Category Archives: Cultural Critique

Precious People Along the Way

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” 
― Donald Miller

One of Imagethe best things I have discovered as a pastor is that relationships are more important than missions, money, movements or any of that other good stuff.  As a church family, we are multi-faceted not monolithic and it is our charge to “love one another.”  Through constant worship and praise, fellowship, and changing dynamics we discover who each of us really are.  I’ve pastored several churches and the most memorable things are the people I’ve associated with.  I remember Mother Stokes at Rock of Ages; I cherish her because she adopted me when my mother died in 1994.  I remember Annie Ruth Jones, Woodlawn CME Church, she was loyal to me even when she knew I was wrong; she ensured I had space to grow and develop.  I remember Barbara Harris, Jones Chapel CME Church who was diagnosed with stomach cancer, but God healed her to the astonishment of her doctors.  I remember Paige Perry, Trinity CME, as she weeped and worried that her mother would die; but God lifted her mother up off that hospital bed and she still lives today.  I remember Mother Cornelia Ingram, St. Paul CME,  and Betty Henderson, Trinity CME, who held my foot to the fire and made me accountable.  And my Assistant Pastor (:-) Sister Marianne Acee, St. Paul CME who could get a plan activated much quicker than I could.  Sister Patricia Brassel, Lane Chapel CME, continues to teach me many valuable lessons about relationships and I am so glad to have a big sister like her.

Men were also formative in my journey as pastor.  Gene R. Dean, Larry Anders, Earnest Jarrett, Kenneth Wells, Alvin Jackson, Ronald Turk, Joe Cornelius, Theron Winzer, Willie Bradford, Jr., Green P. Lewis, Dr. Joseph Carter, Nathan Jones, Herman Lewis, Larry Anderson, Willie Prather, Travis Griffin, Malachi Cook, and the many other strong men of our church.  Al Devin Jackson, a young boy whom God gifted to play the piano who had never touched a keyboard, but who prayed and God answered the need of the church for a musician.  Now he’s young man leading music ministry at several churches.  Bishop Joseph C. Coles, my 1st bishop who ordained me deacon and prophesized over my life and ministry.  Bishop Otha H. Lakey, who sheltered me in the time of a storm and who became my father after my biological father passed in 1991.  Bishop Thomas L. Brown, Sr., my present bishop who showed the confidence of the church in my integrity by recommending me as Conference Treasurer.  These men taught me to be strong, courageous, and fair; they leaned in the trenches with me and helped me navigate through dark and deep waters. The list goes on and on.  My point is the people of each church where I have served helped in my personal development in so many ways.

In reflection, I cherish the relationships I’ve had over the years.  They have been more meaningful than any success in missions, money, or movements.  These people and others have been instrumental in teaching me how to love myself and God’s people.  Relationships matter; and when you view people as you should, each person you come in contact with has something to learn from you and something to teach you.  Never discount the value of any relationship you experience; they all matter!  What a blessed life I’ve been priviliged to experience thus far; and the best is yet to come!

Women’s Equal Pay Legislation

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From where I sit this is much ado about nothing. Capitalism is based on market forces of which salary negotiations are a part. Negotiation of salaries stems from the company’s obligation to its shareholders to make as much profit as possible. So, although a budget has been set which outline salary caps, what shrewd CEO is going to pay more than he/she has to whether its a man or a woman. The laws of capitalism demand certain principles to remain in effect of which negotiation for best price is key. I would think women would just need to learn about salary negotiations during the recruiting process and then demand more in wages and benefits rather than waiting on a law that cannot be enforced based on our government system.

Recently, an employee of the Sears Corporation was offered a job at $10 per hour.  She refused and counteroffered with $16; after much wrangling between her and HR, they settled on $15.  This woman knew her worth and set a fair market price on her services. She stood her ground and because the company valued her experience and expertise, they negotiated with her and together created a win-win situation.  

That is the way capitalism works and should be the way women help to close the wage gap.  Governmental regulations which mandate certain pay for certain jobs should not be included in the process when hiring salaried vs. hourly employees.

A Rare Jewel

A jewel in its natural state appears worthless; its value hidden underneath layers of hard, calloused material. It has to be cultivated with care and appreciation for the hidden value within. The person who cultivates the jewel must have a vision and purpose for the finished product. That person must commit to the time, patience, and passion required to unearth the its value for all to see.

The Bible reads: “Whosoever finds a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

The word “finds” is used in the same sense of a person seeking a jewel. A true wife is a rare jewel, cultivated by her husband. When the husband first sees his wife she may not look valuable to others, but that husband sees her through spiritual eyes. He has a vision of her future as related to his own. He has purpose for her related to the vision God has given him.

