Tuesday, December 29, 2015

contemplations of Kwanzaa

Unity/Umoja: Psalms 133:1. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.

Self-determination Kujichagulia: Timothy 4:12. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

Collective Work and Responsibility/ Ujima: 1 Corinthians 12:21-25. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Cooperative economics/ Ujamaa: Hebrew13:16. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Purpose/Nia: Mathew 6:33.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Creativity/Kuumba: Romans 12:1-2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Faith/Imani: Mathew 17:20 If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Journal of my trip to Zululand for the South African Traditional Music Awards

Its been a bit more than a month, but this is the first time that I have been able to sit down and formally document my last trip to South Africa. I was blessed to be invited to witness the 10th Annual South African Traditional Music Achievement Awards (SATMA). And in all of my sojourns to the beautiful nation of South Africa, this remains one of the most powerful and cultural experiences that I have had. 
I departed Los Angeles aboard the beautiful and elegant Emirates Airlines on a 15 hour marathon flight to Dubai. The Airbus A360 is a huge aircraft that is quite modern classy and even in economy has all of the tech gadgets. The entertainment alone features 200 channels of music, movies, games and the best maps of your flight experience. We flew northeast out of Southern California exiting the North American continent over Northern Canada. The flight took us over Nova Scotia, the tip of Iceland, Sweden, Russia, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and into Dubai. I was so surprised as I perused the in-flight map, because a lot of the cities we flew near were cities, in America were associated with the war on terror. wow...

Some would say, whew 15 hours is a long flight. It is. But with the state of the art entertainment system I was able to pass the time away by viewing selections form the movie menu, and the music menu. I started my entertainment delights with Ant-Man..... *sigh*  So after struggling though some half of that film, I changed over to the radio channel which featured several choices of African Music. After all, I was travelling to the Continent. Let me just say that Fela Kuti is one of the most awesome artists in the entire world. Then I saw a section entitled Box Sets. This is where I found Marvin Gaye. And Stevie Wonder. You know I was in heaven. When I selected Stevie, I listened to Music of my Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life, Hotter than July, and A Time to love.... each in its entirety, back to back, chronologically. This made my flight complete Nirvana... 

As I descended into United Arab Emirates airspace, I would see the miles and miles of desert. I could see the magnificent lights of Dubai, A glittering oasis in a sea of desert sand. I would disembark my plane and sit out a 12-hour layover..... As I spent the night in Terminal 1 of the Dubai International Airport, I contemplated my new experience. As big as this place is, I felt a bit confined. I did not receive a hotel voucher but rather had to wander about the terminal for half the night before settling in for a bit of sleep in a chair alongside hundreds of like travellers. This airport is huge! and it's a major shopping destination.. The Dubai Duty Free is one of the largest shopping malls in the world and it makes the airport terminal look like a shopping mall. It's a mall with airport gates!
The airport at Dubai is a monstrous location as Dubai is a major hub for all international destination of the east. And as I look around there are all kinds of people from the Afro-Asiatic diaspora. This is the United Arab Emirates so most of the people coming through here are Arab/Muslim. I can't help but reflect how Malcolm X felt when he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. I've seen Muslims of all races.. Arab, black, black African, what looks to be white, Asian, southeast Asian.. all kinds of people. I'm also struck by the strong African presence in the airport. It is a powerful reminder that there are 52 countries on the continent of Africa and all of those nations are seemingly travelling through his airport.

