Side Note: I just noticed that I used “affect” where I should’ve used “effect.” That won’t be making the final draft. If you notice anything else, holla atcha girl! – LBJ
Yesterday, January 22nd, 2013, was the 40th Anniversary of the controversial Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that, among many seldom mentioned effects, made it possible for women all over the country to legally and more safely acquire an abortion. While some rejoiced over the medical and feminist victories of having more above-the-table options available to women, others writhed over the potential moral and reproductive implications – many of whom continue to writhe to this day.
It’s hard to find moderate positions on this topic that haven’t been suppressed by religious and liberal extremists. What I find most fascinating, or telling, about the Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life argument is that the loudest voices in the Pro-Life set…camp…are overwhelmingly male. Conservative men who never have and never could go through an abortion tend to take a very strong stance against it. I could speculate (or evaluate) the patriarchal forces at play in this peculiar phenomenon, but as an act of restraint, I will limit my feelings and observations to “I” statements.
On January 22nd, 2013 I didn’t read a single “pro-life” opinion produced from the mind of a woman. However, on that same day, I read male pastor after male pastor’s statements against abortion. Of those statements, from people I was not following, only one was retweeted into my timeline by a woman. While others might find this acceptable, I find it troubling. When it comes to matters regarding my reproductive organs, I am slow to consider the thoughts, opinions, or suggestions of individuals for whom my experiences as a woman are biologically impossible. However, there are areas in which I would love to hear more male voices.
When politicians try to cut funding towards programs that support the basic needs of unaborted children and their parents, please, speak up. When public figures make inaccurate statements about women’s bodies having the ability to “shut down” during rape, please, speak up. When popular artists glorify sexual promiscuity and boast about “going raw,” please, speak up. Have you considered adoption with your spouse? Do you support organizations that service low-income, unwed mothers? Have you lead or suggested discussions about reproductive health and sexuality at your church? Will you educate your children on the proper usage of various contraceptives? There are plenty of ways to work towards the prevention of abortion that don’t subjugate the voices of women. I would love to see more pro-life men step up in these areas where their voices are less prominent.
I’m not suggesting that any of these approaches will eliminate abortion altogether. However, I am suggesting that these are far more productive uses of time, money and influence than trying to shame women out of making an already difficult choice. I haven’t read one scripture that would make me believe picketing abortion clinics and reposting graphic memes is what Jesus would do. In fact, I imagine he’d be gentle and empathetic as he was in most of his documented encounters with women. When it comes to protecting the fruit of everyone’s loins, Christians could certainly stand to employ more fruits of the Spirit.
2012 has been an exciting and interesting year in music, with artists like Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and Lecrae making their debut on a mainstream stage with great success. Also, with talks of the world possibly ending in a few days, there has been an interesting spiritual shift occurring in the hearts and minds of many which has spilled over into the realm of music in a very noticeable way. A couple of months ago, HardKnockTV released an interview with Hopsin, an underground emcee who’s been making a lot of buzz, in which they got him to speak very candidly about his faith and relationship with God. If you haven’t seen that already, be sure to check it out as soon as you get a chance.
As a believer in God, first, and a curator of music, second, this year has been great for me. I’ve gone through a shift of my own where I no longer look at art as being secular vs sacred. I’ve challenged myself to listen before assuming, and because of this, the world has opened up to me in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t have. I can truly say that I’ve experienced what it means to be free in Christ and I don’t walk around in fear of damnation or failure. Furthermore, because I once was that uptight and judgmental Christian, I can’t judge others for being that way without getting a swift kick of conviction from the Holy Ghost.
