Monday, December 29, 2008

Post Christmas: A Reflection

While there are innumerable barber shop, bar stool, and couch theologians and critics of the black church - most of the commentary based upon negative media presentations and caricatures - there are few who are familiar with those who have defined and sustained not only the black church in America, but Christianity itself.

Dr. Howard Thurman was an early advocate for multiculturalism in America and justice worldwide, having been inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, whom he met in India in 1935. A graduate of Rochester (New York) Seminary, Oberlin School of Religion, and Haverford College, Dr. Thurman taught at Morehouse College and was dean of the chapel at Howard University. He also founded the interracial Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, a leader in interfaith affairs and in new forms of worship.

Thurman was the first black man in American history to be appointed to an administrative position in a major research university, teaching in the School of Theology and serving as dean of the chapel at Boston University in 1953. He was also listed in Life magazine as one of the twelve great preachers of the twentieth century in 1953 and by Ebony in 1954 as one of the ten most outstanding black preachers in America. He traveled widely, including Europe, India, and West Africa and was a frequent speaker on college campuses, churches, and synagogues.

Thurman wrote more than twenty books. Jesus and the Disinherited, which Martin Luther King Jr. carried with him at all times, was Thurman's attempt to answer a question from a law professor who challenged Thurman why he as a black man could be a Christian, since white Christians had captured, transported, and enslaved Africans in America. Thurman argued that a poor marginalized Jew living under oppression by the Roman Empire speaks directly to blacks living on the margins of American society.

The following is a poem by Dr. Thurman, a reflection of one who possessed a lifelong commitment to an inward spiritual journey:

When the song of the angel is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost — To heal the broken — To feed the hungry –
To release the prisoner — To rebuild the nations –
To bring peace among brothers and sisters –
To make music in the heart.

Poem discovered at Voice of the Day from Sojourners.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Being Cool Acting A Fool: OSF Partee-ing

My most memorable (as well as forgettable) party experiences occurred during college as an undergraduate during the days of large lapels and wide collars, elephant bell bottom pants and platform shoes, afros, tikis, dashikis, and Black Power. This is some of the music that is embedded in my mind as I tried to negotiate this new space for me where knowledge, racial pride, love, hate, and cool all intersected at once and tried to overwhelm a young brutha. Here it is, sometimes chillin' and sometimes thrillin':

The Persuaders: A Thin Line

Marvin Gaye: Inner City Blues

Roy Ayers: Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Strange Announcement

The birth of Jesus was an event which occurred in many strange or paradoxical ways.

The entire nation stood on the "tiptoe of expectation" not in anticipation of receiving more prosperity or material goods, but awaiting an "Awesome Ruler" who would lead and liberate a people who were living under human social, political, and economic oppression. This Prince, would be born to humble circumstances and familiar with the strain of labor, the pinch of poverty, and the burden of sorrow. A strange event and a strange way for the Messiah to be born.

It is also strange that the announcement or good news of this Divine intervention, which was a source of great joy for all people, was not dispatched via emissary to the royal halls of palatial splendor nor to cultures of high estate, but to those who worked in the fields and occupied the lowest positions in terms of rank or social status.

I believe that these strange details are designed to get our attention because we usually miss the ordinary. I also believe that what may be the strangest of all of the details surrounding the birth of Christ is that a choir, which is a host or army from heaven, is proclaiming a strange or unexpected message coming from a military assemblage - they are declaring Peace On Earth! Have we taken other parts of Christmas and thrown away this portion? Have we missed this aspect while emphasizing others in our celebrating?

In 2008, peace is appropriate because we have spent so many decades, even centuries, being conditioned for war and so little time preparing for peace. We have spent so much time practicing hate rather than love, so much money devoted for war and defense budgets and so little for peace budgets. What is the consequence? We are at war abroad with others and at home with ourselves and our children have inherited this fatal attraction to violence.

The word's of Talib Kweli's The Nature makes clear the reality of gun violence and easy access to weapons.

The people ain't got shoes for they feet, or food to eat
So they hurtin but what's for certain you can get you some heat
And over beef you laid to rest like you was gettin some sleep
Where the little kids get ammunition (word) you can't get no nutrition
Or any type of suitable living condition listen
They shoot you over that paper, its just survivalist human nature
to put you out of your misery like euthanasia (yeah)

The Children's Defense Fund's State of America's Children 2008 reports that in the latest reliable statistics, 2005, that 3,006 children and teens were killed by firearms, the equivalent of 120 public school classrooms of 25 students each. Another 16,000 children and teens suffered non-fatal firearm injuries. These 10 states account for 1,669 firearm deaths or 55.5% of the total 3,006 deaths:

Largest Number of Firearm Deaths of Children and Teens:
Top 10 States in 2005

California 474
Texas 264
Florida 148
Pennsylvania 138
Illinois 130
Ohio 118
Louisiana 110
Arizona 102
New York 93
Michigan 92

A lot of violence and battles arise out of wars raging from within as military adventures abound abroad and expenditures in correctional facilities expand accompanied by simultaneous reductions in education and mental or physical healthcare domestically. But without justice, there can be no peace.

There will be no peace as long as we substitute quietness for peace, making joint ventures with those who subjugate and oppress, or refuse to acknowledge the problem of injustice by "allowing sleeping dogs to lie." The African proverb states that just because the water is still does not mean that the crocodiles have left. Sleeping dogs of hate and evil come back to bite later and make a bigger mess.

