Friday, February 27, 2009

Branded Black Owned: OSF The Sophomore Year

Everything about the music of Motown - it's sound, the style and fashion of its artists, it's simple sophistication, it's market and cultural dominance, and perhaps most of all the model of black economic independence, entrepreneurship, and self-determination exhibited by founder Berry Gordy - captivated my attention and put its stamp upon me.

To this day, I still have quite an affection for the Motor City. Back in the day, a young player was caught up and just trying to learn to play and play right. These are some of the sounds still indelibly embedded upon his mind.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

The Temptations

Martha & The Vandellas

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Welcomed Court Support

Despite a powerful gun lobby and a society that glorifies violence while disrespecting and insulting women and girls, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, upheld the federal ban on gun possession by convicted misdemeanor domestic violence abusers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the majority, cited arguments provided by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, writing that "firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide."

Intimate partner and domestic violence homicide is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 15 to 45. Also, black youth are over represented as victims of teen dating violence according to the Institute on Domestic Violence in The African American Community. On average, more than three people are killed by intimate partners every day and account for up to one-half of all homicides of females. Every year between 1,000 and 1,600 women die at the hands of their male partners, and 14 percent of all police officer deaths occurred during a response to domestic violence calls.

Battered black women who reported that they could rely on others for emotional and practical support were less likely to be re-abused, showed less psychological distress, and less likely to attempt suicide.

This court decision is very much welcomed and represents a major step in providing a safe and free environment for those who live under the nightmarish double oppression of gun violence and domestic abuse.

Link: Full Story

Monday, February 23, 2009

Excuse Me, We Need To Talk

Have you ever been in a situation where the air of controversy was so thick and odorous that it threatened to choke the life out of you, yet someone else close to the situation seemed to be totally impervious and unaware? You’ve tried to ignore it, wishfully thinking that things would change or eventually the situation would resolve itself, but instead of getting better things got worse. The warning signs were misinterpreted. The hints were not picked up. The subtle suggestions went unnoticed.

In such cases, there comes a time that, in order to prevent the situation from becoming irrevocable or disastrous, the pain of blunt, direct, straight-talk must be endured.

This flawed system of advantage for some and disadvantage for others will continue to grow more toxic if we do not acknowledge its existence. The process of change most surely will be painful, but one thing is absolutely certain – we can not afford to not have intelligent, honest, thoughtful, rational and ongoing dialog on the subject of racism.

Then again, will it really make any difference ... especially if no one's listening?

This video is from MSNBCs Hardball, broadcast Feb. 19, 2009.

Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
Matthew 13:16,17

Friday, February 20, 2009

Joy Comes In The Morning: OSF The Jacksons

Together Again was written by Janet in remembrance of friends that had died from HIV/AIDS, however the message applies to a variety of life situations that involve separation. The thought of being reunited brings joy as this song, originally a ballad, was changed to a dance song and thus is presented in three different video contexts.

Michael and Janet:

The Remix:

The Official:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life is Grand

Believer over at Miscellaneous Matters passed the Life Is Grand award to me and I am most appreciative. Through her blogging, she constantly projects the nobleness of life and allows readers to witness the true source behind her life and work, that of God through Jesus Christ.
It is readily apparent that this is God's work and true ministry. That is what excites me about Believer's blog.

The rules require me to list 5 reasons why life is grand and pass this on to 5 other bloggers. I always try to be obedient and so Life is grand because:

1. Past failure does not disqualify me from God's blessings.
2. The evil against me which others attempted, God meant for good.
3. I have a patient, loyal, and devoted wife.
4. I have two loving daughters who challenge me and make me stay on my game.
5. Every day is a day of Thanksgiving and when I count my blessings, I quickly run out of fingers and toes.

I pass this award on to the following:

1. Staci who is climbing high mountains and still having fun.
2. UnderOver "the U" the Techie AfraGeek who brings a unique experience to the blogosphere.
3. Kym who is on her own wilderness journey to the promised land of license and ordination in the Baptist Church.
4.Geneva, thespian, journalist, artist, and all things African and Womanist.
5.April, for whom Jesus is the Center of her Joy!

Life is sufficient unto life if it is lived and felt directly and deeply enough.
Richard Wright

Friday, February 13, 2009

Moving On: OSF It's The Blues

Occasionally, we arrive at what seems like an oasis in life or relationships. The temptation is to ignore the cues and circumstances that quietly let us know that this was merely a place of respite and not our permanent destination. These periods in life can cause us to allow the mirage of lesser enjoyments persuade us to remain in situations that do not bring us the fulfillment of our destination. Do you know when it is time to move on? (Somebody nudge the Prez, and tell him "Forget the Repubs, tryin' to please folks, and move on!")

David Ruffin: Walk Away From Love

It's not that I don't love you
You know how much I do
And it's not that I've found someone
To take the place of you
It's just a fear that builds within me
Everytime you touch my hand
And a dread that shakes my body
That even I don't understand
So I'm leaving
This time I'm playing it smart
I'm gonna walk away from love
Before love breaks my heart

Oh, you're clinging to me tighter
Than you ever have before
I don't understand it
But I know it's gonna take everything I've got
To keep walking out the door
But those arms you've got around me
Will let me go someday
And I'd rather leave you holding on
Than pushing me away
So I'm leaving, yes I am
This time I'm playing it smart
I'm gonna walk away from love
Before love breaks my heart

and also a lil' BB and Bobby from traditional blues genre:

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Intersection of Politics and Religion

On last week President Obama unveiled his own version of his predecessor's faith based policy which makes federal grants and contracts for social services delivery available to religious groups and churches. Some of the benefits of a Church-Government partnership are non-debatable. First of all, church people are tax-payers too and should have access to the same resources as others that pay taxes. It also, when effectively administered, moves the church from a rhetoric of empowerment to the actual delivery of power when beneficiaries are enabled to experience economic, educational, or social change through the acquiring of affordable housing, jobs, and businesses. Presently many activist churches are addressing neighborhood problems and improving social conditions for the disadvantaged and distributing goods and services as a supplement to those provided by public agencies and private markets.

