Ladies! (oh and gents too…)

7 03 2014

I was scrolling through Facebook and found this photo…brought back a lot of memories for me, growing up with these guys being the household names of black entertainment.

Then it dawned on me. When have we seen a picture like this of women? Has there ever been a time when a group of black women have been as powerful and recognizable as these guys and have taken a picture together? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong!

Today we have Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay. Somebody get them in a room together for a picture! We need more women, though! Ladies, let’s stand up, unite, and create!


One Year Down…15 Things I Learned From Seminary

21 09 2013

It’s official. I have now completed my first year of seminary. And what a year it has been…I think this past quarter has been the most formative for me since I’ve been here at Fuller for so many reasons. And I am so thankful for it all. Here are some things I’ve learned both about myself, about my life, about Christianity, during the last year:

  1. It’s interesting how many people assume that since I am in seminary, I want to be a pastor or minister. Trends are changing, and more and more people are choosing to take their seminary education into the marketplace instead of the pulpit. The majority of my friends in seminary don’t want to be pastors–which has its pros and cons–but that’s for another post. There are some seminarians who want to be teachers, so people should consider that as well. While I don’t feel called to pastor in the traditional sense, I am starting to see how teaching is a form of ministry itself. It’s amazing to start to see how what I am learning in seminary is related to what/how I teach my students in the classroom.
  2. Seminary is draining. Good though, but draining…
  3. I remember writing a paper during my first quarter at Fuller that I want to help the church to “see”. I think I’m just now starting to understand what I meant by that…
  4. I’m realizing that our American definition of Christianity is totally skewed. After taking Christian Ethics, I realize that I think we have the wrong idea of what it means to be a disciple. We consume and assume a heckuvalot for people who are supposed to be standing up for justice for the oppressed. There are people right in our community who are suffering, but yet we still want more. And then I see commercials for shows like Preachers of LA and it sickens me. What are we doing?? Don’t believe me? Go read the Sermon on the Mount.
  5. There’s no such thing as a perfect church. So why should I deem one church’s imperfection better than another church’s imperfection? I realize that I don’t want to throw away all my church traditions because of imperfections, instead I want to figure out how I can help. That said, I wonder sometimes if my generations’ abandonment of our church traditions was a mistake. This theory hasn’t been proven yet, I just wonder.
  6. It’s really hard explaining my program of study to people (“Oh, you’re in seminary?” “Yes, I’m studying theology and film.” *blank stare*)
  7. Theology is best when it’s lived out with real people in community.
  8. I’m getting old and stuck in my ways. And I’m ok with this.
  9. I’m slowly beginning to understand what my platform is in regards to film, the arts, and the church. Stay tuned for more info/posts about that…
  10. I learned that I don’t study well in groups, or in the library. Which kinda sucks because people seem to be having so much fun in the library.
  11. The past year has taught me how much I value quality time with people. Spending an evening with room full of people is not really my idea of a good time, even less so if I don’t know the people. Coffee or dinner with a few close friends–whether old or new–now that’s what gives me life…
  12. I realized how thankful I am to have great friends in several different states and countries that I can seek counsel from or just process things with, and that they can tell me when I’m crazy. I’m also thankful for those friends who have walked with me through some major decisions in my life.
  13. I realized that teaching is very important to me. I spin my wheels every day thinking of ways to make my students “get it” and sometimes I just feel like I don’t have enough tools to do that.
  14. I keep flip flopping back and forth about whether or not I want to stay on this track and still get a PhD. I feel like I’m starting to get some understanding of what I might like to study, but I don’t know of any program that has what I am looking for, even on an interdisciplinary level. I could use some advice in this area. So if anybody has any, please share.
  15. I am really glad that I came to Fuller. It had its flaws, but overall I think it’s the best seminary ever. (I might be just a tad bit biased 😉

I know there’s more but I leave you with those for now. Here’s to year #2! At this point, I have no idea where this journey is going to end, but its quite an adventure!

Are We In This Together Or Not? The Church and the Gaping Hole Called Racism

18 07 2013

As I am still trying to think and process the events from the Zimmerman verdict this past Saturday, I keep reflecting on Sunday.

Sunday morning I went to the church I have been attending for the past two months, First A.M.E. Church in Pasadena. Although I was going primarily to worship God, I knew that they would address the injustice that had just taken place, and I knew that it would be a good place to process the myriad of emotions I was feeling in the midst of a community of brothers and sisters. Well, I wasn’t disappointed. Right after the Call to Worship, we all stood and sang “We Shall Overcome” while holding hands. I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelief that here we are in 2013, and we still have a need to sing this song. We have a long way to go indeed…

The minister then prayed a special prayer for everyone involved in the case. Later, there was a special altar call to address injustice, and the pastor took a few moments just to encourage the congregation to hold on and “not grow weary in well doing” in the midst of the disappointment that the not guilty verdict had brought. After the service, they had a Q&A session where people were given an opportunity to voice their frustrations and to follow them up with specific action items that we can adopt as a community to help try and make things better. In this moment, I was happy to be back in the black church. It was a reminder for me that this institution has been fighting for social justice issues since its inception, and it has continued to do so even as I wandered away from it that past few years. But let me tell you about the rest of my Sunday…