And there will be no peace as long as there are conflicts going on within, inside our minds and souls. But if we are acquainted with the Prince of Peace, we can receive an unexpected peace, which surpasses understanding; a perfect and unbroken peace in the midst of storms and difficulties. That is what we often miss in the meaning of Christmas!

Pray For Peace!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.
Luke 2:13,14

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Dark Side of Christmas

Christmas brings many images to mind including angels, bright stars, shepherds, wise men, and most importantly a baby who was born into poverty. Wisdom recognizes in young life a new start or fresh beginning, but also sees in it a growing power for good. The Wise Men searched to give honor and reverence but Herod, however, viewed this young potential as a threat to the status quo and attempted to get hold of and to destroy it.

During this critical time in America's history, it is imperative that our children overcome the evils that attempt to extinguish their potential and the world's future, especially the evil of poverty and its derivatives. Let us continue to raise our voices loudly that our leaders may give attention to ending poverty in our time.

We can also pray the following prayer by Marian Wright Edelman, Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund:

God help us to end poverty in our time.
The poverty of having a child with too little to eat and no place to sleep,
no air, sunlight and space to breathe, bask and grow.
The poverty of watching your child suffer and get sicker and sicker and not knowing
what to do or how to get help because you don't have a car or health insurance.

The poverty of working your fingers to the bone every day taking care of someone else's children and neglecting your own, and still not being able to pay your bills.
The poverty of having a job that does not let you afford a stable place to live and being terrified you'll become homeless and lose your children to foster care.

The poverty of losing your job because you cannot find reliable
child care or transportation to work.
The poverty of working all your life caring for others and having to start all over again caring for the grandchildren you love.

The poverty of earning a college degree, having children, opening a child care center, and taking home $300 a week or month if you're lucky.
The poverty of loneliness and isolation and alienation—having no one to call or visit, tell you where to get help, assist you in getting it, or care if you're living or dead.

The poverty of having too much and sharing too little and having the burden of nothing to carry.
The poverty of convenient blindness and deafness and indifference to others,
of emptiness and enslavement to things, drugs, power, violence and fleeting fame.

The poverty of low aim and paltry purpose, weak will and tiny vision, big meetings and small action, loud talk and sullen grudging service.
The poverty of believing in nothing, standing for nothing, sharing nothing,
sacrificing nothing, struggling for nothing.

The poverty of pride and ingratitude for God's gifts of life and children and family and freedom and country and not wanting for others what you want for yourself.
The poverty of greed for more and more and more, ignoring, blaming and exploiting
the needy, and taking from the weak to please the strong.

The poverty of addiction to drugs, to drink, to work, to self, to the status quo and to injustice.
The poverty of fear that keeps you from doing the thing you think is right.
The poverty of despair and cynicism.

God help us end poverty in our time in all its faces and places, young and old, rural, urban, suburban and small town too, and in every color of humans You have made everywhere.
God help us to end poverty in our time in all its guises—inside and out—physical and spiritual, so that all our and Your children may live the lives that you intend.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just My Take: OSF Christmas Songs

My favorite take on the classic The Christmas Song is a 1998 performance by Aaliyah. Sometimes the lights that shine brightest seem to also shine shortest.

Just As I Am

One of our greatest needs is to be able to see ourselves as we really are. A correct reading of ourselves would immediately effect a change in how we see and treat others. If we are honest, we will have to declare that behind our masks we are all imperfect creatures in need of grace and mercy.

The Honest Scrap Award was given to me by Its A Southern Thang and provided me an opportunity for growth through honest introspection. The following, in accordance with the rules of acceptance, are 10 honest things about myself that are hopefully interesting. I am also required to pass the award on to 7 other bloggers. Here goes!

1. I am a huge procrastinator, either because I work best under pressure or have a fear of failure.
2. I am an obnoxious winner and notoriously sore loser whether it is bid whist, board games like monopoly, or fundraising contests in church. It often gets to the point of embarrassment to my family and now no one will play with me.
3. I have a fear of pain, sometimes to the degree that I try to control others or circumstances in order to minimize the possibility of getting hurt myself.
4. I get obsessive with new hobbies jumping in with both feet.
5. Related to #4 I have many interests and new discoveries but often don't finish what I start.
6. I sometimes sneak (steal?), tell a lie, or get downright gangsta' in order to get an extra piece of homemade cake that is made with the old southern recipes or found in Warren Brown's Cake Love.
7. Things I Used To Do, I Don't Do No More! Use your imagination. Hint: I turned in my Playa' Card and Party Hearty Pass around 1981.
8. I went from being a staunch male chauvinist to an afrafeminst. There are several faults that strong, beautiful, and intelligent wives, daughters, female professors, colleagues, or others can cure if men listen occasionally.
9. I still love to debate even when there is no issue.
10. I occasionally have tunnel vision and God often provides "teachable moments" to dislodge me from my infatuated courses of action.

