Friday, January 30, 2009

Drama Highway: OSF Remakes

Love songs are easy subjects for remakes because of the drama encountered on the journey of finding a love that will last. Have you traveled that road? Arriving at the conclusion that the thrill is found in compatibility and companionship can make the trip worth the while.

Old School Live version

Youngblood Video Version

Marvin & Gladys Throwdown/Collabo

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bumpin' da Gums AGAIN!

I spent the entire day today (normally Monday is preacher's holiday) in an audience of community leaders, child advocates, early childhood, health and mental health, child welfare and juvenile justice professionals, educators, lawyers and judges, members of law enforcement, elected officials, business leaders, foundation representatives, and members of the media. We were being presented with the release of the Community Assessment Report of Disproportionate Minority Contact in our County Juvenile Justice System.

The report indicates that African-American males and females are overrepresented in contact with the juvenile justice system including juvenile arrests, confinement, and cases transferred to Adult Court. No mystery here, it appears that this is just another statistic that continues to highlight the trend of overrepresentation of minorities in categories that are negative, harmful, or dysfunctional.

However, the report also indicated that the most common offense filed with Juvenile Court has been violations of the Safe School Ordinance, a broad area which varies from talking back to a teacher to acts of violence or bringing a weapon to school. Could it be, that in our area we have a pipeline from the schools to prison? If so, this is truly alarming! It does trouble me that the majority of offenders are being sent to juvenile detention from school. This area needs further research and exploration.

But today, I lost interest after hearing one cliche`-filled sermon after another by folk who may not have showed up except to advocate for their own particular program and others who were just talkin' cause they got a mouth. Black folk can talk they behind off! White folk and other ethnic minorities can rock the house too! A ton of statistics, sermons, and singing the blues, but no solutions or strategies were offered and no red flags or cautions recognized or commented upon. In fact, one former city executive commented that we have too many youth programs and are spending too much money on young people in our area as it is.

It may be that we have been paralyzed or benumbed by the avalanche of recent negative anti-social statistics and behavior or that too many of us are content to profit from the misery of others and therefore seek only to "manage" the problems rather than solve them.

I am convinced that if we are going to legitimately address the disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system in my area that the following needs to be done at a minimum:

1. Bring the young people to the table and listen to them. We often miss the obvious because we talk about youth rather than with youth.

2. Utilize qualitative analysis along with quantitative data. Discussion, dialog, and allowing the subjects to speak for themselves (particularly with marginalized and oppressed groups), uncovers the depth and nuances of the problem and adds valuable insight to cold, impersonal quantitative methods and statistical data. It is almost impossible to figure out who youth are and where they are without listening to their stories, finding out what is going on in their lives and what they are dealing with.

3. What is the administrative dynamic and competence within the schools that are sending these kids to jail? There is a potential for conflict where the marginalized students are being taught by teachers whose experience is defined by the dominant culture. Children need teachers and mentors who are not only able to listen to them with empathy, but who also possess cultural awareness and knowledge of them gained from a similar socio-cultural experience. Often a cultural mismatch between the teacher's experience and the child's cultural history can be the source of a problem that leads to further marginalization, conflict, exclusion, or withdrawal.

The Cradle to Prison Pipeline is a national crisis and is very complex and includes many factors including race, low-performing schools, lack of access to health and mental health care, broken child welfare and juvenile justice systems, struggling families and depressed communities, a toxic youth culture, and lack of parenting skills. It behooves us to come up with strategies and solutions before it is too late. The first step may be simply to meet young people where they are, initiate dialog, and listen.

Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink of water." John 4:6,7

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our God Is Marching On

One of my favorite speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. was given at the conclusion of the bloody march from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to the state capitol building in Montgomery, the "Cradle of Confederacy." The speech entitled Our God is Marching On, acknowledges that injustice still remains but King still savors this exhilarating victory by pointing out that "We have come a long way since that travesty of justice was perpetrated upon the American mind. We are not about to turn around. We are on the move now. Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us."

This speech is prophetic for the 2009 celebration of Martin Luther King day and the inauguration of Barack Obama at a time when we have made significant progress in matters of race by electing an African American president for the first time. Yet deep seated, structurally-reinforced racial inequality and disparities in income, wealth, credit, health, jobs, education, and opportunity remain.

