Keeping Up with the Jonzee still at the right spot.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Did we Come this Far by Faith--or is Bling the King?

I had an interesting convo with my girl this weekend. I was dismayed by my visit to a Sunday service at a church that is quite popular here in Baltimore. Since over the years, she I have commiserated about the woes of trying to find a new church home in a new city on many an occasion, I figured she would be the best person to vent to.

Let's just say this is the second time this year I have been floored by the an answer I wasn't expecting. She didn't get my dismay over what I saw was a lack of committment to the history of activism in the black church. As a matter of fact, she told me that in all her years (and she is a bit older than me), she has never attended a church that gave a hoot about what was going on outside the wall of the church--in the community.

I have grown up in the exact opposite world. Working to alleviate poverty and to help people gain both spiritual and socio-economic betterment has been part and parcel of every church I have ever been a member--including my childhood home. All done, of course, to bring more folk into the Kingdom.

These days it seems its more about keeping up with the "Dollars and Olsteens" of the world, thanworking to do good through Christian fellowship. Screw the neighborhood.

And the church I visited was the epitome of church looking to reach Mega status by looking out only for its parishioners. Screw the neighborhood.

Even though this church is located on what looks to be a relatively new "mini-campus" on top of a hill across from several acres of boarded up former multi-family/public housing units, it has decided to unapologetically move out to the county to create a 21 acre campus, like these folks.

The church has been in Baltimore for more than 100 years, yet it has decided to build a 14 acre campus out in the the County (aka the Baltimore) suburbs.Instead of trying to impact the current community in which it resides, it instead sat on hill making sure you knew it was special staring down on delapidation carving out the backyards of many owner-occupied homes.

During announcements not one mention of outreach, not one ministry was listed as doing anything outside the walls of the church. And of course the offering was all about the capital campaign for the church building fund.

Do you feel me yet?

Don't get my wrong, I have no issue with church growth or expansion. I wax time and time again about how non-profits need to run with economic sufficiency and business like strategies--and churches should too. Churches need parishioners to survive. Managing a big church is a big job and the Pastor has the right to be compensated for it (how much and how lavish---that is another debate)They need enthusiastic membership to move its agenda forward. But what I do have a problem with is this seemingly continuous migration away from the black church working to help the communities in which is located not only spiritually but in the alleviation of poverty and the physical and socio-economic betterment of not only its parishioner but its neighbors. Of course, with the ultimate goal of converting more souls. I have a HUGE problem with this "if you ain't mega, you ain't wit' it" sort of business. I think you can be relevant, successful, growing AND progressive. There has to be a delicate balance between growing and doing what is morally right for the community in which you are located and the resources you take from that community.

Perhaps that means you don't grow to 20,000 members as fast as you would like. Perhaps, you forgo the fancy newest dais for Pastor and instead build a community center, donate a bunch of books to your local library, or sponsor an all-day bible camp. Don't know. But I know I definetely don't think that things like adding a bookstore, movie theatre, christian nightclub, etc should be your primary focus. This ain't Disney. Or did we forget?

Too many black churches have been propping up the ego maniacal dreams of the Pastor than the needs of their own communities. No wonder some them have last names like Dollar and Price.

Maybe my visit was God's way of reminding me about that the church I did chose is that right one for me--because the woman sitting next to me informed my that my church divested from her church about 20 years ago.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

After these messages...We'll be right back.

Remember, the Saturday cartoons back in the day? I think the title of this post came from the intermission announcement for ABC's (It had to be ABC or maybe NBC, because CBS cartoons were wack--except for Pee Wees Playhouse, LOL) Saturday afternoon line up.

Anyway. I'm burnt. Writing on two blogs--the other which requires hours of prep--is beating me up write now.

In the meantime, in between time, I'm sure someone else will entertain you.

