Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are You Listening? Gospel Artists Unite Musically For Haiti

Nothing like a crisis brings people into some better understanding or sheer misunderstanding of God. The devastation in Haiti is a perfect example. How do those that seemingly have nothing still reach deep into their souls to sing praises to God? That's a lesson of the human spirit that transcends religion, many of us strive to wrap our minds around.

So Last Friday, as I watched several celebrity faces give their time and talent to "Help for Haiti", it struck me that many of the typical secular artists sang of angels, God, prayer, and other aspects of the spirit. Some even sang with gospel choirs which is an undeniable trait of the black church especially.

And that's when then question arose for me? Where were the gospel artists in this mega television broadcast effort? Seemed like every form of popular music was represented, so..?I know the real answer to the question and for the sake of not sounding like an anti-Hollywood establishment blogger, I'll keep it to myself. Not to mention, and more importantly, "Help for Haiti" raised nearly 60 million in donations. That's celebrity being put to good use right there!

So just where were those who sing about God for living? I thought, "surely, they had done something collectively and I had somehow missed the news." Well, ask and it shall be given! During a rare moment of tv channel browsing this past weekend, I was led to watch the music video below playing on the Gospel Music Channel (GMC). Honestly, I didn't even know the channel existed for us here on the west coast. I stopped surfing because I saw Kirk Franklin, then BeBe Winans--two of my favorite gospel artists.

Anyhoo, Kirk Franklin and his network of friends had obviously produced this great song called "Are You Listening?"according to Billboard.com during the Stellar Awards on the 17th of January. The video showcases their effort.

You can download it exclusively at VerityRecords.com now and on the 30th it will be available on iTunes, Wal-Mart, and other major retailers like Amazon. All proceeds go to organizations supporting Haiti. So spread the "good news" as the church folks say. Need a blessing, then be a blessing! Are YOU listening?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I'm Still Supporting Wyclef & Yele In Donations to Haiti

Pictures: Wyclefjean.com

I usually have a strong sense of discernment. So what many have defined as "stand off-ish" or incorrectly as "shy" is in truth a process of observing people and things around me. This week's "wanna be" scandal with Wyclef and his foundation, Yele, provided a great opportunity for us to put our discernment to the test.

Though the Fugees are no longer, its spirit of being more relevant to the world than supplying hit records, still exists. Wyclef from day one has been CONSISTENT in his support of not only his native country of Haiti but also of the world community as a whole. But right now his focus is on his country and its people in it's time of need through Yele and other organizations.

That said, DON'T LET WHAT YOU'VE HEARD LATELY DECEIVE YOU. DISCERN between what is the REAL issue and when HATERS create one because someone is raising more money than them through an organization THEY'VE never heard of on a grassroot level.

"How could this rapper raise so much damn money without a publicist written press release, no major ties to an A-list celebrity that we know of? All we keep hearing about is YELE? What the hell is a "yele"? Call some people, we're gonna investigate!"

What they don't know is that Wyclef was being prepared for his role in Haiti long before this recent devastation. And what he thought would be used in music is being used to help his homeland and its people. I sat next to him last year and listened to his vision of changing the music game from the bottom up through a "warrior" movement via the internet. See my 2009 wrap up for more details on that. But even before that he was setting the foundation of his movement through social media. Listen to this interview I did with Wyclef two years ago.



If you missed Oprah and Wyclef's press conference, visit his website then discern for yourself what's real. Once the quake hit--Wyclef was one of, if not the first celebrity figures--to go to Haiti and see the devastation for himself. He used mostly Twitter and his blog to inform people what was happening there and to support Yele. His message went viral and spread from Twitter, to Facebook, to YouTube, and to blogs seemingly BEFORE the Red Cross and other organizations' online Haiti campaigns were being talked about on the net.

Perceptions become reality, so again DISCERN for yourself what's truth. And on that point, this "200 years of poverty" that's existed in Haiti is becoming a media catch phrase. That kind of wording is dangerous and may lead people not to donate because they think Haitians accept poverty as the norm and are too lazy or ignorant to do better. DO YOUR RESEARCH PEOPLE! Haiti's FIRST distinction is that it is the FIRST BLACK colonized country to FIGHT AND WIN its independence. Remember the name Toussaint L'ouverture? No? Google it!

Haiti's independence from French colonization cost the country dearly as Le Francais waged economic revenge on the small country by way of reparations. And yes, in the early 1900s the US played a role in keeping Haiti in debt too by invading the country. Again do some research then add to that generations of inner turmoil and corruption and you'll get the present day poverty that exists in the small country.

Still, what's done is done. We must now focus on the present situation to ensure a better future. Last night many celebs including Wyclef combined their influence to raise money for Haiti. Let's continue supporting their effort now that the cameras and celebrity presence is gone. Donate what you can not only to Yele and Red Cross, but any of the relief efforts you trust. Discern for yourself what's real and what's bullshit. In chaotic times like these, truly there's no room for bullshit.

Monday, January 18, 2010

When They Reminisce Over You: The Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King

Pic source: Africawithin.com, socialistworker.co.uk

So here we are, another Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Across the country and maybe even in some parts of the world the elders will reflect on their experiences from the Civil Rights Movement. They'll speak highly of their proudest moments participating in the sit-ins, marches with the Dr. King and others, boycotts, crossing arms and inspiring one another by singing "We Shall Overcome" and "Lift Every Voice And Sing"--the Black National Anthem, organizing voter registration, and bravely risking their lives to end segregation and Jim Crow laws.

