2 interesting articles about religion

  1. The first comes from the Huffington Post and is called “Gays, God and Gospel music.” This piece is a review of sorts, about an essay called “The Fan Who Knew Too Much” in a book of essays on the role gays have played in the world of Gospel music. “He considers much of the music coming from today’s gospel performers to be “hate speech.” And one need not listen to very much of it to see that he has a point. There was a time when a gospel song about being “delivered” wasn’t code for being “delivered from homosexuality.” Now it almost always is.”
  2. The second is from Thought Catalog and is titled “Christians, Stop Giving Us A Bad Name.” “Just because we do an atrociously awful job at reflecting who God is and what He stands for doesn’t make Him flawed, manipulative, or imperfect”

In Defense of Hipsters

Hipsters have gotten a bad rap lately. They have been called culturally insensitive, gentrifying teeny boppers who have no understanding of the world outside of their Twitter feed, but have the monopoly on cool. They are the ones who only buy their music from record stores, but listen to it on Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.

But I remember what it was like before wearing Vans, acid wash jeans, black rimmed glasses and fedoras were cool. When keeping a journal and going to the skate board shop meant you didn’t fit in somewhere else. Anywhere else. Hipsters were the kids who insisted that the band and the chess club should be funded as much as the football team. Now the same kids who ate lunch in the drama club meeting room have graduated from college and are becoming the new movers and shakers much to the dismay of everyone who called them lame.

Hipsters embrace change in a way that makes most people uncomfortable. It is their inclusiveness, their willingness to embrace the unconventional, that gives them their power. The contribution of the hipster is beyond making wearing suspenders and carrying tote bags with 90s sitcom stills on them cool.

I think what makes hipsters so despised by the mainstream is that they are early adopters, and their influence is spreading. They broke the news on Twitter and now daily newspapers are forced to tweet. They are dictating the cool. They are pushing everyone into the future, while traditionalists are trying to hold steadfast to the past, and resist the present. They say print is dead and digital is in. It’s okay to wear thrift store jeans and carry a Marc Jacobs handbag. They buy local produce from food co-ops. They are choosing what’s relevant and deserves to be carried into the future and what’s dated and out-of-touch, all while wearing their fathers’ 1984 Pink Floyd concert t-shirts. They are winning the culture game, they just don’t have any money. It’s kind of like a twist on high school– the basketball team gets the new jerseys, but everyone wants to sit with the drama kids at the lunch table.

Do we hate hipsters because they behave like sheep or because they’re on to something? Maybe these are the new cultural preservationists. They visit the art galleries, attend the open mic nights, support the underground artists when they have less than 1 million YouTube views, and try the fare at the new local coffee shop. No one moves to the Big Apple or Tinseltown for the ball teams, except the people on the court. The institutions that hipsters patronize are what make great cities. The fringe theaters, thrift boutiques, mosh pits, vegan restaurants—these are the gems that make a place unique.

Perhaps this group of referential graphic tee wearing, f bomb swearing, Beatles listening, emo alt kids is opening us up to new socio-cultural ideas, rather than cloistering themselves in a yesteryear they never knew. Maybe they are walking nostalgia museums, reminding their parents and grandparents of youth, and  of all of the passion, or lack thereof, that comes with it.

“What can be said about an artist who makes it his life’s work to complete a project and then passes when that work is done?”

“For the songs, rituals and folklore that were lost in slavery’s middle passage, his plays are those forgotten songs remixed for the struggles of adapting to these shores”

Playwright/director/actor Chadwick Boseman, who recently portrayed Jackie Robinson in the movie 42, wrote an article for the LA Times about the playwright August Wilson. Wilson’s legacy, the thing he set out to do and completed, is his 10-play cycle. He wrote a play depicting African American life for every decade of the 20th Century. All but one of his protagonists are black men and all but one of his plays takes place in Pittsburgh’s Hill Community, a neighborhood that never recovered from vandalism and looting after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

He wrote each man from Joe Turner to Troy Maxson to Sterling to Solly Two Kings as a full, living, breathing, dreaming, working being. Among August’s men are trash men, ex-cons, entrepreneurs, politicians, musicians, and everything in between. No matter their walk in life or their lot in life, he left their dignity in tact, even if they were not good people. Wilson wrote men that we could hate and love at the same time. He wrote MEN.