With all of these things in mind, I decided to do a different kind of “Best Of” countdown this year. I’ve created a list of the Top 10 “gospel” albums that likely won’t be found on your pastor’s iPod. Assuming that you’ve actually read the title of this article, please don’t ask me why Lecrae isn’t on the list. Furthermore, please don’t be a literalist or stickler about the title. Don’t proceed to tell me that your Youth Pastor quotes [insert secular artist] all the time in his sermons, when this is clearly meant to represent the traditional archetype of a conservative, Protestant pastor. Now that I’ve taken care of some housekeeping, I hope you enjoy this little list I put together. Let’s hope that 2013 yields even more excellent art with a Christ-themed message that I can actually share and discuss with my unsaved friends:
CLICK COVER ART FOR DOWNLOAD/PURCHASE LINKS
10) King Mez – My Everlasting Zeal
Although this isn’t my favorite project from King Mez, this album was a solid introduction to those who weren’t already familiar with his work. It didn’t make a lot of noise, which is unfortunate, but hopefully 2013 will bring about more opportunities for a larger audience of true Hip-Hop fans to get acquainted with King Mezatron.
9) SPZRKT – While We’re Young
Being a Moment of Truth transplant, it was no mystery or surprise to seasoned CHH fans that SPZRKT had the skills to pay the bills. However, this was his introduction to many as a solo artist and he certainly didn’t disappoint. With its youthful and energetic sound, this album is appropriately titled. If you aren’t afraid to have a good time and sweat your hair out, or you have no hair to sweat out anyway, this might be the project for you. Unfortunately, with hits like “LSD” under his belt, SPZRKT probably won’t be getting an invitation to perform at your church’s youth emphasis service any time soon; so turn up the speakers, and rock out to While We’re Young in your car or your room! Also, be sure to get that Purple Panda EP.
8) Giano – S.O.R.I.
As someone who’s known about Giano’s skills for a minute but hasn’t always been a fan of his work, S.O.R.I. was a pleasant surprise. As church folk would say, he did his good rapping on this here album. As I listened to track after fiery track, I felt like I owed Giano an apology for underestimating what he could do. This one is definitely a treat for nostalgic, 90’s NY-era hip-hop heads. If you ain’t feeling it, it ain’t for you. That’s just what it is!
7) Justword – Light Generation
Y’all gon stop sleepin on Justword, that’s what you gon do! But seriously, dude is a beast and has been for a hot minute. This super producer/emcee is one of the most underrated cats in CHH’s arsenal, which is a damnable shame! There is no weak point in his entire catalogue — all of which is up on Bandcamp, if you have yet to hear it for yourself. Best of all, he is seamlessly versatile in the styles of music he’s able to create. The Transfiguration is totally different from Light Generation, but they’re equally strong projects. I can’t say the same for many artists, only the greats.
6) Beautiful Eulogy – Satellite Kite
Out of all the albums on this list, Satellite Kite is probably most likely to be on your Pastor’s ipod, that is, if he has a long beard, tattoos, and hipster frames. HumbleBeast artists have been making a lot of well-deserved noise this year, although a lot of it can be attributed to having strong ties with Lecrae and Reach Records. Nevertheless, due to the futuristic synth-bap production of Courtland Urbano, they have a sound all their own that deviates from the norm in commercial hip-hop. When you add to that the lyrical stylings of underground legend, Braille, and up and coming legend, Odd Thomas, the end result is an undeniable BEAST of an album. Hopefully, there’s an Odd Thomas solo project in the works for 2013, because I just have this feeling that he has way more to share.
5) Nicholas Ryan Gant – Promises
This artist and album were a refreshing and surprising discovery. I just happened to be perusing one of my oldhead, hand-dance music blogs when I came across this delectable treat. I promise that if more gospel artists were to take this direction, which many could pull off, I’d be more supportive of the genre. However, as it stands, today’s gospel music just doesn’t do it for me. That raw grit and soul is missing, but for me, it was found in Promises. Many months later, I can still say this is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. If you’re a fan of R&B/Soul music, be sure to check out Nicholas Ryan Gant. I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed.
4) Mumford & Sons – Babel
Like Beautiful Eulogy, Mumford & Sons might actually be on your hipster pastor’s playlist as well. Since the release of their chart topping debut album, Sigh No More, I’ve witnessed the occasional Christian discuss the spiritual themes in their music and insist upon their salvation. I could hear where they were coming from once I got around to listening to Sigh No More, but I believe the message is even clearer in their sophomore album, Babel. Perhaps, we’re all reading something into the lyrics that isn’t there, but the fact that several people, whose judgment I trust, walked away with the same conclusion leads me to think otherwise.