I see the Muslim women dressed in the traditional head to toe garb. It's funny because a lot of these women's husbands are dressed in shorts, sandals and polo shirts. This is a hodge podge of eastern society. And yes, this is a Muslim nation so I've heard the prayer calls. And I've noticed that just as there are directions to the restrooms, first aid, lost and found, etc., there are signs directing one to the prayer room. Yes. This is Dubai, gateway to the middle east. And now as I sit waiting for the flight to Durban, I grow anxious to see and hear the sights that await me in South Africa.

signs and sights of Dubai Airport
It is an 81/2 hour flight from Dubai to Durban. The flight departs the United Arab Emirates heading south along the eastern coast of Africa. We fly over Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, landing in Durban, a South African coastal city that is the center of the KwaZuluNatal Province - The Kingdom of the Zulus. It was raining and dark when we arrived at the King Shaka International Airport. After passing through customs I was me by mt driver Godfrey, whose African name I learned was Njinji. He took me to the Coastlands Hotel where we had dinner from a diverse buffet menu consisting of chicken, mutton, lamb, fish and steak. The next morning was drizzly but I awoke to a great view of the Durban area. After breakfast, our coordinator Sduzo took us to a mall that adjoined the hotel. Contrary to most American perceptions, South Africa's cities are cosmopolitan or Afropolitan as they call it. In my immediate area, we have KFC - yes. A Harley Davidson dealership and the Gatewood Mall. This mall features all the top designer stores and it makes you pinch yourself because the only indicator that we are still in Africa is the amount of black people and the languages spoken. The mall was very nice, we walked around a bit before meeting our police detail who would escort us throughout the rest of the trip. After all we were part of a delegation that featured Dr. Sarah Obama, the grandmother of President Obama.

We piled into the official vehicles and with sirens and lights blazing, we rolled onto the freeway headed to the center of Zululand. It was a two and a half hour drive to our destination which was in the town of Richards Bay, home of one of the world
patio area and honesty bar of Umhambi Lodge
s largest harbors. Once we hit town, the police escorted us to the beach. It was a hot day and understandably the beach was crowded. Our lodging was located about one mile from the waves in a charming bed and breakfast that had we cabins and an honesty bar. Yes, one goes to the bar and gets his own beer or wine, writes it in a book and settles up upon check out. Amazing!

We were taken to North Coast Radio - a community based station which broadcasts in Zulu and boasts a very active and responsive listener audience of about 150,000 in the immediate area. I say active because there were a few listeners standing outside when we emerged from the studio waiting to get a glimpse of these African Americans. We walked the adjoining shopping center to get a bite of lunch from Nando's, a restaurant chain that features chicken much like our own El Pollo Loco. From there we rushed to the University of Zululand which was the site for the SATMA Awards weekend.

I must admit that I was not ready for what we witnessed as we hit the red carpet for the opening night pre-show. We were greeted by thousands of screaming fans who chanted, screamed and even rushed our policed secured vehicles. It was impressive to see the love that the Zulus have for the Obamas - and us. It was overwhelming to hear and see that they were ecstatic that we were there.

opening choir breaks out in Nay Nay
At the pre-show, we were escorted to the fist row of the venue. The show was a mix of award presentations that would not make the national television broadcast and a comedy show. This was a first in my life.. I sat in a two and a half hour comedy show by some of South Africa's top comedians.... and didn't understand a WORD of what was happening. Meanwhile the 10,000 in attendance were rolling in the aisles with laughter.... The consolation for me as a lover of music, was that I was aware and familiar of some of the artists nominated. One category struck me and has elicited an opinion. In the Best Afro Soul category the nominees were Unathi, Choko, Simphiwe Dana and Moneoa. Coko won. I have all of these CDs and while each one has its own exceptional merit, I do not feel Choko should have won. That's not a diss. It's an opinion.

After the pre-show, we returned to the lodge and spent the warn late night at the poolside patio area. The place was humming with quiet activity as there was a party in the small events area next to the honesty bar. There were 18 of us from Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Swaziland, South Africa and South LA/Inglewood... The United Nations of Africa. It was a truly awesome experience kicking it with the diaspora. Good times, Good conversation, Good people.

it was incredible at SATMA
The Parade
The next day, we headed back to the venue for a day of activities and the main event. The nationally televised SATMA Awards. First, we event was ignited by a very traditional parade. The highlight of the experience , this parade featured a marching band and one thousand girls dancing and chanting in traditional Zulu garb. most were topless. yes. That's how they get down. The sound was ROCKIN and the energy was unlike anything I have ever witnessed in life. The direct connections to what we do here in America in terms of the HBCU bands and the dances were evident. It was an exceptional experience.

