FOR THE MILLENNIAL founder of a viral social media account, Cole Arthur Riley is surprisingly unplugged. “This is a fun fact that most people probably wouldn’t guess,” she told Sojourners in June, “but I actually don’t have a smartphone.”
Riley is the creator and curator of @BlackLiturgies, an Instagram profile and social media “space where Black spiritual words live in dignity, lament, rage, and liberation to the glory of God.” It is where, until this fall, she posted almost daily the liturgies she writes: Liturgies for Ma’Khia Bryant, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd. Prayers of remembrance for the Tulsa Race Massacre. Invocations for those living with chronic illness and those struggling with anxiety. @BlackLiturgies goes beyond the usual liturgical calendar of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, embedding that rotation within a larger grammar of spiritual expression for Black survival and thriving.
Riley’s liturgies look and circulate like memes, but trade humor for a holiness rooted in the embodied knowledge and sacred truth of Black life. The bricolage of written prayer, quotations, scriptures, poetry, and statements in white text on brown, green, and blue backgrounds gained thousands of likes and reposts within hours. If you are on social media, the images are likely familiar, but the person behind them, and her story, less so.