The following is the first of a series of paraphrased excerpts from Tangela Serls’ “The Spirit of Friendship: Girlfriends in Contemporary African American Literature.”  This part is from the introduction and discusses the difference between sisterhood and friendship. It also considers the role one’s personal relationship with God plays in the cultivation of such bonds. 

Tangela Serls and friends

Back Row: Candace Jackson, Kendra Denmark, Jerry Shannon*, Mahite Williams
Front Row: Dominique Battle (the bride)**,Crystal Robertson, me
*I believe girlfriend bonds can exist even with members of a different sex. 
** My friendship with Dominique, in particular, served as an inspiration for much of this dissertation.

Years after moving on from my undergraduate experience, I have realized just how much joining a sorority contributed to my understanding of friendship. The summer after I was initiated into the sorority Delta Sigma Theta, I worked as a tutor/counselor for TRIO. I was unfamiliar with the other counselors, but I did find out that one of the counselors was a sister in my sorority. I wrongly assumed we would become friends, because of our similar background. However, as I learned in Felly Nkweto Simmonds’ “Who are the Sisters? Difference, Feminism, and Friendship,” friendships cannot be solely built on the shared experiences of womanhood. Alongside those shared experiences that make up a “sisterhood,” traits such as altruism, vulnerability, and self-sacrifice must be present in order to make a friendship, according to Simmonds. These traits are not always seen in a sisterhood, however.

Although I did not become close with my sorority sister that summer, I did form a bond with another counselor, and through her, I began to form a bond with God as well. This particular young woman lived her life in a way that God’s grace and love shone through her actions. I was attracted to her self-assuredness and her abounding love. More specifically, I was attracted to the Source of her freeness. The way she lived, fiercely with conviction, coupled with my new experiences of sisterhood, called me out of an illusion that equated sisterhood to friendship. That summer, I began a friendship with God and have been able to share His love and light with other girlfriends for more than a decade. The following entry from my personal journal gives some insight to my budding spirituality.

June 29, 2006

A lot of things have happened since yesterday. Last night I had a deep conversation with The Lord… After we talked I felt so much better, and I feel that I am ready to grow spiritually.

The girlfriend bond is as much a physical experience as it is a spiritual one. It provides a space where grace, love, and light exist, inspiring women to journey towards self-actualization. These ideas are considered at length in other parts of “The Spirit of Friendship.” Be on the lookout for more excerpts that consider one or more of these notions.