Author Archives: Z Conrad

“God damn America.”

I really enjoyed the final reading for this week, and yes, partly because it was short. I think that Harvey’s epilogue very neatly wrapped up the semester. The one thing that I was vey drawn to in Harvey’s conclusion was his elaboration on the former president of the United States.  I remember the day when pretty much all the news sources were covering pastor Jeremiah Wright’s sermon that was taken out of context by the media when the issue was covered by a segment on NPR. I also took the time to look up the speech that Obama had to give in defense of  Wright’s words, and honestly, it was great. I remember when my mom and I were first hearing about this and she told me something that I still think about; this is the generation that can get offended by anything and everything. That’s still very true today, just as they did with Wright’s words, society maintains this habit of cherry-picking whatever makes them look the best. Having gone through Obama’s entire defense for Wright, he made some very valid points. People took offense to his words because people misunderstood the context of them. As Harvey points out, Wright’s words on condemning society and their almost complacency for allowing religion to condemn slavery has been heard in the voices of African Americans since the diaspora began  from Africa. Many people took this sermon to mean that God was going to punish all of America, but that wasn’t the point at all. The fact of the matter is, Wright again worked to make the point that Christianity had been passed down to the slaves as a “white-mans religion” and as a result of this, people no longer felt the guilt of having to feel guilty for enslaving other human beings. Furthermore, I found it very interesting that Harvey worked to note that Obama didn’t come from an extremely devote background, he found his way to this community and found an identity through it. The cultural references were important as well because it goes to show that even in the modern age there are musicians who are still working to bring into the light that past actions do need to be answered for. Overall, Wright’s sermon started a spark in  the United States, and I honestly think that this incident actually ended up helping Obama to be elected, because it proved how gifted and poised he was when communicating to the American people on very touchy subjects.

Malcom X

I had mixed feelings about this week’s reading. For one thing, I would very much call Malcom X an extremist. The reason why I say this is because I comparing the readings last week of MLK. One of the post obivious differences between the two of them is King’s stance on passivism, and Malcom X’s conviction that the race has to completely rid themselves of “white men” in order to thrive as a society. For me, Black Man’s History was hard to get through. Maybe I am missing something that was in plain sight, but I got the impression that Malcom X was not fond of labels whatsoever. I also find it interesting that in this speech, Malcom X’s focal point centers on African Americans understanding their history, but he seems almost offended by the concept of “Black Africa” which goes against pretty much the mainstream thought of the era. I think for many African Americans, being able to link themselves back to Africa, and incorporate those beliefs into who they were as individuals. I also get the sense that for Malcom X, to bring blacks and whites together on the same grounds of equality was his nightmare. In Black Man’s History, Malcom X coins this phrase a lot, but I do very much get the sense that in his eyes, the best thing for blacks was to be self-governing, they could no longer show mercy or really depend on whites to help them, so he very much empathized that the black community needed to only support each other. In addition, I kind of feel like Malcom X manipulated his followers bit. As we can see from the Sernet reading, he knew that money didn’t really matter wealth wasn’t the number one concern for his followers. He knew his audience and I don’t doubt that he very much used that to his advantage. I do understand where he was coming from though. Having only been familiar with one of his speeches prior, I did still get that, “By any means necessary” vibe from him and that’s unsettling for me.