The significance of Obama's victory is not that the dream has been fulfilled, but that like for the civil rights movement, which included not only a Martin Luther King, Jr. but moved upon the wings of God driven by a diverse mosaic of contributors varying by race, gender, faith, and age group - it is a long-term struggle, but the winds of change are beginning to blow and "We are on the Move Now."

Here is how Our God is Marching On begins:

We have walked on meandering highways and rested our bodies on rocky byways. Some of our faces are burned from the outpourings of the sweltering sun. some have literally slept in the mud. We have been drenched by the rains.

Our bodies are tired, and our feet are somewhat sore, but today as I stand before you and think back over that great march, I can say as Sister Pollard said, a seventy-year-old Negro woman who lived in this community during the bus boycott and one day she was asked while walking if she wanted a ride and when she answered, "No," the person said, "Well, aren't you tired?" And with her ungrammatical profundity, she said, "My feets is tired, but my soul is rested." And in a real sense this afternoon, we can say that our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.

This is how that Our God is Marching On, so prophetic and appropriate for today, ends:

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Prayer From the Hood: OSF TV Theme Songs

In the 1980s we began to see some small fruits of our struggle to achieve integration, but we found out that even after success new problems and challenges awaited us. Our arrival in corporate suites and boardrooms, suburban neighborhoods, and new upwardly mobile social networks did not eliminate racism or other problems. So in 2009, the theme song from this 1981-1987 situation comedy remains not only a ghetto prayer but a prayer that has transcended race and class to spread to the hearts and lips of people all across America! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Gimme A Break, Nell Carter

and Tales from Five-O:

Theme from Hill St. Blues

Theme from Baretta

And just to lighten it up a little,

Theme from "Maude" by Donny Hathaway

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Keepin' It Real

It is no secret that the black church in America, which was born as a response to social issues and was/is critical to the survival of an entire people by helping them deal with the everyday, dehumanizing experiences of slavery and oppression, finds itself rapidly becoming irrelevant, obsolete, and losing influence despite having a surface vibrancy and being a constant hub of activity. This impotence is alarming considering that the contemporary status of many persons who look to the church's power can be described as a struggle to survive.

Rather than quickly placing the blame for criticism, disinterest, or lack of participation (and lack of effectiveness in changing lives when there is participation) on others, it may be more beneficial for the church to become introspective on this. Society in general, and young people in particular, are bombarded with images from a consumerist culture that has evolved which glorifies violence, disdains serious commitments, disrespects and insults its women, trivializes black culture, and has an uncontrollable hunger for pleasure.

As many churches continue to hype prosperity and an anti-intellectual emotionalism, the reality for many is an unprecedented material poverty and exposure to problems associated with social deprivation. In addition, the current housing foreclosure and economic crisis has unmasked a real life material poverty that had been hidden by credit and debt.

Astonishingly, what may be even more concealed is the church's failure to fully appreciate the link between social problems and theological problems as we attempt to minister with no explicit mention of racialized oppression, poverty, unemployment, health care or educational policies while utilizing a spiritual hermeneutic that alludes to the biblical text while ignoring the "social text" of life.

A glaring example of the church's inability to speak with a theologically authoritative word to contemporary issues is revealed by a recent study titled Sex and the Seminary: Preparing Ministers for Sexual Health and Justice. The report correctly notes that religious leaders have the moral obligation and potential to change society's understanding of sexuality through use of the pulpit, pastoral care, media, and politics, however seminaries are not providing them with sufficient opportunities for study, self-assessment, and ministerial formation in sexuality. Nine out of ten seminaries do not require full-semester sexuality and LGBT courses for graduation and most do not offer a sexuality-related curriculum at all. In addition there is a great need in seminary for policies of full inclusion, learning opportunities for sexual harassment prevention, and meaningful course work dealing with sexual justice issues.

In spite of the fact that sexuality issues are ever-present throughout the Bible, they are seldom mentioned directly in the pulpit. Theological discussion is also absent on other needs and issues that directly impact the day to day lives of people living in contemporary society such as mental health, prison, single parenting, patriarchal subjugation and psychological incarceration of black women, economic exploitation, and substance abuse, in addition to content on sexuality.

Also, for many, there is a loss of love, meaning, and purpose. Men, women, and youth also come to the church carrying shame or the need to be unconditionally accepted, yet a theology has not evolved to speak to their present experience as the Bible did to it's original hearers, but is rather limited to literal, Eurocentric, or an ancient patriarchal experience that is not normative for today’s generation. As a result, most have voted with their feet and left the church.

