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...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Missing the Big Picture?

Peace and Blessings,

As soon as the devastating events in Haiti took place, I was both shocked and outraged to hear that some Christian leaders were speaking on the current situation in Haiti as if they "brought this on themselves." A while back I talked about how I think there are "critical points" in the Christian walk where how we as Christians choose to respond can have significant implications as to what we are focusing on at that moment. In the earlier post I was referring to the incidents involving some Christian musicians, and now I feel like that "blame them" response to Haiti is another example. During a time when Haiti needs the love of Christ and of His followers the most, some leaders decided to blame the devastation on them. I found so many things wrong with this assessment that I do not have time to list them all here. The main point I want to get across is that it is responses like these, those that are rooted in passing judgment and viewing ourselves as "better" than others, where we miss the big picture, and contribute to some people's notion that Christianity "is not for them."

As a result of these comments, the radio station K-LOVE received many responses from Christians throughout the country expressing how they felt about the comments. In light of these comments, they interviewed a pastor who reminded us of the big picture, and why the "blame them" approach hinders the our ability to show the love of Christ to others.

Feeling as though God was speaking to me through my reaction to the "blame them" response, I began thinking about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, as visually depicted beautifully by Earnest Graham. By reflecting on this parable, I am reminded of how at times it is easy to condemn and judge others and how difficult it can be to simply love them. Regardless of this difficulty, however, Christ calls us to love God with all our heart AND love others as we love ourselves. The two are inseparable, and the more we focus on them as being inseparable, the more receptive people may be to the love of Christ.

What do you think? Take care and speekonit...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Man of God: A Primer

Peace and blessings,

Since copping Viktory's newest album, Son of the King (2009) last month, I have not been able to put it down. He's been one of my favorite rappers since I was introduced to him via his last album (Believe it Now) and that album was a banger as well. His newest album, however, is even better than the last. Click here
for a brief bio, and herefor a review of his latest album.

On the title track/album intro (titled "Son of the King"), Viktory lays out what it means to be a man of God. Getting this album at the end of '09 was a blessing for me, as it has reminded me of the importance of continually striving to be a man of God, and the struggles and triumphs inherent in such striving. The lyrics are below. Stay blessed, encouraged, and speekonit.

Everybody stressing me out/this life is demandin'/
This is what a man is/see if you can handle it/
Food shortage/they blame you for the famine/
Son wanna eat/he ask you for a sandwich/
No matter the draw/you are the canvas/
Right where you stand is/keys to the planet/
Peace for the frantic/
Rise young man rise/so you can bring peace to the panic/
Speak like a cannon/fire and you standin'/
Show'em what a man is/see if they can handle it/
World's going dark/only you can re-candle it/
You can rekindle it/no you no benefit/
How we get Jena 6/self is the nemesis/
Why we sit/and just repeat Genesis/
Everybody hatin'/God's world no immigrants/
Rules are in order/but unity is limitless/
Man with a mission/gets trapped in the tenements/
Locked by the sentiments/of high class membership/
Now he can't remember if/God called him to top/
God called him to stop/God called him or not/
Mind in a pretzel/the future is a letdown/
Generation now/we keep going the next mile/
Wit 'em all/we can't let'em fall/
Just keep doing ya thing/God's waiting on the sons of the King/
And that means you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A New Year's (Re) Solution

Peace and blessings,

As I look back on the various things I was involved in last year (e.g., academically, personally, and professionally), I've decided that there's one particular issue that at the moment I'm really concerned with addressing: Shifting the conception of education amongst American youth, particularly underrepresented youth. Given that (1) there's a great deal of truth to the saying "the youth are the future" (as well as the present, but that's another issue) and (2) an adequate education is an integral part of improving the quality of life for oneself and for others, how today's adolescents perceive and experience education can have significant implications for the future.