The Awards show was quite a spectacle. The opening number was a representation of every culture in South Africa. All the different tribes, the white folks and the Indian folks.. It was amazing! Everyone was dressed in traditional attire. There were high ranking government officials, local officials and provincial officials. It was a tremendous gatehring. And I have got to share how the huge choir in the opening number broke out in the Nay Nay during thier very traditional presentation.

SATMA Awards
All in all and while I have travelled to South Africa several times, This was hands down one of the best and deeply cultural experiences. It was not a touristy experience. It was deeply cultural It was awesome. It was antoher level.

I've been able to journal the experience and post it on this blog. If you would like to see the complete photo album, It's here on facebook

fascinating Zulu dancers at SATMA

SATMA Awards

Dance baby girl!!!

Village mothers

The village mothers marching in to salute Dr. Obama

Our caterer is a camera star!!

The village came out to salute Dr. Obama

Dr. Sarah Obama, Step-Grandmother of President Barack Obama

The village mothers came to salute Dr. Sarah Obama

The village mothers saluting Dr. Sarah Obama

Our host Dusami Goba sharing remarks 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

In Defense of Bishop Blake

I have been a member of West Angeles Church of God in Christ since 1987. I am a minister in training aspiring to move forward in my calling. I serve as the Recording Secretary for the West Angeles Community Development Corporation. Through my job as Marketing Director of KJLH Radio, a station that has served the African American Community of Southern California for 50 years, I have a birds eye, frontline view of the issues of our community and at many times am the catalyst for communication and solutions in our community.

I have been following the story of Elder Earl Carter since last year’s “I’m not Gay No Mo’” situation. And as I thought the issue had run its course, I see it has taken an unfortunate and ugly turn. I see some incredible allegations, vicious insinuations and some straight up lies. Please allow me the liberty to offer some observations:

Bishop Blake: I am blessed to interact with a plethora of Bishops, ministers, elders, politicians and community leaders from every aspect of the community. Accordingly I bear witness that Bishop Charles Edward Blake is a leader among leaders. There is none like him. Not in this City. The work he has done in our community and indeed across the globe is unmatched. It is a living testament that he sees the ills of our community and has activated the Church to be a central and essential catalyst for solutions toward the betterment therein. The man exudes honesty, fairness, integrity, humility, and excellence. Without question. It is hard to fathom how people can launch an attack on Bishop Blake with such insidious and twisted accusations. 

 Bishop Blake on Homosexuality: I have NEVER heard Bishop Blake come anywhere near approving or endorsing homosexuality. In fact, in my years as a member of the church, he has always been quite serious about the preservation of the family. Marriage being a Godly union between a man and a woman. He has always been about the sanctity of marriage. He has always pushed the men to be men. He has always been against ANY type of sexual immorality. I would call Bishop Blake a man’s man. I have heard Bishop Blake strongly speak out against homosexuality again and again. I keep hearing these stories and with all due respect, this notion that Bishop Blake endorses homosexuality is patently ridiculous. Farcical. In fact, when he was the Jurisdictional Bishop ordaining the new elders, it always struck me that he made it a point to insist and encourage the new elders to rebuke and refrain from sexual immorality. As a man, I have always appreciated this message from the pastor. Even when folks criticized him for endorsing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that criticism fell short to me because the signing of that document had nothing to do with endorsing gay marriage. The gay community has manipulated the core concept of that historic document to fit their cause just as they have manipulated the message of the Civil Rights Movement to promote their agenda and we fall for it. Bishop’s signing of the document is to endorse world peace and justice. Now THAT’s honorable. 

Bishop Blake and Bishop Husband: Really? Come now... Cut it out right now.