And while they share their finest moments, somewhere else this day will bring back those vivid sad moments, as in my mother's case, of a dark night illuminated by a burning cross. Then from others the battle scars from unleashed dogs, racist cops, and the devastating force of water from hoses may be revealed.

Then if you tarry a while longer in their presence, some elders will close their eyes and moan at the memory of four little girls murdered in a church bombing, Emmitt Till's open coffin, and the smell of burnt "Strange Fruit" mixed with the fragrant blooms of southern trees.

And finally while still in that moment, they'll recall how just when they had accepted in their hearts Dr. King's method of non-violence and hope was re-born, King was violently silenced by an assassinator's bullet. They'll pause then as the exact moment they heard the sad news floods back to their memories. The rage and deep sorrow will play across their faces for a short moment before they snap back to the present. "That was the past, baby. We've come along way since then. Now it's time for you young people to do what you were put on this earth to do!"

Yeah, there will be a lot of reflection today, but will we and the younger ones really care to listen and take it in? Not so much what was done but how they made it through, how they overcame it mentally and spiritually. As I write this post, the REAL story of the day is Golden Globes winners not MLK Day observances on NBC's morning news. The coverage of the traditional parade-which will be rained out, but not delayed this year--will come later. But once the credits roll what's next?

So today will young people especially appreciate the correlation between Dr. King, President Obama--both Nobel Peace Prizes recipients--AND Haiti's once proud history? No? Then let's spend today and everyday showing them. And in the process hopefully we"ll discover something new about ourselves and our collective history in this country.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

CONGRATULATIONS MO'NIQUE!

Pic Source: Wireimage

It's a wonderful night to be in Hollywood despite the rain! So what makes this evening so special? For me, this one thing--the fabulous comedienne, producer, and actress Mo'Nique was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Precious". It's going to look great next to her ACADEMY AWARD! That's right! I'm claiming it!

Hands down, since we first worked together on "The Parkers" just a few years ago it seems, Mo' has been one of my favorite people in this town. She inspired me then and having witnessed her evolving success since 2002, inspires me more now.

Now for errrbody talking about how she's not doing what she's supposed to be doing to win Hollywood's highest honors, maybe now you can shut the hell up! Like Mo' said God is taking her on an amazing ride; what is meant for her she WILL have (Mo'Nique voice....BABEEEEEE!). And knowing that is one of the greatest rewards of all! Remember, once the award shows are over, the red carpets are back at the warehouses, and all the tuxes and rented/borrowed dresses have been returned, Mo'Nique will still be the amazing actress we know her to be.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Book of Eli: A Walk of Faith Not By Sight

"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12 King James Version

One part "Kung Fu", one part soft commentary on religion and its power, "The Book of Eli" may stir up some heated debates in religious circles. But before you toss holy water at the screen and anoint the projector with oil, why argue the truth? Religion IS a powerful tool AND weapon and those that wield that power can influence the world. Just ask the Pope! And not to mention, though the Holy Bible is used in the film, technically The Torah, the Quran, or any book of religious tenets could have been used.

This movie is more a story of faith and obedience, but it's NOT a faith based film as we define them now. There's violence aplenty (ironically just like between the pages of Genesis and Revelations), hell appears to be on earth, there's no tear jerking scenes of redemption, and there's absolutely no good gospel music in it!

That said "The Book of Eli" is set in the not-so-distant future after a catastrophic war has turned the American landscape into a barren, ravaged place. Lawlessness is the law of the land, and it's every man for himself. Amidst the thieves, murderers, and cannibals stands Eli (Denzel Washington), a mysterious righteous man on a "Kung-Fu"-esque mission.

That mission, he believes, is to deliver a special Bible, to a special place far west, city unknown. Thanks to the war 30 years before, Bibles are extinct and Eli possesses seemingly the only one on earth. So led by faith he embarks on his journey, destination apparently unknown, but he'll know it when he gets there. Alone he traverses the austere landscape interrupted only by foolish thieves and bandits that never learned it's the quiet ones you have to watch, and a dangerous man named Carnegie (Gary Oldman).

In the middle of that barren land, Carnegie has established a town of sorts and plans to establish more. But in order to really gain control of the area's wayward population, he believes religion is the key and will do anything to get the Bible Eli possesses. "If I only had the right words," he says. Of course, because books are scarce, very few people even know how to read so his words and his interpretation of the Bible would become law. Does that scenario sound familiar?

So while Carnegie kills to get "the word of God", Eli kills to protect it and himself. With unwavering faith he continues his west ward journey and of course manages to acquire a curious disciple, if you will, eager to escape Carnegie's hold on her and her mother lives. Though unwilling at first to accept her presence, he comes to realize she may be part of the Divine master plan.

Overall, the film has some very interesting talking points if you're open to a discussion of spirituality versus religion. But, though it's set 30 years into the future, it did feel as if I was watching an old school Western complete with the traditional "stranger in town" and "good guy vs bad guy" motifs. All that was missing were the horses and black and white hats.

My other issues rest with Eli the character, but I can't really discuss them without giving the heart of the film away. So should you see it--it hits theaters TODAY--let me know what YOU think. I'm eager to hear other views!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's still so good to love you back Teddy Pendergrass, RIP

Thank you, Teddy P., for sharing your talents, your gifts with the world. Nobody, nobody delivered that sexy, growl at me, preach to me voice like you. You help define SOUL music for my generation. And it still "feels so good when you love somebody and somebody loves you back and that's fact!" And love you we do Teddy! So "Close The Door"!



That is one of the few times in life I've ever desired to be a microphone stand. LOL!

Sade Soldier of Love Video!

Ageless...timeless...Sade! Love it!

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