Dope Things: “Gangland” by Lecrae

tumblr_static_dope

Gangland is a track from the third installment of Lecrae’s mixtape-album series, Church Clothes.  The whole song itself is good, using the current so-called pathologies of the black community today to set the stage for a trip back in time that details the history of black gangs.  The third verse, by spoken word artist Propaganda, particularly stands out:

Huh, man you tell me
What’s a reasonable man to say?
There’s a high school in Alabama named after Robert E. Lee
And it’s 89% black, you don’t see the irony?
What it do to a psyche, it’s simple
You don’t like me
What I’m supposed to do now
Delusional calling that system criminal “justice”
Where the rich and the guilty are safer
Than the poor and the innocent
Why would we listen
When American churches scuff their Toms
On our brother’s dead bodies as they march
To stop gay marriage
Yo, we had issues with Planned Parenthood, too
We just cared about black lives outside the wombs
Just as much as in
[A] Young man gon’ find purpose somehow
And the [Folk] nation was at least around
And when them Vice Lords told him he was of royal descent
And that war on drugs felt much more
Like war on the poor
He figured “Forget it.”
So why don’t you come stay a while
Tell us that the Son of Man walked on Egyptian
And Eastern soil and wasn’t just a Western construct
That massa used to control us
But what The Master used to free us
And it was a crooked system just like this
That left the King of Kings bloodless
Yeah, we are truly a descendant of a King
Only His reign is infinite
And being right is a distant second to
The joy and compassion
Why don’t you come stay a while? 

I like this verse for two reasons:  One, as a Christian, it speaks to a lot of the problems people have with the American Church today, especially with matters having to do with social justice and racism.  The conservative movement is parasitically aligned with the morals and principles of the evangelical community.  This unholy alliance is no different than any other special interest group, where co-signs, votes, money, and favors are traded for power and influence.   Secondly, it shows that there are many black Christians who aren’t mindless, judgmental sheep, who buy into propaganda.  There are those of us who take the time to study and understand historical context, while maintaining our fatih.

Dope stuff.

Five Observations [so far] on Parenthood

4baby-finger

In a crowd of thoughts, there are several moments in life that are the guy in the red hat, forever conspicuous in our minds:  A first kiss.  A favorite Christmas.  An epic trip.  An amazing night out where you may have done hoodrat things with your friends [and didn’t get arrested].  A spiritual encounter.  That moment at a concert by your favorite artist who is performing your favorite song.  Absolutely none of these things compares to the day you become a parent.  For almost nine months, I’ve been on a sleep-deprived, yet adrenaline-charged, amazing adventure.  Not only have I learned things about my daughter, my wife, and myself, but I’ve learned about life.  Among the many things that I’ve observed and learned, here are five that stand out the most:

  1. The chain reaction of thoughts, on any given day, goes something like this: “She’s so beautiful.” > “Wow. This is an actual freaking human being I helped create.” > “She’s completely helpless and dependent on me for survival.” > “OMG I’m a dad!” Rinse and repeat.
  2. When you hold this tiny life in your arms, all sorts of emotions and thoughts hit you at once to the point that it’s overwhelming.  You cradle her tiny body.  You look in her innocent, mesmerizing eyes.  You smile at her.  She smiles at you.  Then you realize, “I am going to die one day.”  Morbid much?  Well, having the church banquet hall named after you is nice, but a child is living proof of a legacy that you will leave behind.  It’s the realization that you have helped create a new generation.  That realization is the best motivation to work harder than ever to provide a better life for your child.
  3. For ten months, a woman carried a human being inside of her that we both created.  That’s ten months, at any given or sustained time, of back aches, swelling, weight gain, peeing, nervousness, contractions, nausea, mood swings, crying for no reason, and ultimately the pain of childbirth.  After going through all of this, it could take up to two years for her body to fully recover.  At minimum, I should be able to get up and change a diaper.
  4. When you’re single and childless, there are certain spots in your city that you frequent.  As you frequent these spots, you notice and/or become part of the same circles of people who also frequent said spots.  So if I was going out two to three nights in a row, every week, I’m seeing some of the same people everywhere.  Some of these people have kids.  I always imagined them waking up with hangovers, on three hours of sleep, having a kid hanging off of them.  It’s hard enough being single, childless, and functioning at work without coffee.  I couldn’t imagine having to go home and be a parent after a long night out.  Needless to say, I judged you then.  Now that I’m a parent myself, I judge you even more.
  5. With that said, it’s still absolutely possible to enjoy the fun things you once did before you had a child.  All it takes is some planning ahead.  You don’t simply happen to catch the game on TV.  You plan to watch the game.  You don’t wake up and randomly decide to catch brunch with your friends.  You plan that brunch outing two weeks ahead of time, arrange for the baby to sleep over at grandma’s, and then cancel your plans the night before brunch, and sleep in the next morning.  It’s a business decision.  If you have a choice between doing anything fun and sleep, always choose sleep.  Why?  Because at this point in your life, sleep is fun.

