Friday, March 11, 2016

Cultural appropriation in Christianity: Loving black culture but not black bodies

Let me start by saying that I am unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Jesus is my Lord, my Savior. Now, on to business...

Last night I suffered through a Toby Mac concert. I was mortified, leaving the arena feeling like I'd just watched the film Fruitvale Station. Okay, maybe not that bad but you get the picture. I was disturbed as I watched this European American man describe his music as a "pot of gumbo" that included soul, funk, hip hop, etc. And then as he rocked the stage with the "Diverse City" band, Toby Mac, rapping and whispering songs as commonly done in the hip hop community. I took to Google and learned that [51 year old] Toby Mac actually considers himself a hip hop artist. Between that and the nearly sold out arena of European American brethren going wild when the African American drummer kicked of the evening by proclaiming "white lives matter, black lives matter...all lives matter," in that order, I nearly lost it.

It is far too common for European Americans and Euro-dominated structures to appear to love black culture but not black bodies. I watched folks get down in that arena but question when the last time they noticed that both K-Love 104.5 (the tour sponsor) and Spirit 105.3, the local FM Christian radio stations, lack black lives in their line up. While there is a lot of Toby Mac in rotation - who is clearly heavily influenced by black culture - there is no Lecrae, no Trip Lee, no T. Haddy, no Bizzle. There is no Tasha Cobbs, no Kirk Franklin, no Mali Music. What there is, are campaigns to raise and send money to African and Asian countries experiencing high poverty, but no mention of families having led-poisoned water legally entering their homes in Flint, Michigan. There are, clips celebrating Nancy Reagan and her commitment to the war on drugs which disproportionately criminalized and penalized black people versus providing treatment (which is still a contributing factor in disproportionately today).

I wish I could be pleased with the presentation last night, I really do. But that representation was another reminder that my European American family loves to appropriate black culture and announce that all lives matter in predominately Euro spaces, in my black face (even if it is the black drummer who does it), but deny my history, not know my history, not have to know my history, resent me for sharing my history, and then block or ignore the historical blocking of access and opportunity for those that look like me.

Let me conclude this by saying that I am unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that Jesus is my Lord, my Savior. And that we, believers in Christ Jesus, must do better.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

This Love [A Poem]

Dreams of you keep me awake early in the morning
I should really rest knowing you are with God
But it's as if He wakes me specifically to discuss you and our next moves
[Dear Future]

While the rest sleep, we make love
Soul and Holy Spirit reach highest depths
Scales fall from my eyes
And the pangs subside
I fight it but this is pleasure
Pure delight
Joy unconfined
Lying awake with You in the still of the night
You feel it too
You have me unto Yourself
Whispering sweet things in my ear
Building me up
I've got confidence, so much confidence, in You!
And there is strength in my nakedness
I don't hide these stretchmarks and You call them beautiful, retelling the stories as if You were there..
Because You were

God You know me, deep, deeper, deeply
I love You
You set me, free.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

SOS [An urgent appeal for help]

In emergencies I enlist the warriors: Pray!
My family is under attack: S-O-S.
Y'all see the smoke signals?
They choking out: Dying.
Can't breathe: Please.
Calling for back up.
Hearts are breaking.
Hearts have broken.
Darkness has crept in and is claiming territory.
We sinking, Titanic: Massive.
I see flames.
I can feel it in the air: Beanie Sigel.
      Back up.

Monday, November 23, 2015


How many more
How many more black boys bodies torn, ravished with bullets, holy smoke
How many more of my aunties making funeral arrangements for their sons
How many more of us siblings wondering what we could have done
How many more babies raised by single mums
How many more Lord
Dear brothers and cousins, I am contemplating if I should just get used to the fact that you won’t be around for long
Your deaths are killing me
The thought of my aunties grief is the only thing worse
Are you hell bent against us
Excuse my frustration
I’m just tired of this same old song
I’m tired of hoping only to be let down
How many more upsetting dreams Lord
I don’t know how much heartbreak I can afford
How many more

Monday, November 16, 2015

Freedom Here [Beauty in Brokenness]

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. [Psalm 34:18]

Do you ever wish you could unlearn or un-hear something?