A man cannot be so shallow as to marry a pretty face, a nice body, or even a cultured woman. External beauty fades and culture is related to the environment. A man should marry the woman whose inner beauty and strength, once cultivated, fits his purpose.

When a man marries “a help meet suitable” for the vision that possesses him, God will favor him and bless the family. That marriage will be strong because it will be based on a God given vision and purpose that is eternal.

Single men pray for God’s vision for your life, pursue that because your wife is along that path. Single women develop your gifts and remain flexible as you serve God in this world. If you want a husband and you’re doing God’s will, he’s coming. Let him find you pleasing the Lord for that is a sure sign you can please him.

Injustice for Jordan Davis

Jordan Davis stood his ground;  it cost him his life. His crime – refusing to obey a white man.

In March of 1857,   Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of the US Supreme Court opined two things: 1) a slave could never become a citizen; and 2) blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. ..”  Our justice system has once again revealed that there are some among us who still feel the same way today. 

Wake up people;  freedom of blacks to exercise their citizenship is on trial!  The pot is being stirred for civil war among the races.  Harriet Tubman once said, “I had reasoned out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to,  liberty or death; if I could not have one,  I would have the other. ”

The youth have a right to be young: loud music, parties,  rebellion, risky behavior, insubordination.  We’ve all been young, and no one shot us for it. Adults just shook their heads at us or attempted to reprimand us.  They most certainly didn’t go get their guns, come back and shoot us.

People of goodwill must rally against this type of provocation. When good people remain silent during crises that demand a response,  we all suffer.  Dr. King, Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ” 

This verdict is unjust!

What do I do when I sense sorcery afoot

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Do you sense something supernatural being used against you? Are you experiencing something surreal, something too real to be true? Have you ever sung “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right?” 

Anything that pleases you but displeases God is cause for concern. You may be engaged in spiritual warfare of the sorcery kind. You may have been bewitched (Galatians 3:1). 

Numbers 23 contains an excellent example of how God’s people, minding there own business, were targeted by Satan. But God intervened with a word. Hallelujah!

First, accept it as a real attack of the enemy. You are not dreaming or losing your mind. Throughout the Bible God’s people had to deal with witchcraft, sorcery, and divination (Acts 8 & 16). This tool of the enemy is used by enlisting both spiritual and secular people. It is a powerful tool because God’s people crave spiritual power. But Jesus cautioned against trusting in power. Jesus emphasized salvation as the surest source of victory (Luke 10:16-20).

Second, pray to God and communicate with all affected by this attack. When you sense someone is using sorcery against you, be still. Go to God’s Word, build your faith and pray. This is really a time for fasting and prayer. Also tell those mature enough in the Spirit to join you in prayer. If this attack is targeted toward destruction of your intimate relationships or ministry, talk to those involved about your intuition. Let them know that you are waiting on a word from the Lord. When you’re incapable of discernment about the next steps, sing order my steps Lord. 

Third, remain steadfast. In other words, keep doing right because it’s right. Do not work in concert with your emotions, especially those emotions that are contrary to God’s Word. Keep doing and being the person you were before you perceived you were under attack. When things seem too good to be true, they probably are. Stay true to what you know is God’s will and make no excuses not to do it. If you’re hurting someone whose done you no wrong and for no reason, believe me when I tell you the devil is out to destroy you.

Finally, let God’s Word lead you through the storm until God’s love delivers you. As Jekalyn Carr sings “Greater is Coming!” God is greater than any spiritual curse the devil can try to use against you. Faithfulness, persistence will be the key to your breakthrough. Our God is awesome, remember that.

A Family that Stands Together

Duck Dynasty won because Phil Robertson’s family refused to continue without him. A & E said its core company values were “inclusion & mutual respect. ”  What Robertson said didn’t conflict with those values but they offended some people and rightly so.  How can we have a genuine conversation about issues of race and sexuality if we silence voices with whom we disagree?

Of note for us is what Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. ” A&E was a house divided and they retracted their decision.  This is a lesson for us as a people,  we need to stand together towards some common goals in 2014.  We need to refuse to compromise even if others are offended.  Dr. King taught, “If you don’t stand for something,  you’ll fall for anything! ”

Take a stand in 2014!

Sagging and Twerking: Cultural Expressions of an Angry Generation

Sagging

According to Judge Greg Mathis, Retired African-American Judge of the 36th District Court of the State of Michigan, sagging was adopted from the United States prison system.  Belts were sometimes prohibited to prevent prisoners from using them as weapons or committing suicide by hanging themselves. Due to the rampant incarceration of black men, children were lost in a world of no positive male role models.  In fact they began to lead themselves in such groups known as “gangs.”  Additionally a lack education specifically tailored to opportunities to assimilate within the larger society, led to these practices becoming main stream.  Hip-hop artist popularized it in the 1990s.  Sagging has now become a symbol of freedom and cultural awareness among some youths or a symbol of their rejection of the values of mainstream society. (Wiki, 2014)

Twerking

Twerking (/ˈtwɜrkɪŋ/) is a type of dancing in which the dancer, usually a woman, shakes her hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer’s buttocks to shake, “wobble” and “bounce”. According to Oxford Dictionaries, to twerk is “to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance” (Wiki, 2014).

