Tag Archives: African American

Kendrick Lamar’s Christianity

Kendrick Lamar Christian rapLeft dazed and reeling with fury, Kendrick Lamar was in a Food 4 Less parking lot after his buddy had just been shot and killed. Rage for revenge burned inside, but so did a gripping sense of horror at the evil in this world.

Seeing him in turmoil, a friend’s grandmother approached and talked to Kendrick about God, and the teenager accepted Jesus into his heart.

“One of my homeboys got smoked,” Lamar told the New York Times. “She had seen that we weren’t right in the head. That was her being an angel for us.” He got baptized a decade later.

Kendrick Lamar JesusToday, the seven-time Grammy winner makes frequent reference to God’s salvation and grace, as well as temptation and fear of judgment in his songs. While the rank and file of the church eschews him for his profanity and descriptions of sexual sin in other songs, his secular audience has no doubt about his faith.

“I’m the closest thing to a preacher that they have,” says Lamar, 31. But he adds, “My word will never be as strong as God’s word. All I am is just a vessel, doing his work.”

Vassar College professor of music Kiese Laymon calls him a “prophetic witness.” Revolt online magazine says Lamar “wears his faith, spirituality, and religious beliefs on his sleeve.” He doesn’t drink, smoke, use drugs or womanize.

Lamar is part of the bridge forming between secular and Christian hip hop. While Lecrae moves toward the secular side, Lamar and a host of other artists are pulling away from unbridled hedonism and exploring salvation themes. (Chance the Rapper, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and even Drake also include songs that talk unashamedly about God and Jesus in their repertoire.)

kendrick lamar wifeLamar grew up in Compton, Calif. His father belonged to the Gangster Disciples gang. Little Kendrick witnessed his first murder at 5 and his second at 8. His parents didn’t teach him about God, but his grandmother instilled him with Bible knowledge.

Growing up on welfare, living in Section 8 housing, the youngster worried that he would succumb to the debasing poverty, drug-trafficking, violence and hopelessness of the hood, even though he was a straight-A student.

At just 16, he signed for Top Dawg Entertainment, based in Carson, Calif., under the stage name K-Dot. After opening for prominent artists and working with Snoop Dogg, Lamar broke through on his own with his second album Good Kid, MAAD City, which hit Billboard’s #2 in its first week in 2012. In it, he depicts vividly the urban fiendishness of the hood.

Kendrick Lamar Barak ObamaHe opens the album with these words: Lord God, I come to you a sinner, and I humbly repent for my sins. I believe that Jesus is Lord. I believe that you raised Him from the dead. I will ask that Jesus will come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I receive Jesus to take control of my life that I may live for Him from this day forth. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me with your precious blood. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

He followed up in 2015 with To Pimp a Butterfly, which went certified platinum and won a Grammy for best rap album of the year. Then in 2017 he came out with Damn, which fathoms the loss of faith in the light of a volatile world of malfunction.

While Lamar’s music is pioneering, it’s his vocal inflections and lyrical substance that earn him widespread respect. For Damn, he won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize not given to jazz or classical music. Former President Obama singled out Lamar as one of his favorite rappers. He’s called King Kendrick.

On Damn, an apparent endorsement of the Hebrew Israelite movement, an aberrant group with claims blacks in America are actually God’s chosen people from Israel, elicited a response from Christian rapper Flame, who in “Absolute Truth” exposes their flawed exegesis.

“A lot of people fall for it,” Flame said on the radio program of Vocab Malone. “It feels good. It puffs up your pride, the ethnocentrism.”

Damn is less uplifting than his earlier albums. By plumbing the depths of discouragement, Lamar is encouraging his listeners that platitudes should be discarded and that it’s okay to be real and raw before God. Read the rest of Kendrick Lamar Christian?

Advertisements

How do we eradicate racism?

lighthouse-christian-schools-then-and-now

Left: I was a teacher 20 years ago and Right: today at the same school.

Clinton was the answer, Trump the problem — the new standard liberal line is not true.

I’ve deeply troubled by some friends heavily worded FB posts calling the Trump presidency a huge reversal to racial equality. I’ve been disturbed by the outlandish assertions by the Huffington Post. So I fired off some retorts to counter the evil narrative, and a bunch of friends worried about my uncharacteristic tone on FB.

When I was a little kid, my grandmother told a riddle about house, green on the outside, red on the inside, with a lot of blacks (not the word she used): a watermelon. When I retold the riddle, my neighbors informed me it was racist. I defended my grandmother because I couldn’t believe that sweet old lady would be racist. As it turns out, the N-word was racist. I never heard it in my house before, and I didn’t understand the connotations and the history. I was maybe 8.

michael-ashcraftWhen I was 12, I was bused to a Latin neighborhood. My parents never opposed busing, so I assumed it was an okay thing. But those kids were scary, street tough and fighters. They intimidated me, and I tried not to get into trouble. Of course, some of them became friends too.

In college, I was assigned to the special interest group beat as a campus reporter and spent a lot of time listening to grievances from the Black Student Alliance, the Mexican Chicano Association and even the Asians. I became sensitized the many ways they face overt and subtle institutionalized racism, hurdles and inequalities. I became a ferocious hater of racism.

When I married Chinese, my mom — for the first time in my life — expressed racism. She asked me why I couldn’t marry white. I was completely flabbergasted because I never remotely would have guessed she harbored any vestige of racism. I objected vigorously, and she repented immediately.

I thank God that my parents didn’t pass on their latent racism. This was critical for me to be free of it.

