Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jena 6 Updates



Peace and blessings,

First off, I wanted to say thanks to those who have sent me updates and information regarding the case. Please continue to do so as this case unfolds. Below are some links to some articles that provide some updates on the case, as well as offer some different perspectives in which to view the situation. Although I did not include the article, the courts ruled that Mychal Bell's case is to be decided in Juvenile court. I am particularly interested in people's reactions to the last article, and context in which the DA brings Jesus Christ into the picture. Do you agree with the DA, with the Minister who somewhat disagreed with the DA's statement, or both? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...



1)
  • A stranger reaches out to Mychal Bell and his family
  • by posting his bail.


    2)
  • How remnants of the Jim Crow era are still alive
  • and coming after the youth.

    3)
  • A critical look at the 9/21 protests in Jena
  • and the complex ways in which racism has and continues to plague Jena, and thus America as a whole.

    4)
  • A detailed summary of the Jena 6 case.


  • 5)
  • The Congressional Black Caucus gets involved.


  • 6) DA who prosecuted the Jena 6 says that
  • the protests in Jena were safe and peaceful because of the 'Lord Jesus Christ.'
  • Friday, September 28, 2007

    International Day of Peace in "The Town"


    Peace and blessings,


    "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God."

    -Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

    About a week or so ago, I posted a piece on a postive dialogue that took place between
  • a Christian, a Muslim, and an Atheist,
  • and discussed a couple of ways in which this dialogue can hopefylly be indicative of inter-belief discussions that need to take place in this increasingly diverse country and world. As of last Friday, 9/21, another example of hope emerged as the
  • International Day of Peace was held in Oakland, Ca.
  • The event, which was held in downtown, brought together different organizations and faiths (e.g. Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders to name a few) to pray (and fast) for and promote peace in Oakland.




    This event was part of the larger
  • International Day of Peace,
  • which was established via the passing of a resolution in 1981, and updated on 2001 to be held on September 21 of every year. This day of peace,


    “Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system, and non-governmental organizations and individuals to commemorate, in an appropriate manner, the International Day of Peace, including through education and public awareness, and to cooperate with the United Nations in the establishment of the global ceasefire.”
    Quote taken from
  • World Peace.




  • For anyone who attended, please share your thoughts on how the event went. For those who did not attend or who are hearing about this for the first time, what do you think about the idea? What does/would peace look like to you? Personal? Domestic? Global? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Heavy Rotation: Christian Hip-Hop in 2007

    Peace and blessings,

    I must say that 2007 has been a great year. Not just because biblically "7" represents the year of completion and freedom (i.e. the year of Jubilee), but also because of the abundance of lyrically and musically solid Christian hip-hop that has came out this year. Although I'm sure there is a ton of good Christian hip-hop that has come out this year (check the website links in the "Holy Hip Hop Resources" section to find out for yourself), I can only speak on the albums that I have personally copped and listened to. Therefore, below are five albums that have been released in 2007, each accompanied by a lyrical quote from the album. A couple of these quotes, as well as the reviews to these albums (which can also be found in the HHH Resources section), are courtesy of
  • Rapzilla,
  • and excellent site for all things Christian Hip Hop. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of these albums that you may have. Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...




    1) "Open Book" by Da Truth




    From the song "Star Struck:"

    "No, He’s not common at all/ All eyes on Him/Hold your jewels, we gotta priceless gem/Who else can pay the price for sin/ Nobody, and build a whole body/Like a private gym/ Nobody, nobody but Him/He’s Superman but godly, embodied in Clark Kent/ yeah, He came to save the day/ Why would you trade Him to play/ In a crooked world that is fading away?/ Candy paint and wood grain decay, ok?"


    2) "HIStory: Our Place in His Story" by Cross Movement



    From the song "Spare Change:"

    "We lost Truth in this period/and proof is so mysterious/losing absolutes is so serious/how we think we gon' live when everything's relative/is anybody curious?//without a standard of Truth society's deranged/that's why I'm up in your ear begging for change."