Santeria, Voodoo, Obeah, And Similar Religions

The reading for this week actually correlates very closely with a topic in my Personality Psychology class. This is the of humanistic psychology, and its origins which lay in the original foundations of existentialism. This addresses the main questions of why are we here and what is the purpose our existence? The reason why I connect this to this weeks reading on various religions that began in Africa, is because I hold to the belief that many people find their purpose, and identify through religion. However, as psychology argues how we perceive our own reality is the result of our constructs. As was noted in the reading, Santeria and Voodoo are very closely related to each other. Nonetheless,  regardless if these charms and practices are used for good or evil, I think is the result of how one perceives their own reality. One of the biggest issues that I think can arise from studying followings in Voodoo and similar practices today, is we now have more science on our side. As the article connects, behavior of individuals who were claimed to be chosen by certain African Gods, we said to present with the same behaviors as someone with whom today we would claim to have multiple personality disorder. Furthermore, although I am aware that I do not hold the common opinion on this matter, I think it is important to note that priestesses, and those who were chosen to be the “vessels” of other worship gods, often came from a family of it. For me personally, this raises questions in my mind about how much people brought into these practices, or if it may have been a societal pressure.  In addition, I still wonder why the concept of voodoo itself, to many people in New Orleans, is still thought of as a dark practice. Seeing as my mother grew up in this city, as a child my grandmother have certain superstitions and rules we had to follow in order to get what she would refer to as bad juju. Of course, this comes from a woman that lives a haunted house, and gets mad every time we bring up the top of Ojai boards, which she’s never allowed in her house, even when my mother was young..

MLK; Too Good, Too Pure For The World.

All of us went through most of our middle school and high school years having heard of the legend that has become Martin Luther King Jr. Fun fact, as the reading of Harvey had indicated, King did come from a line of preaches in his family, based on an essay that I had to write a couple of years ago, Luther in King’s name was actually a direct link to the first Martian Luther. One thing that I very much enjoyed about this weeks reading was getting to read Dr. King’s letter from jail, which is where the infamous quote,“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”, which I personally had no idea came from that letter. Also, I found surprising the reading had mentioned that at the start of career, Dr. King was hesitant to fully accept the stance of nonviolence because many at the time owned guns, and Dr. King feared for the safety of himself and his family members. To me, this reading was still somewhat heavy to get through. For personally, I find it very hard when children become targets in things they may not understood or even been aware at the time. Also, I continue to hold respect for Dr. King, because although it was not mentioned in the readings, apart from death-threats over the phone, there was also a famous incident where a cross was set out on King’s lawn, and set on fire, which really troubled me. Had I ever been forced to walk a mile in his shoes, I do not think I would be able to be so composed as much as King was during those times. I’m glad that sermon had from Dr. King, was for once, not “I Have A Dream.” The Civil Rights Movement, had much more then meets the eye, and to me, I find this time in history will have a dark shadow, however, I think movement truly was the beginning for true change throughout the world. Without this movement, I believe the world we know today would have never existed.

Ps. Because some of these readings me sad, I will share something that always makes me laugh that feature two prominent individuals we discussed in the readings for this week. Ah, YouTube.


Things Got Really Weird…

I’ll be honest, having to read through Judith Weisenfeild just ended up making my skin crawl. It went from a platform that seemed to make some sense, to something that sounded like it should have been re-created into an R-rated Hollywood film. Out of all three different followings that came from Harlem, the one that seemed to make the most sense to me in the beginning was Nobel Drew Ali of the Moorish Science Temple. This was the one that made the most sense to me and followed the most logic. The other two that follow this just get “squishy”, but in some really creepy and hypercritical ways. I will say my first criticism with as much care as possible, but seeing as this course is African American Religions is the course, race does have to be thoroughly considered and defined throughout numerous situations. One of my biggest issues that I had when reading about Fuad was actually his race. When I was able to see the photograph that Weisfield used in her text, it is pretty clear to me that Fard was what we would consider by today’s standards to be very mixed. But the thing that bothered me a lot was an observation that the author had made herself about how gifted Fard actually thought himself to be. The platform of his demonization was that the white race was the Devil’s race, and that the pure race was African Americas. However, a comment is made that Fard believed himself to be favored by God. That despite his complexion that would have many thinking that he too was of the “inferior race”, God had his blessing, and this was why Fard was able to be the people’s chosen disciple despite his very light skin tone. I find that rationalization freakishly convenient.. Also, the fact that Weisenfeild had to go into such detail to explain the beginnings of Fard himself (we don’t even know for 100% what his birth-name may have actually been) a bit shady. And why did he feel the need to change what country he was born in so much?

