There war for water is not on the way – it’s already here

I had the honor of participating (and repping Circle of Hope) at the Standing Rock March on Washington last Friday along with Kristen and Joby. The rally that ensued was the most inspired and well-led that I’ve ever attended. One of the main MC’s was 16yr old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (pronounced Shoe-TEZ-Caht) who youth directs Earth Guardians and lives as a climate change activist and hip hop emcee. He has a TED talk. He typified the vibe of the speakers and musicians, who each shared briefly. Everyone began with gratitude. Most people thanked our Creator and the elders and ancestors who protected the waters for us, inspiring us to protect for those yet to come. 

Last week’s Delaware River Basin Commission’s business meeting was postponed due to inclement weather. I attended the open forum by a member of the commission last month where they heard public comment on new proposals – one a pipeline extension through our watershed and the other a new fracking site – that would bring an end to the hard-won moratorium on fracking. Since then, the commission has not undergone the research they said was needed to make a new decision, although the extraction industry has been hard at work in keeping things quiet and behind the scenes. Even the fracking-induced earthquakes in Pennsylvania haven’t gotten seriously on general consciousness beyond people active in the struggle. When the DRBC reschedules the business meeting, I wonder how many will turn up to keep this voracious practice out of our region?

Less people are in denial than before about a water war coming. Most people imagine this war being carried out by one government on another with the “legitimate” violence of militaries to better the self-interest of one of the nations. I think most people imagine it happening in the future. The war over water has already begun, being waged on us by transnational corporations. The extraction companies, banks and the politicians that they fund are making policies backed by militarized police, private armies, and federal soldiers that creates huge financial gain for a very small number of people while the rest of us pay. The rest of us suffer along with the Earth.

What’s happening at Standing Rock is another example of how settler colonialism continues to rare its ugly head. It’s an old story for Indigenous peoples, one of federal disregard for their lives or ways of life. It’s also new because while they are poisoning the water, they are doing it at our behest. It’s our appetites for cheap gas that keep pipelines expanding. It’s our appetites for thermal comfort, for unrestricted use of fossil fuels in our cars and our homes that make fracking tolerable. We cannot just blame corporations with their private security forces, militarized police, and lawmakers wanting to break treaties by building pipelines or make huge profits on defiling practices like fracking. A few million of us need to take responsibility for our consumption habits and change them.

How does a historic peace church behave during times of war? Some of our Anabaptist cousins lean towards non-involvement. They might pull out of the questionable industries at most levels like the Amish and some Mennonites. Others will only see the people caught up in carrying out the dirty work of the drilling companies because they don’t have other viable economic options, and feel protective of their jobs (thus indirectly protecting the Gas Man). Others, like us, seem to be activating to wage peace during unfriendly times. Waging peace requires personal and communal disciplines as well as contributing to larger strategic work. Jesus will provide for us no matter what we do. Christ’s redeeming work in us doesn’t just help lift burdens of shame and guilt, it empowers us to act in ways that show evidence that we are made fully alive. Let’s make it easier for Jesus and leave some clean water for our grandkids and great grandkids to be able to drink.

When the water protectors at Oceti Sakowin camp were surrounded by police and private military, they chose to burn down their camp and walk out. They weren’t retiring or surrendering, they were proactively changing the battleground. That’s the kind of creative thinking we need right now in our watershed, even as we do our part in the national struggle against the corporations making war on us.

I suggest we act according to our calling by creating more options. We’re in a liminal time, where we are tethered tightly to dirty energy and don’t want to be – yet we don’t know how it will turn out. The Holy Spirit gives us imagination and creativity – especially when we move and act as a body. To fight fracking in our watershed, we need to do more than make legislation that holds off the drillers. We need to explore alternative energy sources and invest as a group in them. We are a living demonstration project. We can dream about what holy limits we need to respect that don’t keep creating more demand for harmful extraction practices. We need to share life – living out God’s good ideas – together, both for accountability to our dreams as well as including more people in the alternative-generation.

 

re: definition

Great day with the family, working in the yard and the house.   I am constantly surprised by how wonderful it is to increase the definition of different areas.  When my yard bleeds into one blob, it feels chaotic to be out there.

I get something inside when there are boundaries in the garden.  Different areas for different things.  Places where you don’t walk.  Weeds pulled up and other junk that collects between plants.  It feels so tranquil.

This is not my first post about such things.  But it is the first post about yard work when I thought of a song-not a ton of connection beyond me stealing the title.  This is a great video, too.

Cop:  [To Hi-Tek] “are you deaf?”

Tek:  “nah, he’s Def.”

Mos Def:  “he’s Hi-Tek.”

Schoolly

When my teacher told me that Schoolly D was going to be coming into class, I thought it was pretty awesome and funny.  I had only heard of him because of PSK and by the word on the street that Ice T had stolen his whole deal.

Last Tuesday, Schoolly and some friends (including Umar from Street Fatigues) visited our class.  Schoolly grew up at 52nd & Parkside, and started playing guitar in a family band before he was 10yrs old.  He’s talented, personable, and hilarious.  Top moment of the day…

Nate:  “How would you describe your relation to so-called Gangsta Rap?”

Schoolly:  “I’m the father.”

Modesty may not be in the top 4 words to describe him.  Among other things lately, he’s been busy working on a new album.  You may know him also from Aqua Teen Hunger Force as he wrote the theme, most of the score, and the character Shake was loosely based on him.