I am going to bless the following with this award:

Hey Shae
What Happened To The Old Black Church

Link: And You Call Yourself A Christian

Monday, December 15, 2008

A More Excellent Way

Last week in response to their query, I told my wife and daughters that a high-quality home theater with blue-ray DVD system would make a nice Christmas gift from them to me. Today I found out the price of those systems. A war immediately broke out between two conflicting inner voices, one of which said "You're an audiophile, you deserve it, and it will make the perfect compliment to your HD widescreen TV." The other inner voice said: "In these economic times, I think not!" I really like that system, but reason won the battle over fantasy and so I have instead asked for a more valuable but less pricey, long awaited book on Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, the greatest preacher of our time.

For ministry, nothing is better than a library which contains a variety of books which feed your spirit, expand your thinking, and provides practical, theological, and cultural perspectives from others which can be gleaned to benefit your own ministry.

A small sample of books that would make an exceptional gift, be helpful to ministry in the 21st century, and deserving of space in a personal library would include any of the following:

1. Preaching:
Teresa L. Fry Brown. Weary Throats and New Songs: Black Women Proclaiming God's Word.

2. Pastoral Care:
Edward P. Wimberly. African American Pastoral Care, Revised Edition.
Lee H. Butler, Jr. Liberating Our Dignity, Saving Our Souls.

3. Pastoral Leadership:
Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr. Transformative Pastoral Leadership in the Black Church.
James Henry Harris. The Courage To Lead: Leadership in the African American Urban Church.

4. Spiritual Food:
Charisse Carney-Nunes. Songs of a Sistermom: Motherhood Poems.

5. Ministry Profiles and Possibilities:
Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Unruh,ed. Hope for Children In Poverty.

6. Community Wisdom:
Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, ed. The Sky is Crying.
Cornel West. Hope on a Tightrope.
Robert M. Franklin. Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities.

7. History
Thomas J. Sugrue. Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.

Taylor Branch. At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68.

8. Worship:
Valerie Bridgeman Davis and Safiyah Fosua. The Africana Worship Book.

But strive for the greatest gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:31

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pardon My Excesses: OSF, Bands

Please allow me to overindulge! This category is loaded. Who do you eliminate? I threw them all in the air and these came down face up, not in any particular order:

Taste of Honey

Rufus & Chaka Khan

Earth, Wind, and Fire

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Souls For Sale

Evidently there are more bargains to be had than those we customarily think of in this gift-giving time of year. In the past week, such high-profile sales have included a governor, preacher or church, celebrities, and others who have dealt their very selves as though they were commodities, on the auction block of materialism and self-gain.

When we look back on what was received in return - possible paid directorships, money, notoriety and publicity, faded memorabilia, or even revenge - it appears that the sellers sold themselves far too cheaply for some fleeting, fragile, and perishing prizes. How much is your honor worth? What value is integrity, character, or one's essential being? That is all that we have at last - when we exit this world and others look upon us a final time. There is another economy, the nature and significance of which, is comprehended by a few who understand that we:
Gain by losing and lose by winning
Save our lives by giving them up and lose our lives by trying to save them
Develop ourselves by denying ourselves
Make a living by what we get, but make a life by what we give!

There's nothing wrong with being successful. There is nothing wrong with money. There is nothing wrong with power. The question is - is it connected to something bigger than you? Is it connected to what God wants you to do? Is it connected to the prayer, not the petition you ask God for? Not the "let's make a deal" prayer but the prayer that is, "Let thy will be done."
Cornel West

What good does it provide to a man if he gains the whole world but parts with his life? What can a man give to buy back his life?

Matthew 16:26

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Bad Boyz" Fatigue

The sad, solemn, seemingly endless procession of young and old African American men being constantly carried off to prisons continues while we debate theories of conspiracy, internalized oppression or post-traumatic slavery syndrome, racism, or morals of the black poor and plight of the black family.

And we find ourselves, over and over, taking these trips that start out as trips to the school and the principal’s office because there is trouble at school. Then we are no longer going up to the school, but the procession heads down to the court room. And then finally leads to prison or the cemetery as every year, tens of thousands are funneled into the prison procession and down life paths that lead to arrest, conviction, incarceration and even death.

What has become frightening is that included in this spiraling number are those African Americans of privilege and/or high profile positions in the community including elected officials, athletes, entertainers, and yes - preachers. In all of this, I think that the sign of the times has presented us with a larger picture that begs to be discerned.

The greatest lesson to be learned is NOT that we are are not in a post-racial society. That much is clear. In fact, statistics reveal the injustice of the criminal justice system. And we have marched, shouted, cried, and protested and will continue to do so to point out injustice when necessary. But in spite of the system, we can do better ourselves! A lot of it is on us. A lot of it does not make sense. A lot of it is irresponsibility and immaturity. A lot of this arises out of selfishness and a presumptuousness that black folk will sympathize and stand up for black people right or wrong.

The day of of excuses and sympathy has passed. Folk have moved from what's fair or unfair to trying to survive themselves. So before it is too late, press toward higher goals and new opportunities which present themselves, not giving the judicial system the power or say in our lives to limit or defeat us.

There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Julius Ceasar quote by William Shakespeare

OSF Child Actors Turned Singers

I chose actors turned singers since it presented me with more of a challenge than the other way around. I also attempted to find child actors who became singers. My Choices Are:

Janet Jackson
First acting role: Good Times, 1974
Youngest member of nine member musical dynasty

First acting role: Thea, 1993
Began performing at age four at church

Countess Vaughn
First acting role: 227, 1988
Began performing at age three at church

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Culture of Healthy Relationships

The Marvalus View hipped me to an article on which touted the openly affectionate and romantic image of Barack and Michelle Obama as the poster for healthy black relationships. With 70% of African American women living without a spouse, according to the article, the Obamas personify the image of black love that everyone is looking for and may inspire more love, including even possibly a baby boom.