 The Apology (after the I’m not Gay No’ Mo’ incident): I too was saddened and flabbergasted by the entire incident. And as a broadcaster, I still say, no microphone, no incident. While the young man answered the altar call to claim his deliverance from homosexuality, I still find myself questioning his credibility and sincerity. I see a book by the same name(I’m not Gay No More), I see a song that generated a healthy amount of downloads, the viral nature of his proclamation of deliverance fulfilled his lust for fame. A lust he has coveted publicly on interviews. The two weeks after the convocation gave that man an international platform that he exploited to the fullest. Even here at home, the air personalities at the radio station where I am employed had a field day with it. It was painful. Yet, the actions that the Church took to damage control the situation were effective. And in my opinion the apology issued by Bishop Blake was correct and proper at that instance. I do feel that Bishop’s magnanimous position was weakened by Andrews insistent presence in the media. Instead of the story dying, we saw Andrew resurfacing in ridiculous situations that are to me, an attempt to milk the last drops of fame from of his Internet stardom. He is making a mockery of the church and he should have just sat himself down somewhere and concentrated on his “deliverance”. 

Elder Earl Carter: So the man of God has taken on a vendetta against Bishop Blake. Certainly, one has to actually take note of his language and delivery in his sermon on that fateful night. I actually get what he was saying and admittedly I tend to agree with some of what he said. However; I definitely feel that he should have chosen a different verbal strategy to make his points. I understand the passion and disdain he has for these open displays of effeminacy and homosexuality at church events particularly the Holy Convocation. It is indeed shocking and completely adverse to who we are and what we represent not to mention the effect these sights have on those who have their children attending the event. But to what gain does abusive elocution achieve? So for me, Bishop Blake’s statement is accurate. He says the man of GOD’s choice of words were inappropriate. I agree. They were. Bishop also says his statement in no way compromises the Church’s stance on homosexuality. He was clear. We still believe homosexuality is wrong. Period. In these days and times, we need the men of GOD to be unified in our stance against homosexuality. They are forcing same sex marriage on the church. Instead of helping to create strategy on how to deal with this, we are hurling insidious and libelous accusations. Its OK to disagree about the method of delivery as we stand on Godly Principles, but now, more than ever we need to be on one accord as to how to deal with this. This argument strengthens the homosexual agenda. Why go so far to advance such evil lies about Bishop Blake??

The Gomes situation: Ok. This is the gift that keeps on giving. Gomes came to West Angeles years ago. And now he’s dead. I am so sorry to all those that keep holding this up as evidence that Bishop Blake is supportive and endorses homosexual lifestyles. First of all I was there that Sunday. The firestorm that ensued after Gomes preached is unfortunate. As a member, in hindsight, I see how folk would object to him being in the pulpit at our church. From a pew-view, perhaps we should have done more research to see his background.. maybe we were blinded by the Harvard-ness. I don’t know. But all that being said, in all the years of this story, I have failed to see how this is powerful and convincing evidence that Bishop Blake is supporting the LGBT agenda. And to infer or straight accuse that Bishop Blake had some sort of inappropriate relationship with Gomes is utterly ridiculous. Libelous, disrespectful, ill informed and downright stupid. Shame on whomever is spreading that one. 