With that said, I’m off to have some, “fun.”

The Red Pill: Revising The Revisionist History of MLK in Three Points

MLK

“Omission is worse than lying” – Howard Zinn

A popular segment commonly used for late night talk shows is interviewing people on the street and quizzing them on random trivia.  The most used topics involve history and politics.  Using questions pulled from fifth grade quizzes, people are asked random questions such as, “What are the three branches of government?” and, “Who is the current vice president of the United States?”  People stumble and bomb the answers as the audience laughs.  It’s hilarious… until you realize that some of these people are voters… some of them are in charge of companies… some of them have deeply held beliefs based on what they have heard a political pundit spew on cable news.

For those who paid attention to civics and history in fifth grade, how much do they know past the surface?  Sure, we learn about Columbus “discovering” America.  We learn about the American Revolution, slavery, and the Civil War.  We learn about the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King’s leadership in the movement.  Every January and February, America seemingly comes together to honor Dr. King and his role in the struggle.  Parades are held.  Commercials are run to sell hamburgers.  Documentaries and news segments run, reflecting on the non-violent aspect of the movement.  School assemblies are held in honor of the MLK holiday or Black History Month, where parts of the, “I Have a Dream,” speech are memorized and recited.

It is from these two aspects, the MLK-championed non-violent approach to civil rights and the, “I Have a Dream,” speech, where warm apple pies are baked and, “Gosh, darn’s,” stem from.  It’s where white America disregards the jungles of oppression where battles were fought.  It’s where they conveniently forget the man-made deserts of white supremacy, where instead of guidance to the oasis of the American Dream, more sand was heaped upon.  And it’s where they frolic through their machine-world-constructed, lilly fields of history.   To some in white America, MLK was not a revolutionary, but the magical, docile negro who never said an ill word about America.  He never broke the law or encouraged civil disobedience.  In fact, since he famously dreamed his children would one day, “be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he clearly did not see race.  This is the MLK remembered fondly by white America.  It’s the MLK that Mike Huckabee has recently said would be appalled by the Black Lives Matter movement.  “When I hear people scream, ‘black lives matter,’ I think, ‘Of course they do.’ But all lives matter. It’s not that any life matters more than another… That’s the whole message that Dr. King tried to present, and I think he’d be appalled by the notion that we’re elevating some lives above others.”  This is revisionist history at work.  Every time I see it, I think about it being neatly packaged in a blue pill and pitched, like Apple tv ads, to a customer base including the same people interviewed on those popular late-night tv segments.

Yet, while the machine-world of white America is feeding false realities, I feel compelled to offer the red pill on this matter in the following three doses:

  1. MLK Was a Radical Revolutionary –  The MLK of 1968 was not the same MLK from 1963.  His views had grown more radical.  And though he still championed racial equality, he was seeing the bigger picture:  That beyond the social construct of race, which has been fought historically in America, lied the even greater historical struggle between the haves and the have-nots, those in power and those under the abuse of power.  Before his death, MLK was organizing  a Poor People’s Revolution.  Today, while we debate what the minimum wage should be, MLK advocated for a minimum income.
  2. MLK Was Jeremiah Wright before Jeremiah Wright –  Seeing America’s role in global conflicts, MLK famously opposed the Vietnam War, and even referred to America as, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He called out the disparities between spending millions on war, billions on space exploration, and yet pennies to help its poorest citizens.  We remember Rev. Wright’s renown proclamation, “God damn America.”  Yet, the title of the sermon MLK was to give, before being assassinated was, “Why America May Go to Hell.”
  3. Today, MLK Would Be Grouped With Sharpton & Jesse – The day after MLK’s, “Beyond Vietnam,” speech, he was slammed in the press.  In fact, “slammed,” is putting it lightly because 168 newspapers denounced him, President Lyndon Johnson disinvited him to the White House, and public polls showed he was viewed unfavorably by a majority of Americans, black and white.

Martin Luther King was no Stepin Fetchit.  No second coming of Booker T. Washington.  No Juan Williams to Malcom’s Umar Johnson, as revisionist history would have you believe.  Martin Luther King was a revolutionary.    Toward the end of his life, his views became more radical as he began to see more and more the money and power machine that used racism as a means of control.  Today, we debate about raising the minimum wage.  Imagine someone advocating, in today’s political climate, for a basic minimum income.  He was not someone who simply took the red pill.  He was the red pill for us.