3) Jerrell Johnson – Dream S.O.D.A.
What more can I say about Dream S.O.D.A. that I haven’t already said? I mean seriously, the link has been resting in my personal Twitter account’s bio since it was released. All I can add is that behind the incredible talent is an incredible human being. It’s so much more rewarding to endorse good music when it’s also made by good people. I don’t have to wince or hesitate as I encourage folks to listen and support. Furthermore, I know that if those same folks reach out to express the excitement about what they hear, they will be gratefully and humbly received. Artists like Jerrell are a rare in secular and Christian communities alike. I look forward to seeing him reap the abundance that is in store for him in 2013 and for years to come.
2) Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Out of all the albums on the list, this is probably the most controversial. I will be the first to admit, that even with all of its redeemable qualities, good kid m.A.A.d city is undeniably heavy latent with ratchetry. However, I would be remiss if, for that reason alone, I threw out the believer with the dirty baptismal water. Kendrick isn’t the only “mainstream” emcee to confess his faith on wax this year, but contrary to some of those other emcees, I actually believe him. There’s nothing obscene or attention seeking about his confession which otherwise would have raised all kinds of red flags in my mind. He did not blaspheme the God he claims to believe in or present any misleading accounts of His nature (which is more than I can say for many nominally gospel albums). Kendrick doesn’t omit any parts of the story, which can be harder to swallow at some points than at others. He set out to make it clear that he is the chief of sinners, which according to God’s rubric, makes him the most ideal candidate for redemption. GKMC paints a beautiful yet twisted picture of what it means to be caught between The Rock and a dark place. While he yet seeks to grab on to this truth that has grabbed on to him, he invites his fans to come along for the journey. He didn’t wait until he had it all together to share the good news, and as someone who’s fighting to stay afloat myself, I can respect that. I’m convinced that Kendrick Lamar is in fact the real deal and, in a non-condescending way, I’m praying for him.
1) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred
Anyone who’s at all familiar with Cody ChesnuTT’s prior work knows that Landing On A Hundred is not only a remarkable body of work – it’s a miracle! For me, it’s an answer to my prayers. A couple of years ago, I remember praying for God to redeem ChesnuTT’s gift to the point that I could partake in it, because that singular, 2-minute track on my iPod was not cutting it. More recently, my heart’s prayer has been to unearth more gems that can feed me both spiritually and creatively. I needed something that was rugged and authentic and I received that plus more from Landing On A Hundred. The world might never understand the blessing that has rained on us by way of this album or at least not until ChesnuTT has gone on to glory. However, I believe so firmly in this album that I would venture to call it the What’s Going On? of our generation. It’s that good. Now that I’ve potentially ruffled a few boas with the Marvin comparison, all that’s left to do listen for yourself to see if I’m tripping. Furthermore, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. ChesnuTT covertly snagged a few Grammy’s. If it happens, remember who hipped y’all to the game first.
That’s all, folks! This was probably the most fun I’ve had writing a post all year. I just hope the list will be even harder to nail down in 2013.
Image Source: Essence.com
I hate being a woman. Well, let me rephrase that: If I had the choice, I would not be a woman. No, I’m not tripping about childbirth or menstrual cramps. Neither do I care about the countless painstaking ways we try to improve our appearance. It’s just that the kind of woman I am doesn’t often fair well with either gender, and if I was just a dude, my life would be so much easier.
You see, I’m the kind of woman who cares more about what I put into my body than what I put on it. I abhor the idea of someone being more drawn to my appearance than my intellect. I would rather cry and fight over injustice than cry and fight over a man. I’m not too fond of misogyny, inequality, or hypocrisy and I don’t hesitate to express it. Most importantly, I will never knowingly step on another woman’s toes to chase after a man. I think it’s one of the worst things a person can do and I never tolerated that behavior in former friends.
Perhaps, these unconventional values and traits are the reasons I have more former female friends than present ones. They might also explain my several “brothers” actually being like brothers and not a bunch of dudes I’ve been with in the past or desire to be with in the future. But of course, this is yet another unconventional trait that repulses the vast majority of men and women. But honestly, I wouldn’t even mind being socially ostracized if it didn’t occur in the church more than anywhere else.