I agree that there is a strong need for counter-cultural public images that portray black mothers as more than baby mamas and black men as other than knuckleheads, ruffnecks, or gangstas. In addition, I also feel that "you can't be what you don't see" and without knowing what a healthy relationship looks like makes it that much more difficult to achieve. However, we must understand that it is one thing to want what Barack and Michelle have but it is another thing to obtain what they have.

When we look at the President-elect and his wife, we see an apparently healthy relationship but we don't see the things beneath the surface that contribute to the relationship. Their healthy image is thus foundational only, and before we launch a "Take Back the Family, Love & Commitment" crusade there are at least two other issues that lie at the core and are indispensable in attaining a culture of healthy relationships.

First, the power of love starts within yourself. So a healthy relationship is impossible if both parties have not first learned to LOVE THEMSELVES or feels unloved or in need of love.

We see too many parents and even the church being overly critical and using putdowns or psychological abuse to control behavior. These mental games are linked to poor self-esteem, selfishness, love addictions, and even depression. Those moms who have been victims of putdown tactics sometimes even overcompensate by being totally uncritical of their own children, leaving them unequipped with the social skills to deal with their deficiencies when confronted by their peers or others in authority, so that they feel like rejects or failures. Men, who have internalized their unemployment, underemployment, or other insecurities resulting from the American post-slavery syndrome of self-hate will also need to have these demons exorcised in pursuit of a healthy relationship. But equally requisite and essential:

A healthy relationship requires MUTUAL RESPECT.

At the core of many of our relationship problems lies a struggle for control over our lives and attempts to control the lives of each other causing us to act against one another in unhealthy ways. Until we contemporize our definitions of manhood and womanhood or masculinity and femininity in order to see oppression of women in its true sense, we will fail to achieve healthy relationships.

Sadly to say, the church in its ancient patriarchal views has helped to negatively impact our relationships. The oppression of women may be the oldest injustice in human history. Yet this ancient, low societal view of women colored some of the compositions of the biblical writers and we have taken the controlling attitudes toward women that shaped the text as mandates rather than the opinions of the writers that the texts themselves and sound hermeneutics state them to be. Women are not scapegoats for all male failure and inability to handle responsibility. Women have more value than their ability to bear children. But you would think differently based upon the interpretation many have of the bible.

These views will have to give way to those that see men and women as being interdependent, mutually supportive, caring and respectful or a culture of healthy relationships will be unattainable.

He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27

also see Ephphatha:Parents are Bad

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Everybody Say Yeah"! OSF Stevie Wonder

I had to choose Fingertips because of the preacher-like call and response routine of "Everybody Say Yeah"! But also because it is reminiscent of the music and parties of my pre-adolescent days. Stevie, displaying his genius on the harmonica and bongos, was an inspiration to many of us children during this historic period.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Loving Home

The selection of Marian Robinson as First Grandmother flew under the radar of many, but may reveal more of President-elect Obama's mindset and values than any of his other cabinet or administrative choices.

Rather than the view of the dominant culture that the mother-in-law is a nuisance, in our history, extended family has promoted our survival in hostile or complex environments. Particularly, the raising of children has been a communal responsibility as we have always understood that "it takes a village." In recent years this family perspective has become fractionalized as we have become a collection of individuals at the expense of the caring community that has been our strength.

Marian Robinson, the mother of First Lady-elect Michelle Obama, by moving into the White House to care for Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7 as their parents attempt to run a nation as well as a household means reviewing our child-rearing practices as part of reclaiming our family values.

It also means the following:

Parenting in the 21st century is a complex issue, indicating the need to adapt or for creativity in providing safety, care, and discipline to ensure emotionally healthy children.

The days of saying children should be "seen and not heard" should be replaced by a new refrain that states "Children are Important" and raising them requires a plan and not leaving their future to chance.

The first task of the village or extended family is to provide a place of learning, love, wisdom, understanding, and comfort. When peace and harmony are added, that is home.

Not where I was born, but where it goes well with me is my home.
Kanuri Proverb

Monday, November 24, 2008

For Me?? You shouldn't have!

Nothing is more transparent than when we try to conceal feelings of pride with protestations of modesty. So I won't even try. Aw shucks, I am elephant-happy and rhinoceros-glad to be the recipient of a Superior Scribbler award from my powerful sista' SjP at Sojourner's Place! You feel real, real good when folk you respect say something nice about you. I have the utmost respect for Sista SjP for her style, substance, and perspective. I truly feel that I have been knowing her all my life. So this is quite an honor.

Now, the rules that follow as a consequence.

1. Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

3. Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.

4. Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

5. Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I am passing the Superior Scribbler Award to the following diverse five who have inspired me through their unique insights, providing me with a more diverse perspective. Y'all keep up the good work!

These are my choices:

My sis Hagar's Daughter
Another sis The Old Black Church
My lil' bro Fresh & Fab
Pjazzy @ Traces of a Stream because anyone who is familiar with J. Royster is alright with me!
Sista gp at A Southern Thang because the culture fascinates me and contributes to our dignity in under-appreciated ways.