As an adult, I forced a kid out of my car because he wouldn’t stop saying the N-word. Of course, he was rapping along with music and not hurling hate, but I was adamant: he couldn’t ride back from the soccer game with me and say that word. I had zero tolerance. Actually, I violated school policy and probably the law in doing so because he was a minor for whom I was responsible and abandoned on the streets of L.A. I wondered if I would fired for my brashness, but I figured it was worth it to make a strong stand against racism. The next day, the students tittered at my over-reaction, but it made an impression: racism would not be tolerated at our school. That was good.

I never understood how African Americans could use the N-word and not be racist, but I left that dilemma up to them because they had suffered decades of oppression, not me. One day I allowed a Latin student talk about racism in the class. He prepared a 10-page report that confronted some of the students in their bad attitudes. He explained the difference: when an African American uses the term, he is objectifying the hate, naming and proclaiming his freedom from oppression from the word. Maybe I’m not doing justice to his explanation, but it made some sense to me. If a white man uses the term, it hails to an entire history of slavery and racism. If a person of color uses it, it represents an emotional triumph over the oppression of that word. You may not accept this, but I do

I have tried to fight racism. I support body cams for cops not just to condemn them but to exonerate them if the situation goes South and they were forced to resort to force. I am appalled by the Virginia cop who fired multiple times on an unarmed African American simply because he ran away. I am appalled by the racist who entered an African American church and started killing them in hopes to provoke a race war. I am disgusted by the KKK and wish they could drop off the face of the Earth. I am horrified by drivers plowing through African American protestors who form human chains to obstruct traffic in protest.

But I am equally appalled by people ambushing cops, regardless of whether they may be racist. This is absolutely disturbing.

I am not at all thrilled by million-dollar-earning athletes taking a knee during the national anthem to complain about racist oppression. What oppression? They have better salaries and lives than I do. Also, it strikes a sore spot for me. When I fled organized crime in Guatemala, I came to America, a safe place, that opened its arms to me and offered me freedom and refuge. I have seen racism around the world, and I think comparatively America is far better than other places. No excuses for the evils that do occur. But maybe these guys should go live in Guatemala for a decade to appreciate the blessings of America. So I simmer and grumble about that protest.

Just today, I went ballistic. The Huffington Post floated the narrative that Trump’s victory was due to racism. Several posts on Facebook, from friends whom I love and respect, echoed the simplistic story. Later in the day, I saw a Washington Post article that performed greater analysis and avoided logical fallacy that said that people not educated by the university (not because they are white) were the force behind Trump’s surprise victory. These are people who have suffered over trade treaties that only benefit the oligarchy. These are people who cherish traditional values and don’t adhere to liberal elitism.

I felt that Clinton was as bad or worse than Trump in the racism category. Her divulged emails revealed derogatory attitudes toward Latino fundraisers (and the media, protecting their darling, scanted the story). She’s had her own history chumming up with David Duke. She hugged an N-word spewing rapper at her rally (would Trump get away with that?). Her support of abortion — in my view — represents a genocide targeting minorities, a eugenics akin to Hitler’s ethnic cleansing. To top it off, her attitude of dictating what minorities should vote and support hearkens back to the white plantation owner paternalisticly condescending to his slaves. How dare she impose her views on minorities? How dare the Huffington Post despise and insult its own readership? How dare my beloved friends simplify such a complicated picture? How dare they front the white-spawned narrative: Trump is racist, Clinton, the solution to racism.

I posted on Twitter and Facebook the alternative narrative. We, the voters, sent the true racist, Clinton, packing. Now all we needed to do was continue to stamp out any vestige of racism. I’m passionate about fighting racism.

But the liberal narrative is pocked with its own guilt, fallacies, self-righteousness smugness, corruption and self service. I wanted to fight fire with fire. One friend thought I got hacked. Another was alarmed by my tenor of outrage. One more worried I had joined ranks with the cavemen.

What is the answer to racism? So far, I have taken the non-confrontational approach to try to educate white friends in whom I stumble upon racism — to my shock. Others may think that stronger means are needed. I cannot say what will be the answer, but I know that it is NOT the Left badgering disenfranchised non-elitists with its holier-than-thou sanctimonious snobbery.

My hunch is that it will be coming together, not splintering apart. I applaud Obama — whose policies I largely do not applaud — for admonishing the nation to get behind Trump and work toward a common good, a common solution. Everyone needs to overcome racism and to actively fight it. There is no place for it in our nation anymore.

Look to learn from anyone

praycoupleNino slept during my class. If not asleep, he was combing his hair. He didn’t turn in homework. Needless to say, this did not ingratiate him with me.

Then, he taught me a valuable lesson. He was talking about racism. Our school embraces people from all backgrounds. He was attacking inappropriate jokes.

prayAsiantoddlerHe explained how African Americans “empower” themselves by using the N-word. Previously, I didn’t understand why the oppressed used the word of oppression. Nino explained that by employing the evil word in jest, they are stepping on it and affirming their triumph over it.

4530272-business-team--smiling-people-standing-in-line

I rejoice to see that my kids make friends with kids of all races without even apparently noticing. Yet racism remains a problem for our nation. If you google “attractive people” on images, you’ll see a disproportionate amount of whites. Nino says this is because they’re the “de facto” definition of beauty. Strides must be taken to continue to correct the evils of racism.

Everyone has something to teach, no matter how they comb their hair or what irksome habits they have. Every single human being on the planet has a valuable insight, if we will only take the time to listen.