The truth is that I’ve always faced some difficulty being the type of woman I am, but I never hated being a woman until I became more active in the church. Sexism and gender inequality are on center stage in many congregations, yet no one’s booing or throwing rotten tomatoes. Even in predominately female audiences, there are claps and cheers where there should be gasps and sneers. Instead of walking out on this never-ending show of misogyny, we stampede to get a good seat and don’t care who gets trampled in the process. Of course, those who get trampled are the women who struggle to meet the status quo, who don’t dare to be different because they just are. And the women who overcame their own struggles with conformity not that long ago look down on them in disgust like, “Eww! What’s wrong with her?” I’ve seen this happen so many times that I tend to avoid large groups of women and try to engage sisterhood on a person by person basis. Yet, even in those situations, I’ve still gotten burned.
After wrestling with this issue for so long, I decided to come clean to a couple of friends, male and female, about my concerns with the treatment of women in church. Although I’m more disturbed by the women who do the mistreating than the men, I understand why this “crabs in the barrel” mentality exists. Many people in general live by the archaic concept that only the fittest survive; and by virtue, only the fittest are worthy of survival. Yet this theory, which has long since been exposed for its bigoted origins and disproven by many great minds, continues to live on somehow. It goes to show that depravity trumps reason; and unfortunately, in many cases, depravity trumps faith. Despite Christ proclaiming “the last shall first and the first shall be last,” we still insist on competing with each other — at least for the time being.
The competitive tension among women is nothing new; it’s just that, over time, the tension has increased. There was a time when a woman was considered a prize and men lined up to compete for her affection. However, one day, men wised up and said, “Hold up, we run this!” so the new attitude became, “We don’t love them hoes.” Of course, it’s far from true, but they said it so often that women actually started to believe it. The claws came out and everything became about impressing and oppressing each other until men were practically pushed out of the picture. Hair, makeup, clothes, relationships, and weddings all became about outdoing the “next b*tch” and men were the means used to accomplish those ends. To put it plainly, gender relations are all messed up and intragender competition has distorted the purpose of companionship.
But how does all of this play out in the church? Interestingly enough, not much differently than in the world — we just have a way of being so mean while making it look so nice. Rather than outdo each other in promiscuity, Christian women try to outdo each other in modesty. Instead of criticizing the next woman’s weave, we whisper to each other about the length of her skirt. Insults become rebukes. Cliques become accountability groups. It’s all the same game, just under a different name. Then, there’s this whole obsession with Proverbs 31. If you’re a woman and you ain’t a Proverbs 31, you ain’t nothing! On the flip side, where is the equivalent standard for men? Where is their rubric? There are several scriptures about the biblical standards for men, but they aren’t nearly as popular. For what reason? I won’t speculate, but I’m sure you could guess a few. Now, if the only acceptable woman is a Proverbs 31, what about those who don’t quite meet that standard? How do we classify them? Come here, Jezebel! The “Jezebel spirit” is at work in every woman who doesn’t live, breath, and dream Proverbs 31. If that’s not her holy grail, she’s headed for scorching hell. I’ve never actually heard anyone say these things, but sometimes it’s what you don’t say that screams the loudest.
To say I’m tired of this foolishness would be an understatement. I’m sick, exhausted, disgusted, and disheartened. I want so badly for more women and men to recognize this issue and become active in addressing it. The first step, I feel, is to recognize the difference between patriarchy and biblical order. Patriarchy says that men are superior, but biblical order says that men are family leaders. God created men and women in his image, so we are equally loved and appreciate by Him. Although our roles within the family unit are different, one isn’t superior to the other. Just as I’m charged to follow in the example great women of faith set before me, men are charged to follow in the example Christ set before them. If a man can fall short and grace is shown towards him, that grace should be shown towards women who fall short as well.