Thinking About My Daughter… And Sandra Bland

police-brutality-pic2

Talib Kweli’s, “The Proud,” deftly plays through my iPhone earbuds as I write this (July 17).  I remember the first time I heard the song, an album cut of Kweli’s “Quality,” which I came across on a road trip to visit a childhood friend in college.  Over 14 years old, the song covers politics, the idea of terrorism during the Timothy McVeigh trial versus in the wake of 9/11, and police brutality.  Listening to Kweli’s second verse on police brutality, there are parts that sound eerily prophetic:

“… I already know the deal but what the f**k do I tell my son?

I want him living right, living good, respect the rules,

He’s five years old, and he’s still thinking cops are cool,

How do I break the news that when he gets some size,

He’ll be perceived as a threat or see the fear in their eyes?”

On April 25th of this year, my life changed for the better.  I became the father to a beautiful, black baby girl.  The way she miraculously arrived in this world – a great story for another day – is just as beautiful as she is.  One of the best parts of my day is going into her room and seeing her awake with a disarming, gummy grin.  Not only heartwarming, it’s an intoxicating reminder of, “Wow.  I’m a parent.”  Partnered with that smile is the vibrant innocence in her eyes.  It’s one of the most amazing things to experience.

It’s also scary.

Trayvonn Martin.  Walter Scott.  Michael Brown.  Eric Garner.  Tamir Rice.  All of these tragedies – the plunder of black bodies as Ta-nehisi Coates would describe – are incidents of police brutality.  Highly publicized, they all involve black males while the stories of the black female bodies brutalized at the hands of police seemingly fly under the radar as if it never occurs.  Then Dajerria Becton happened.  And now Sandra Bland.

“Who they serve and protect? N*gga, not you!”

As a man, having a daughter makes you hyper-aware of women’s issues that you typically wouldn’t think about.  Although she is just a baby, I daydream often about the things I wish to teach my daughter: Having respect for herself and others.  Becoming a lifelong learner.  How to think critically.  Economic empowerment.  No means no.  The importance of faith, not indoctrinated in her but presented to her with the choice to believe or not.  Never drink something handed to her at a party.  No one has the right to violate your body be it parent, friend, relative, or stranger.  And with the previous sentence, I feel like I am lying to her.  Because the incidents involving Dajerria Becton and Sandra Bland are harsh reminders that police brutality is not limited to the black male body.  Due to her skin color, the police have every right to violate her body.  Mommy’s body.  Daddy’s body.  Due to her gender, there are visible and invisible odds, on top of her skin color, that she must face.  It is a war on two different fronts.

Sandra Bland was killed for standing up for her rights.  I say killed because she was wrongfully arrested.  This wrongful arrest ultimately led to her death.  She was taken into custody due to the ego of a state trooper who felt disrespected.  Although he antagonized the situation, the officer has stated that he handcuffed Bland because he felt threatened.  And that is the essence of white supremacy (and sexism):  Pride.  It is a perverted pride that, when light is shed upon it, converts into fear and anger.  This fear and anger manifests in many forms: Violence. Victim-blaming.  Making oneself the victim.  White supremacy, in particular, is poisoned oxygen pumped into the mind, inflating it with pride, fear, and anger.  It irresponsibly uses religion, science, and other means as its justification. It is nothing more than a concept, historically created to control access to wealth while giving a false sense of security.  Historically, it was wielded outright, displayed with overt authority.  Today, due to some progress and some politics, its authority functions more covertly.  This authority of white supremacy is very much alive and well, expressed in the education systems, housing, and the justice system.

Sandra Bland is, sadly, another casualty of this authority.  She was arrested, and ultimately died, for being a light.  Today, we fight.  We write.  We tweet.  We debate. We give.  We continue to shed light on the poisoned fruit of injustice, grown from the seeds of white supremacy, planted in the dark soil of society’s systems.  We shed light on the darkness of that soil so that we can, hopefully, dig up the seeds.  We experience progress.  We experience setbacks.  But we still, hundreds of years later, continue to shed light.  Ida B. Wells was a light.  Du Bois was a light.  Baldwin was a light.  Martin was a light.  Malcom was a light. The message in Talib Kweli’s song is not so much prophetic as it is an echo of these lights.  If there is nothing new under the sun, police brutality, stemmed from white supremacy, are dark places that have managed to survive and hide from the sun’s light.

I pray that my daughter lives a long, full life, benefitting from progress that we make, while still not being afraid to shed that light.

“Kurt Loeder asked me what I’d say to a dead cop’s wife,

Cops kill my people everyday, that’s life”