Before proceeding, two clarifications are necessary. First, by "quality of life" I'm not referring to material things (e.g., a better car, house, or high-paying job), but about learning about oneself, others, and the world in a way that opens the door to finding your passion in life, your avenue to leave a mark on this earth. Second, I'm not claiming that everyone must (1) have superb academic performance in K-12 and/or (2) go to college, because I know that grades do not define a person, and that college may not be for everyone. What I am claiming is that in many ways, the idea that it's not cool to be smart or to get good grades needs to be turned on its head, unless many of our youth are going to continue to "fall through the cracks" and waste their potential to lead, inspire, and create a better future.

Anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that during adolescence (roughly ages 13-19), three things generally become increasingly more important in their lives:

(1) Friendships and peer groups
(2) Describing themselves in terms of belief systems and worldviews
(3) Having a personal domain

(1) and (2) are pretty straightforward, and (3) pertains to the idea that compared to preadolescents (although there is some evidence that they too have a personal domain), adolescents tend to view more issues as falling within their own personal jurisdiction (i.e., it's their decision to make as opposed to their parents, or anyone else etc.).

I believe that in order to shift adolescents' general conception of education to where it's "cool to hold it down in school," each of these aspects of adolescents' lives need to play an important role. As for (1), adolescents' need to be encouraged to form study groups to get work done and study for tests, as well as to choose to associate with people who are going to better them as students. This doesn't mean that adolescents should only be friends with "nerds," but that adolescents are not being peer pressured into doing things that do not contribute to their growth as a student. For (2), we need to encourage adolescents to understand that education is about much more than a nice job, house, and car. Further, we need to continually let them know that grades or test performance do not define them; but if they develop a passion to learn for learning sake, they will do fine no matter what level of education they pursue. For (3), I think we need to validate adolescents' need for personal space, while at the same time helping them forge a personal connection to school and to what they learn.

By viewing our adolescents' as assets, validating their concerns, and walking beside them as they begin to solidify each of the three areas mentioned above, we can provide the proper encouragement adolescents need to fully take ownership of their education. Once this ownership is matched with a passion to make a meaningful contribution to this world, the possibilities are limitless....

What do you think are the major issues influence adolescents' conception of education? What do you think is/are the best solution(s)? Take care, God bless, and speekonit...

A Few Thoughtz: Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador (Pt. 2)

Peace and blessings,

I wanted to take a moment to address an issue I did not get to in my previous post. Knowing that I'm a huge hip-hop head, a friend of mine asked me if I was still going to listen to Da Truth and Ambassador's music in light of these incidents. Without giving it much thought, I immediately said yes, because I believe that they are sincere in their commitment to Christ. So unless I find out that they were "faking it" in their music, I will continue to listen to them. Upon further reflection, I realized that response was not reflective of an avid fan who's in denial, but was based on an assessment of their lyrics and the themes throughout their albums. While this assessment applies to both artists, it applies to Da Truth more than Ambassador, because I have three of the former's albums ("Moment of Truth," "The Faith," and "Open Book") and only one of the latter's ("The Thesis").

Since "Moment of Truth," there have been three themes that have consistently been woven into Da Truth's albums: (1) Pride, (2) Humility, and (3) Temptation from women. For each theme, he talks extensively about how he personally struggles with each one, and how he has to work constantly to keep them in check. Aside from the fact that he's lyrically gifted, his openness regarding his struggles in these areas is one of the reasons why I really take to his music. I doubt it's a coincidence that I struggle with those themes as well! He was doing more than telling listeners about his difficulties. He was also speaking to issues that men of God face on a consistent basis.

The concept behind Ambassador's "The Thesis" was based on his actual thesis in seminary school. In his thesis, he argued for the validity and use of hip-hop as a way to minister to people about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, his album was in many ways an audio version of his thesis. During one interlude, he addresses what he believes to be an issue within the general body of Christ (i.e., the church) that is potentially hindering the advancement of the gospel to certain people. He argues that the church should not demonize and/or be opposed to using hip-hop as a ministry tool, because hip-hop, like any other art form, can be "claimed" by God to reach those who may not know Him, or who may not be living in His will. Using the analogy of a baby taking a bath, he argues that although the baby was dirty, the only thing that is drained out is the bath water, which contains the dirt that was originally on the child. We get rid of the bath water, but not the reason for (i.e., the person in) the bath water. He contends that just as we do away with the child's dirt but not the child, we must be careful not to dismiss hip-hop as an art form and ministry tool just because a good deal of hip-hop music does not glorify God.