Father Devine honestly just made me really uneasy. My reasoning for this comes from something that I am sure not many of you have heard about before. Nicknamed “The Ten Commandments Cult” this bore a lot of resemblance to me to the House of Joy and Faith. Like this following, the “Ten Commandments” was marketed for the poor society of African Americas in Uganda. Founded by Joseph Kibwetere, this religion stated that he had a vision that the world was going to end. Because culturally this was what many people feared in Africa, Kivwetere made his faith almost an out to this doom. If you wanted to be a member of this faith, you had to give up all your possessions and cut ties with family members. In exchange, Kibwetere promised safety, meals, and healing. This parallelism is also seen in Father Devine, although the end isn’t as tragic as Kibwetere’s. The thing that really got to my core was that these followers literally made me think of the word “cult”. I mean, they had psychologist investigating that proved the cramped living spaces and atmosphere in general was causing people to become depressed and present with psychotic behavior… Furthermore, just the concept of Devine almost brainwashing his followers into associating him as the reincarnation of God brought to earth was just deeply unsetting to me. This reading for me really highlights a lot of my own beliefs of how religion and… delusion can really go hand-in-hand sometimes.

“Laying the Foundations for Azusa”

This reading was of particular interests to me because it brought to my attention things that I had never heard about before. We are all familiar with what happened after the fall of the Reconstruction Era- Jim Crow laws followed. Blacks were segregated from whites in almost every way imaginable. There is no doubt that this was a dark time in American history, but there was a good that was able to rise from these injustices. Azusa became important in religious history because it literally became the place that Pentecostal ideals were founded. However, again we see how men are reported more then female pastors at this time, which shows that not only were women leaders in the church, such as Jarena Lee still faced with the reality that women were still forced to keep in mind this “double-consciousness” while they were (able to) preaching, they still had to deal with blatant sexism. However, we see again that these women are giving guidance and conversion based upon their personal experiences, which I think is important to note because this is something that was stressed by Methodist- the conversion experience, and the personal emotions tied to that.

“The Nadir” (pg. 74) was something that I had never head about before. This term did follow a theme that I have read before though. Basically it was a time when African Americas waited for judgement day and knew that God would be merciful to them because of what they had suffered through on account of slavery. Also, maybe not as related, but I will include it nonetheless. I thought that the connection to Lazarus was very important. Previously, I had only known the name because he was the first man to be brought back to life. However, I think that Coop’s parallel of Lazarus’s place in heaven, and the authors comment that even in hell, the rich man still does not understand how his position has changed. I found this striking because it made me think of a comment from a few lectures back. When African Americas left white churches, whites of the church could not understand this. But, I think that it is important to understand that with the rise of Pentecostal theology, women preachers gained the power to understand that they were not dependent upon their previous churches, nor pastors, to be docile in the quest for enlightening themselves and others in their community.

Ps. Oh, look, there’s even an example of “speaking in tongues” in this parody. Ah, the wonders of YouTube.

“Of the Faith of the Fathers”

I really enjoyed this passage that was given by W. E. B. DuBois. For one thing the content read easily, and I think the order in which DuBois presents his case is important to take note of. One of the very first things that DuBois does is point out how important it was for African Americas to understand their own history. Secondly, DuBois points out the challenges that had to be faced in the New World. And finally he states how mortality shaped the lives of African Americas. I think these are important things that are connected, because again, even after the emancipation proclamation, we continue to see common themes that African Americas had while in slavery. Going back to a few weeks ago, this address also made me think about Albert J. Raboteau’s Slave Religion again. Similarly, in his work, Rabouteau had used the case of use of the writings of runaway slave, William Grimes. This was used to support the idea that African Americans felt morally superior to their masters. Again, we are reminded that not everything was black and white. There were slaves that believed that the practice of slavery gave them a better understanding of mortality. As Grimes goes onto address, the same preachers that would preach peace, would whip slaves before going to services. Furthermore, DuBois uses the black church here as a symbol of the community. However, DuBois continues to assist that African Americas were able to carry old traditions with them. Although things became “Christianized”, African Americas were able to take the religion that DuBois states was made to make them submissive, and turn it into a tool of liberation for themselves in the end. DuBois also concludes that black and whites could “rise together” because of religion. For me anyway, the end kind of gave me MLK “I Have A Dream” speech vibes at the end of it.