Don't worry. Won't be away long.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Never, Would he Ever be a Rolling Stone

So, Sunday is Father's Day. I was hoping to be home...but a sista finally put herself on a real budget and it just wasn't in the cards. Plus, I'd like to have a couple extra days so I'm waiting for the next three day.

Of course, this is like the most stereotypical time of year to write a post about Pop, but since I have been sitting in wonder of how are relationship went from fabulous to not so fabulous to downright uncomfortable, and back to fabulous over the last 16 years, it is also the perfect time. See, I'm ready to admit I'm daddy's little girl out loud. These days, I even randomly pick up the phone and talk to him for more than two minutes.

Why is that a milestone? Because for a long time our conversations were filled with "Hey pop. Where's Mom?" and that was about it. Every once in awhile, Dad would force me to talk to him. Every once in awhile he would call me out of the blue, drop the great one liner about some issue my mother must have told him about (or he overheard). Solve it for me in less than 15 seconds. Then say 'love you' and goodbye.' Never to be discussed again. That was about the extent of bonding.

Thank God, I have matured substantially. Honestly, I could not have dreamed of a better man to be my father. Yeah, Pop's got some stuff with him. Just like I sit on the crux of generation X and Y, Pop sits on the crux of Baby-Booming Strong-Silent-Bring-Home-the-Bacon and Sandwhich-generation-Obamarama-co-parent. And that made for some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ish moments. Sometimes he was the nurturer. Oft times he was the General.

But regardless, among men his age, especially black men, my Pop has had one of the most progressive approaches to fatherhood. He did more than as C.Rock would say, "[kept] his daughter off the pole." He chose to be involved in everything. He probably could be running that corporate Big House he has made himself invaluable to (Pop dodged more "down sizing", "right sizing" than a fool running through Compton dodging bullets) But he decided long ago that the sacrifice was not worth his family. He was apart of so much of the nuturing that we got as kids. More so than any other dad I know.

He never missed a Chorus concert

He never missed a Soccer Game.

He never missed a dance recital.

He never missed a parent-teacher conference.

As a matter of fact, my father only missed one event in my childhood--and that was because he was sick as a dog. And even then he was willing to come. My father used to fly around the universe in a day if he had to participate in the activities, and practices, and homework problems. He would be exhausted. But it didn't matter. He did what he had to.

When my brother was failing Spanish. My father took the time to go sit in the classroom and observe. When my mother was freaking me out everytime she took me out for a driving lesson--pop stepped in, and even though he was straight up the General about it, I am as a good of a driver as I am today because of it (he was the General when it came to math too and I hated it--but now all I do is math and I'm type good at it!).

But he wasn't only good at the teaching tasks and skills. My father taught us about being good active citizens, the importance of family, and told us--even more than my mother--that we should be whatever we want to be and it doesn't have to be corporate America and it doesn't even mean you have to go to college as long as you have a plan.

I pray that the father of my children is even half the man that my father continues to be.

And if you are reading, Pop. Happy Fathers Day. I love you more than you could know!

And yes, they are with me

My 'brother from another mother', Ink, waxed philosophical about his lack of friends of the paler persuassion and why. I get where he's coming from. Absolutely. I have had white friends over the years who were my friends 'for that moment'(college class, table waiting), but looked at me like I was a foriegn creature after the moment was over. It was like they were slumming it or something.

For instance, one of the young women I considered to by my closest friend in grade and middle school, one day was just like, 'we don't have anything in common.' based on the fact that the popular crew didn't do black folks. Next.

Then there was college. My half-asian friend and I were thick as thieves. I helped her lose her 'bowl' haircut and coke bottle glasses, navigate the Big Bad City, and tried to help her find a man. Then a couple years ago, when leaving DC to return to NYC, she told a mutual friend that I was simply not at her level(community developer, harlem living, natural hair sporting, etc). She was too busy trying to look the part of 'Sex in the City' Manhattanite, and trying to keep up with another schoolmate who married rich and was apart of the Donald Trump crowd. Funny thing though. This crowd of friends she so thought I was 'too black' for dissed her and invited me and a few others to the Donald's Christmas party. Next.