There are many other bloggers whose work touches me deeply and who are really doin' it but I am limited to these. Please check them out as well as my sista and friend Sjp @ Sojourner's Place.

Peace Be With Thee!

Friday, November 21, 2008

To Be or Not To Bop: OSF Jazz Tribute

Nancy Wilson, jazz, blues, cabaret, and pop icon aka "The Complete Entertainer" and Ramsey Lewis, aka "The Great Performer" team up on this number and bring their combined 150 plus albums, six grammy's and numerous other awards and recognitions together in their 1984 collabo Just The Two of Us.

Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer and Bebop pioneer, Afro-Cuban, bent-horn styled legend and icon Dizzy Gillespie in his prophetic Closer To The Source, recorded near the end of his career.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The election of the first African American president in the United States has triggered a backlash of more than 200 related hate crimes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In inner-cities and among other marginalized youth however, the Obama victory appears to have sparked an interest in urbanity and civility, according to my own unscientific but sagacious observations.

The meaning of Barack Obama's election, to many African American youth, has revised their definition of manhood from gangsta' to professional, from dumb and don't care to intelligent and passionate, and from falling down pants to well fitting business suits or other more refined attire. Obama's overcoming has also added or is adding hard work, intelligence, dignity, family, and anti-sexism, racism, or classism to the definition of black masculinity and desirability.

What was it in Obama's method, that has been successful in changing the behavior and values of our youth, where our past leadership and parenting efforts have been fruitless? I attribute it to the following:

1. He was blunt and direct in articulating past and present failures rather than becoming an enabler or co-dependent by making excuses for dysfunctional behavior or covering for or minimizing embarassing failures.

2. Yet, he did not allow articulation of failure to become a permanent mantra which would have destroyed the future of our youth, relegating them to a prison of hopelessness so that their lives would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the put-downs.

3. Obama exposed his own obstacles and humble life experiences to allow his victory to trumpet the message that "the future ain't like it's always been" and no longer do we have to continue hurting ourselves by internalizing the pain of rejection.

4. Believed in us. The President-elect assumed that concealed somewhere in our tattered existence, was something glorious and very noble and made his appeal to the dignity and the best within us. Obama's certainty that we are still great human beings, more than anything else, separated him from the other candidate, draws the best from within us, and makes the difference in changing our attitudes and behaviors because it restores the hope that unlimited possibilities are now attainable.

For we are saved by hope....
Romans 8:24

Friday, November 14, 2008

OSF Birth Year Song

Youtube credit: ripa171 March 29, 2008

There are many thrills and chills that have entered and exited since this song was originally written and recorded by Roy Hawkins in 1951, but popularized by BB King in 1969. The Thrill Is Gone was also recorded by Aretha, Little Milton, and many others and is a blues classic.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping Change Alive

The election of a President who campaigned on a promise for change puts us in a unique position to enact legislation that provides comprehensive health and mental health coverage for all children. With many competing issues in the mix, we must let our voices be loudly heard by our legislators letting them know that we expect them to keep their campaign promises and not let this issue fall off their agenda or settle for a quick fix. We must keep shouting until they cover all children in 2009.

President-elect Obama has put up a new website and is soliciting policy recommendations that we would like carried out in the next four years. To ensure that change is carried out, we need to do 3 things:

1. Visit Obama's new transition website,
2. Complete the form and tell Obama to:

a. Fulfill his campaign commitment to ensure that every child has health coverage.

b. Ensure that any legislation enacted meets the following criteria:

- Ensures every child and pregnant woman has access to affordable health coverage and health services.

- Guarantees all children and pregnant women comprehensive benefits, which must include all medically necessary services.

- Simplifies the application and enrollment process to make it easy for all children to get covered and stay covered.

- Resists the temptation to go for a quick fix that falls far short of covering all children.

3. Submit your vision of a country where all children in America have health coverage! (You can even include a photo or video with your submission!)

link: Children's Defense Fund
photo credit: Tom Ethington;
Center of Hope Freedom School

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Challenge of a New Start

Transitions are always difficult because they require an exchange, which includes both the passing and the receiving of the means of control from one hand to another's. The exchange can become the source of disastrous consequences if it does not go smoothly. Related to transitions, and perhaps a more dangerous pitfall with the possibility of bringing even more devastating outcomes, is the necessity of getting off to a good start.

The biblical account of Joshua begins with a new generation coming into its own, receiving the reins from Moses whose responsibility was to get Israel in position to be totally free. Because God always gets the glory and won't let any of us do it all, Joshua's responsibility was to actually lead Israel on a campaign to take possession of their new home.

As Joshua takes charge his first order of business is a reconnaissance mission to determine how to capture Jericho, a fortified entrance into the promised land and which held the key to success of the entire campaign.

A calm, deliberate President-elect Barack Obama surrounded by a multi-generational, multi-ethnic group of economic advisers has announced that his first order of business once taking over the reins of leadership will be to stabilize the economy. The substance of the policy includes: (1) an immediate stimulus for Americans seeking work and aid to states and localities; (2) help to keep homeowners in their homes; (3) aid to industries such as autoworkers where they focus on building green cars and tap into funds already allocated; (4) scrutinizing the bailout to be sure it helps people without unduly enriching banks; and (5) a middle class tax cut for 95% of working families and capital gains tax cuts for small businesses.

