Wednesday, December 08, 2010

After 5 Years....

It's time to say goodbye. Although I may update it from time to time, I am now turning my full attention to R-Squared Comicz. With my current schedule, I will not be able to regularly update both. For those who've visited, commented, supported, or followed Speeklife through the years, I want to thank you. I wanted the blog to be a place where I could think through some faith-related issues, and gain a deeper understanding of God and Jesus as a result. After five years, I can say with confidence that I have indeed grown in how I view the world, others, and myself as a Christian. To close this chapter properly, here's an overview of Speeklife during these five years:

Favorite posts by year

(1)The drought in Malawi, Africa (the motivation behind creating the blog)
(1) Everyone playing their part? = Reflections on the movie "V for Vendetta"
(2) Access (Not) Granted = The lack of visibility for Christian hip-hop
(3) Minority Report = Christian influence in contemporary society
(1) A Beacon of Light = Harmony Dust
(2) Loving to Agitate
(3) An Interesting Way to Look at Intercession
(4) The Truth of Inconvenience
(1) Following the Evidence
(2) Process-Oriented
(3) Hip-Hop & the Gospel
(4) Extreme Measures (Reflections on an episode of "Wife Swap")
(5) In the Zone
(6) Fearful Consumers
(7) Words, Worldview, & Works: The Search for Consistency
(1) When It's All Said and Done (Leaving a legacy)
(2) Sight-Seeing
(3) The Sin of Silence
(4) Hunger Pains (The Vampire Phenomenon)
(5) The Fruitfulness of Falling Back
(1) A Few Thoughtz: Da Truth, Tye Tribbet, and the Ambassador (pts. 1 & 2)
(2) A New Year's (Re) Solution
(3) Missing the Big Picture? = Christian Response to the Haiti Earthquake
(4) A Few Thoughtz: The Book of Eli
(5) So What's in a Story (pts. 1 & 2)? = Individual testimonies

Stories that really grabbed my attention

(1) Thirty-seven pound woman and husband give birth to 3 pound baby boy, after having two prior miscarriages (2006)
(2) A 5-year-old girl testified against a man who shot her when she was 3, and tells him that she forgives him (2006)
(3) Hundreds of letters to God were found in the Atlantic Ocean. They were addressed to a minister at a Baptist church, but never got there (letters found in 2006).
(4) A man finds out he has HIV while going through seminary training (2006)
(5) Myspace helps a woman find her brother's body (2007)
(6) Man risks his life to save another at a NY subway station (2007)
(7) Million father march comes to the west coast (2007)
(8) Grapevine's coach asks parents prior to their game against Gaineville State if half of them can cheer for Gainesville. He did this because Gainesville State is a correctional facility, and play all of their games on the road (2009)
(9) Teacher save's a student's life (2009)
(10) Church plays a huge role in reducing the local crime rate (2009)

Types of posts
(1) Media with a Meaning
(2) Holding it Down (features people, organizations, & institutions doing great work)
(3) Bible Verse of the Moment
(4) Hip-Hop Verse of the Moment
(5) Random "Why" Question of the Moment
(6) News Updates
(7) A Few Thoughtz (book and movie reviews)
(8) Marvel-ous (reviews of marvel comics and reflections on characters)
(9) Featured Artist
(10) Other (reflections on various topics & issues)

Final thoughts/comments...

*When looking at some of the earlier posts, some pictures and embedded material will be missing. This is due to some configuration changes made about a couple of years ago, and because some of the embedded material (e.g., imeem) was from a company that's no longer functioning.

*Again, I want to thank everyone who has been apart of this amazing journey. For those currently following the blog, as well as those who are visiting for the first time, check out what I have going on at R-Squared Comicz, and stay connected if interested.

