As you listen to Cedrick D. Bridgeforth speak, a strong sense of credibility and authority exudes each time. It’s what the French called je ne sais quoi. If his writings are anything like his smooth voice, then I believe we have a winning author in the making. Bridgeforth is an author, educator, and ordained minister. For the good part of his adult life, he has preached and worked in academic spaces, conferences, workshops and advised nonprofit leaders and boards as an organizational development consultant helping them figure out how to do better. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Samford University, a Master of Divinity Degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and a Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University.
He is the author of three books, including his new book, Alabama, Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding, a memoir that chronicles his journey to come to terms with himself. The book was written over three decades after his grandmother’s death, during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 pandemic.
“This book began as a series of letters to my maternal grandmother. Although she died in 1989, I have fond and profound memories of her presence, the aromas in her kitchen, and the life lessons that rolled effortlessly from her tongue. I have lived as a Black man in the rural south and one who claimed Christianity as the religion of my birth and as of my own choosing. My decision to fully embrace my identity as a same-gender-loving, queer, gay, or homosexual man has ebbed and flowed between being silent about it and fighting for spaces to fully exclaim it,” he said.
Recently PrideIndex had the pleasure of chatting with Cedrick about his venture into writing, the audience this book speaks to, and what he did to overcome the obstacles to bring this book to life.
PrideIndex (PI): Tell me about yourself and the book Alabama, Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding?
Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth (DCB): It’s a book about my life, particularly around intersecting identities of being black, gay, and a person of faith in leadership who has lived in various parts of the country. I wanted to share my story and hopefully open a much overdue conversation in many families, particularly in public spaces.
PI: Is this your first venture into writing and publishing?
DCB: No, this is my third genuine attempt at publishing a book. I wrote Thoughts and Prayers in 2012, and I published 2020, Leadership Lessons: Seeing Visions and Focusing On Reality, in 2017. Alabama, Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding is the first that is autobiographical in nature.
PI: While it is commendable to have a frank and honest conversation about sexuality, sexuality and religion don’t go together for some. Why did you feel it was important to go there and be an “open book?”
DCB: Yeah, because I’ve lived it. I grew up in the rural south, in Alabama, in a family steeped in religion. There were a variety of denominational expressions there but steeped in religion nonetheless. In the midst of that, I have always felt a deep connection to family and my faith. I’ve always been convinced that I was gay, and I never figured out how to untangle one from the other without totally dismantling myself. And so, telling the story is just really about how to live into being a whole person, even amid the sometimes contradicting identity.
PI: Who does this book speak to?
DCB: Good question; It speaks primarily to individuals who are exploring issues of intersecting identities. Specifically, people who also engage in spiritual or religious practices, be it a parent or a child, or children or groups would find it most interesting.
PI: Talk about why you became a writer and who are some of your writing influences.
DCB: I don’t know that I’ve become a writer but, I decided to write this because I think I’ve been commended for my writing throughout the years. This is a way of living into those affirmations.
PI: Who are some of your writing influences?
DCB: My favorite book of all time is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. That story in and of itself has always spoken to me. I have heard echoes of Ellison in James Baldwin. One of the more contemporary writers I like is Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates. He has influenced me to step into the space of telling my story from my perspective.
PI: I was glancing over your Facebook page and checking in to your background, and I discovered you came from the military. Tell us about that and how it plays in this book.
DCB: I served four years in the Air Force, right out of high school. It was a time of exploration. For me, one is about vocation. That’s how it started, but it ended up really being sort of my coming of age experience. It really was where I both embraced my sexuality as a gay man. During that same period, I made a firm commitment to a religious vocation as a way of life, making my time in the Air Force formative. Because it was the first time I’ve been away from my family, I’ve been around so many different people from so many other places. And so, seeing how different people thought and viewed the world helped me break out of some of the boxes that I have.
PI: Tell me about your writing process. How do you nurture ideas and bring them forward, and put them down on paper?
DCB: For me, the writing process is really more like a journaling exercise. Because most of what I’ve written is about my own thoughts and experiences. I shaped those experiences into stories and then took some time away from them. Sometimes I share them orally whenever possible, but I step away from them and then return to it and reflect on the meaning underneath this story. I consider some lessons I can draw from this experience. And, then from there, think about who else might benefit? Or at least find it interesting to engage the story.
PI: What were some of the obstacles you faced while you were writing this book? And what did you do to overcome those obstacles?
DCB: One obstacle I faced once I realized this would definitely make it to print was what my family would think? How would this story be received by my mom? How would my broader family and the religious community where I lived and worked receive this book? It was a barrier in my mind. I decided not to care about that. Once I had a good draft behind me, I shared it with a few people I love and respect. I shared it with my mom, one of my mentors, and a dear friend that works in the religious organization where I serve. That dear friend is mentioned in the book, not by name, but is there. I asked them for their thoughts, feedback, and requests for things to be adjusted and whatnot. I felt like I was on a good path once friends and family came back with affirmation, no requests for any revisions related to them or to the overall story.
PI: What would you like the readers to take away from this?
DCB: I want readers to take away from this book that it is alright, okay, and acceptable to be who you are. And to embrace the experiences that you’ve had and to talk about them.
PI: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you, or would a book of this nature be for somebody who doesn’t know? Or who hasn’t taken a second look?
DCB: Yeah, There is a misconception that it’s preachy, that it’s only about faith elements, black people, or a black experience. I think it’s broader than that; it speaks to a much broader audience than that. One night get stuck in those places by looking at the title or even just reading the jacket.
PI: Can we expect to see a follow-up book?
DCB: (Laughs) There have been a couple requests since I wrote Alabama, Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding. One person wrote to me and said, I’ll be waiting for California Uncle because I want to know how this story continues. There will definitely be a follow-up. I forget how many pages are in it, but there’s at least twice that amount of material already written that was not included in this volume.
PI: What’s next for you? Well, I mean, what’s the next
DCB: Next, I will be at the Leimert Park Village Virtual Book Fair that’s coming up. I will be responding to invitations to do interviews. I’ve been participating in podcasts and those kinds of things to get the word out in every way possible. I’m just trying to figure it out and work with my team as much as possible to promote where we can.