Author Interview with Dr. Shelley McIntosh
Shelley McIntosh, an expert in literacy and leadership, provides schools with reading intervention, teacher training, and teacher placement. She is the author of several books; including "Genesis II: The Re-Creation of Black People," "Mtoto House: Vision to Victory - Raising African American Children Communally," "A Principal's Tale: Life in 31 Days," "A Principal's Tale: A Self-Determined Leader" and her newest book, "Memoir of a Black Christian Nationalist: Seeds of Liberation."
“Memoir of a Black Christian Nationalist: Seeds of Liberation” describes Shelley’s thirty-year experience as a Black Christian Nationalist. The book offers an eloquent and informative interweaving of the theological framework, program, and organization reestablishing the Black church's relevance to the liberation struggle.
Shelley's professional experience includes teaching, National Youth Coordinator, Supervision of Student Teachers, Field Experiences Director, Assistant Professor, and Elementary School Principal. Continue reading for an exclusive interview.
Tell us about your background.
I always place myself in a historical and experiential context. My parents, Ruth and Rufus Miller were in the last Great Black Migration from the south to the north. My oldest sister by only a year and a half was born in Flomaton, Florida. While my oldest sister was still an infant, my parents traveled to Detroit, Michigan. Shortly afterward, I was born at the Henry Ford Hospital. I view myself as the first child born up north.
Growing up in Detroit where my father found work in the car factory and remained there for 33 years, he was able to provide for his wife and four children. I attended Detroit public schools and graduated from Southeastern High School. During my short 18 years of life in school, I lived through the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin L. King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. I viewed, heard, and experienced the 1967 Black rebellion when the entire business area on Mack Street, one that I visited regularly, was burnt to the ground.
These experiences served as motivation for me to join the Shrines of the Black Madonna in 1971 at only 21 years old. There I dedicated my life to building a better more self-determining and powerful life for Black people for over 30 years. My major contributions there was leadership (group leader, administrator, bishop, cardinal), spiritual development, and director of the children’s institute.
My educational background includes a Bachelor of Science, Master of Curriculum and Instruction (Grades K-8), and Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction (Teacher Education). My professional career includes being an elementary school teacher, an elementary school principal, an assistant professor at the University of Houston Downtown, and a teacher coach for Wayne Regional Educational Services Agency.
I hold certifications as a teacher and school administrator. When people ask how did I get into education, I reply, “Education chose me.”
What was the catalyst for writing, Memoir of a Black Christian Nationalist: Seeds of Liberation?
Thirty years of being a Black Christian Nationalist changed my life in areas of spirituality, worldview, theological knowledge, and mind/ behavioral transformation all for the goal of ending oppression, ending injustices, ending poverty, and building for ourselves.
The year 2020 struck me hard. Not only were we in the throes of a deadly pandemic but 2020 marked 20 years since the passing of the founder of the Shrines of the Black Madonna and developer of Black Christian Nationalism Theology, Albert B. Cleage, Jr. As I reflected on my life of being a member for 30 years, I felt joy and pain. The joy stemmed from the programmatic successes of building church communities/institutions that were self-sustaining, safe, and secure. The pain rested on the reality that the founder had been dead for 20 years. I asked myself, “Who will tell our story?” “How will the world know about our lifestyles, our successes, our progress?” I was spiritually moved to write the story, to write my memoir.
I felt it was very important to share the world of Black Christian Nationalists, the knowledge, experiences, and successes under the leadership of the late Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I felt a strong need to tell my story as part of a larger story of Black Christian Nationalists who committed themselves to the goal of freedom and liberation.
What are the main themes of your new book?
There are five main themes of my new book:
We are Black. We are oppressed. We seek to end our oppression.
The Black Church can be instrumental in ending oppression and committing itself to freedom and to building power for Black people.
The Seeds of Effective Leadership
The survival and salvation of Black people is a group experience based on transformation through the experience of God and the experience of communalism.
Christianity was founded upon the life and teachings of Jesus, the Black Messiah making it relevant to our struggle against injustice and powerlessness.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about Black Christian Nationalism?
Just this past summer, I went on a Celebrity Bus Tour of Detroit sponsored by Stewart McMillan. It was a wonderful tour with an accompanying brochure of the houses of Diana Ross, Marvin Gay, etc. I was surprised that the bus tour included the Shrine of the Black Madonna. As we rode by the church, the tour guide directed us to the brochure. It stated that the Shrine of the Black Madonna didn’t like White people and that we wanted five states to live in. Where would White people go???
With due respect, I spoke loudly that this is not true. Another voice from the back of the bus echoed my comments. Later I emailed the tour guide about this misconception. He apologized. The harm done was that he could not erase the 20 years that this was on his brochure or that hundreds of people read it.