Sisters, please stop competing with each other. What God has for you, if it is in fact for you, cannot be taken away. You are not saved by marriage or perfection, you are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Find your complete worth in a relationship with God instead of seeking the approval of man. If a husband is in fact in your future, serving and doing for others with the love of Christ will prepare you to fulfill the role of a wife. If you can cook, feed the homeless. If you can clean, grab a broom and pick a neighborhood. If you love children, volunteer at a youth outreach center. While you are yet single, allow your virtues to be a blessing to your community; because, until you have a family, that is your first ministry.
We all have a purpose to serve in this life, a path to walk down, and it will differ for each person. I know that God made me a woman for a reason, and although it can be difficult at times, I fully embrace His plan. Please pray for me as I continue to grow and learn more about myself. Pray that I not rebel when I become frustrated, but instead allow that tension to sharpen my mind and spirit. I hope that anyone reading this can see my heart behind it; and even if you don’t agree, please continue to move the conversation forward.
Tuesday, July 9th was an important day in music and LGBTQ history. Famed singer and songwriter, Frank Ocean, made his television debut performing the controversial single, “Bad Religion”, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just moments after his album, channel ORANGE, was unexpectedly released.
In the previous week, a blogger who had gotten ahold of an advanced copy revealed that Frank Ocean was “coming out” with channel ORANGE, and she wasn’t talking about the music. The controversy that ensued caused Frank Ocean to post an open letter on his Tumblr page that was originally intended for the Thank You section of his album cover. Frank’s eloquent, heartfelt words touched the majority of its readers and inspired several of his colleagues to speak out in support of his “confession.” With a cocoon of love surrounding him, the perfect conditions were in place to catapult channel ORANGE to the top of the iTunes charts.
Between reading his letter and listening to his album, the wheels in my mind began to spin out of control — swerving off the paved road towards unfamiliar land. I felt myself growing more angry every time I heard or read the word “gay” used in reference to Frank Ocean. It made me upset, not for the conventional or expected reasons, but because the word seemed so vulgar and accusatory in its usage. It was as if people were saying, “Gotcha, sucker! You can run but you can’t hide! Now, tell us who your lover is…”
It’s not as if he’s some shiesty criminal who was engaging in illegal activity. He’s simply a young man who fell in love with another young man. If he chose to only share that part of his life with a select group of people, that’s his prerogative. Frank Ocean owes nothing to the gay community, the black community, or any other poorly constructed community. He doesn’t have to explain himself to anyone except for The One who gave him life and talent.
From what I understand, he hasn’t been chasing male tail all his life. He had an unusual connection with one person that made him question everything he believed about love and intimacy. Let’s also note that all of this happened when he was 19. From experience, I know that age 19 can be quite a tumultuous year. You’re trapped right in between adolescence and adulthood; and with the removal of juvenile constrictions, its an ideal time for self-evaluating. While looking back on that year of my life, to say I was a mess would be an understatement – disaster is more appropriate. With the breadth of emotion and experience captured in his music, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Frank Ocean is in fact a young man. He still has some living and exploring to do, as do all of us, so let’s not rush to tattoo labels on his forehead.
Until Frank Ocean uses the term “gay” or “bisexual” to identify himself, I don’t feel comfortable using either of those words to describe him. In fact, I think I’m at a place where I’m done with ____sexual labels all together. This might be a risky stance to take, but I feel like reducing people’s romantic interests to a scientific category is equivalent to distinguishing between breeds or assigning racial categories. Unless we’re describing sexual acts, I’d rather leave the word “sexual” out of the picture. After all, there’s more to life, love, and relationships than sex — although most of us are products of intercourse.
I’m proud of Frank Ocean for having the courage to open up about something so personal, especially because the other young man is somewhere watching this all unfold. I wish the vulturous masses would take a chill pill, and not try to spin this into another item checked off on the gay agenda.
As a person, I’ve gotten to a point where I view transparency as the holy grail of all human qualities. I’ll gladly shout from the mountaintop that I’m a Christian who loves Frank Ocean without segregating the various aspects of his being. He isn’t a pedophile twisting the words of scripture to establish a false sense of authority over his victims. And seeing as there are active men of the cloth who meet these criteria, I think we should be slow to judge someone for keeping it real. He’s the same artist many of us have grown to love over the past couple of years. Nothing was said in channel ORANGE that gave me the impression this was a different person, so I see no reason to stop enjoying his art now. If I have any gripe with Frank, it’s his Odd Future affiliation; but I’ve almost crossed that bridge.