Magic Johnson: I bring him up because most name Earvin when advancing the notion of homosexual support at West Angeles. Yes, Magic Johnson and other celebrities are members of West Angeles Church of God In Christ. Don’t stars and celebrities need the LORD too? A lot of us entertainment industry executives attend also. Not because it’s some Hollywood event, but because we need to hear the Word of GOD. Now, trust and believe I am not financially blessed like Earvin and others but they aren’t going to get me to heaven. The notion that his membership somehow demonstrates Bishop Blake’s endorsement of homosexuality is ridiculous. Yes. we in the community were disappointed with Mr. Johnson’s stance against Proposition 8. I know I was.  Most disagreed with him. And I don’t know because I am not in the one on one conversations between Bishop Blake and Magic Johnson, but If I were to speculate, I am sure that made for healthy debate between the two because Bishop Blake is positively and vociferously against same sex marriage. My further speculation and this one is really deep – Magic’s life perspectives are complex in this area. He has had to interact with the Gay community because of his HIV status, that was, after all, the most affected population. But you must admit that the nation had to do something about this deadly disease. And so he lent his name and face to the fight against HIV/AIDS. We can disagree at this association if we want, but one must admit that said interactions have resulted in increased awareness and even better access to the necessary medicines and treatments needed to combat this deadly epidemic.  I think we can say that this man is saving lives!!! I don’t think we need to turn our backs on Earvin Magic Johnson. I don’t think we cast him out of the church. We can disagree. But we must continue to love and support this man who is mainly about the community development and uplift of our people. We can disagree with his position back then on Prop 8 and we can tell him so. He’s accessible! And so we did. And he is still in church. Praise God!

West Angeles Church – I want you to understand that West Angeles Church of God in Christ is a biblical ministry of excellence. Keyword: biblical. Folk across the nation seem to be critical of the church. The church doesn’t in anyway shape form or fashion endorse homosexuality. We are consistent with the Word of GOD and the doctrines of the Church of God in Christ. Sure, stars attend the church. As they should. They need salvation too. And it wasn’t just their money that built our beautiful cathedral. Us normal folks got some significant dollars on it too!!

 B. Slade(aka Tonex): Another example that folk use to say Bishop Blake endorses homosexuality.  I was at that John P Kee Concert. When Bishop Blake opens the door of the 5,000 seat Cathedral to the community for a gospel concert, it is always free and always features the top gospel artists of the day. It is a major event in the City. The community anticipates these events because as a major edifice and beacon of hope in the ‘hood, it is awesome that West A gives back to the community in this manner. The industry also comes out (LA is one of the strongest retail markets for gospel music and the gospel stars come out). In the gospel world it is the place to be. And so this is the context that the artist B. Slade was at the Cathedral that night. Those of us from the radio station were surprised actually because he is doing R&B now and he has had so much controversy in recent years. But as is the nature of a live gospel performance, John P. Kee called him up and others as an impromptu musical guest. It wasn’t planned or scripted. It was a “pass the mic” sort of thing. So to say Bishop Blake “allowed” this is inaccurate. It is something that happened in context of the concert. As to the assertion that nothing was said, you don’t know what was said. We don’t know. So to assume Bishop "allowed" this is again.. ridiculous.    

In the grand scheme of governance of the Church of God in Christ, my observations herewith are just comments from the peanut gallery. You may not even read this.  However, my words are true, wholly accurate.  I’m a humble man of GOD. I’m faithful to the Church of God in Christ. I’m faithful to West Angeles Church of God in Christ. I see what I see and I hear what I hear. And certainly, the accusations are evil, libelous, misdirected, ill-informed, crazy and utterly ridiculous lies.  

Bishop Charles Edward Blake is morally centered. Right thinking. And to suggest anything other than that is just wrong. And as a member of the Grand Old Church of God in Christ, I whole-heartedly object to the accusations made against the Presiding Bishop.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Kim Davis: A Prideful Look is an abomination

So over in Kentucky, we have been hearing about the County Clerk Kim Davis who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. She refused to do so because of her spiritual beliefs. This is an interesting spiritual case. As I watched this whole drama unfold, it has caused me to deeply analyze a woman who stands on her faith. And often over these last few days I wondered how I would stand on my faith if faced with the same situation. Some would say she should resign. Perhaps. But then again perhaps not. I actually respected her for standing on her spiritual principle, however, her words and "prideful look" has since changed my analysis of her position.

I get and understand her spiritual position in the same sex marriage license situation. But I am uncomfortable with the tone and imaging of the rally after her release..... inasmuch that the Bible speaks about homosexuality and defines marriage, it also speaks about and defines humility.... imo the rally, although she has a right to be happy to get out of jail, was a display of pride.... and the LORD hates prideful looks... additionally, how did her spiritual stance get convoluted to a political grandstand..... why isn't her pastor standing by her side instead of or in addition to politicians? the lines are blurred... and folk are blinded by the thirst of notoriety.... after all the Clerk is an elected position so Kim is a politician. 