Take care, God bless, and as always, speekonit...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Track of the Moment: "The Rising"

Peace and blessings,

The next track I want to feature from Sho Baraka's "Lions and Liars" album is "The Rising," featuring Trip Lee and Erica Cumbo. The song is about (1) the magnificence and power of Jesus' life, (2) being empowered with the light that lives within us, and (3) using that light to impact the world. Below is Trip Lee's verse, followed by Sho's last verse:

"When we say the Son is out/what you really mean?/
Aye, let me make it plain/let me spill the beans/
God sent His son just to intervene/
'Cuz were were walking dead like that Thiller scene/
You want things to be better/but it's still a dream/
What God already started/He's fulfilling things/
And without Him I am still a fiend/
But instead I'm trying to walk in that light like Mike in Billy Jean/
I was all about me/what a tricky thing/
I was just trying to get ahead like a guillotine/
But now I'm following the Head He's the realest thing/
He lived and rose bro/but He died in between/
So if you want some evidence that He was really seen/
Look at the lives of the guys....(seen/scene)/
And we've opened up our eyes bro/we've been redeemed/
Praise God the Son is out/I can feel the beam."

- Trip Lee

"Look at folks in other countries believe/
He walked on water just to reach overseas/
Yeah, he's fully God/Fully man/
They thought the Son was down but He would rise once again/Let's go!...
The Good Sherpered/the barn was His birthplace/
Who else you know could stop time with a birthday?/
Many people live their lives just to get doe/
Watch the Bread of Life rise/without the yeast though/
Joy to the world/gift to all the people/
Best Christian rap you'll hear/without a beat yo/
The way we view the Son is so feeble/
That's why we live backwards/yeah we so evil"

- Sho

Thoughts? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So What's in a Story? (Pt. 2)

Peace and blessings,

Continuing with a recent post on stories that change lives, I wanted to let you know about Your Story/My Story, a website ministry whose purpose is to spread the love of Christ through people's personal stories. Below are a few stories that I have checked out so far. The first deals with a woman who was healed of Cerebral Palsy, the second is about people who were rejected by "the church" when they should have been embraced, and the third is about someone whose Christ-like love shines extremely bright.

What do you think? Any video move you in particular? Why? Until next time, stay encouraged and speekonit...

Track of the Moment: "Shut us Down"

Peace and blessings,

I drove down to LA this weekend for my sister graduation, and about 80% of the time I was in the car, I was playing Sho Baraka's "Lions and Liars." To say this album is amazingly dope is an understatement. The song that is the focal point of this post, "Shut Us Down" feat. Lecrae and After Edmund, is a lasting jolt of encouragement for those who try to lovingly and accurately represent Christ, in the midst of being criticized and marginalized on various levels. The song lets us know that God was, is, and will forever be in control, and the clearest piece of evidence of this fact is that his authentic message of love continues to spread and change lives here and abroad. Below is Lecrae's verse, which in my opinion is one of the best Lecrae verses I have ever heard:

"I write to tell truth/don't write to save face/born in H-town/got the words to save Face/'Christian' means/that when I eat the beat I say my grace/If only God can judge you/how you plan to beat the case?/Can't beat it/Mike Jack couldn't either/all you get is one life/can't rewind or repeat it/I...will do this 'til the day I take my last breath/beautiful feet/I'm running 'til I take my last step/there's nothing they can do to stop what the Lord's doin'/come in the kitchen/take a look at what the Lord's brewin'/radio don't play us/television mock us/the truth is still spreadin'/there's no way they can stop us/pharisees throw stones at my glass house/but they don't see their own reflection when they bad mouth/you can lie/you can hate/you can run us down/but in the end the gates of hell couldn't shut us down/"

-"Shut Us Down" - Sho Baraka feat. Lecrae and After Edmund

What do you think? God bless, stay tuned for more tracks, and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: Black Panther: Power

Peace and blessings,

Ever since the events of Secret Invasion left the African Nation of Wakanda weak, MUCH has happened in the pages of the Black Panther series. I will attempt to provide a brief summary of these events, as well as of Secret Invasion, without spoiling things for those who are interested in reading up on the stories. So here we go...

In line with their their goal of world domination, the Skrulls, a shape-shifting and technologically advanced race from another planet, invaded earth. In Wakanda, they faced the Black Panther in an epic battle over the fate of Wakanda. After the battle, Dr. Doom used Wakanda's fragile state to implement his master plan. The first step in this plan was to kill the current Black Panther (BP), T'Challa. After a battle that caught the Black Panther by surprise, Doom almost succeeded, leaving BP gravely injured.