Obama's deliberate focus on what his advisers and the public believe to be the most critical or key issue facing the American people reveals his strategy and also provides us with the following Practical Lessons for governing, leading, and living:

Learn how to begin and where & how to strike first.

A blow struck with precision, directed at the right time and in the right place will have 10 times the effect of flailing aimlessly in the dark.

Being effective from the start may save a lifetime trying to play catch up, fighting an uphill battle, and fizzling out trying to come from behind.

Barack Obama: Effective from the Start

Friday, November 7, 2008

Old School Friday #38: A Night To Remember

Thank God it's over and the first African American president of the U.S., leader of the free world is elected on November 4, 2008

Shalamar: Jeffrey Daniel, Howard Hewitt, Jody Whatly

And a Classic, Marvin Gaye: Got To Give It Up

for other OSF participants, click here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Matriarchal Misconceptions

The biblical patriarch Abraham is known as the Father of the Faithful and is a pivotal figure in the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in spite of inconsistencies in the patriarchal picture we are accustomed to have of him. On more than one occasion he hid behind his wife Sarah to protect himself, leaving her vulnerable. But not only did Abraham fail to protect Sarah's honor, he also submitted to her wishes without challenge when she urged him to take Hagar as a wife in order to become a surrogate for her. When Sarah later regretted this decision, Abraham again submitted to her will and was thus complicit in allowing Hagar and Abraham's "outside child" Ishmael, to be kicked to the curb and to make it on their own. So Abraham, by abandoning Ismael and later threatening to kill Isaac, appears to be something less than a "man of the house" and an ideal father to his boys, an image that many readily apply rightly or wrongly, to contemporary black men.

It is also clear that the boys' mothers played the pivotal role in guiding them to become leaders of the nation - Sarah, in a traditional household, but also Hagar, in a non-nuclear, single, female-headed household. Among the most myth-busting, misconception-mashing accomplishments of Barack Obama's ascendancy to the White House would have to include that: Great outcomes and strong values can indeed spring from the seeds nurtured in and by nontraditional families that may or may not include the father or a man. From the roots of assessment based upon a patriarchal nuclear family structure, we have long attached the negative labels of deficient, selfish, abnormal, or tragic to women, who by choice or circumstance, find themselves without a husband.

However, a startling fact came out of 2008 presidential election as reported by The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research along with Women's Voices Women Vote.

Unmarried women supported Barack Obama by a stunning 70 to 29 percent margin, exceeding the support among both younger voters and Hispanic voters. In fact, there was a 44 point difference in the behavior of married women and unmarried women.
If not for the overwhelming support of unmarried women, John McCain would have won the women's vote and with it, the White House.

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10

A nation can rise no higher than its women. Elijah Muhammad

Full Story

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Sober Promise

If some of the rhetoric and negative advertising during the now concluded presidential campaign was inflammatory and caustic, the frequency and unrealistic optimism of the candidates' campaign promises - from tax cuts to reform and establishment of elaborate programs with simultaneous balanced budgets - left us "promise-hardened" and "campaign-calloused."

However, a grateful and classy President-elect Barack Obama, in a tempered enthusiasm, promised the following in his acceptance speech:
"I will listen to you... I will ask you to join in the remaking of this nation... Block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." "A new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

It is a magnificent achievement for America to elect an African American president, but with the enormous challenges that lie ahead, will the American people, having elected the first African American president in it's history, allow him to lead?

If the sin of slavery has retarded the "eligibility" of African Americans for the office of President of the United States, it also plays a role in the success or failure of black leaders. During the nearly 350 years of slavery there was the belief as well as systematic propagandizing of slaves themselves, that no slave was capable of even leading another slave let alone a white person of supposed superior culture and social position. As a result a growing disrespect for black leadership has evolved except in instances where these leaders have played what amounted to ceremonial or ornamental leadership roles in mainstream culture.

Obama was right to temper his enthusiasm as navigating the tasks, function, and expectations of this uncharted position will be very complex, particularly as a pioneer. His remarks last night were telling and on-point considering that we often want leaders whom we can shape and mold rather than leaders who possess the required vision that we often do not see.

If this New Dawn of American leadership is to still be held accountable and be successful and not operate in a dysfunctional, divisive atmosphere of second-guessing, suspicion, and ultra scrutiny then yes - it must be a joint remaking of the nation, with mutual listening and cooperation. Then if Obama is blamed for mistakes, it will be because he was allowed to lead (as others before him) and we were willing to follow. And, the nation as a whole - all races, genders, young and old, and Republicans and Democrats, will collectively share in the successes as well as it's mistakes or failures.

A shout out to the hip hop generation for your participation in the process and for your ability to obtain cross-cultural appeal, respect, and acceptance. That played a role in the election of our first African American president.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Revelation: SHOUT NOW!

Don't wait til the battle is over, I'M CLAIMING THE VICTORY NOW!

Monday, November 3, 2008

A New Demon

Indifference or voter apathy has been a demon that has historically affected the American citizenry in general and the African American community in particular. The 2008 Presidential election however, thanks to war fatigue and an economy in shambles, the resultant subordination of past wedge issues, and a massive increase in new voters, has enabled this malaise to slip into apparent remission.