Last week at happy hour my coworkers and I celebrated a colleague who has worked in the field half a decade. I went to the celebration in order to show love but with intention to stay just a short while because if there is one thing I know, it’s that when co-workers get together outside of work, all we tend to talk about is work! And no shade or hate, it is inevitable. I have been there a time or twenty and needed a safe place to speak freely about the difficult nature of the work I do myself. However, I am now in a place in my life where I am drawing clear boundaries and striving to maintain these boundaries, trying to prevent as much secondary trauma as possible.

As my colleagues and I enjoyed our drinks and eats and moderate talk about job duties at my end of the table, it was not long before one coworkers’ curiosity overstepped my boundary, “What is the worst case you ever had?” she asked.

The question wasn’t even directed at me but her question sent me spiraling. I began searching my mental index for the worse case I ever had… No, no, not that one, I thought to myself, shuffling through my fifteen months with the agency in search of the “worst.”

After nearly a minute of searching my worst experiences on the job I suddenly stopped my quest and volunteered to move to the other end of the table if this conversation was going to continue. The colleague who asked the question…she didn’t feel me. She didn’t understand the agony. And I, I couldn’t tolerate her request. While she may have been in the space to handle such a conversation – I was not. I am not. Not off the clock. There’s already enough on my plate…

Father, I can’t. You know, there is already so much going on in this world. And it gets to me enough as it is. It’s how You designed me! Sometimes, I don’t know if I can bear one more thing. It hurts my brain and hurts my heart – it crushes my spirit. Your word says I can cast all my burdens on You. I’m not used to doing that – giving this pain away, letting go. But I want to. I want to take You up on that now.. Thank You for being strong enough Jesus, God enough. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sittin Up In My Room...

I'm casting my safety nets before temptation sets It's, times like these that I get imaginative

They say, Idle hands are the devils workshop, Lord intervene I've got plenty on my plate I don't need one more thing To eat, to distract, to get in-between, You and me

Occupy this space I'm, killing my flesh, surrendering this time to You Remember me, remember me.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Game Point: When Winning is Losing

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. [Proverbs 15:1]

Concerning work, I’ve made a new rule for myself – no phone calls to families after 5:00pm! Although a particular fathers' name had been on my call list from the beginning of a particular work day last week, I did not call him until after 5:00pm.  Throughout the day, other tasks just seemed to take precedence each time I thought to call him. By the time I made the call, I was grumpy and not-in-the-mood.

As I spoke with this father on the telephone, his resistance to grant my not-so-request was exasperating. We quickly began a game of verbal tennis, each of us smacking (speaking) the ball (our words) with much force onto the opponents’ court. There was no official foul it was brutal. My speech abrupt and tone firm, his the same. We were in full-swing, back and forth, back and forth, until he broke form and stated, “You’re sounding like a sergeant.” His comment cut me deep. I could only apologize to this man.

Momentarily, I bit my tongue (because I didn’t want to sound like “sergeant”) but when he proceeded to dodge my not-so-request, the match began again.

I had no patience with this father, not after the day I’d had, not after 5:00pm.

After work, I came home and it was homework time for my nine-year-old nephew who immediately let me know he needed my help with his math work, I cringed. I asked him for some time and space explaining I needed to unwind from work. He asked me what I did at work that day and I gave him the bite-size answer: talked to parents, kids, blah blah blah..

After at least 45 minutes of solitude I returned to help him with his math homework. It wasn’t long before I noticed something: I was still sounding like a sergeant.

Lord, I don’t start the day this way – unfriendly, lacking compassion, and overly firm. What happens that causes me to become this person who doesn’t look like You or reflect Your goodness? There is no victory in my family-life or work if I am perceived as a sergeant! There is no love in that here. …God, how do I keep the world out of my heart? Help me to keep the world out of my heart! Hardened and jaded or abrupt and fed-up are not good looks for Your child if I am to be a witness. Please help me this week. Please keep this world from entering this vessel, Your vessel. Guard and stimulate this heart or mine, daily. For Your glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.