Taking up the BP mantle while her brother is fighting for his life, Shuri begins investigating her brother's attempted assassination. During her investigation, she eventually runs into the Desturi, a traditional, militant group whose sole purpose to is to "purify" Wakanda and get rid of all outsiders and the leadership responsible for opening up Wakanda to outside influence. A thorough investigation leads her to conclude that Namor, a good friend of T'Challa's, was the person responsible. Upon confronting Namor, they are interrupted by Reed Richards (leader of the Fantastic Four), who discovers an anomaly in a critical piece of evidence, which ultimately proves Namor's innocence. They soon find out that the Broker (a person who works in the "underground" market selling products that enhance people's abilities) was responsible for the anomaly that framed Namor. What they did not yet know was that the Broker did not work alone...

Once they find out that Doom has the Broker on his payroll, is working with the Desturi, and is thus orchestrating the whole thing, Doom's plan starts to take shape. In the mean time, the BP has recovered and has been simultaneously extremely focused getting back to form and standoff-ish towards his wife and family. It turns out that he's standoff-ish because he's been on to Doom's plan for a while as well, and in particular how Doom managed to infect his wife, as well other members of his family with Nanites, allowing Doom to easily acquire essential intel on Wandaka's political and military affairs. He knew that telling them anything would literally be like telling Doom, so the best strategy was to remain quiet. Realizing that Doom has been planning this for a while and is probably proposing the biggest threat Wakanda has ever faced, The current BP and her brother, the former BP, both uninfected by the nanites, assess their assets and prepare for war...

Starting from the Secret Invasion onward, I the Black Panther series has been the best story I've been reading, period. In case you're interested, I've included the video summaries of the Secret Invasion: Black Panther:

What do you think? If you've read Secret Invasion: Black Panther and/or Black Panther: Power, what do you think? If not, do you plan on checking it out? Why or why not? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

So What's in a Story? (Pt. 1)

Peace and blessings,

It's probably hard to find a person who does not like a good story. Regardless of the genre of the story or medium through which it's told, people love a good story. Since stories about people speak to the human experience, it makes sense that one story could "strike a cord" and pull in people from all ages, walks, and regions of life. Jesus knew this all too well, as He communicated some of the most profound truths about life through parables...

Along these lines, I wanted to put you on to Youth on the Rock, a Christian video ministry whose focus is to spread the love of Christ through telling stories. These stories highlight the ups & downs of life, and how they relate/contribute to the human experience. Below are a few videos I've recently checked out:

(1) First video is set to Brandon Heath's "Give Me Your Eyes," and focuses on someone trying to see others the way God sees them:

(2) The second video is set to Matt Maher's "Alive Again," and tells the story of a guy who finds hope in Christ after losing his family:

(3) The third video is set to Jeremy Camp's "There Will Be A Day," and centers around an alcoholic father who decides to change for his family:

What you think? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

Marvel-ous: The Truth: Red, White, and Black (2004)

Peace and blessings,

Man, talk about a post that's about two years late, lol! When I first heard about "The Truth: Red, White, & Black" (2004), I called many comic book stores in the Bay Area trying to track it down (I would have got it from Amazon but it was too expensive, like twice as much as normal!). After contacting about 7 stores or so, I finally found it. Come to think of it, I think the last store I called that had it, only had one copy left! If you thought Steve Rogers (Captain America) was the first U.S. Soldier to "successfully" benefit from the abilities afforded by the Super-Soldier Serum (SSS), then think again...

Depicting events in a similar vein as the actual events that took place during Tuskegee Experiment from the early 1930s to the early 1970s, "Truth" tells the story of how before Steve Rogers was given the SSS, earlier versions of it was tested on Black Soldiers during the early stages of WW II. Of the many soldiers who died during these experiments (in which the black soldiers were forced/mislead into participating in), one solider was a "success": Isaiah Bradley.

My apologies in advance if I make a mistake in summarizing the story. It's been about 1.5 - 2 years since I last read it. After serving his country as the first "super - weapon" against the Nazis, Isaiah Bradley eventually gets captured by Nazis and has an "interesting" conversation with, if my memory serves me correctly, was Hitler. In this conversation, Hitler tells Isaiah the "Truth" about how much he is valued by his country in general and the U.S. army specifically.