As a student, practitioner, and administrator of the theater, I encounter Wilson’s work frequently. The first time I was introduced to his work I was in high school, and I saw an abridged production of Fences performed for the regional one act play competition.  Troy was played by a white boy. I’m sure August would have been horrified, but that’s a whole other story of suburban high schools and colorblind casting…

As I studied Wilson’s work more and more in college, and most recently at my job when we staged a production of Two Trains Running, for which I wrote an article about the Black is Beautiful Movement, I came to realize that this wonderful writer, our black Shakespeare, had set a powerful example. And now, I wish a playwright would do for black women what August Wilson did for black men.

Black women were present in Wilson’s plays, but only because writing a world without women would not make sense. Wilson never delved into their histories, their desires, their lives, their dreams, and rightfully so, because that was not his purpose. But it must be someone’s. In the American theater black women have never gotten up off of the floor. We’re still scrubbing, crying, and dying.

That is not to say that that depiction does not still ring true for some black women, but for the college graduates, the doctors, the lawyers, the politicians, the CEOs, the social workers, the teachers, the writers, the ones that are overcoming– where are we in the American theater? I am not advocating that we forget our grandmothers who scrubbed floors to raise our mothers. August Wilson’s Aunt Ester warns against such things. However, I am advocating for progress in the depiction of black women on stage. I don’t want us to be portrayed as sassy grandmothers by men in drag, welfare mothers, or overachieving ice princesses.

Whose story is that? Whose spectrum is that? Whose soul is that?

With that being said, I am issuing a challenge to myself and to the American theater: Write us with dignity. Write us as people and not imitations of people. Write us as we are. Write our souls so that actors may speak us out loud.

Read the full article “August Wilson’s words came straight from his soul”.

30 is not the new 20

80 percent of life’s defining moments happen by age 35. As a culture we have trivialized the defining decade of adulthood.

Three things every 20-something needs to hear:

  1. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital.
  2. The urban tribe is overrated.
  3. The time to start picking your family is now.

President Obama’s Speech at 2013 Morehouse Commencement

“As a Morehouse graduate you now wield the power of something more powerful than the diploma you’re about to accept. You wield the power of your example.”

“It portrays a problem of ambition if you think more about what you can buy than what you can do.”

“Inspire those who look up to you to expect more of themselves.”

“A spirit of dedication, hard work, and excellence is needed now more than ever”

“Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend or your partner. Be the best father to your children, because nothing is more important.”

“Everything else is unfulfilled when we fail at family”

“It’s up to you to widen your circle of concern”

Watch President Obama’s full speech at the 2013 commencement at Morehouse College. 

Gatsby and other luxury consumers

On Friday, May 17th the New York Times published an article written by A.O. Scott that examines depictions of the American Dream and materialism in three different films: The Great Gatsby, Spring Breakers, and The Bling Ring. He essentially says that these films update the American Dream to be more about entitlement than hard work as a reflection of our present ideology. He writes:

“The contradictory answer supplied by the movie is that he thought he was just like everybody else: exceptional, a winner, a V.I.P. The idea that everyone can have everything may be logically preposterous, but it is ideologically essential to the imagination of a country that seems to be living simultaneously in the Great Depression and the Gilded Age.”

This paragraph stuck out to me, especially the last sentence, because he captured the present state of the economy and our own American delusions of grandeur so well here. We are unemployed and underemployed, and we feel no sense of personal responsibility. Furthermore, we see our expensive lifestyles as a birthright rather than luck.

Read the full article “Gatsby, and Other Luxury Consumers: The Luxe Life in ‘Gatsby,’ ‘Bling Ring’ and Other Films” by A.O. Scott

Food for thought

“Words are things. You can put a few words together and make people want to go to war. Put a different set of words together and make them long for peace.” –Maya Angelou