Other big misconceptions about the Shrine of the Black Madonna and Black Christian Nationalists include:
They don’t like White people. (Black Christian Nationalists never preached White hatred. We advocated Black love that was powerful enough to change self-destructive behaviors. However, we learned of the historical truth of slavery and identified the system of oppression, both perpetrated and controlled by White people. In a different light, Black Christian Nationalists learned from White authors/scholars, and were open to collaborations that supported the well-being of Black communities).
They believe in separatism and want five states to live in. (No, there was never a position of Black people living in five states. Reverend Cleage analyzed the state of Black people in America and faced the ugly reality that Black people are separated from the wider America by unequal and unjust laws and policies. Even today, neighborhoods, churches, and schools are segregated. Upon this separate existence, Black people need to garner their skills, talents, and energy to build self-sustaining communities – a peaceful nation within a nation.
They are militant. (Absolutely not true. Time and energy were focused on changing our mindsets and behaviors to be productive and not waste time being confrontational).
Dark-skinned people cannot attend church. (When I joined, my father told me the same thing).
They are Muslims. (No. Christianity is the religion).
They don’t use the same bible. (Yes, we do. There are several versions. Black Christian Nationalists were familiar with most).
They are a threat because they use the terms, Black and Nationalist. (Black is identification with Africa, the original home of Black people. A Nationalist is a person who believes in the independence and freedom of a country, a people. Europe, Japan, China, France, etc. all believe in nationalism. However, when a Black person advocates it for their people, it’s viewed as a threat).
Did you have a specific audience in mind when you wrote the book?
Yes. The specific audiences that I had in mind were past and current Black Christian Nationalists, Black Churches, college students, all theologians, schools of divinity, and all people regardless of race or religion.
What message do you hope readers will take away from reading it?
Black Christian Nationalism-New Directions for the Black Church was written by
Reverend Albert B. Cleage in 1972. It was based on the growing interest of Black students to restructure the Black Church to make it relevant to the struggle against oppression and exploitation. The emphasis was that the church, the only institution owned by Black people, could spin off other institutions needed for Black survival.
The message that I hope readers will take away is that building these institutions was actually operationalized in the Shrines of the Black Madonna. I want readers to know the story of how young people committed their skills, energy, and talent to this cause. Because of their sacrifices and the effective leadership of Reverend Albert B. Cleage Junior numerous buildings were purchased for use as training institutes, residence halls, nurseries, communal dining halls, children’s institutes, meditation centers, and cultural centers. The focus was service economics – members voluntarily provided services such as meal preparations, child care, training, security, and maintenance for the purpose of providing a quality of life for each other in self-sustaining church communities.
I want readers to know that the practices of Black Christian Nationalism and effective leadership can also help to solve the social unrest, crime, and poverty that ravage humankind. There is an answer to building a more humane world. A prototype existed!
You have written several other books. Can you tell us a bit about those?
My inspiration for writing stems from a feeling of responsibility, to share knowledge and experiences that can hopefully influence others. My books are listed below:
Genesis II: The Re-Creation of Black People (2001) – A collection of Liberation Theology Lessons that I developed and delivered to the church’s congregation and visitors.
Mtoto House: Vision to Victory-Raising African American Children Communally (2005) – The philosophies, theories, practices, and implementation of holistic development and communal raising of children in Mtoto House – a Children’s Institute, established in the Shrines of the Black Madonna of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church in 1981.
A Principal’s Tale: Life in 31 Days (2018) – My story as an urban school principal in Detroit, Michigan is written in a journal or diary form. It is a record of my experiences for 31 days. I served as a principal for six years. It colorfully and vividly tells of my daily personal/professional experiences. Each entry concludes with a reflection.
A Principal’s Tale: A Self-Determined Leader (2021) – In this edition of A Principal’s Tale, I present realities and resolutions addressed during my tenure as a principal. It reflects the Self-Determination Theory. Each chapter concludes with a reflection and a reflection question.
Do you have any other projects coming up?
I plan to re-launch my online course entitled Course of Action to Literacy in February 2022. After analyzing the literacy dilemma, I sought to provide parents, teachers, home-school instructors, and child-care centers with one of the most effective ways to teach reading. It is a seven-module course. Fourteen students took it previously. I am in the process of tweaking it in preparation for the re-launch.
I am the co-founder of Child Focused Consulting Company, LLC. We are literacy advocates, a team of skilled retired teachers. We offer reading instruction and reading intervention to help address student literacy achievement in Detroit.
I am thinking of a pictorial supplement to Memoir of a Black Christian Nationalist. These are just thoughts for now.
For more information on Shelley McIntosh please visit her website https://www.shelleymcintosh.com/