Thank you, Christopher Francis Ocean, for being the person to unplug my gaydar for good, by helping me to see the banality of obsessing over “sexual orientation”. Your contributions to art and society are invaluable. Keep being true to yourself and your supporters.
With Highest Regards,
LoveBaby Jones <3
The following is an excerpt from “A Prelude to Forgiveness” written by Mark Chappelle with personal reflections written by yours truly. To read the full article and other original works by Mark Chappelle, be sure to visit JUNKYARDSALVATION.COM. Thank you and enjoy!
I’ve thought about it often. The scenario loops in mind. It starts a few moments before my heart got broken, but plays out differently this time. Originally, I didn’t know what hit me, but this time I’m ready. My senses are keen. I discern when I’m being patronized, snowed. I know the true words from the constructed pictures. I know the sincere smiles from those stiffly pasted on top to keep me dawdling unawares. This time I’m nimble for the moment when I should parry. This time I’m just out of their weapon’s reach. Prescient of my opponent’s next move, I counterstrike and draw both blood and surprise. I pause and turn up a corner of my mouth taking in the surveyed victory.
Had my reality played this way, I wouldn’t have lost my power. So much might not have fallen out of balance. I would not have become a victim and someone’s casualty. As I step away from my imagination, I notice in running this scenario that my muscles have tensed, shoulders tight having not yet left the fantasy. My brows have furrowed and jaws clenched without prompting. The conflict has become so real during this mental exercise, that if the assailant were to appear before me physically, I could easily burst into a commotion of bared teeth and hurled furniture, expletives zipping through the air like throwing knives. It ain’t all good.
There’s just a moment to break myself out before the scene replays again from the beginning, folding another layer over on an already rugged anger. My conjured emotions have producedan ire that is very present and sizzling hot to the touch. The way I’ve rehearsed this vindication so well for so long, I become more and more confident in my ability to perform it. That scares me. That’s not the performance I wanted to perfect. I was supposed to forgive.
MY FAVORITE GEMS:
When you are wronged, you are due a reparation or an apology at the very least. These are things of value that you are rightfully owed. However, if it’s a truce you seek, it may be a good gambit to forfeit what you’re due. Don’t insist it be paid. Write it off as bad debt. Rather than considering it a loss, consider it an investment into the possibility of a future peace.
Grudges don’t hold themselves. You have to babysit them. They’re high maintenance. If you decide you never want to see someone’s face again, you have to constantly forecast to make sure you never encounter each other at public events. You have to regularly police your relationships for crossed alliances that may bring them into your path. This never lets up, never lets you rest.
We’re still together. But sitting at opposite ends of the couch though. Not saying much to each other as we go in, out, and about the house. Sharing the same bed, but not touching. Going to church together, but not making eye contact. The honeymoon phase is over. Being together doesn’t give us the tingles anymore.
It’s been some time since we were on the same page. We’ve each made independent decisions that met with disagreement from the other. Some days I wonder exactly who I married. I’m not as attracted as I was at the start. I roll my eyes a lot now. I sigh hard and breathe out troubled subtext until our living space smells of it. One might say our relationship is strained.
When the dissonance between us gets so loud that I can’t stand to be in the same room, I wonder where we went wrong. People said we would always be together. We started off so strong. Couples have said they wanted to be like us. Yet now there’ve been several months though—I don’t know how far back to start counting—when I have not been the happiest in this relationship. It’s not looking so great right now.
But I remember our song:
“In the middle of the madness
When the time is running out and you’re left alone
All I want is you to know that
It’s strong still
Can’t pull us apart
Nothing can come
Nothing can pull us apart… can come between us.”
CONTINUE READING AT JUNKYARDSALVATION.COM
Mark Chappelle is a musician, singer, graphic artist, writer, composer, & balance artist who intends to push all of these abilities to their limits in his lifetime. Find his single, “It’s Heaven”, on iTunes, Amazon, or CD Baby. | Twitter: @markchappelle