Thursday, July 31, 2014

Propaganda's "Three Cord Bond" lyrics fuel the flame of desire for more multiethnic churches in Worcester, MA

Emmaus City Multiethnic Church Diversity Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed

Propaganda reflects on race in lyrics from "Three Cord Bond" on his new album Crimson Cord and continues to help ignite the flame of desire for multiethnic churches in Worcester, Massachusetts


I'd love to thank Propaganda for the insight, influence, and intellect he provides in his lyrics, but "Tell Me Yours" tells me otherwise.

Those of you who know me know I love Propaganda. Most likely, he's my favorite spoken word poetry and hip hop artist working today. I often quote him, whether I'm:

... or just because he's a good fit for any and every day conversation.

I'd love to meet him and thank him for the gift he's been to me. But, according to his recent poetic statement, "Tell Me Yours," his response would be, "I'm honestly not looking for 'Thank yous' because I don't deserve them. I didn't earn them. But you can thank ... " and then goes on thanking a litany of people and places, names and faces for making him the artist he is today in three minutes. This includes those who helped him as well as hurt him, thanking all of the above as he sees how God moved through the joy and the suffering to shape him.

Now that's humility, bravery, strength, and surety in identity that I so often lack. All the more reason Prop can say in "Don't Listen to Me": "I'm not delusional. This most likely is your first experience with me. Greetings, my name is Propaganda. I wrote my first rap in '93, simply put: Fire baptized battle rapper who's heavily influenced by folk music and found creative freedom in poetry. Combo is strange, I know. But let this one bake your noodle: I'm the son of a Black Panther with a Mexican spouse and Caucasian best friends ..." 

Praying for a multiethnic church in Worcester, Massachusetts

The same people who know I love Propaganda also know I have a huge desire to see Worcester have an authentically diverse and multiethnic church planting movement explode in the cracks and crevices of our city, as well as around the parks and playgrounds that bring us together.

Then I look in the mirror. How can a young, majority culture guy do something like this? 

Hard question. Easy answer. I can't. 

But if this passion resides within the heart of God, and He's given it to me for a good, hopeful reason, then I'm going to pray for it. I'm going to work for it. I'm going to have to listen a lot more than I speak. I'm going to have to serve selflessly and purposefully, go to bed, and then get back up in the morning in Jesus' name and walk with the Spirit the road ahead. And I'm going to need to learn how to lead others in doing the same.

What would I be leading them to?

… the same genuine, almost na├»ve expectation that says to God, ‘I can’t wait to see how you pull this off,’ daily informs my prayers, demands my patience, and inspires my persistence. … Only men and women of great faith – individuals who fully abandon themselves to the will of God – can build it by trusting God from day to day. In other words, human effort is not enough. Indeed, any independent attempt of men to build a multi-ethnic church is bound to fail, no matter how much money, expertise, or influence they have. There are no simple solutions,then, no shortcuts or strategies for success they can otherwise accomplish what only God can do in this regard. The multi-ethnic church is a work of the Holy Spirit and of faith that cannot otherwise be attained through human means or methods."

"God, help me. This is a growing desire I pray is Your Holy Spirit. And I pray You will give people throughout Worcester the same great unwavering desire to make it happen, whether in the church you call me to serve as a humble leader, or in other churches and church plants throughout our city. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. We need the leading and power of the One who provided a way for there to be ' ... neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, but all one ... '"

we do not seek simply to build a bridge to the community – we are the community. And this subtle reality is a defining characteristic of the multi-ethnic church. As such, it provides the congregation a unique platform and helps to establish moral and spiritual credibility throughout the city. To mobilize for impact, then, we must seek not so much to take the Gospel to the community but rather through the community by embracing an ‘incarnational’ approach … (we work for) the fruit of multi-ethnic, incarnational ministry,namely, the physical, material, and spiritual transformation of an entire community.
… (realize) when entire cultures come together under one roof, the challenges are much greater. But so are the joys of overcoming them! Mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation, however, will develop only through a firm commitment to one another, over time. And these we should pursue, not simply for the sake of diversity but, indeed, for a greater good: the expansion of the Gospel through the expression of unity in and through the local church. … Should we fail to develop such relationships, we will fail to realize the very church we have committed ourselves to building. … we should provide opportunities for open dialogue and commend those with the courage to discuss such things, as well as the determination to deal with them.

Discussing conflict and collaboration between black and white Americans and asking more questions

While the above mentioned desire of mine includes seeing African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, white people and others coming together in our city of Worcester for the declaration and display of the good news that Jesus is King, the U.S. media often hones in on the specific differences between black and white that divide us rather than complement each other to unite us.