Either sometime during or after the war, Isaiah started experiencing serious side effects from the SSS, most notably mental retardation. Learning about the atrocities that were these experiments, and the other "moral compromises" made by the U.S. during this time, Steve Rogers condemned the actions and goes to pay Isaiah a visit at his home. In many ways, Isaiah's legacy lives on through his grandson,Elijah Bradley, leader of the New Avengers. Rather or not you are familiar with the Tuskegee Experiment, I recommend you check out "Truth." A review of the book can be found here

What do you think? If you've read it, what are your thoughts? If not, do you plan on checking it out? Why or why not? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Black Jesus

[After the assassin is wounded in a shootout...]
"Out of the way. He needs to be put down for good...He killed our brothers. Don't waste your gift on him."

- Leader of black militant organization

[Chris then heals the assassin]
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry..."

- Assassin

"I know."

- Chris

Peace and blessings,

The above dialogue comes from Arcana's Black Jesus, a graphic novel focusing on a young man in New York City who is born "special." The young man, Chris, tends to keep to himself, and has recently been spotted in various parts of town healing people and performing miracles. One of his first "special" acts was him walking on water to save three children. Although walking on water to save three children is a "big deal" in itself, what intrigued me the most about this act was the context in which it took place. While the children's mother is in another man's car "doing the do," her kids stared playing with her car, and accidentally drove the car over a mini cliff, into a frozen lake and cracked as soon as the car hit it. As the car began to sink, Chris walked on the water and pulled out the three kids. As the mother is hysterical and onlookers are amazed, Chris returns the children to her mother and leaves. In case you have not guessed it yet, this is not what you would call a "Christian" graphic novel.

In addition to Chris, the other major players in the story are the Black Christian Gangsters (BCG, a Militant Organization dedicated to eradicating criminals and "sinners"), a popular pastor who is as shady as they come, and those who work for/with the pastor to eliminate Chris, as he is seen as a threat to their established status quo. This "threat" that Chris poses to the "powers that be" is illustrated in the dialogue at the beginning of this post. The assassin, working with/for the "shady" pastor, relentlessly hunted down Chris, killing many people along the way, including people close to Chris. After a major shootout, the assassin was wounded and was slowly dying. While the leader of the BCG wanted the assassin to be finished off, Chris chose to heal him. The assassin's first words after being healed suggest that his healing extended beyond his physical wounds. Surely someone who cares about the "inner" as well as the "outer" person is a threat right?

[At the story's conclusion...]
"You sure you want to be on your own?"

- Leader of black militant organization


- Chris

"They'll keep comin' ya know. Hunt you down, like an animal..."

-Leader of black militant organization

Similar to the scene I just described, most of the story contains elements that are very graphic. While this is definitely not something younger audiences should read, I would recommend it to adults. In fact, I think to some extent the graphic nature of the story is important in that it provides a "reality-based, in-your-face" approach to the question: If Jesus were to return in 2010, (a) Where would he spend His time? (b) How would people react to His return? (c) Who would have beef with his life-saving power (physical, psychological, social, and spiritual) and why? Although Chris did not appear to commit any "sins" in the story and the story's seem to be comparing Chris to Jesus, I am not making that comparison, nor am I saying that everything Chris did would be exactly what Jesus would do when He returns. All I am saying is that in general, the story does a good job of encouraging me (and I hope other readers as well) to think about what Jesus' saving power means for our world today.

If you've read it, what do you think? If not, are you interested in reading it? Why or why not? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Eye Witness Books 1-3

Peace and blessings,

This past December, I was finally able to read the Eye Witness graphic novel series by Robert Luedke. There are currently three books out, and a fourth book is on its way.