I left the Q&A session feeling excited about the definitive avenues to get involved. A friend of mine was preaching at a church in Culver City, so I headed down there to hear him speak. A small church plant that meets in the park, I was the only African American person in the group, but my friend, a white male came over, gave me a hug and introduced me to his friends. One of the first questions he asked me was how was I doing in light of the events that had happened over the weekend. I was able to share my frustrations with him regarding the Zimmerman verdict as well as another tragedy that happened over the weekend, the death of one of my favorite actors, Cory Monteith from Glee. With that simple act of concern and sharing, I felt completely at home with this group of white brothers and sisters in Christ. And even though they did not call Trayvon’s name as they did in the previous service I had attended, they did pray for justice, for peace, and for love.

I bring up these stories because I know that there were some churches who did not even mention what happened with Trayvon Martin during their services at all this weekend. There were some churches who did not even know who Trayvon Martin was, that he died, and that there was a major trial that has been happening for the past few weeks. Are black people the only ones mourning this among the body of Christ? This should not be. If we’re truly going to be a united church, we cannot mourn alone.

As I reflect on the possibilities of racial reconciliation within the church, I see more and more the disparities that exist when it comes to tackling topics like Trayvon Martin. Whether congregations avoided the topic because it was controversial or out of ignorance, churches seeking true diversity and racial healing cannot afford to use either as an excuse because doing so can alienate the very groups the church is trying to include. I know of several African Americans who either “took the day off” from their white congregations this past Sunday, or were deeply pained by the lack of mention of a case that has so many implications for the lives of African Americans, and African American men in particular. Not allowing these people the space to process events like the Trayvon case in a community of believers can easily create distance and discord even among a diverse congregation.

I understand that there are varying opinions about this particular case. However, as believers we are called to love one another and share one another’s burdens. Therefore, at the very least, compassion needs to be a standard within the body of Christ among blacks and whites. After all, who wants to be part of a church community in which they cannot feel comforted? We need each other to lean on during times like this.

A lot has happened in the last few weeks regarding race in this country. If we really want diversity in our churches, there needs to be a serious attempt at staying informed and acknowledging when our brothers and sisters hurt. This is all of our problem as brothers and sisters. Racial injustice is very real in this country. I never did believe in a post-racial America, but I believe that the Zimmerman verdict has uncovered the reality that America still has a gaping hole in its side and it’s called racism and it won’t go away by ignoring it. I still do believe that the church can be a major catalyst in helping to heal this wound, but it doesn’t start without open, honest conversations and sharing one another’s burdens.

Me, AME & My Church Dilemma Continued…

10 06 2013

shieldSo I figured I should give you all an update on my church situation since many of you have been praying and checking up on me regarding this issue, and for that I say thank you.

One day after I re-read my last post about trying to find a church, I had an epiphany that a lot of the qualities that I was looking for are already in the AME church, the denomination I grew up in and left 13 years ago for what I thought at the time were “greener pastures”. AME churches have a great way of blending what’s old and what’s new, and as of late, I’ve been craving some good, old-fashioned gospel music and hymns mixed with some contemporary gospel. I also miss seeing the mothers of the church and the teenagers all worshiping in one church together. I miss seeing the stewardess ladies in their matching white suits and hats serving on communion Sunday. I miss a good choir, I miss the “bounce” of the sway when rocking to your favorite song, I miss the sound of an organ–I miss SOUL.

So with that, the past few weeks I’ve been visiting First AME Church here in Pasadena, and what a blessing it has been. These weeks have reminded me of the rich tradition that is in this denomination, as well as the strong sense of community and faith that I experienced growing up. I am reminded of the AME church’s strong commitment to scholarship and to reaching out and serving its community. I am reminded of its sense of dignity and pride that it tries to instill for every Christian, but especially for those of African descent. Now grant it, the theology there is not deep, but at least it’s not false. I disagree with some of its doctrines on things like baptism, they don’t sing any Hillsongs, and they get a #fail on the “turn to your neighbor and tell ’em” stuff. But the gospel is being preached. I guess when I thought about it, I realized that I never left the AME church out of hurt, anger, or because they were preaching absolutely false and damaging doctrine. That was the case with some of the other churches I attended, and I think that has affected my aversion to the black church for all these years since.

I haven’t joined First AME or anything just yet. Truth be told, I’m not even 100% sure yet that I actually want to officially join there. I’m still very cautious about it all. What’s difficult about attending there is that as much as I love its self-awareness, I am also aware of the fact that there is no more diversity in the AME church than there is at any of the white churches I’ve been attending. I may not be the minority in this context, but many of my friends would be. So much for trying to be part of multicultural church. And part of me wishes that more non-black people would come there just so they can experience what I have been feeling for the past 8 years of my church life. One thing is for sure, this experience is giving me new insights into my feelings about multicultural churches and how they could best serve the various cultures that walk through their doors.