Hearing him talk about hip hop was a privilege.  He still tries to do it “the old way.”  Recording, writing, and producing in-house as well as putting things out first on his own label.  It’s not made for mass consumption.   He told the kids in class about how important it was to be yourself artistically-don’t try to fit into a box that people (even you) think will sell before what you really care about.

I got to talk to him for a couple minutes after class.  I honestly wish I had brought my camera.  He’s a legend.

Writtenhouse

My Hip Hop & Black Culture class has been pretty great throughout the year, but the past week or so has been particularly cool.  Last week Chris Conway & Charlie K from the Germantown-based hip hop trio Writtenhouse were our guests.

Last tues, Chris gave the lecture about “finding the perfect” beat.  He taught on the progression of DJing and producing beats and development over time.  He pulled out some obscure clips to show how producers built up parts of songs.  I never realized Kweli’s Get By was built by Kanye using Sinnerman by Nina Simone-at 5:19ish, 8:29 in particular.  Both songs are amazing.

On Thurs, Chris & Charlie K talked about their creative process and Chris brought in the MPC to show us how he makes beats. The two of them and their 3rd member Kush have a lot of talent.  Chris & Kush do their beats and keys live-building songs and beats out of broken down elements of other songs and adding their own flavor…Charlie K is the emcee.

These dudes were really cool, and are playing on May 2 at Studio 34 in West Philly, or if you are rich you can catch them at The Roots Picnic this summer.  They are tentatively up for doing a show at circle of hope with psalters at some point!  We’ll see.

I used to love H.E.R.

I’ve never been a huge fan of homework.  But it’s not always doing math equations and reading 50pgs a day.  For my Hip Hop and Black Culture class part of my assignment is to listen to this song, watch the video, and read the lyrics to prepare for a class discussion.  Awesome!

Video, lyrics, then a couple of reflections.

This is Chicago-based rapper Common (when he was still Common Sense) in the 1994 song “I used to love H.E.R.” off the album Resurrection.

Verse One:

I met this girl, when I was ten years old
And what I loved most she had so much soul
She was old school, when I was just a shorty
Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me
ont he regular, not a church girl she was secular
Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her
But I respected her, she hit me in the heart
A few New York niggaz, had did her in the park
But she was there for me, and I was there for her
Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her
and just cool out, cool out and listen to her
Sittin on a bone, wishin that I could do her
Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be
because we related, physically and mentally
And she was fun then, I'd be geeked when she'd come around
Slim was fresh yo, when she was underground
Original, pure untampered and down sister
Boy I tell ya, I miss her

Verse Two:

Now periodically I would see
ol girl at the clubs, and at the house parties
She didn't have a body but she started gettin thick quick
DId a couple of videos and became afrocentric
Out goes the weave, in goes the braids beads medallions
She was on that tip about, stoppin the violence
About my people she was teachin me
By not preachin to me but speakin to me
in a method that was leisurely, so easily I approached
She dug my rap, that's how we got close
But then she broke to the West coast, and that was cool
Cause around the same time, I went away to school
And I'm a man of expandin, so why should I stand in her way
She probably get her money in L.A.
And she did stud, she got big pub but what was foul
She said that the pro-black, was goin out of style
She said, afrocentricity, was of the past
So she got into R&B hip-house bass and jazz
Now black music is black music and it's all good
I wasn't salty, she was with the boys in the hood
Cause that was good for her, she was becomin well rounded
I thought it was dope how she was on that freestyle shit
Just havin fun, not worried about anyone
And you could tell, by how her titties hung

Verse Three:

I might've failed to mention that this chick was creative
But once the man got you well he altered her native
Told her if she got an image and a gimmick
that she could make money, and she did it like a dummy
Now I see her in commercials, she's universal
She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle
Now she be in the burbs lickin rock and dressin hip
And on some dumb shit, when she comes to the city
Talkin about poppin glocks servin rocks and hittin switches
Now she's a gangsta rollin with gangsta bitches
Always smokin blunts and gettin drunk
Tellin me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk
Stressin how hardcore and real she is
She was really the realest, before she got into showbiz
I did her, not just to say that I did it
But I'm committed, but so many niggaz hit it
That she's just not the same lettin all these groupies do her
I see niggaz slammin her, and takin her to the sewer
But I'ma take her back hopin that the shit stop
Cause who I'm talkin bout y'all is hip-hop

---------------
Besides this being a classic work it is one of the great hip hop 
parables.  This would be anexample of one of those songs that is 
all-too-easy misunderstood at face value.  You could listen
and even be offended because he talks of sex or lewd observations 
about the subject's new sexy style. When this song came out you 
gotta remember what was happening in the world-especially in the 
hip hopworld.  West Coast vs. East Coast and Gangsta Rap was c
oming up.  Hip Hop had gone through the folk and art phases 
and was now in the pop phase-it was being made for mass consumption.  

Common uses the woman he always loved as a metaphor for hip hop,
 showing him the way-going through consciousness and into a place 
that he did not want to follow-making money and being about sex,
violence, and drugs.  It had sold its soul, but hope remained for 
redemption.

H.E.R. means "Hip Hop in its Essence is Real."

Great song and this was when Common was still the man.  
His last 2 albums haven't quite lived upto his old stuff, imho.