Despite the fact that the Faith Based Initiative increases capacity of many churches to deliver social services, provides employment opportunities, and two of my distinguished fellow alums, Dr. Otis Moss,Jr. Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio and Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Knoxville, Tennesse are a part of the 25-member President's Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the intersection of politics and religion is fraught with potential hazards and must be approached with extreme caution.

Some of the blind spots or unexpected obstacles include the following:

1. Separation of Church and State:

African American churches were formed out of a demand for social justice and have served as voices of opposition to unjust policies and politicians. It is impossible to take money from Pharaoh while criticizing him. Will taking government money buy the church's silence and compromise it's message of social justice? Can you critique the government when eating at the government's table?

2. First Amendment Protection:
A potential conflict arises when personnel matters arise as a result of religious beliefs that run counter to the First Amendment protections against discrimination. When churches bring their theology or religious dogma into their hiring or firing decisions occasions where the rights of persons whose lifestyles, behaviors, values or beliefs are different from the church may be violated.

3.Capacity of Staff for Regulation, Compliance, and Monitoring
Government funding carries with it mountains of paperwork, reports, and rules which change frequently and without notice. This exposes the church to possible inadvertant fraud, incarceration, and negative publicity. The time and attention devoted to mountains of paperwork and policies can be distracting causing the church to lose its identity and cloud it's focus.

The social problems to be addressed in early 21st century America are great. A partnership between the faith community and government that seeks to overcome these enormous problems for the common good is a noble thought. Aid to black churches in carrying out this mission is appealing but the cost in terms of the church's prophetic voice and moral leadership could be disastrous in the long run. Proceed with caution!

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finis it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying this man began to build, and was not able to finish. Luke 14:28-30.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fiddling While Floods Rise

The $819 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus bill passed last week in the House without support from a single Republican and lack of GOP support in the Senate threatens it's ultimate passage there. It appears that the Republican opposition, centers not around social service provisions but around their traditional laments of too much spending and too little in the way tax cuts, representing only a small percentage of the legislation that is problematic for them. In the meantime the basic needs of low-income families become more and more overwhelming as the poor are caught in the crossfire of this Congressional 'keep it gangsta' ideological showdown.

As new job losses are announced daily, addressing poverty becomes more urgent. Particularly crucial to the survival of the poor and working poor are resources to meet their basic needs and help ease their hardship while also stimulating the economy. These families and individuals are more likely to spend any additional income at once to buy goods and services which helps put money back into the economy immediately.

Recovery package proposals that target direct assistance to low-income households include the following:

1. Food. $20 billion to increasing food stamps, $200 million for nutrition programs for the elderly and $150 million for food banks.

2. Heat. $1 billion to ensure that households who spend a higher share of their income on utility bills, are able to maintain healthy temperatures during the winter and summer months.

3. Shelter. Help to prevent homelessness which will ultimately relieve the strain on the budgets of state and local governments as 1.5 million additional Americans could experience homelessness over the next two years from increases in unemployment. Homelessnes also is associated with drops in resources for rent or mortgage payments and the rise in foreclosures.

4. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. The bill appropriates $4 billion to poor elderly and disabled recipients.

5. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
A new emergency fund to cover 80% of the additional costs faced by states that have increased expenditures for cash assistance, subsidized employment, or temporary help for poor families.

As increasing numbers of individuals and families have nowhere else to turn and rely on a broken safety net which cannot adequately meet their dire needs in a turbulent economic storm, it is crucial to not hold up 98% of a bill which is unchallenged over a problematic 2% as the flood waters continue to rise unabated. For many, there is no time to wait!

Every day is borrowed time. You want to be able to use life as well as death as a form of service to something bigger than you; that makes life meaningful.
Cornel West

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Superbowl and New Definitions of Black Men

In all of the praise heaped upon Coach Mike Tomlin of the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, not one reference that I heard referred to the fact that he was an African American coach. Although Tony Dungy, Tomlin's mentor, was the only other African American football coach to accomplish this feat, the only reference to Tomlin's demographics merely mentioned that he was the youngest coach to win in this 43 year old popular event. Mike Tomlin is a very impressive leader, possessing at the relatively tender age of 36, rare insight, wisdom, professionalism, and character which immediately commands respect from all who come into contact with him.

Tomlin gives some of the credit for his opportunity as head coach to the 2003 Rooney Rule, which was put in place to address the lack of diversity in the NFL coaching ranks. There have been 11 black head football coaches since the rule's inception. While Rooney may have opened the doors for other minority coaches to enter the NFL, it is no secret that NFL teams with coaching vacancies are looking especially for those coaches black or white, that fit the Tomlin mold - young, professional, principled, focused, competent, and articulate.

One of the unintended benefits to the Steelers Superbowl victory may be that it has brought mainstream recognition to an additional image of contemporary black masculinity which counters the thug/gangsta/hypersexualized/urban predator expression. The success in combating anti-social behavior, low educational performance, high incarceration rates and the negative ways that young black males perceive themselves and are perceived by the mainstream media, may be achieved not just by boycotting or protesting against hip-hop culture and pop appeal alone, but by continuing to provide alternative positive images of black male expression such as that of Tomlin, President Barack Obama, and others.

The solution to many of our social and economic problems may come about merely when blacks are no longer a curiosity in positions of authority and institutions where their presence has been a rarity.