    3) "13 Letters" by 116 Click





    From the song "Evolution:"

    "I was a slave to the night life, sex and the chronic/the unki-jerk(?), mad dog, gin and tonic/then God pulled my heart strings, yeah He's harmonic/now i'm gonna live forever I'm bionic/put death in a joke hold and slammed it like onyx/so we can slam dance in heaven it's ironic/after years of research these scientists couldn't figure/how I acted like an ape but evolved from a sinner"



    4) "Our World Fallen" by Flame



    From the song "Call Him:"

    "Let's take a look at the fall man/the One who came down, put His foot on the raw land/gotta question 'do you know who you are man?'/or do you assume that you can do what the Lord can?/I know it's hard fam, trying to live life/lookin' to the left and nobody is livin' right/lookin' to the right everybody is livin' wrong/like we livin' in a movie and doin' it to a song/are your influences throwin' you a zone?/influencin' you to want to do what you're most prone/you Christ He left His heavenly home/not just that, He left his heavenly throne/just to bring Ebony home/or whatever your name is/He definately claims His/plus exhanges filth to anguish/guilt and pain/and makes us stainless"



    5) "The Process of Illumination and Elimination" by Everyday Process





    From the song "Holla at Me:"

    " I guess to say that the Rock's in the building/2000 years flawless He's still rockin' His children/A monument like Plymoth Rock for His Pilgrims/In fact, the impact has got me rocked for a million/Strict life and I don't play in the streets/strict diet, I stay away from the sweets/excuse me kid if he don't eat the king's meat/I'm on my Shadrach tell them boys go 'head bring heat"

    Hip - Hop News Updates

    Peace and blessings,

    The following are a couple of updates on the national debate that has continued to escalate since the Imus and Oprah show incidents. The first update is about the recently established program and congressional hearing that are
  • bringing issues in hip-hop to the forefront,
  • and the other is about
  • David Banner testifying at the congressional hearing.
  • As these issues are getting more national attention, and dialogue is taking place between people of all arenas who are concerned with the state of hip-hop and its effects on the youth, I think it is important to keep in mind two issues that are at the heart of this debate. One issue has to do with the structural inequalitites that are at the foundation of this country's existence, and account for much of the reason why many hip-hop artists rap about the things that they do, and the way that they do it. The other issue has to do with the fact that we are all social beings, and as a result we are constantly influencing (e.g. either encouraging or discouraging) each other in a variety of ways. I think that addressing the lyrics, themes, and images portrayed in hip-hip first and foremost requires all of us to reconcile these two things.

    Feel free to share your thoughts. Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

    Sunday, September 23, 2007

    JustUs?: The Jena 6

    Peace and blessings,

    I wanted to provide a brief outline of the events surrounding the case of the Jena 6, a case that is gaining much attention throughout the country, and duly so. I encourage everyone to seek out more info regarding the situation, and participate in any and every way that you can. The information below can be found at
  • Color of Change
  • and
  • Truthout.


  • As you read the outline, I urge you to keep the following scriptures in mind, as this case represents another instance of how we often distort and manipulate God's conception of "justice."



    "The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed."

    Psalms 103: 6

    "It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their
    affairs with justice."

    Psalms 112: 5

    "I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executes justice for the poor."

    Psalms 140: 12


    1) after black students sat under the "white tree," nooses were hung from
    the tree. In reaction, black students sat under the tree in protest,
    prompting the superintendent and District Attorney to get involved. The
    superintendent dismissed the nooses as a "prank," while the DA,
    accompanied with Jena police, told the black students protesting that "I
    can be your best friend or your worst enemy...I can take away your lives
    with a stroke of the pen."

    2) Racial tension escalated over the next couple of months, with the main
    academic building of Jena high school getting burned down on Nov. 30th,
    2006 in an unsolved fire. Later that same weekend, a black student was
    beaten up by white students at a party. The next day, black students were
    threatened by a young white man with a shotgon at a convenient store. They
    restled the gun from him and ran away. No charges were filed against the
    white man, but the students were arrested for gun-theft.

    3) That Monday, a white student taunted the black student who as beaten up
    at the party, and allegedly called several black students "nigger." After
    lunch, he was knocked down, punched, and kicked by black students. He was
    taken to the hosptial, released, and was well enough to attend a social
    event that same evening. Six black Jena high students were arrested and
    charged with second-degree attempted murder. Bail was set so high (between
    70,000-138,000) that the students were in jail for months as families went
    into debt to release them.

    4) The local district attorney Reed Walters, who initially charged the six
    with attempted murder, later reduced the charges to aggravated assault,
    contending that Bell's tennis shoes constituted a dangerous weapon.The
    first trial ended in June 2007, and Mychal Bell (16) was convicted of
    aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated (both felonies)
    battery by an all-white jury. In addition, Mychal's public defender did
    not call a single witness to testify during th trial. During the trial,
    Mychal's parents were ordered not to speak to the media and the court
    prohibited protests from taking place near the courtroom or where the
    judge could see them.