Kickass Feminism.

Thanks to the reading for this week, I have acquired a new best friend. To loosely quote Dr. Mathews, Martha Stewart’s farewell address is, “Feminist as fu*k.” Within the first page of Stewart’s address, she makes a valid point that many preachers miss, or choose to willingly omit. One of the first followers of Jesus was a w o m a n. And in this address, we call her Mary Magdalene. Fun fact, this Mary was known for particular extra circular actives.. I think that Stewart is able to kill two birds with one stone by doing this. One, she’s pointing out the insanity of not letting women preach, and two, she is vastly breaking socialite constricts for women at that time. Mary was very religious, but didn’t have the best moral standards for the time, but hey, Jesus chilled with her anyways. Stewart goes on further to site history. In religions across the world, it was the women in societies that were gifted with prophecy and magical powers, not the men. Stewart also attest that her darker skin does nothing to hinder her in being religiously educated. “Religion is the most glorious theme that mortals can converse upon” (pg. 208). Religion, in this sense, has helped mankind to expand their intelligence. Through Stewart’s address, I believe that she stands her grounds on the fact that religion, is one of the ways which women never have to worry being inferior to men in.

Ps. Reading this made me think of Beyoncé – Run the World (Girls), so enjoy.

College: Highschool Just Sugercoated A Lot

My dudes, let’s have a chat about Davis’s work. First off, disclaimer, I recently took a history course over the summer about early civilization (basically through the fall of the Roman Empire)- and oh my god. High school leaves out so much. We’re all aware that with the crowning of Justinian,Rome was a predominately Catholic, but I found this work to be amazing because it discusses how this religious shift specifically impacted African Americans. For one thing, at the very beginning, people were divided. On the one side we had Justinian and his followers who believed the teachings of the Catholic church, that God could be both human and divine (i.e., The Trinity). On the other side we had Theodora and her followers believed that God could only be divine. Also, a lot of this is super cool because it is only until very recently that historians have discovered that Nubia followed a Christian religion. According to Davis’s work, he found, “unmistakable proof” that the Byzantine Empire had been influenced as well. Furthermore, Nubia isn’t even the oldest place to be recoded as having a Christian faith. According to Davis’s research, Ethiopia had been influenced over two centuries earlier. Davis also goes on to state that African Americas had a lot to do with the foundations of Catholicism. This made me link together a reading from last week where in his address, Nathaniel Paul had suggested that the British had helped pave their way to freedom. Here, in Davis’s work, we find that he states African Americas were in no way dependent.

Reading about the concept of black pride was also interesting. Here again, we observe a common theme. Bible verses are again used to prove a point. In Song of Songs, there is the line, “I am black, and I am beautiful.” In the eyes of Augustine, blackness was an undisputable sign of the church and its community. However, the phrase, “one step forward, two steps back,” continues to be applied throughout history. One of the most striking examples of this was with St. Benedict Moore. Although he began life as a slave, he soon broke away from those chains and committed himself, and rose-in religious life. St. Benedict Moore was not only popular in Spain, but also around Europe and the New World of this time. But despite all of his popularity and influence, he was ironically standing on the future grounds of the admirers that would later enslave his people. I think this reading was very important because it helped me to cast eyes upon some topics of history we have been educated in since grade school, but very much got painted a pretty picture of many events. The real world, is not so black and white.

Also, ps. Theodora was actually, lowkey, pretty badass.