The same applies to the situation with these artists. It was this "don't throw the baby out with the bath water" idea that influenced my response to the situations involving Da Truth and Ambassador, and why I will continue to support their music and ministry. When things like this happen, it is important not to write off the person because of an act they committed. In other words, we should make sure that we "don't throw the person out with the sin."

As ministers of the gospel, I often wonder the extent to which these and other artists are being encouraged, supported, and lifted up in prayer. They dedicate a significant portion of their lives ministering to others during their music, and I think sometimes as fans we forget that they are human just like us, and are being "targeted" by the devil just like we are. As a result, we value them primarily in terms of what they can do for us through their music and ministry, forgetting that they too need to be ministered to and encouraged. As fans and those who support their ministry, let's remember that we're all in this together, and we all need each other to remain directed towards the things of God.

What do you think? Until next time, take care and speekonit...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Few Thoughtz: Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador (Pt. 1)

Peace and blessings,

This past Thanksgiving, I was talking with some friends of mine and received some shocking news: two rappers that have played an instrumental role in not only my interest and respect for Christian hip-hop but my personal growth as a Christian, have either been discontinued from Crossmovement records or have taken a Sabbatical due to moral indiscretions. When I heard it, I initially questioned whether or not it was true. I was skeptical of the sources from which my friend had received the information, and I wanted to look up the info myself. After a quick google search, it was clear that what my friend told me was accurate.

A summary of the incident involving Da Truth and Tye Tribbet can be be found here, and info on Ambassador can be found here. My prayers go out to each of these artists and their families as God works with them and heals them. Once I found out that these allegations were true, a friend of mine asked me if I was still going to listen to their music. At that point I started thinking about the implications of these incidents for those who listen to their music, and more importantly for us as Christians.

Regarding the first implication, I think that a major factor preventing some people from following Christ or re-connecting with Christ is their disappointment with the actions of other Christians. To this end, I really appreciate how Da Truth, in his written statement about the issue, urged his listeners to NOT take his lapse in judgment as a reflection of the God he serves. This is a difficult distinction to make, but a necessary one. Our failures as humans are not an indication that the God we serve is not "legit." God's legitimacy and supremacy over our lives goes without saying. However, like an appliance that needs power from an outlet to work properly, we too need to choose to remain "plugged in" to God in order to live a life pleasing to Him.

Regarding the second implication, I think that how the body of Christ moves forward in this matter is important. In particular, I believe that every now and then situations come up, and how we as a body react to those situations speaks volumes about our priorities at a given moment. Given that Da Truth, Tye Tribbett, and Ambassador have been preaching Christ through their music for years, and take ministry very seriously, the fact that these incidents took place is indeed disheartening. With that said, Jesus taught us about the difficulties, importance, and necessity, of showing love, forgiveness, and compassion towards others. Especially when they feel like they don't deserve it.

Therefore, my prayer is that we focus less on our reactions to the acts themselves, and more on how can I pray for and encourage them through this difficult time. No one's exempt from "dropping the ball" if we're not careful. What's at stake is much larger than the acts themselves. As the God we serve is larger than any person or behavior, so should be our capacities for love, forgiveness, and compassion. I'm not saying responding in this way is easy (because it's not), but it's necessary. How we as Christians respond to these and other situations of this magnitude) speaks volumes. Let's respond by focusing on the things of Christ (e.g., love, forgiveness, and compassion), and not the things of man(passing judgment, slander, etc...).

What do you think? Take care, God bless, and speekonit..

Happy New Year!

Peace and blessings,

I want to wish everyone a happy and blessed New Year, and I pray that God moves in your life in amazing ways in 2010!