Lessons from the streets during the DNC

I don’t usually get blog requests from Circle of Hope leaders, so when one of them came to me, asking me to break down my reasons for so passionately railing against the system all the time, I decided to spend a few hours in the forest, getting back in touch with God and creation; I wanted enough solitude to figure out what it was I has to say, and I’m realizing it may take a couple post to break it down fully.

I’m want to make space for us to develop our ways of thinking. I spend a lot of time listening to radical people and live in a radical community of Jesus lovers, so my perspective is my own, but I’m eager to dialogue and grow together.

Spoiler alert/main point

I am part of a local expression of the trans-national, even trans-historical Body of Christ. I think our most important work– politically, spiritually, etc., is to embody alternatives, with Jesus, to a series of bad “choices” we’re spoon fed by the media and dominant culture. We are not doomed to remain stuck in between a series of bad options. God can fill us up and empower us to create pockets of resistance– where the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus refers to in the Bible can become very tangible and very accessible here on earth right now.

There are a lot of ways to participate in politics – I hope to sprinkle some hope, peace, and possibility into your day. You’ll notice that I talk about a lot of radical stuff including listening to, learning from, and organizing with different kinds of people than those who are most popular. You may need to do some side reading understand a few things but I’ll do lots of links and pics because you might not have read up on Black spiritual leaders or know why we are interested in what Mumia Abu Jamal has to say. I’m primarily speaking to people who are a part of Circle of Hope so I’m making some basic assumptions, but you don’t have to be into Jesus or Circle of Hope to get this.

Praising the Lord

I got to spend about 5 days outside around the time of the DNC – in the streets with several marches and demonstrations as well as attending panel discussions, pop up art exhibitions and worship sessions. I didn’t catch any of it on tv and saw only a few video clips but there seem to be a lot of people with some strong feelings about this election. So if you are feeling a wound up here is some examples of ways I turned my frustration with the powers that be into a generative force of community:

I spent most of my effort organizing drummers and Christians to Praise the Lord with drum and dance (Psalm 150) for two primary marches – the March for Our Lives with the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign and the Black DNC Resistance March with the Phila Coalition for REAL Justice. I also was with the Moral Monday crew enjoying the Repairers of the Breach event (also at AFSC, some leaders pictured right), and enjoyed sitting under the trees with the peace and anti-war activists put together by the Brandywine Peace Community. Before I gave my hopeful 10min speech I met Emily Yates, an Iraq War Veteran for peace who sang a brilliant banjo singalong ditty about the failed promises of war administrations after Medea Benjamin and CODE PINK shared. Connecting with God in community this was so inspiring that our cell meeting this week included three people not normally part of it (we meet on Thurs 9am at Franny Lou’s Porch).

Reflection, Art, Field Trips, and “Taking the day off”

One angle – notice the US is made of guns

Taking a day of creative rest can help get you centered. The “Truth to Power” Revolutionary Art Exhibition by Rock the Vote included some of the most beautiful and disturbing images that reflected back a rather grim state that our nation is in. I loved the creativity and profound opportunity for networking. Nate took our Circle of Hope staff as a field trip and Jeremy gave his green architects the afternoon off to go drink it in.

I got into this DNC business with an “on-ramp”

Another angle – notice the US is a gun (made of guns)

of a profound Love Feast and baptisms in the Delaware River, a Kensington Royals sweep where I threw a complete game shutout, and an inspiring Sunday meeting. Afterwards, I spent time listening to the crickets and frogs like I mentioned earlier. Reflection is an important part of the action.

¡Escucha! ¡Escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha!”

Some of my time was spent with dear friends from the Kentucky Workers League and their comrades at the Socialist Convergence (at AFSC) where we rocked out with the Global Grassroots Justice Alliance – a diverse group with indigenous people from the US and Honduras (at least) and my favorite new chant that means “Listen! Listen! We are in the struggle!”

I’m not a socialist myself, but appreciate the solidarity that can come from their class-conflict analysis, and heard several lucid insights: One of which was a more comprehensive definition of the economic concept neoliberalism. The ruling class continues to exploit everyone else and the earth. Neoliberalism sees competitive behavior as a foundational impulse between people. It turns souls with creativity and critical thinking skills into nothing more than consumers and puts an enormous emphasis on the power of the market to save us while simultaneously convincing people that their wealth was earned by merit and not as a result of privilege heaped upon privilege.

Also, If you don’t know your federal, state, and city reps – you may want to begin with learning about them rather than getting freaked out too bad by one president. IMO US Presidents have all been really bad in their own ways, with a few moments of exception since those old plantation owners and John Adams convinced poor immigrants to break off of their English father back in the 18th Century. There are useful ways to participate at many levels of government. I think there are a lot of good ways to participate in elections, including not participating in them. Don’t reduce your political participation down to one ballot or one election. Representative democracy, with its superdelegates and electoral college certainly will not produce justice for all or liberty for the disinherited.

I’ve listened to many of my indigenous, Latino, Queer, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim friends rail against Donald J’s bigotry, questionable morality, or the generally pathetic Republican notion that this man should be president. “Build a wall” or “register muslims” or the real enemy of the [white] US is Radical Islam are not policies. New SCOTUS judges could overturn Roe v Wade or make America ____ Again. The RNC held up a mirror up to the United States to see how ugly our fear and wealth hoarding can be. Lots to not like, eh? Does that mean we jump to supporting anyone who can defeat him?

