information: elondaclay.com

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Know That You Have Been Loved is a poetry collection that explores how deep family ties, love and its substitutes, grief, pain, struggle, and laughter possess the potential to shape and inspire growth, healing, and self-love for each of us. Ever grounded in the legacies of her ancestors and America’s persistent wounds of race, Elonda uses historical turning points, nature, and the richness of women’s wisdom as her writing companions. Know That You Have Been Loved is her debut poetry collection & the first book in the Words from the Wells of Black Women’s Wisdom series.


Know That You Have Been Loved
(For Mom, Rhonda Lacy Smith)

Sweet precious child in my arms
I’ll sway you into sleep.
Your breath so lightly
on my heart,
Makes this life complete.

Small wondering one running through the grass,
I’ll try to guide your step.
Life’s little questions on your lips,
Shows me how I’ve been blessed.

So I tell you from the very start you have been given love.

I stored into your mind a love for beautiful things.
You gave me pride and joy,
I reluctantly gave you wings.

Sweet growing seed, open up and see
what life’s all about.
When you feel pressed from all around,
Let God’s wisdom be your way out.

Oh my dear, from the beginning
I have taught you love.

When you had your own children
be them boys or girls,
My smile was surely the biggest one
welcoming them to this world.

I celebrated your first gray hair,
which to me meant you finally gained
a strength and courage to call your own.
Through the years, one thing hasn’t changed.

I hope that by now honey you have seen
love in action.”

Now the scene is turned around
in your rocking arms I rest.
Run your fingers through these soft, white hairs
and my smile will tell you
“Yes, oh sweet baby of mine,
know that you have been loved.”


What if you and I
Stood here
and peeled off the layers,
The fashion, features and flesh
that make our vision hazy?

Stood here
and stripped all the way down
to our bones.

Would you still
fill me with stories when I’m empty,
shelter me like a special hiding place,
see me as a beautiful thing…

Or would you just see
how skinny and white
I was?

A Scholar’s OCD #2

You have to have OCD to be a scholar
because scholars will spend hours and weeks making sure that

The formatting is as it should be.
The font type is embeddable and readable.
The margins are customized and mirrored.
The argument is valid.
The research is an accurate ^a respectable reflection of reality.

You have to have OCD to be a scholar
because only scholars will say that dead writers are their conversation partners,
yet be afraid to talk to their ancestors.

You have to have OCD to be a scholar
because scholars make sure that

↔ every citation is reviewed,
↔ every footnote follows its citation style,
↔ every quote is verified by page number from its source text.

Work with precision, work for perfection,
everything must be of order.

Go back.
Go back through it again.
After that, go back through it again.
Get rid of that extra space.
Get rid of that dangling participle.
Get rid of that first person and the brackets that separate
[your life] from {your work}.

Bury your loathing of a certain scholar’s words, ideology, and arrogance.
Bury your critical questions. Write and turn in your paper.

So, you really buried those questions?
Now after you pass the class, go back and resurrect them.
Deconstruct all those wack arguments for yourself,
not only for your sanity,
for your future students too.

Challenge it because nobody needs to internalize some of the
sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant bull$#!+
that has been canonized in the name of Western scholarship
without having it be exposed
for the lie that it is.

Work with precision, work for perfection,
everything must be of order.


Poetry and Healing

* From Shame to Creative Self-Care: Creativity as a Path to Wholeness for Abuse/Assault Survivors

* Poetry for Folks Who Have Considered Suicide – A Suicide Awareness and Prevention Creative Writing Workshop

African American Poetry

* The Nature of Black Poetry: Looking at Poetry About Nature From Black Poets

* What is Poetry to a Black Woman? The Power of Poetry in Cultivating Self Love, Celebrating Sisterhood, and Building Resilience [Workshop #1]

* What is Poetry to a Black Woman? Creative Writing as Self Care Ritual [Workshop #2]


* Meditation to Reduce Stress in College and Beyond
* Meditation for Managing Grief and Healing Trauma

Poetry and Spiritual/Religious Growth

* Planting Sanctuary: Gardens as Sacred Spaces




To book Elonda Clay for a poetry reading, writing workshop, speaking engagement, or meditation/self-care events and retreats, please email elonda.clay at gmail.com.

Elonda specializes in poetry as a creative path to healing and meditation as a restorative and healing practice. Her workshop topics include:

Poetry and Healing
Black Women and Poetry
Poetry and Spiritual/Religious Growth
Meditation for Reducing Stress, Healing Trauma, and Managing Grief
Gardens as Sacred Spaces/African Americans and Nature Poetry

Elonda will also tailor a retreat or workshop to fit your specific needs. She typically works with participants ages 16 and up.