This curing of the disease of lukewarmness, rather than providing a total healing, has in the long lines of those waiting to cast their ballots a possible residual side effect. Early voters have waited as long as 8 hours in Georgia, 5 hours in Indiana, and have been reported to arrive at 4:30 AM to stand in line for doors that do not open until 8 AM in Oklahoma. These delays, whether voter suppression tactics or due to lack of available resources, will disproportionately affect the traditionally disenfranchised poor, working poor, and people of color who cannot afford the added expenses or lost wages of an entire day.

In this day before the biggest election in the history of the United States, our prayer should be as we vote, for God to inspire us to utilize our innate creativity and improvisational genius gifted to us through our survival instinct. But also and more importantly that the demon of impatience, which causes us to do more harm to ourselves than others can do, be exorcised from our hearts and minds.

A person's wisdom gives them patience; it is to their glory to overlook an offense. Proverb 19:11

If you patiently endure, you come out victorious. Twi Proverb

An inch of progress is worth more than a yard of complaint. Booker T. Washington

Friday, October 31, 2008

Old School Friday #37..... "WE'RE A WINNER" Obama Fight Song

Curtis Mayfield, member of The Impressions and successful solo artist, is known for pioneering social consciousness into R&B music. Many of his compositions or recordings with The Impressions are noted for their social awareness and became anthems of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

For a:
CONTEMPORARY GOSPEL REMIX (My Name is Victory) by Jonathan Nelson

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"The more you watch, the more you see," states an African proverb.

As the presidential candidates present their closing arguments, perhaps more can be learned not by what has been heard, but by what has been seen. Along with the conclusion of the presidential campaign, Domestic Violence Awareness Month also winds down.

Nearly 1,400 women a year or 4 per day die in the United States due to domestic violence. Yet, President Bush's FY 2009 budget proposed a $120 million cut from the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), elimination of the balance of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund, and only $122.6 million for the Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA)- $52.4 million less than the level for which it was authorized.

John McCain, who voted against the landmark 1994 VAWA, calling it "ineffective and ill-conceived," appears to have no current policy or statement regarding Domestic Violence. Barack Obama, however, has a clear policy: Ending Violence Against Women and Children .
This policy aims to make Domestic Violence a White House Priority, reduce Domestic Violence, support victims' economic security, strengthen criminal laws, and increase funding of the VAWA.

Since Senator Obama has been in the U.S. Senate, he cosponsored and helped reauthorize VAWA and introduced legislation to provide $25 million for prevention and victim support and has been a longtime supporter of domestic violence shelters.

In addition, Senator Joe Biden has been a champion in the fight against domestic violence and sponsored the original 1994 VAWA legislation. Biden has also promised, if an Obama administration is elected, to create a full-time White House staff advisory position with the responsibility to coordinate a focused Domestic Violence effort and report on violence against women.

Obama states:
"So often, victims of domestic abuse suffer in silence - they don't know where to turn, and they often have no one to turn to. And so it's easy to think that one of these victims could be somebody you love - a mother, a daughter, or a sister... I want you to know that you're not alone in this struggle - that there are people listening and fighting with you to bring this issue out of the darkness of isolation and into the light of justice. I want you to know that I'll continue to be one of those people."

He who has a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor. Proverbs 22:9

for complete story

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Dirty Work

One of the more famous quotes of Carter G. Woodson, the "Father of Black History," and major contributor to the understanding of the link between proper education and true freedom states:

When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his "proper place" and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told.

I believe that the application of this truth can be extended to much of the nonsense we see taking place in the current presidential campaign. Woodson, in his original context was talking about blacks carrying out the desires of their oppressors without being forced or told, being conditioned to conform by years of exploitation.

The absence of direct participation or conspiracy in the despicable acts of rage and hate that are being reported does not indicate innocence. The inflammatory rhetoric of McCain/Palin always results in predictable responses. "He's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." Response: "kill him!" When Palin blamed Katie Couric and her questions for her poor interview performance, the Palin supporters responded by shouting a racial slur at an African-American media person. While there are numerous other examples, the point is that when there are minds that are not right to begin with or minds that are conditioned to respond to certain negative stimuli, the dirty work will be carried out without direct instruction.

The dangerous and reckless Ashley Todd stunt, which relied on a tried and tested formula of a white woman claiming assault by a black male, is the dirty work designed to engender support for the McCain candidacy and fan the flames of rage in order to create doubt in or aversion to the Obama candidacy. It was the natural extension of robo-calls, terrorist by exaggerated association accusations, cultural difference fears, and not so subtle racial insinuations.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.

Galatians 6:7

Friday, October 24, 2008

Honor and Respect

What a blessing to us are those who paved the way, making rough places smooth for us to walk. Their wisdom, knowledge, and experience are invaluable. Their foundational contributions and position as forerunners deserve appreciation and respect. We also owe it to them to be a part of the continuing legacy of sacrifice for others.

I am reminded of your genuine faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother, and then in your mother; and now, I am sure lives in you also.

2 Timothy 1:5

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress

1 Timothy 4:13-15

Piggy-backing from Sagacious Rambling and ABC News:

Old School Friday..."The Man With The Voice of an Angel"

Back Down Memory Lane took me to Eddie Holman, dubbed by Smokey Robinson as "The Man With The Voice of an Angel." Eddie was molded by the Philly soul scene, singing with The Delfonics and The Stylistics. This solo recording in 1970 was a remake of Ruby and the Romantics' originally "Hey There Lonely Boy."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Next Generation

Protect and Not Neglect: Their Minds, Their Bodies, Their Spirits

I have written to you who are mature in the struggle because you know the way. I have written to you who are young because you are strong.

