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Ms. Donna Haskins is an African American woman who wrestles with structural inequity in the streets of Boston by inhabiting an alternate dimension she refers to as the “spirit realm.” In this other place, she is prepared by the Holy Spirit to challenge the restrictions placed upon Black female bodies in the United States. Growing into her spiritual gifts of astral flight and time travel, Donna meets the spirits of enslaved Africans, conducts spiritual warfare against sexual predators, and tends to the souls of murdered Black children whose ghosts haunt the inner city.
Take Back What the Devil Stole centers Donna’s encounters with the supernatural to offer a powerful narrative of how one woman seeks to reclaim her power from a lifetime of social violence. Both ethnographic and personal, Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s portrait of her spiritual life sheds new light on the complexities of Black women’s religious participation and the lived religion of the dispossessed. Woodbine explores Donna’s religious creativity and her sense of multireligious belonging as she blends together Catholic, Afro-Caribbean, and Black Baptist traditions. Through the gripping story of one local prophet, this book offers a deeply original account of the religious experiences of Black women in contemporary America: their bodies, their haunted landscapes, and their spiritual worlds.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Onaje X. O. Woodbine is assistant professor of philosophy and religion at American University. He is the author of Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball (Columbia, 2016).
"Having met Ms. Donna in person, I can attest to the incredible power of her gift. The temperature in the room changes when she enters and here Dr. Woodbine skillfully captures her essence while treating the reader to a thrilling, heartbreaking story of a black woman's hard-earned survival. Many of us have had a Ms. Donna in our lives and this book serves as a fitting tribute to the black women who have crafted a beautiful existence out of rejected stone. Dr. Woodbine's masterpiece reminds us that even in the face of the most extreme trauma, transformation is possible. This book is required reading for a broken world and Ms. Donna is one of the most compelling characters I've ever encountered. "
--André Holland, acclaimed Broadway and film actor and producer