Why Are We Here?

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In 2017, I co-founded this consulting firm with Dr. Marjorie A. Fonza-Thomason so that we could work intentionally on the projects and causes to which we are both committed. My mother has now embraced her retirement permanently, but, as AM Consulting LLC, I continue to provide strategic and professional consulting services for educational institutions, community-based organizations, local planning commissions, developers, agencies, and professional boards. A quick review of my writings and presentations tab on this website will show you that I specialize in urban planning and community development, mostly as an academic.

I am also certified by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a substitute teacher, and as an adult education instructor. I am constantly engaging my community and utilizing and sharing my many talents in collaboration with others. If you are looking for a dynamic presenter, facilitator, moderator or instructor, I am available for seminars, workshops, presentations, and public speaking events. If you are looking for a writer or researcher, I would be happy to meet with you to learn about your projects and proposals.

The floral picture that you see on this page is a beautiful arrangement given to me by one of my former students (she was in the second grade). It reminds me that our world is changing, and especially when children interact with teachers who respect and care about them deeply. I believe that when children are seen, heard, and valued by the adults and teachers around them, it benefits us all. And, I believe that when children (and adults) see themselves in teachers who care about them, they will learn to care about themselves and others.

I have been writing for many years, but I didn’t truly embrace the fact that I was much of a writer until 2003, when someone else recognized it and told the public, on a local radio show, that “Annalise is an excellent writer.” At the time, that someone was my boss and soon to be good friend, Benjamin Swan. Today, Ben Swan is a retired Massachusetts lawmaker. We are still good friends to this day. At the time that he made that statement about me, I was sitting in as the co-host of “The Black Love Experience,” which still airs to this day on WTCC-FM in Springfield, Massachusetts. It startled me to hear it, but, indeed it struck me that writing has been central to every job that I have ever had, and that was especially the case when I was an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church.

My journey as a local church minister/administrator officially started in 1996, when I became a candidate for ordained ministry in Illinois. As a pastor, I learned how to write and tell stories that were meaningful to the people who gathered every week at church for worship and for community-based activities and programs. In all, I served about six local congregations in the official role of a pastor for about seven years. Before that, I worked in various health-related professions.

Writing was and is germane to all that I do, and therefore, critical thinking is what I do to write and to write well for myself and for others. Needless to say, the work that I engaged in early in my professional career has a special place in my heart and it has informed my attention to detail and to the art of storytelling.

Working for myself via AM Consulting, LLC, enables me to use my ability to write and to develop narratives with others. It is no secret that many of my previous employers sought me out for my writing. I wrote for them and with them across many professional landscapes. That I have written for others does not mean that I have not also written for myself. Recently, I heard someone say, “If you can write, you can change your life,” and that has been very true for me. I am the author of many writings and publications, and I have provided a list of selected writings in the section on writings, essays and publications tab on this website.

As you may already know, I am a womanist and I am an atheist. These two identities are central to what is going on in my life today. As a womanist, I am unapologetically a truth-teller and an advocate for the sustainable development of black urban communities. In addition, I am especially able and willing to stand up in print and in person for the dignity and humanity of black women, men and children.

Saying the word “atheist” may sound strange coming from an ex-clergywoman. In 2003, I voluntarily, officially, and procedurally returned my ordination papers to my annual conference in the United Methodist Church. Being an atheist simply means that I do not maintain or promote a belief in any gods or supernatural others. And, typically, I do not engage in conversations about alleged other-world beings, happenings, or things (unless I am in the company of good friends and we are talking openly and respectfully from our own positions and worldviews for the purpose of learning and growing). In general, the only world that I am concerned about is the only known one that I am living in; the one that we are all living in.

I use my talents and my mind to make this world better in the here and now, and, hopefully, my efforts, along with the efforts of other like-minded people, will serve as a means for future generations to be self-sustaining as well. If you are a believer in gods and supernatural things, then so be it. I won’t try to take that away from you, but, I am not interested in arguing or debating it. I hold absolutely, positively no beliefs in supernatural others, gods or alleged other-worldly places, like heaven, purgatory, or hell, so I do not spend much time talking about them. The primary philosophy that I hold on to about the role that we have as a society to the Earth and to others is humanism, not theism. That said, I am also a Humanist Celebrant certified by the American Humanist Society.

I have been inspired by many people in life. Most of them have been women, authors, and feminists, such as bell hooks. The writings of bell hooks and Alice Walker have been central to the development of what I call a womanist-feminist consciousness. If you are not aware of what either of those terms mean, then I urge you to read more from these authors; and, of course, if you are able, feel free to access some of the publications that I have authored. I also invite you to access the writings of those who have mentioned or cited me in their writings. A short list of these recommended writings is also provided in the section on writings, essays and publications on this website.

In addition, I have also been motivated, or better yet, compelled by my critics and haters; and, please believe me when I say that I have my share of those who do not respect or like what I say or do (and that includes the rejection and backlash that I have encountered by so-called friends, intimate partners and even some family members). Writing is a dangerous and political thing to do, and, I write out of my own lived experience as a black woman and as a planning academician. Many do not want to hear nor accept others’ experiences as valid and valuable, and, often, the works of black women are overlooked, and, in some cases, they are overtly dismissed and diminished by those who choose not to recognize their discourses as valid and valuable (and this dismissal/rejection is expressed by men and women). Nevertheless, at the end of each day, I am accountable first to myself, and then to the communities that I serve. I write and I teach, in part, for the purpose of encouraging students and others to learn and to do better as human beings. And, I write because I am dedicated to being a life-long learner. If you or others feel that you have learned all that there is to learn in life, then we will have very little to talk about, because I believe that learning is fundamental to human growth and development. I always try to maintain a student’s posture and I expect others to do the same.

My primary way of working and serving others is through teaching and writing. I teach in the local Kansas City metropolitan area in public schools and, when invited, I teach and lecture at the university level. I find enjoyment in teaching children and adults, and often with a focus in subjects related to urban life issues. My teaching career started in 2001 in Illinois at a community college. At that time I was teaching developmental writing and religion courses, e.g., Old Testament and New Testament courses. In 2001, I was still a practicing Christian and a believer in gods. In theory, I am still very interested in religious schools and programs, but as an atheist. In practice, however, many traditional religious schools or programs have no interest in offering courses on atheism or secularism, which I think is quite unfortunate. As a instructor or presenter, I would probably find the most welcome at universities or institutions that have developed secular studies or humanist studies programs and coursework. Besides teaching formally in institutions, I also maintain a personal blog at https://www.annalisefonza.com. The writing that I post there is often about matters of race/racism, gender/sexism, and, I write about those matters as they relate to the day-to-day experiences and discourses that affect black women and black communities, in particular.

In summary, I thank you for taking the time to visit this site. I am very excited about the work that I am doing and for the collaborations and invitations that are to come. If you are interested in inviting me to your school or your organization, then please contact me at 816-237-8793.

Best regards,

annalise fonza, Ph.D.

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