This practice has gone viral.  Twerking videos of black girls as young as 2 years old have been posted on websites such as World Star Hip Hop and YouTube.  In these videos pedophiles can relax and drool at the sight of such young flesh being prepared for their perversity.  Likewise, the prostitution and sex trafficking industry seems to have influenced black, misguided parents to promote this practice among their children by using hip-hop artist and their denigrating music.

Commentary

These practices prepare black youth for either prison or the sex industry.  No self-respecting person would publicly engage in either of these two practices.  These practices reflect, “Black Rage” (Grier and Cobbs, 1968/1980).  According to Grier and Cobbs (1968/1990), the practice of training boys to survive among white oppression developed hostility in them toward their mothers consequently producing a disdain and hatred of all black women (p.62-63).  What man filled with love for his daughter would allow her to twerk?

This rage represents the anger that black men have toward black women for teaching them to subdue their aggressiveness in order to appease an oppressive society. A society in their view which offers no solutions to poverty, and that keeps them from participating in the American Dream. Rage is anger personified and can be expressed in many dissociative behaviors, sagging and twerking being two chosen by this current generation of young black youth along with gang violence and crime.  Bishop George D. McKinney (2005) writes, “Buried rage is powerful.  And when that vicious animal is loosed, it doesn’t care a whit about consequences, only about retribution” (p.70)

Evidences of rage within our youth can be heard throughout our community: in hip-hop songs, spoken word cafe’s, church youth groups, and other venues youth tell us that something is wrong within their psyche.  Black youth “feel sorry for themselves, have other emotions bottled up inside them, and see God as a stern father as opposed to a loving God” (McKinney, p.72-73).  Such emotional turmoil produces uncontrollable, unregulated, and disruptive acts of rage.  Sagging and twerking are what is termed passive-aggressive acts of rage and unless black leaders properly diagnose and address these signs of rage, our youth will only become more expressive in an attempt to get our attention.

Action Steps

According to Carter G. Woodson (1990), “the negro easily leans to follow the line of least resistance rather than battle against odds for what real history has shown to be the right course” (p.63).  Having been taught to subdue disappointment and submit to aggression youths have mastered the art of fighting through avenues of least resistance.  How else could sagging and twerking become so prominent in our communities except that adults were not paying attention to the youth.  Someone, some sage in the community should have been watching and ensuring that such deviant behaviors would not become the norm because such behaviors do not reflect black culture.  Such behaviors are a response to being ignored, marginalized, and undervalued.

Thus, black leaders from our communities need to reestablish their presence in our communities, especially where these behaviors have erupted.  They must return and care for their children.  Leaving the black community with no positive role models for the suburbs and hills of Beverly while countless black youth exist disillusioned and angry in urban settings can only produce more chaos.

The television show George Jefferson applauded “moving on up to the eastside,” a place where affluent whites lived.  This show led black leaders to think that if they distanced themselves from their origins they would be more acceptable to the white community.  This has proven to be a flawed strategy and now even the children of the affluent blacks are sagging and twerking.  Black rage is not limited to urban settings; it is prominently displayed throughout the country and indeed the world.  The phenomenon has taken root as far away as Great Britain.  In King’s Cross, London, England, the first ever twerking contest was held granting a prize of $324.  Youth are expressing their rage against a society that does not care.  It is time for black leaders to care for their children, to exemplify redemptive love for a youth culture that no longer values itself.

The best and the brightest of black men and women have been taken out of our communities just as the King of Babylon took the leaders out of Jerusalem when he invaded and destroyed that city.  The King of Babylon knew that without leadership, indoctrinating and controlling the masses would be less problematic.  Sagging and twerking are not problems that need legal solutions; they are problems that need a heart solution.  As Marvin Gaye sang, “Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother there’s far too many of you dying.  You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today – Ya.”

If we don’t show our black children we care and that they have a right to opportunities and teach them to fight for those rights then they will continue to wallow in the mire of sagging and twerking.  It’s time for black leadership to step up and do the right thing!

References:

McKinney, George D. (2005). The new slave masters. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries.

William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs (1968/19980). Black rage. New York City, NY: Basic Books, Inc.

Woodson, Carter G. (2005). The miseducation of the negro. Nashville, TN: Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc.

Sagging (fashion). Taken from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagging_(fashion).

Twerking. Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/twerking