How much of this is Ministry and how much is this politics?

Just as the Christian will point out homosexuality as a sin, indeed an abomination to God, the Christian needs to point out that a proud look is also something that the LORD hates, and indeed is an abomination to Him. Kim Davis has a "proud look". You may reference Proverbs 6:16-19 and more succinctly Proverbs 16:5. Pride is an abomination to the LORD. All the images, all the sound bytes of Kim Davis as she is released from jail reflect a definite prideful look. Thus she is under sin just as much as the homosexual..... sin is sin... and takes many forms and to your point, we all will be judged by God. 

When the Bible speaks about and against homosexuality, it also includes a whole menu of sins which fall into the same category.. most will use 1 Corinthians 6:9 as their platform against homosexuality and will often stop at that verse because it ends with the word homosexual, and they will harp on it as the example of God's displeasure with the lifestyle. but it is not the end of the sentence. Verse 10 goes on to include thieves, the covetous, the drunkard, the reviler and the swindler. Further in verse 11 reminds us that there is hope of justification in Jesus.... The point is, that sin is sin. We can't judge, however we must be against all sin.. we can't judge, but we have a choice.. to live by God's law or not. And in the case of homosexuality it is against God's Law. But do I judge the homosexual? No. Do I hate the homosexual? certainly not. We should be against the sin just as we are against all of the other sins listed in the text we have quoted here. So just as vehemently as the Christian will decry homosexuality, we need to be sweeping our own front door and make sure we vehemently check any sin are subsceptible to... fornication, adultery, thievery, swindling, pride. We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.... 

Again, my post is not about judgement for God will judge us all. It is about a Christian who made a point to stand her ground based on her faith which at a certain point was quite admirable but as she emerged from the jailhouse, she wore a "prideful look". This post is questioning her prideful look. the analysis is valid... the point is clear... Her stance is one of pride.... she has secularized a spiritual position.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

African Americans. A tree with no roots

As I look across the headlines, it seems that racial hatred is rearing its ugly head with a vengeance. It appears that we are still unwanted in this country - these United States of America. It's not an unfamiliar feeling. In fact, there is a significant number of African Americans who would long to see Africa and reconcile their inner yearning for the Motherland.

I organize trips to South Africa. Along with my partner at African Angel Tours we have created a tour for music lovers known as the South African Jazz Tour. We strive to tap into the rich musical tapestry of South Africa while connecting African Americans with the essence of their long lost African Heritage. A heritage that's been denied through a distinct American historical legacy of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and second class citizenship. This legacy has left today's African American with a deep yearning in the soul for a connection with our African consciousness.

This consciousness is spiritual in nature. I can see a visible awakening in each of our travellers as they embark on their African dream experience. This consciousness is the single most significant impetus for their decision to participate and invest in the trip. They desire to reconcile a cultural yearning for heritage that has been heretofore defined by American standards. No. Even as slave holders tried through brutality, religion and murder to remove any hint of our African culture from us, Even through slavery, prejudice, reprogramming, severe discrimination, our African nature has survived. Yes, our African Consciousness has survived a legacy that would steal, kill or destroy any connection to the Motherland. No. We weren't born in Africa. We don't know the nations, the tribes, the languages, the customs, folkways and mores. We don't know our name. Yet, it is undeniable that our African tendencies are yet indelibly inscribed in our DNA to this present day. Musically our soulful rhythms know their origins from the Continent. Even as we were stolen away from the Motherland and brought into the Americas against our will, the soul of our Africanness survived.

