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Sangodare Wallace

Biography

Sangodare Akinwale Obannike Julia Wallace (all pronouns) is a safe space for transformation born in 1979 in Gastonia, North Carolina. Sangodare is on a mission to actualize two new standards: Growth & Transformation as the standard goal of cultural practice and the practice of (w)holistic wealth and wellness toward worldwide sustainability. These are campaigns that include the imperative for QBIPOC communities to reclaim their sacred roles as spiritual and cultural leaders.

Coming from a large family of Black Baptist preachers, church workers, and musicians in the Carolinas, Sangodare’s early life was thoroughly steeped in that community. Their father was a pastor in North and South Carolina and the energy of the 1970’s-80’s Black gospel music, traditional congregation songs and meter hymns of the Carolinas were some of Sangodare’s many early inspirations. Learning more history, watching the mini-series Roots: The Saga of an American Family, and considering what was practiced by Black people before the maafa, continued to inform their curiosity. Additional inspirations as a young child were the Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller documentary and a martial arts video Sangodare saw at school around the same time that later resulted in them beginning tae kwon do training as a teenager. For the former, their interest was less about the actual music video and more about the production of it— the art, media and how that sort of multidisciplinary creative cultural practice operates in church as well. Sangodare later graduated from the University of North Carolina Asheville with a B.S. in Multimedia Computer Science.

Sangodare always felt same-sex attraction. Her first crushes were on young adults in her creative community at church. She always knew, but felt like she should not tell anyone about these feelings. However, Sangodare did not feel the explicit threat of damnation then, only the implicit taboo and prohibition on same-sex-attraction. Sangodare’s “coming out” moment came in college when her mother saw pictures of her then girlfriend and was not convinced that they were just friends. Her mom suggested they refrain from telling her dad, but Sangodare’s father was the most progressive pastor in the family and was ultimately accepting and a champion for Sangodare’s theological studies, music and preaching.

Later while living in Atlanta, GA, Sangodare served as the Minister of Music at Unity Fellowship of Christ Church (founded in the Bay Area by Carl Bean). While working there, Sangodare started Emory University’s Masters in Divinity (MDiv) program.

Sangodare met their primary collaborator Alexis Pauline Gumbs in 2008. Prior, Sangodare had created Queer Renaissance, a project about creating the world anew centered on queer people of color sharing media and an online marketplace and Alexis had created Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind to evangelize Black Feminism. By joining their creative forces, they created Mobile Homecoming together. Housed in a 1988 Winnebago, Mobile Homecoming was a national listening journey of Queer Black Feminist-centered elders outside of the archives. Through this intergenerational journey Alexis and Sangodare discovered that all the elders they met were profound spiritual practitioners, vessels, teachers, and leaders. These elders had become so impactful in their communities due to their sense of their own spirit and various spiritual practices. To honor and celebrate each of these elders, Alexis wrote a praise poem, Sangodare composed a drum rhythm, and then Alexis would improvise a dance for them in their homes or wherever they met them. These performances were a vital ceremony to honor their spirit so they could speak beyond the bounds of justifying their personhood as a Black queer person. With these incredible experiences and knowledges, the duo created retreats and events to further amplify the voices of Mobile Homecoming.

After meeting Iyanifa Ifalade Tashia Asanti through Mobile Homecoming, she became Sangodare’s Ifa godmother for initiation into the Ifa Orisha tradition and the Ile Ori Ogbe Egun community. Sangodare had some spiritual experiences previously and had mentors for those such as M. Jacqui Alexander. Under Asanti’s guidance and self-study, she was initiated in 2012 during a week-long process in Denver, Colorado. Sangodare continued to practice and joined the Ile Ori Ogbe Egun leadership council, but later transitioned to working with extended Ifa Orisha family and bringing resources to their local and national community.

While living in Durham, NC, Alexis and Sangodare have consistently been involved with the Pauli Murray Project (now the Pauli Murray Center for History and Justice). Sangodare was invited to give a sermon at a Pauli Murray Poetry Slam event. After a poor experience in a theology school Women in Preaching course, in which Sangodare had to present immediately after a homophobic sermon, she had not been in the practice of preaching. Nonetheless, she agreed to present at the Pauli Murray event and it was an incredible success. Due to this enthusiastic reception, Sangodare began to share more sermons while supported by Alexis and their community. Sangodare started preaching again and shared what they call “sermonics,” but the practice expanded when invited, along with Alexis, to be celebrants-in-residence at Northstar Church of the Arts in Durham after they were asked to facilitate the last service of the year in December 2019. The residency began in January 2020. The monthly services were meaningful and well attended and Sangodare insisted that the services be livestreamed to our national community. It turns out that this was a prophetic insistence because when the March 2020 quarantine mandate was issued, they were prepared.  They switched their monthly in-person services to weekly virtual services in order to address the needs of the community. Sangodare managed all the technology, website maintenance, preaching, and music while Alexis did the oracle and supported her. Sangodare received an award from BEAM, a Black mental health organization created by Yolo Akili, for this dedicated work.

For Sangodare’s fortieth birthday, they knew they wanted to have a revival. Together with Alexis, Sangodare invited many elders and community members for a 3-day event that included a fashion show, choir practice, lots of cake, a parade, church services with testimony, tai chi and a Soul Train dance line, along with other informal activities. The revival even ended with a miracle, as all revivals should, which was when Alexis received a call inviting her to write the biography of Audre Lorde.

Building on a life of art and technology, film production is a major ceremony akin to  the camp meeting revival form for Sangodare. After theology school, she took a year off and then went to film school. From the challenges and dissonance in her film program’s attempt to support a queer Black feminist film student, the Black Feminist Film School was born. Sangodare wrote and directed “When We Free,” a film that imagines the first camp meeting after emancipation and asks foundational questions of how to shape spiritual practice, community traditions, and selves after enslavement through five portraits. In this way, filmmaking works as a spiritual practice but also serves the mission to make growth and transformation the standard for culture.

Currently, Sangodare is deeply engaged in the development of their technology company QUIRC, an application that connects QBIPOC communities worldwide that are on a mission through matching, a marketplace and media platform.  

(This biographical statement was written by Elizabeth Herrick from an interview with Sangodare on February 28, 2024 and was edited by Sangodare.)

Biography Date: June 2024

Additional Resources

Tags

Black Atlantic Traditions | Baptist | Murray, Pauli | Black | Artist/musician/poet | Online activist | Durham | North Carolina | Wallace, Sangodare | Gumbs, Alexis Pauline | Feminism | Unity Fellowship Church Movement

Citation

“Sangodare Wallace | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed July 19, 2024, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/sangodare-wallace.

Remembrances

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