The church has the potential to greatly influence the lives of black people including the demons of teenage pregnancy, the criminalization and incarceration of black men and women, and a variety of other social ills. But we require a theological system that moves beyond the boundaries of traditional church language and orthodoxy to engage with the pressing needs of our time and that meets people where they are.

I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death... Revelations 3:1b,2a

link: Sex and the Seminary
photo credit:carinkyle

Friday, January 9, 2009

For Grown Folks: OSF Graduation Songs

Some things are for select company, a specific niche, or a rare breed. My youngin' friends may not get this, but there are some choice bloggers who can go way back in the day and ruminate on these classics.

Walk On By by Isaac Hayes

It's Your Thang Do What You Wanna Do, The Isleys

Last Dance before lights come on - slow and up close:
Baby I'm For Real: The Originals

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Invisible Forces

In any challenge or struggle, when we limit our possibilities to what is visible we will often be overwhelmed by the opposing forces and fret more than necessary. The visible battlefield, however does not reveal all the factors in the struggle. There are also invisible forces that work quietly yet effectively on our behalf.

This past Friday I received an unexpected large contribution to my nonprofit corporation from a donor that I did not know nor ever heard of (not Oprah). With the economic crisis wreaking havoc indiscriminately it was certainly a surprise. Equally astonishing and marvelous was the Emblem of the Helping Hand award created by Sojourner's Place as a symbol of help, support, and encouragement to up and coming bloggers and appreciation for those who mentor those new to the blogosphere.

To me, this is a very special award because when wading into the blogosphere there is apprehension that your feet may not touch the bottom and you find yourself in over your head. Thank God that there are those invisible and unsung "angels watching over me" ready to throw a life preserver and teach you how to navigate these tricky waters.

In the spirit of this award to "pay that help and support forward", I want to first acknowledge my blogging mentors in recognition of their help and support. I recognize that you are multiple recipients of this recognition because "this is what you do!" Nevertheless,

1. Sojourner's Place: You are a gem! You inspire high standards and keep it real. Definitely my #1 fave sistah!

2. Regina's Family Seasons:
You have so many blog children it is amazing. You provide a fresh, friendly, family atmosphere and are very caring and nurturing.

3. Sagacious Rambling: Roshelle has been as prolific and hardworking in her support of others as she is in blogging.

4. Hagar's Daughter: My fellow servant of the Word, insightful, spiritual, and whose writings keep me grounded.

5. Mista JayCee: Who makes me check my stuff before getting out there and then provides the friendly agitation that he knows will make me respond.

Now, I want to "pay it forward" to the following blogs that are really doin' it out there and also are an inspiration to me:

1. A Southern Thang, "Good People" presenting commentary from that noble southern flava'.

2.The Old Black Church, Musings from the traditional black church that highlights many of the values that we have lost.

3. Where There's A Will, The journeys of a free-spirited and open young wife and mother with a thirst for knowledge.

4. Vanity Dark, An interesting blog from a highly creative soul with unique insight and perspective.

5. Busy Mind of A Quiet Man. You will enjoy the flavor of this blog which is shaped by the writer's unique past and present.

The Rules:

1. Select 10 bloggers: 5 you consider your blogging Helping Hand then "Pay it Forward" by extending your "Helping Hand" to 5 additional bloggers in support and encouragement for their efforts.

2, In passing on the Emblem, each recipient must provide the name of blog or blog author with a link for others to visit.Each recipient must show the Emblem and put the name and link to the blog that has given it to her or him.

3. Link the Emblem to this post: Helping Hand: Much Obliged and Paying it Forward so that others will know it origin and impetus.

4. If you have not already done so, show your recipients some love by adding them to your blog roll, Technorati Favorite list, or in any other way to further let them know that their blog voice is important to you and being heard.

5. Add your name to The Helping Hand meme and don't forget to leave a comment as a permanent record of all Helping Hand recipients.

6. Display the rules.

Whatever one touches, his aim should always be to leave that which he touches better than he found it. Benjamin E. Mays

Lord, open his eyes that he may see. And behold, the mountains were full of horses and chariots round about. 2 Kings vi. 17

Friday, January 2, 2009

Cool & Copasetic: OSF Bloggers' Choice

I am not ready to get back into the grind, being still maxxed out emotionally, so I am going to chill out on "Smooth" like the following until next week:

PEOPLE MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND: wordless version by Ronnie Laws

WILDFLOWER: by New Birth