So, admittedly, over the years I have grown weary of making white friends. Sometimes it has felt as though being the 'black friend' is 'entertainment purposes only' I'm the sassy black girl on the sitcom. In the past, with some folks it seems like they are looking for me to be the Jaun Williams of their Fox Friends Network.

But, I have three white women in my life who are straight up 'my nuccas'. No doubt. They like me for the content of my character. They approach our culturally and social differences with open arms. They often humbly approach trying to understand my experience as a black woman compared to their own. They don't approach the subject of race relations with the 'Don't you think...? Now tell me what I want to hear.' that often crops up in mixed company. I am not a novelty. I am a confidant and a shoulder to cry on. Someone to get stoopidly drunk with and flirt with the fellas. They are not looking for me to roll my neck or nothing. And they don't for seem to believe that because I am a 'sista' I can fight or some foolishness.

Its a mutual decision to take the road less traveled. We invokes the inevitable stares when we go to the 'black happy hour', or when we meet at the the Irish pub on the whitest side of town, or my 'white friend' comes home to Thanksgiving or I get invited to their cousin's Bat Mitzvah. My 'white' homies, try understand how I feel when someone says something 'ignorant' about black folks. Sometimes they chose to break it down to said person in a way that 'can forever and consistently be broke'--just cause they have had just about enough of the crap just like me. My 'White' friend may not understand my experience and will sometimes debate me about it or present a different view. But its always out of love.

At the end of the day, my kids will probably by calling my white friends 'Auntie' or 'Uncle' just like 'Nee 'Nee and 'dem. And that is the way it should be.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grillin' and Chillin'

So, finally, I'm going to join the summertime ritual of sitting outside over some hot-ass fire all for the love a charbroiled piece of meat. Saturday, me and the big dude are going to purchase my first real grill. And then it will be all about the ribs. I think big T might be more excited than me. That fool loves of all things grilled and feels the need to always be the one grilling--even at someone else's crib (now, if we could just get him to always remember to ease up off the lighter fluid!)

I been looking and reading reviews, so now I am ready. Won't be no gas around these parts. I already got a gas stove--so what's the diff? Plus, you gotta use that fake 'liquid smoke' crap to give it the barbeque-ee goodness. I'd rather not. I'll take my carbon monoxide the normal way.

Hmmm...a few ribs, a little grilled corn...and a whole lot of cold beverages for those over the age of 21. Yeah, boy-eeeeee! Its summer fo' sho!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Gas--How many of Us can Afford it

I've been bitching about the price of gas just like everyone else. It is especially a shocker for me. Less than a year ago, I was filling up my car every two and half weeks. Now I fill it up every five and a half days. I was taking some sort of public transportation nearly 6 days a week. Now I take none.

You see I moved to 'Mura-lin' for a better paying job. At the time, I predicted that not only would I make more money, I would have more money in my pocket because the cost of living would be less.

I chose to live in Baltimore City--even though I work in Columbia because 1)I am morally opposed to living in super-suburbs where walking is not an option unless its to walk your dog, your cat, or your kid. 2) Baltimore is a hell of a lot more affordable. I assumed that the commuter bus would work out okay and while I might pay a little more in gas, I'd be good.

If you bet on my plan like I bet on my plan, you'd be ready to whoop my ass. Because it is all going to shit.

I been crying about the money I spend on gas since I got here. But back then the reason was more about the fact that I found out I hated the drive. It severely curtailed my reading habits and raised my damned blood pressure. But as the price started to creep up, my issue with gas became that much larger. I currently spend about $402 a month on gas--not including trips to NYC to see boo--(which is now down to about once a month from twice a month--an additional $68) There is no way to get to Columbia from Baltimore on a commuter vehicle unless you have 3.1 hours to spare for a 22 mile commute. Now I sneak in reading the headlines at the light or when no one is looking--on the job.