The premise of the story is that a renowned archeologist (Dr. Harper, atheist/skeptic) is asked to join other archeologists and scholars of various expertise to try and make sense of a discovery that could "change everything." Once Dr. Harper meets up with the other scholars, helps them make sense of the discovery by identifying and decoding the language the ancient text was written in. It turns out that the text is the first hard core evidence of the life of Jesus Christ: an eye witness's account of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. Once the text is decoded, Dr. Harper and his assistant find themselves in plenty of danger, as someone clearly does not want this information to get out to the masses. In the midst of all of this, Dr. Harper's assistant, a devout Christian, encourages him to give God a try, and Dr. Harper takes him up on the offer. Throughout story, the decoding of the ancient text and the adventure and suspense that ensues afterwards is paralleled with flashbacks into first century A.D. as a way to bear witness to Jesus' death and resurrection, and the experiences of Jesus' followers during these times.

Book two picks up where book one left off, with Dr. Harper trying to stay alive while also keeping his discovery alive. He finds out that whoever is behind these attacks on his life will stop at nothing to silence his discovery. Meanwhile, Dr. Harper is exploring the implications of his choice to give God a try more deeply, and it's evidenced by him slipping into trances/passing out and being "sent" to first century A.D. to witness how the first century Christians were persecuted, while at the same time fervently bearing witness to a risen Jesus Christ. In particular, the focus eventually shifts to Paul, and his role as a protector of the Jewish law and "hater" of the Christ followers. However, he soon has a change of heart after encountering Christ for himself...

In book three, the plot thickens as the major players are introduced, and their reasons for and role in preventing this discovery from going public are becoming more clear. Dr. Harper enlists the help of his friend who has some experience in "hiding" to lay low for a while, all while continue to learn what it means to trust in a God he lived so much of his life choosing not to acknowledge let alone believe in. Back in the first century A.D.,Paul is trying to make sense of this "180" he has just experienced, and how to go about letting as many people as possible know (including the Christians he himself persecuted as well as those with whom he persecuted Christians with) about the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ. Further, he wanted to tell them how he thought he knew what was right from wrong, until Jesus showed him the correct path.

Here is a trailer for the series:

As mentioned before, book four is coming soon, and will pick up where book three left off. If you're interested in a detailed and vivid account of what it must have been life for Jesus' followers, persecutors, and for bystanders, then definitely check out the series. For those who have read it already, let me know what you think. Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: The Book of Eli

Peace and blessings,

As someone who has already seen The Book of Eli twice, I wanted to share a few thoughts on why I think it's such a great movie. However, in an effort to make sure I do not reveal any major spoilers that would ruin the experience for those who have yet to see it, I will only highlight three abstract themes that I think the movie speaks to. Ok, here it goes....

(1) The idea that no matter the relative wealth or stability a society has, it's overall "strength" is determined by how it treats those without power or influence. The movie highlights just how easy (or one could say "natural") it is for humans to exploit and deceive each other, especially when the exploiters and deceivers seek to benefit by doing so.

(2) The idea that our lives are measured not just by the paths we choose and whether we stay on them (assuming we believe staying on the path is the "right" thing to do), but also by how we treat others along the way. One of the movie's messages seemed to be that no matter how important our individual "missions" are life, we should never lose sight of the importance of loving and respecting others.

(3) The idea that knowledge, not power through violence, greed, or coercion, is the key to humanity "rebuilding itself" from the ground up. The idea that there's an absolute truth that speaks to our purpose in life, and that there's an inherent need to seek out this purpose is communicated beautifully throughout the movie.

Below is a trailer for the movie:

If you've seen it already, what did you think? Likes? Dislikes? If you have not seen it yet, do you plan on it? Why or why not? Take care, God bless and speekonit...

P.S. Later down the line once the movie's no longer in the theaters, I plan on doing a more in-depth analysis of these and other key elements in the movie.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Whatever it Takes

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race" - Calvin Coolridge

Peace and blessings,

Following up on a recent post about education, I wanted to highlight a couple of programs that are making significant strides in "turning the tide" with regards to the education of black and brown students. Both of these programs have a very ambitious and noble goal: to have each student who attends their school attend college. Although their educational philosophies may differ in some ways in terms of the student accountability - parent/staff accountability continuum, one thing is clear: Their schools and staff are committed to doing whatever it takes to help their students actualize their potential.

The first clip is of the Harlem Children's Zone, founded by Geoffrey Canada:

The second clip is of the Capital Prep School, founded by Steve Perry:

What do you think? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...