1 John 2:14b

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Realistic Expectations

If we have to wait until ideological purity is achieved, we'll be waiting for God ot. I don't know about you, but I ain't got the time.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.

Mark 6:11

Sometimes we waste time trying to change the opinion of others instead of the condition of ourselves. God is about reversing the usual order of things and sometimes says rather, "I'm going to empower and liberate YOU."

Redressing our grievances and making sure that justice is administered will depend upon us and not others. May we faithfully accept and use all of the mercies and privileges which God has extended toward us through the suffering and sacrifice of others.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Nonconformists or Opportunists?

Colin Powell, in his endorsement, called Sen. Obama a "transformational figure." This term brought to mind Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermon The Transformed Nonconformist, based on Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds." King depicted conformism as a tyrant that held people prisoner against acting against prevailing mores by fear of being ostracized. There are consequences for walking to the beat of a different drummer, yet Colin Powell has become the symbol of a growing list of those who have crossed party lines to endorse Sen. Obama over John McCain. Will this momentum turn into an avalanche? Does this striking shift by Republican politicians, publications, and adherents represent true transformation, a renewing of the mind and attitudes or is it a "Jumping of the Ship" in order to save oneself?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Give Yourself To The Movement

Make it an Intergenerational (Old/New School) Collabo/Combo Weekend. Give yourself to the movement, Worship, and get some R&R

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

Every Sunday morning before and after worship, scores of children trickle into my office to greet and hug me. For a long time, I thought that I possessed some type of "It" factor which made me popular with children and young folk, until an observant and spiritually wise First Lady deflated what is the bane of many preachers - my ego. She said to me "These children are hungry." They had been walking out with goodies on my desk and which I keep around. I did notice that I had to replenish quite frequently.

A growing number of those coming into the church are women. This is no surprise, however the overwhelming number are those who are unmarried, have children, and are living at or below the poverty line. There are disturbing trends in child poverty and extreme child poverty. One in three black children are poor and one in six is in extreme poverty. Poverty increased to reach 3.8 million black children and extreme poverty increased to reach 1.8 million in 2006. At my church, we have instituted several programs which provide food in addition to other program goals. We also provide food and childcare to children whose mothers come to ministry meetings and other church-related functions. None of the food has gone to waste. In addition, our mentoring sessions reveal growing incidences of stress-related illnesses and many other traumatic consequences experienced by women who are trying to navigate poverty.

In the chapter 21 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus caused a tree that produced marvelous foliage but lacked fruit to wither because it was useless. Likewise any institution, including the church, governmental administration, leader, or organization - regardless of ornamentation - that does not satisfy the hunger of the times (physical or spiritual), is useless and will eventually fade into insignificance. The question that needs to be asked, particularly of our presidential candidates in this perilous economy, is what have you done to satisfy the hunger of children and their mothers?

Please look at the scorecard that reveals the voting records of the presidential candidates in order to see who is working for children and who isn't. Obama has worked for children 85% versus McCain, who is one of the worst advocates in the entire congress.

In addition, we need politicians whose policy priorities include closing the gender gap by supporting increased funding in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund, family planning, child care and head start, nutrition programs, unemployment compensation benefits which because of out-dated eligibility rules disproportionately disqualify women, paid sick leave legislation, and restoration of rights to challenge pay discrimination.

"You shall know them by their fruits."

Monday, October 13, 2008

All Are Guilty

The most impressive statement, in my opinion, made by Democratic Presidential Nominee Obama today to an electric crowd was the straight talk concerning the difficulties that we will continue to face in the future even after he is elected. "We are going to have to prioritize, make choices, and learn to live without things we don't need." He went on to say that we ALL are guilty (from Wall Street to Main Street - I add even Backstreet) of living beyond our means. Indeed the country has been permeated with a culture of greed and conspicuous consumption/materialism - the Church and the hood not excluded. This statement also exposed the double standard hidden in the ideology of personal responsibility. It is hypocritical to accuse Backstreet (or Blackstreet) and excuse other Streets of behavior that is not decent.
The future will depend upon responsible behavior of us all if we are overcome the deep hole that we are in.

Obama also unveiled a new economic plan. See Fumbling Toward Divinity for a full transcript. The items that I feel are helpful to Backstreet as well as Main Street include a) 90 day foreclosure moratorium, b) the Fed and Treasury to establish a mechanism whereby they can lend to State and Municipal Government, c)elimination of taxes on unemployment compensation, and d) funding for new jobs in infrastructure and alternative energy such as solar or wind. All of these will be beneficial to Backstreet in addition to Main St. even though the benefits may arrive indirectly. It is at the least, a step in the right direction.

In The Nasty Now and Now

The Obama campaign called me late last night and offered an invitation to attend his large rally which comes through our city today. I had not planned to go because of the expected large crowds but could not turn down the offer of VIP seating. We have heard much stump talk regarding Wall Street and Main Street but I am concerned as well about those who live on the Backstreets whose issues are too often deferred to the sweet by and by instead of being provided solutions for the nasty now and now. In this presidential campaign, Who speaks for Backstreet America? Is it taboo or even risky for the two mainstream candidates to even bring up Backstreet's issues?