Recently, I had a discussion with someone about race, particularly in relation to Bill O'Reilly's recent on air rant about African Americans. This person thought the statistics O'Reilly shared made some valid points. I disagreed, but didn't want to close the conversation. Now I'm thankful this person spoke up because it provided me the opportunity to write down these thoughts in reaction to the statement " ... they as a whole are not doing enough to improve their situation ... ":

  • Who are "they"? Black people who are just as American as you and me, or maybe more so if their families have been here longer than ours? African Americans who are first or second generation in coming from Africa? Black people who come from the Caribbean islands? 
  • Are "they" different depending on what region, city or town in America they are from? Is a black person from Boston, or NYC, or LA going to be different in many ways from the few you've had the opportunity to briefly interact with in your city or watched on TV? In comparison, would we say that a lower socioeconomic white person from your city is going to have a different attitude than a higher socioeconomic white person from Chicago? 
  • Does each person, within their own race, have a unique story, and a unique attitude and worldview depending on who they are, where they are from, what opportunities were given them, etc.? 
  • With the U.S. only around 50 years removed from the Civil Rights movement, and our nation getting closer to two hundred and fifty years old, do the hundreds of years of privileges white people have received, often with a sense of entitlement, and the prejudices we have propagated knowingly and unbeknownst to us in order to create cultures separate from others we're not comfortable around, created a broken system that we're blind to in many ways that already leaves other races at disadvantages in relation to their families, education, mass communication, etc.? 
  • How could these potential disadvantages of being a black person with generations of educational, economic, and media injustice handed to them from white-owned colleges, universities, companies, presses, etc. have kept many of "them" broken down and beaten emotionally, psychologically, etc., to where they sought escape in areas that fuel those statistics? 
  • Due to these and other potential disadvantages, could they have no real way to get out of the areas of towns or cities where there is more potential for depression, crime, etc.? 
  • Have they (i.e. not just President Obama) ever had a majority voice in business, government, society, media, etc. to be able to speak for their families and find ways to help them specifically in comparison to all the access white families get through the majority of white doctors, teachers, military leaders, etc.? 
  • Have white people fueled the gangsta rap culture through our money and appetites to propagate more of the imagery we think is representing so-called "black culture"? Were not the owners of those record companies first white when they began pumping out redundant gangsta rap hits? Overall, who really has the majority of money to fuel what the media saturates us with and puts "in the spotlight" in relation to what we see of other races in the U.S.? 
  • How many white girls, and their image-protecting parents who have money, have more access and more money to deal with contraceptives and abortions more secretly in comparison to black girls with single parents or no parents? Does this also help shape those percentages and statistics? ...
All of these questions and more need to be asked and considered when "statistics" are given by the majority culture for the majority culture without consideration of history, background, time and place. 
If you have a few minutes, here is a great song that I think helps capture misguided views of race (in this case, Black, Hispanic and white) that can cause us to misunderstand and make bad assumptions. ... "

What was the song I asked this person to listen to?

Propaganda's "Three Cord Bond" lyrics off his album Crimson Cord: " ... the crimson cord is one rope made from many strands, and each its own color. ... "


Verse 1
And I watched them covet our style and our confidence
Natural rhythm, terms of endearment,
But not our struggle.
And the products of the ghetto that poverty can produce,
And oddly enough, we giggled when you mimicked us.
Sweet revenge?
Homies who are not stupid can tell the difference between
Admiration and mockery.
So we protected our music.
Truthfully, it's all we thought we had
And watched you all make a killing off it.
Hip hop to jazz, Elvis to Fats Domino, Patra to Gwen Stefani,
The fact that those names are foreign is just what I am pointing to.
You imitated Jamaicans and attempted to grow dreads
And commodified Reggae, that's Marley's face on everything;
Your children uses faith as an excuse to smoke weed.
So we grew angry, unaware of God's plan for rescue.
But we didn't know better; got a flawed version of personhood,
Identifying only by being victims of oppression.
That's a true story.

Verse 2
And I watched them covet your camaraderie,
Your sense of family, your food, and work ethic,
But not your struggle.
And we were jealous you had a homeland
And a native tongue, and your parents spoke it,
And we were just the offspring of the broken.
So we all learned Swahili.
As if we knew we were from that region.
We know, but what are you supposed to do
When all you know your closest cultural customs
Are similar to your captors?
Huh, pastor?
Easier to blame the economic woes
On "filth" filtering through our borders?
Yeah, we should all just deport them on one bus.
Stupid us. 
We thought you were all Mexican.
It's dumb, I know.
Sorry, it's embarrassing.
Forgive us.
We were jealous, we didn't know better.
Selfish, angry, prideful,
Willy-lynching, fighting over the same piece of mud pie.
Como se dice? Lo siento mucho por favor.
We all need grace much more.
That's a true story.

Verse 3
And we coveted your privilege and generational wealth.
Your unquestioned personhood,
But not your struggle.
And we felt it wasn't fair.
We wanted your options,

Your grasp on proper doctrine and literature.
It's silly, huh?
Your American dream apple pie worked for you,
So we worked for you.
You made it seem so easy.
Grit your teeth, we could succeed, too.
We didn't know your story,
We thought "white" was "white."
Not Irish, or Celtic, or the Bolshevik plight
Or the pain of bearing stains inherited.
You said you weren't there, it isn't fair, you wouldn't dare,
But we didn't care. 
But we didn't know better.
You told us your struggle, too.
Rednecks and trailer parks,
Me and you were cool.
I hurt like you.

But that was fire for the fuel that boiled into the riots.
You all were so confused, and truthfully,
So were we.
But now we understand, we suffer the same stain
We gained from the shared ancestor;
We all descend from Adam's sin,
Riddles every inch of us.
But now we see clearly that the
Crimson cord is one rope made from many strands,
And each its own color.
But now it clearly stands,
Died the color red from our Savior's bloodshed,
And the rope finds its strength from the multiple lines wrapped
Around each other until they're all perfectly intertwined.
So, let's just call it even and walk through life knowing
That a three cord bond is not easily broken.

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