My last group of African Americans were anxious and excited for the journey I was about to share with them. We were ready for an unmatched cultural experience. The trip started with great and profound introspect. Our visit to the Apartheid Museum was a sobering reality check into where we were... South Africa. Land of intense racial division. The journey of Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters came alive. Our visit to the majestic Pilanesberg National Park showed us the incredible displays of nature. As we descended on Capetown, our musical appetite was satisfied as we visited the Capetown international Jazz Festival. Our cultural and historical consciousness is vastly stimulated as we visit Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years. We see the vestiges of Apartheid... We can relate to the struggle. Yes. South Africa's struggle is much like our own. We are one. These are our brothers and sisters. We are home.....or not.

This is the part where we were rudely reminded that perhaps, our African brothers and sisters did not see us as we see them. Perhaps they don't even want us there. We have a tremendously exciting element of our tour called the Jazz Safari. Here we venture into the township and visit a Jazz musician's home. His wife cooks dinner and we are treated to an awesome display of music. Our African guide, who is supposed to set the stage by giving us a history of South African Jazz and music, started out ok, but then began tell us how Americans have stolen African rhythms and now claim them was our own. He said we call ourselves African Americans but we aren't African. We are just Americans. We should be proud of where we were born. He let us know that there is nothing African about us. We were shocked.. Hurt... Flabbergasted...

This guy wounded us deeply. One of our travellers had been on the front line at Ferguson and most of us were old enough to know the essence of the struggle in America. We were hurt and offended. This guide singlehandedly incinerated the euphoria that most felt during the entire trip.

We spent considerable time and energy trying to debate the young man however it was soon apparent that he wasn't going to get it. And in the end, he didn't want to get it. This brotha was going to have to read more deeply. He was going to have to take it upon himself to become more knowledgeable about the Diaspora. Maybe just maybe he would eventually become enlightened. Sadly it took the group a couple of days to recover from this revelation. That night we just refused to hear anymore from this guy and in fact executed an economic embargo on him, unanimously refusing to give him a gratuity. Yes. an economic embargo.

In the end, I believe that a lot of Africans hold this view. It's possible that while we are over here dressing in African clothes and filling our homes with African art, that our brothers and sisters are over there on the continent laughing at us. In America, our legacy has made us as unto a tree in the river of American history. Yet, we are a tree with no roots. Not welcome here in the land of the free and not wanted in the land of our ancestors. But then again, this is a case for the need to tell our story, control our images, be a steward of our cultures.. worldwide so that the young will know. Like my mother used to say... never forget..... Africa Unite!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This is the Church of God In Christ: A Contemplation

I am joined into the Church of God in Christ.

There is a church song which says, “This is the Church of God in Christ, you can’t join in, you have to be born in”… These lyrics have always troubled me because although I have been in church most of my life, I was raised in a Baptist church. In fact, my childhood pastor, Dr. C.H. Hampton, was good friends with Bishop J. A. Blake, the father of Presiding Bishop C.E. Blake. The notion that you have to be born in has always troubled me because the Church of God in Christ is the denomination that I belong to. I mean BELONG to. When I came to myself and called on the name of the Lord to cleanse me and set me free, it was to the Church of God in Christ that HE guided me. It was the Church of God in Christ where I re-dedicated my life to Christ. It was at the Church of God in Christ that I got baptized for the third time in my life. It is in the Church of God in Christ where I study God’s holy word. It is within the Church of God in Christ that I follow my clergical calling. And so, I have joined in. I am so glad that the Presiding Bishop Patterson made us change the lyrics…

The rich history of COGIC
Long before attending any sort of bible study, I began to study the Church of God in Christ. When I was newly graduated from my new member’s class, I was in the bookstore getting a few books and I
came across a little book known as the COGIC Official Manual. I was so surprised!!! And so I purchased it. I am fascinated with the origins of the Church of God in Christ. Being a broadcaster, after hearing the story of the Azusa Street Revival, I went to the USC Library at the Annenberg School of Communications so that I could look up the published news reports of the revival. It is interesting to note that the Revival received front page coverage in most major newspapers of the region and front page or near the front placement in major newspapers in the major cities of the time. It is interesting to note the perseverance our founder Bishop Charles Harrison Mason had as he completely and unabashedly received the knowledge and baptism of the Holy Ghost even as some of his original circle rejected him and distanced themselves from him. It is quite interesting to note that the miraculous falling of the Holy Ghost in “modern” times was thoroughly documented in secular news sources. The falling of the Spirit was real. Its results are tangible. Our Church is born out of this modern time experience and out of it even more churches were (see Assemblies of God) born. Today, we are the foremost Pentecostal denomination in the world today.