    5) Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency
    defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree conviction of Mychal
    Bell, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a
    case. Last week, the judge who presided over Bell's trial in June, LaSalle
    Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray, vacated a conspiracy conviction
    against the youth for the same reason, but inexplicably let the more
    serious battery conviction stand. Now Walters must decide whether to
    refile the entire case in juvenile court.

    6) Walters said in a statement Friday, September 14th 2007 that he
    intended to appeal the reversal of Bell's conviction to the Louisiana
    Supreme Court

    More on the conviction reversal can be found in an article by the
  • Chicago Tribune.


  • Rather you are aware of the situation or are just hearing about it for the first time. I'm interested in people's thoughts on the issue. What are your reactions? Who do you think plays a more significant role in how the events that have taekn place (Superintendent, local district attorney, the school for not addressing the tree issue sooner, etc...)? Do you see any difference between how justice is used in the Jena 6 case, and God's sense of justice as illustrated in the scriptures? From what i've heard about the case so far, the thing that gets me is how no attention (prior to these events taking place and while they were taking place) has been given to the tree-issue. The fact that there existed (for so long) a tree at Jena high school with this much racist, divisive power in itself speaks volumes as to the value the high school places on their students' worth, because racism and divisiveness is detrimental to all who are involved.

    I am asking anyone who comes across more updates regarding this issue can sent it to me at info@speeklife.com, so that I can frequently update the blog regarding this matter. Also, make sure you check out the third video of fox news, and pay attention to the last minute of the clip, where Hannity "dodges" Rev. Sharpton's question about whether or not he supports the Jena 6. They have been talking for over six minutes, but as soon as Re. Sharpton asks this question, all of a sudden Hannity can't hear him. Even his partner on the show heard him clearly. Racism, like any sin, cannot stay "hidden." Eventually it's going to come out and get exposed. I'm not saying i'm perfect or anything, but Hannity's "true feelings" regarding U.S. race relations is extremely evident in this clip. Jesus help us... Please share your thoughts, continue to pray that God heals this situation, and as always, speekonit...









    Friday, September 21, 2007

    A Christian, A Muslim, and An Atheist

    Peace and blessings,

    A friend of mine sent me links of the video (posted below) of Bill Maher's 9/7/07 show featuring Cornel West and Mos Def. Aside from a few comedic moments, they discussed some very significant social, political, and moral issues. They talked about perceptions of terrorism, American hypocrisy, three political economic "-isms" - militarism, capitalism, and imperialism, the Jena 6, and the 2008 elections. As you can see from the variety of topics and the nature of the guests, the discussions were very insightful.

    What I enjoyed most about the discussions, however, was not necessarily the topics they discussed, but the context in which these topics were discussed. Cornel West is a Christian, Mos Def a Muslim, and Bill Maher an Atheist. Now I don't watch cable tv too often, but as far as I can remember, this was the first time I've watched people from different belief systems engage in a respectful and critical discussion on a variety of topics pertinent to the human condition. Disagreements and emotional responses are common when discussing issues of this magnitude. However, unlike many other televised discussions that are more characterized as confrontational rather than constructive, this discussion was more than fruitful. It provides a good example of how people with different belief systems can achieve common ground by sharing their ideas and views and respecting those of others.

    As a Christian, I thought this video was important because it represents a snapshot of the American diversity and demographic. Throughout the world, it seems like two major belief systems are Christianity and Orthodox Islam. Within the U.S., in particular within the African American community, it seems like the two major belief systems are Christianity and the Nation of Islam. Therefore, it is common for family and friend circles to consist of Christians, Muslims, Atheists, and other belief systems. Due to the increases in diversity, technology, and transportation, I believe that more conversations between people from differenent belief systems will start taking place and given times we are living in, these conversations are more than needed.

    What do you think? Does anyone close to you (family member or friend) ascribe to a different belief system than you? If so, has any conversations about your belief systems come up? Any conversations about other topics? How did the conversations go? Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit...












