The Red Couch: Too Heavy A Yoke INTRODUCTION


Red Couch -Too Heavy A Yoke-Intro

When I sat down to settle into Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes, I only got to the second sentence before I was wrecked:

“Having recently crossed the threshold of my thirtieth birthday, I was in a state of physical and emotional crisis …” She goes on to explain where she was: “fatigue, doubt, making mistakes.” 

I stared blankly at the page. I turn 30 in two weeks. The number doesn’t bother me so much; it was the way her words resonated in my soul that caught me off guard. It felt like when someone reads your journal. I knew I hadn’t had the opportunity to read this book until now because I serve a God who is all about timing. Now is when I needed this. Now is when I will listen more deeply than before. Now is when I’m ready to really have a conversation about what rest looks like and I’m willing to let go of my own “strong” image. It’s just conveniently also at the threshold of 30.

I’d heard of Too Heavy a Yoke from several friends of mind. Particularly, several black women who find themselves in a familiar but costly space: being the only person of color in an environment. Their praise of this book told me I’d have something to glean from it, even if I wasn’t black. It also invited me into understanding their journeys more.

I certainly have my own bumps and bruises from being the only person of color in so many contexts. The yoke she speaks of is a familiar weight. When it showed up on our book list for The Red Couch Book Club, I was excited for the “excuse” to finally delve into her words and teaching.

Chanequa Walker-Barnes artfully crafts elements of teaching, research, and personal, memoir-like stories into her book explicating the existence of the “StrongBlackWoman.” Don’t be fooled, though, if you don’t find yourself with an “official” title of leadership, or if you aren’t a woman of color, this book still has something to offer.

She states: “The obligation [of independence] is particularly cruel for StrongBlackWomen; when paired with their caregiving responsibilities, independence means that they are unable to receive the same sort of care that they extend to others.

By wrapping the narrative of StrongBlackWoman into the context of caregiving, she extends something I think all women can relate to as we battle the stereotype of femininity within churches and ministry. How many times have we felt isolated?  Why is it that caring for others is simultaneously a trophy that declares our own self-sufficiency? What happened to “bearing one another’s burdens?”

Although Chanequa does not speak for all black women, it’s important to emphasize the way this book is written to uncover the unique context, history, and formation of  the struggle of black women. With the racial climate of this nation, I want to read this with a listening ear and ask for ways to affirm the black voices in our community. I want to help encourage them toward finding their liberation. I’m excited to journey with you, sisters, as we rediscover the meanings of rest and strength.

I am black but lovely,
O daughters of Jerusalem,
Like the tents of Kedar,
Like the curtains of Solomon.

“Do not stare at me because I am swarthy,
For the sun has burned me.
My mother’s sons were angry with me;
They made me caretaker of the vineyards,
But I have not taken care of my own vineyard.

“Tell me, O you whom my soul loves,
Where do you pasture your flock,
Where do you make it lie down at noon?
For why should I be like one who veils herself
Beside the flocks of your companions?”

—Song of Solomon 1:5-7


Come back Wednesday, September 28 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

Our November book is Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Induglent Introvert’s Search For Spiritual Community by Enuma Okoro.


The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

Chanequa Walker-Barnes’ blog

Clothed With Sun: A Retreat For Women Of Color (this happened after CCDA this past weekend but bookmark it for next year.)

Farewell, StrongBlackWoman– Christena Cleveland

What I Wish My White Friends Knew– Ruthie Johnson

The Cross And The Lynching Tree– James Cone

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria?– Beverly Tatum

Shifting: The Double Lives Of Black Women In America– Charisse Jones

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting– Terrie M. Williams

The Sisters Are Alright: Changing The Narrative Of Black Women In America– Tamara Winfrey Harris

*Recommended by Leigh Kramer and Ruthie Johnson


Are you reading Too Heavy a Yoke with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

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