The “Dark Period” of COGIC
It is interesting to note the COGIC “dark period” which began after our beloved founder passed away. It is critical to note that this dark period took place near and during the days of our current Presiding Bishop’s college days. Consider this: Bishop Blake’s father was one of the original members of the general board after the “reorganization” of our denomination. Imagine the intuitiveness a young Charles Blake had as he was raised in the footsteps of one of COGIC’s greatest and most influential preachers. So intuitive that while he studied at the International Theological Center in Atlanta, GA, one of his dissertations was known as “The Church of God in Christ: It’s Organizational Crisis. This document is the scholarly foundation for Bishop Blake’s ascension to the leadership of our denomination and demonstrates why he has been instrumental in the steady and sure course of the Church of God in Christ in these days and time. And while the world changes and people need Jesus even the more, the role of COGIC is more pronounced and Bishop Blake is the right man for the job.

Holiness and Sanctification
The notion of sanctification beyond cliché’ is quite serious for me. The deeper my walk goes, the more I see how and why I must live a sanctified life. That is to be “set apart” from the norm. It is important to me because my denomination requires it. Now, as for me, this is an interesting walk. My career is built upon being a broadcaster. I am a mass communicator with a mission to preserve and promote African American pop culture and history. In my field you hear and see inappropriate music, films and discussion. I have frequently asked my subordinates to manage an event or promotion for me because it is completely contrary to my sanctification requirements. I am going deeper in the Lord and this notion of sanctification is becoming even more important.

The customs and traditions of COGIC
On the surface, I love the “pageantry” of the Church of God in Christ. At Holy Convocation both State and National, I get goosebumps when I see the procession of the Bishops, Elders and Adjutants. I love the promotion of excellence in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. The essence of our music is certainly the foundation of not only church culture, but all of African American Culture. You will find and hear similarities of black gospel in all of R&B. Most singers will have to remember they got their start in the black church. And the core of that soulful black music sound can be traced to the rhythms of the Church of God in Christ. The preaching of the Word is delivered in a way that touches me deeply. Even as I define my preaching style, I find myself looking at videos from not only today’s top COGIC preachers, I am going back. I see Bishop LH Ford. I hear Bishop J. Delano Ellis. I see Bishop JO Patterson, Bishop G.E. Patterson, Bishop Charles E. Blake and so many many more. The preached Word from the pulpit of the Church of God in Christ is clear, true and resonates with me on a level that is almost indescribable. And while hooping and yelling the Word across the pulpit is not necessary to extend salvation to the lost, I still love the tradition of the sing song style backed by a crisp, rich Hammond B3 organ. (note: Bishop GE Patterson once said "Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and evangelizing the Word of God is not about hooping and hollering and yelling your message across the room while the man or the woman plays the organ or the piano behind you, but it is about letting the Spirit of God take course as you do what God has called you to do for spreading His unadulterated Gospel.")

This is the Church of God in Christ

I am saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. I am called to minister God’s Word to today’s people. I am called as a minister of the gospel to promote social justice in our community. I like the discipline demanded for in the Church of God in Christ. I like the mothers praying. I love the tambourines, the drums. Sometimes I just close my eyes and take in the sounds of the saints praising and praying, the mothers beating and playing their tambourines all against a backdrop of the gospel musicians. Within this menagerie of loud and “peculiar” expression of reverence to God is my direct connect to our Heavenly Father through his Son Jesus Christ. This is the Church of God in Christ.