But I am enjoying myself. I feel like I am home. Who knows, maybe AME is in my blood and I was bound to come back at some point anyway. Or maybe it’s just that in all my efforts the past few years to be an advocate for the multi-cultural church, I’ve forgotten what my own cultural tradition brings to that conversation, therefore making my contribution less fruitful. Or maybe I just miss my mama ‘nem on the east coast and this is just my way of feeling close to family. Either way, for now, I’m just enjoying the experience…and the little old ladies on the front pew with their hats…

Harlem Shake 2.0

26 02 2013

You know what they say, “What goes around comes back around.” Or “History repeats itself.” Well, for some reason, dance history is repeating itself–well, kinda sorta–in this rash of Harlem Shake videos that have been circulating the ‘net as of late. One day I kept seeing these videos of people doing some weird kind of jerky dance with costumes pop up all over my newsfeed, and I couldn’t help think “This is strange, I thought the Harlem Shake came out years ago? Why are people doing videos about it now? And from what I remember, it didn’t look like that!”

It’s just so funny to me how the freedom of social media can allow for images, memes, and traditions to be rediscovered and reinvented, all with some editing and the click of a button. If I wanted to get all serious about it, I could look at this as yet another way in which street culture is hijacked, pimped by, and conformed to mainstream culture. It’s a C-O-N-Spiracy! But nah, I won’t.

I just listened to a short blurb on NPR about the origins of the Harlem Shake, in which they interviewed Jay Smooth, host of the hip-hop video blog “Ill Doctrine.” He says no harm, no foul, it’s all in good fun: “it’s sort of an example of how a cultural artifact can fly around in this sort of global game of telephone. And these questions of appropriation can rise up, but there isn’t really any intent to steal or make fun of. It’s jut the way that ideas propagate nowadays.” I agree with Jay…it’s all good. But I do agree with what he says at the end of the interview–can we have a compromise and just get at least one person in these videos to do the real Harlem Shake? LOL…

At any rate, I personally got excited about this video with some folks doing the Harlem Shake I’m more familiar with. I love to see young people dance, and I love the fact that social media has given them an outlet to in a sense reclaim their cultural artifact. You gotta love how sista’ girl in the green breaks it down, and then they put the impostor “Harlem Shake” in the garbage can…Have fun and dance on, chil’ren! 🙂

Black Women an Anomaly at #Sundance?

12 02 2013

As i continue to reflect on my Sundance experience, the other morning I started thinking about all the films I saw and the wonderful Q&As that followed. Then I realized something–there was little to no representation of black women filmmakers at Sundance this year. This seemed to be the year for black men–Ryan Coogler’s wonderful film “Fruitvale”, Andrew Dosunmu’s visually stunning “Mother of George”, George Tillman’s “Ineviteable Defeat of Mister and Pete”–but I don’t recall seeing a black female lead any Q&As, or even black female crew members, with the exception of Frances Bodomo, the director of the short film “Boneshaker”.

Don’t worry, this is not a post about the lack of diversity at Sundance. Last year Ava Duvernay did her thing and won Sundance’s Best Director award for her film “Middle of Nowhere.” And I couldn’t be happier for the black men that represented this year. They all did great work. But sitting at a panel on women filmmakers, as I listened the stats on the lack of female directors in Hollywood in general, I couldn’t help but wonder if I even stand a chance as a black female filmmaker?

How is the voice of color being grafted into the conversation women are having on what it looks like to see images of ourselves on the screen? A woman in the audience tried to engage that conversation in the room, to which another woman in the audience basically answered in a tone that said “There was a panel for black people last week so stfu”. Well, so much for female empowerment.

My point today is simply to encourage my sister filmmakers to keep writing and making movies. My Twitter timeline stays full of feeds from black men who are doing web series and making films. Bravo for them. But we have a voice too, and let’s make sure it’s not silenced.

#60Movies – Day 7: Our Song

10 01 2013

MV5BMjAwNzQ4Nzg0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjIxNzUxMQ@@._V1._SY317_CR1,0,214,317_So today I decided to appease my longing and anticipation for “Scandal” to return by watching this film starring a very adolescent, pre-Olivia Pope, Kerri Washington. Her Bronx accent is THICK in this film. Lol!

Synopsis: Three inner-city teenage girls navigate through the pressures of their neighborhood when their school is about to close down due to asbestos. Each one of them deals with life situations in their own way, while playing in the Jackie Robinson Marching Band and making decisions about their futures along the way.

My Takeaway: This film is a throwback. It was released in 2000 but it looks very 90s, which for me is great because that was an era that deeply influenced me as a filmmaker. That was an era when there actually was still a black film aesthetic…but I digress. Our choices don’t have to be dictated by our environment. Here was three young women who, even though they did not always make the right decisions, were trying to live life in a way that would take them places. I appreciated the fact that the characters felt real to me, like people I grew up around. It’s definitely an independent film–no glitz or glam in this one. If any of you followed black independent cinema and/or were into the indie black directors of the 80s along the lines of Leslie Harris, Millicent Shelton, Mattie Rich, etc., I think you’ll dig this. This had a “Just Another Girl on the I.R.T.” kind of feel to me. It’s very much a character drama, and it moves according to the pace of everyday life. That kind of gritty realism is right up my alley, but it can get to be a little mundane in some areas, so for that I give it 3 1/2 stars.