    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    News Updates: Education Edition





    Peace and blessings,

    Yeah Yeah I know, I'm biased because I'm an educator myself, but these are some really good updates. These updates are particularly important because the two I have for you today have to do with African American and Latino/Hispanic American Students and their parents' educational involvement. The following updates come from the
  • Black Star Project
  • , a Chicago-based organization whose goal is to improve

    "the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap. Our mission is to provide educational services that help pre-school through college students succeed academically and become knowledgeable and productive citizens with the support of their parents, families, schools and communities. Additionally, we help students aspire to post-secondary educational opportunities and training while exploring careers that will be emotionally, intellectually and financially rewarding. Our services are available to all students, particularly low-income Black and Latino students who attend low-achieving schools in disadvantaged communities(Taken from blackstarproject.org, retrieved 9/18/07)."

    Both of these updates are included under the "Education" heading of the news section. The first is about a Million Father March that started this past summer and is continuing during the fall, which focuses on the role of fathers in their children's education. The march has already taken place in Chicago, North Carolina, and New York to name a few cities. The second update is actually a link to a "Family Learning Contract," which pertains to how parents can create home environments and engage their children in ways that promote their educational pursuits and development. More information on both of these can be found at the
  • Black Star Project's website.


  • Check them out and share your thoughts. Take care and speekonit...

    Sunday, September 16, 2007

    A Few Thoughtz: The Tipping Point, pt. 2






    "These three characteristics - one, contagiousness; two, the fact that little causes can have big effects; and three, that change happens not gradually but at one dramatic moment - are the same three principles that define how measles move through a grade-school classroom or the flu attacks every winter. Of the three, the third trait - the idea that epidemics can rise or fall in one dramatic moment - is the most important, because it is the principle that makes sense of the first two and that permits the greatest insight into why modern change happens the way it does. The name given to that one dramatic moment in an epidemic when everything can change all at once is the Tipping Point (Gladwell, p. 9)."



    "While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captian of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand(Acts 4:1-4)."


    "But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:20-21)."


    "But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift....The gifts He gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers...(Ephesians 4:7-11)."


    Peace and blessings,

    I just wanted to follow up with my thoughts of Malcolm Gladwell's (2000) "The Tipping Point." Last time I briefly touched on two main ideas of the book. The first was the idea that social epidemics occur in pretty much the same fashion as biological or medical epidemics. This point is illustrated in the first quote above. The other idea was his argument that in many if not all social epidemics, the three types of people who are essential to the movement spreading are Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.

    In this follow-up, I want to share my thoughts on how I think these two ideas can be applied to our understanding as Christians of the roll all of us play in the Great Commission which Jesus outlined for us in Matthew 28:18-20. I am going to begin by highlighting what I think are some general connections between the gifts God has given us and the three types of people described by Gladwell (2000), and conclude by drawing similarities and distinctions bewteen Gladwell's "Tipping Point," and what I believe to be the Christian equivalent.

    In the last quote, Paul lists a few gifts that God has given us, to be used in the spreading of Jesus' ministry. Like Gladwell's (2000) descriptions of Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, the gifts that have been distributed among believers each play a specific role in the movement. For instance, the gift of teaching may embody certain skills, dispositions, and temperaments that differ from the gift of evangelizing. Now of course these gifts do not have to be independent of each other, because I believe that we are all born with multiple gifts. Further, I believe that which gifts are able to "sprout up" and which ones are "shut down" has a lot to do with our environmental influences, but that's a topic for another time, lol. In addition to this idea that we as individuals play an important role in bringing about movements or social epidemics, Gladwell and Paul (or someone writing in the name of Paul) are suggesting that humans are inherently social, therefore understanding our gifts, skills, and temperaments is to understand the great movements or social epidemics of our time. Indeed, Stiles (1995) echoes this notion of social influence in his book "Speaking of Jesus," where he talks about the significance of divine appointments and how the most minor or casual conversations can lead to monumental changes in people's lives.

    In addition to these three types of people, Gladwell (2000) argues that there are three rules to social epidemics. Further, he argues that the third rule, which is that change happens in one moment dramatically and not in incremental moments gradually, is what he refers to as the "Tipping Point." Before I go on to talk about his notion of a Tipping Point, I first want to comment on his belief that change occurs dramatically and not gradually. I would have to disagree with this assertion, because I think that most instances of major change is a result of both gradual and dramatic moments. In many of the examples he gives in the book (e.g. the popularity of airwalk shoes, teen smoking, and teen male suicide), I would argue that underlying those "dramatic" changes are slower, gradual changes. In other words, I think that it is because of incremental changes that dramatic change is possible. Ok, back to what I was saying before, lol...