But, I don't have to bear the costs. I could move back to NY, find a job in Baltimore City or DC. But these folks here, are worse off than any of us sitting around crying.

So, while I have enjoyed the commiserating about it. I'm stopping. Why? Because I could more easily than many, change what I do or where I live. I might very well have too.

And I will honor all of those who cannot by possibly slapping the next fool who crys about gas but lives in a place with a plethora of public transportation options.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Extending the Olive Branch to Mama

It's time for me to stop feeling incredulous about my mother's view of Barack Obama's campaign for president. I didn't understand her support of Hillary--and I admit, in many ways, I still don't. Just three years ago, she was buying his books, thought wonderfully about his political prospects--but I digress.

If you've been keeping up, and reading the comments, you know Mom dukes and I have been battling over this whole thing. It got kind of tit for tat. So I just stopped blogging about it and briefly regretted the whole sharing access thing.

But, Tuesday, as I sat on my couch in my PJ's eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, not only did I reflect on the historic nature of this journey for the candidate I support, but I reflected on the 'rough side of the mountain', that both Senators Clinton and Obama climbed.

And I all the sudden understood where my mother was coming from. My mom identified with Senator Clinton's womanhood, I think. But I also get that she felt like people were dismissing the energy and intelligence that has been garnered from years of experience as a baby boomer woman in particular. I think my mom is keenly aware of the sexism that is not acknowledged in the black community--and perhaps felt like Senator Obama's rise amongst black folks was predicated upon or lack of acknowledgement that we have some pretty serious issues surrounding gender and the 'pimp versus hoe' mem that so many of us seem to embrace.

But I think, in this instance, the latter is not the case. I understand now. At least I think I do.

I hope she sees this momement and in some way feels proud--even if it was not Senator Clinton who is one her way to the nomination. I hope she watched his speech in Minnesota and really listened to it. I hope she just as I, put aside the emotion she feels for Hillary as I have the emotion I feel for Obama, and thought about what a thing we have accomplished on either side of the primary fence and smiled.

I think I better make that call.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

His and Her-story

Yesterday was it. The day I and so many others have been waiting for. The day Senator Barack H. Obama crossed the delegate threshold. And, yet I didn't shed a tear.

I expected to boo hoo like a baby. After all, it, for many of us, is one of those moments in history that you will never forget where you were. I watched this man of African decsendant give, what I thought, in many ways, was one of his best and most gracious speeches yet. Instead I was just in awe.

I wish I was in a room full of other Obama supporters. I wish I had a bottle of champagne to pop open. But alas, I was sitting on my couch in my PJ's eating a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie.

I wanted to write a post for my blog. But my internet was down.

I wanted to call all my fellow Obama supporters but my cell phone and house phone batteries were dead.

For once, all I could do was sit still and think. Think about what this means. Wonder what is next. All I could do was listen to Donnie Hathaway in the background singing "Someday we'll all be free" and smile.

But what came out of my moment of not being able to multi-task was that this whole campaign for democratic nomination whether an Obama supporter or Clinton supporter is, in many ways, something to be hugely proud of. The level of engagement on either side of the fence is mind-boggling. The future is so bright, if we can keep this momentum going, that I might need some new shades.

I thought about all the folks who 'don't vote' who don't 'do politics' who decided to not only vote, but volunteer, donate money, and talk about the issues with their friends (and their foe's). I thought about the record turnout in so many states. I thought about the fact that, regardless of motivation, so many people chose to 'do something' rather than be apathetic and solely tied to consumerism.

As I later replayed Senator Clinton's speech to better understand her. I have to say, I agreed with her on one thing. It is because she decided to stay in this race that millions of folks who might not have otherwise had a chance to make an impact on the results, were able to do so. And whether you view it as self-serving or not, many folks who have in the past felt like their voice didn't matter, no longer feel this way.

And today, no matter what happens in November, I couldn't be prouder, at this very moment, of this place we call home.