Dr Anthony Monteiro, my favorite professor from Temple’s African American studies program leading a panel discussion at the Socialist Convergence about xenophobia

Dr. Anthony Montero and Mumia Abul Jamal had some opinions about the ruling class/warmongering party (Democrats) who have successfully and profitably connected mass incarceration and poverty at home with regime change and drone warfare abroad for 16 of the last 24 years. The transnational corporations are loving it! I had to consider a thought that I don’t think I could have come up with on my own because I’ve been so inundated with anti-Trump rhetoric. Mumia said in an interview from prison “If Trump is the price we have to pay to defeat Clintonian Neoliberalism — so be it.” I’ll just leave that there for a minute…

 

 

You can see that there are any number of reasons to support/not support either/both of the major candidates. Vote/not vote in a way that makes you feel like you had some integrity with your values and your behavior. If your civic duty is to cast a mere ballot every couple of years, you have already given away the leadership of our communities to corrupt Powers. We need to be organizing, demonstrating, praising God, and embodying the very things we hope and pray for. You can vote for the candidate/party that you want to lead the country. You can actually feel good about it, not just manipulated.

Jesus knits us together

I saw groups of people this week that I wish would come together but seemed separate. They were in

Art Bucher’s shot of four of our pastors and lots of friends praising the Lord during Monday’s March for Our Lives

Philadelphia at the same time. Jesus got to all of the good actions – especially those organized by poor people or those thirsty for the world that doesn’t quite exist yet. Circle of Hope was at a lot of the actions, too. Why can’t the anti-war groups (mostly gray haired white peaceniks who have worked since the 60s) hang with Black Lives Matter? Why were there six distinct socialist movements not knowing about each other? Why did the Wall of Love in the face of Westboro Baptist not connect to the Poor People’s march? They did connect – through the Spirit and through the people who made intentional or accidental overlap. We are all connected, especially those blessed ones who hunger & thirst for righteousness/justice. Let’s receive the courage to be OK with Jesus and do the good work we’ve been given to do, regardless of who wins certain elections.

 

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.

psalters spring 09 update

this is a cross post with the new handsome Circle Venture blog.

For psalters Jay Beck & Scotty Krueger, creating a working Philadelphia headquarters has been a challenge.  They spent the better part of the last five years living on a converted veggie oil-powered school bus with the rest of psalters travelling around, leading worship, leading seminars, and experimenting with Exodus.   Some of those travels were international, most recently Jay & Scotty attended the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People in Israel & Palestine.   Christians from around the world gathered to worship in their traditional cultural styles of music, dance, and dress…it was a great time to learn and network and visit friends and various sites in the Jerusalem area.

Inspired not only to compose new psalms that bring together both worship and social justice, psalters are in the process of developing the Croatan Training Center & Studio located at 2007 Frankford Ave, the same building as our Frankford & Norris congregation meets.  Jay has already taught a series of West African Drumming classes so dozens of people got a taste of how transforming and fun it can be to learn.  The studio will not only be a place for psalters to practice and record, but also a resource to make connections with other musicians and friends.  The Training Center aspect will feature a library of cultural and theological books and videos as well as various classes and workshops by our team as well as other musicians from Philadelphia and around the world.  More from Jay on Croatan Training Center & Studio here.

The team has also been commissioned to compose and perform the music for a new play by Director Lear Debessonet and Playwright Lucy Thuber called Quixote.  “A site-specific performance based on Cervantes’ classic tale ‘Don Quixote’…this production re-imagines the intersection of art and its community” (from stillpointproductions.org).  It will run in Philadelphia this Spring, and perhaps NYC this fall.

The team continues to participate in local worship teams for Circle of Hope (including a special 9pm worship time at 1125 S. Broad St on March 22), as well as other local performances, seminars, and worship times.   This summer may feature a short tour in mid June that includes the Ichthus Festival in KY.

Circle of hope, croatan,  croatan training center,  ichthus festival,  israel,  lear debessonet,  lucy thuber,  palestine,  philadelphia,  psalters,  quixote, stillpointproductions,  wcgip world christian gathering of indegenous people

me 3.0

my brother Jeffrey (funniest of the 4 of us) made a couple cracks to me about 3.0 today.  He is not only funny, he’s right.  I’ve been getting ready for the next version of me, today is a good day to be feeling it.   I feel good.

Lots happening these days.  Last week I was in Michigan with psalters most of the time.  Next week FN Stakeholders meeting, more music, CoH Camden, saying farewell to my boy Clarence.  So much and so awesome.

Maybe different looks like:

1.  I cried while watching A Little Princess with my family last night.

2.  finishing the rehab at 2007 Frankford

3.  starting my Kodo training

4.  both kids will want to go to Phillies day games

5…other?

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.

spring 09 semester underway

they call it the Spring semester, but going over to Temple didn’t feel like Spring today.  It’s nice to be back in school again.  I have some really great classes and love my profs.

I’m taking Intro to History of Africa with the same guy as last time (see earlier post).  5 books again, but this time about several different regions and not as in depth. The other one is Hip-Hop and Black Culture (African American Studies Dept).  The first class was so good.  There is a possibility that Philadelphia legend Schoolly D might even come in one class.

then

then

Schooly D now

now

pretty awesome.

2009 Hot Christmas Tunage

We’ve eaten the pears

Now we’re cutting down the trees.

Poor, little partridge.

I’m grateful to have so many friends that pitch in each year to find the jams to soundtrack our Advent season.  Last year for me there was a lot of Johnny Cash, Low, John Fahey, and even some Christmas In the Stars.

Two albums this year have risen to prominence.  The first is Where Will You Be Christmas Day? by Dust to Digital (2004).   In a similar style and spirit of Goodbye, Babylon, it is remastered original recordings from the early 20th Century.   It’s a pretty wide sample of different peoples in the US during that era and is pretty brilliant.

The other, called Excelsis Vol. 1: A Dark Noel.  It’s pretty smooth, ambient and on the gothic side of things.  Great mixing of traditional European chanting and acoustic instruments with keyboards and samples.

(discreet hi-fives to adam and scott!)

What are you listening to this year?