    In the two instances in the book of Acts that are captured above in the second and third quotes, the Great Commission was being carried out in major ways. Large groups of people were experiencing and coming to Christ in notably dramatic fashion. In Acts 4:1-4, about five thousand people came to Christ. Now talk about a social epidemic! Similarly in Acts 11:20-21, large numbers of people also came to Christ. What could have "caused" these dramatic changes? What accounted for the spread of this "epidemic?" As mentioned earlier, Gladwell (2000) and the author of Ephesians agree that we are social beings, and thus have an important role in bringing about major change. Where I think the difference lies is in their views of what the Tipping Point is. For Gladwell (2000), the Tipping Point can come about due to a certain number, context, or action. For Christians, the Tipping Point is something different. It is true that in both of these instances in Acts, there were dedicated, influential, people of God teaching and proclaiming the gospel to massess of people at the time these major changes were taking place. However, I'm certain that it was not the teachers and proclaimers themselves that caused all of those people to encounter Christ and come to believe. The Tipping Point which led all those people to come to Christ was none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. Sure, the preachers and proclaimers played a role, just as all of us as Christians play a role in sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. However, I strongly believe that the roles we play are only to "set up" the situations to where God will move, bring about His will, and get all the glory in the process. Now, I'm not saying God needs us to set up these situations, because He doesn't. God will do what He's going to do with or without us. Because He loves us and calls us into a relationship with Him, He also calls us to take part in His reaching the world. This is an ongoing theme in many of Brux Cavey's messages, who is Pastor of The Meeting House in Canada. Isn't God amazing?

    I know this is a lot to throw at you, but I would really appreciate your thoughts on this issue. Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    News Section Updated





    Peace and blessings,

    The "Activisim," "-isms," and "Misc" sections have been updated. Updated news includes info on the Iraq resolution that just passed in Durango, CO, a video report on military sexual violence, and a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research report showing the first loss of jobs in the U.S. economy in four years. Take care, keep these and other issues in prayer, and speekonit...

    A Few Thoughtz: The Tipping Point, pt. 1




    Peace and Blessings,

    As someone who has been in school for about 18 years now, and will be in school for at least four more, I have come to the realization that I love learning and being exposed to different ways of viewing the world. As long as I can remember, I have always felt comfortable in a school setting and/or a class environment. While reflecting on my own learning experiences, I have noticed that many of my most enriching educational experiences inside and outside of the classroom have come during times when I am exposed to and/or engaging ways of viewing the world that are different than my own. Underlying my preference for learning about different viewpoints is the fact that I am the type of person who always tries to make connections between different ideas, behaviors, and experiences. That is why I really enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell's (2000, 2002) "The Tipping Point."

    To my understanding, "The Tipping Point" operates on the premise that there is a connection between biological or medical epidemics, and what he calls "social epidemics." In particular, he argues that just as diseases can spread primarily though irrational events and occurrences, or through a few key players (e.g. people with AIDS who sleep with and infect large multiples of people), social epidemics such as fashion, smoking, and suicide trends (just to name a few) can spread in the same way. Now even with all of my psuedo (or not so psuedo)-conspiracy theories about how everything's connected, even I thought his argument that social epidemics spread similarly to biological/medical epidemics was a stretch. And although there are some aspects of his argument that I disagree with, I think that he raises some very thought-provoking points about a variety of social phenomena that we should pay attention to.

    Although he starts of the book drawing connections between biological/medical epidemics and social epidemics, the book focuses on analyses and explanations of the latter. Because he situates all human phenomena within a social context, he argues that social epidemics are primarily the result of the actions of three types of people: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Connectors are people who are well - connected such that they know tons of people. Connectors tend to have a gift for attracting (not in a romantic way) and maintaining connections with people. Mavens are the people who like to learn about and teach people things. As a result, they are very knowledgeable about many things. They are the type of people who always want to share information with other people. Lastly, Salesmen are the people with the mouthpiece. In other words, they are the people who have a gift for persuading others to believe or do something. According to Gladwell, these three types of people are the most important in spreading a social epidemic. The Connectors get everyone together, Mavens provide them with the information, and the Salesmen persuades them to "get on board" with the movement.

    In the first part of my take on Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," I wanted to highlight some of the major parts of his argument. In the second part, I will try to identify some connections between some of his ideas, and the distribution and uses of spiritual gifts that God bestows upon us. If you've read the book, what is your take on it? If you haven't read the book, what are your thoughts on my brief summary? Stay blessed and encoraged, and speekonit...