A Tale of Two Realities
“…It was the worst of times it was the best of times”
Jay-Z (Diamond Is Forever)
Charles Dickens (A Tale of two cities)
As I jump on the subway up to the post-strike York University, I’m preceded with several train of thoughts that keep me thinking of how far I’m going just to get the word out about a conference (Evolving Church – http://epconference.net) a few friends are putting together.
(They released a comedic commercial about it –see below)
But regardless how entertaining the skit is, the weather is cold, the destination is far and I’m tried doing an early deliver on an early week-day morning.
I have to ask myself the daunting question: why am I doing this again?
I remember going to the same event a few years back, permeate with the horrendous feeling of being the token black guy (If I’m mistaken, sorry that means I really didn’t see you and trust me I tried); receiving awkward looks, eating my lunch, yes alone (it even happens in our beloved, Canada). As the violin plays a melancholy melody, I reminisce of my own minority report becoming more substantive every time I attend such events; resounding with great speakers and mind-boggling ideas floating around and most of all the people who become more than just Facebook friends, but fellow sojourners in faith and justice.
As the years went on, the issue still lingered as I wrestled with being the lone black guy always asking the questions about diversity, and opening the conversation to justice and not just the themes that stroke the white backs of empathy, but those that are relatable and are the every-day reality of folks making up the city of Toronto coming from all parts of the world. I have to note that though my feelings have matured, and caste aside into a sea overtaken by “reality”; the truth of the matter is that not many people in my neighbourhood would spend that much money on a conference anyway or even wants to move the conversations of faith and politics beyond the pew or the barbershop seat respectively.
But one thing I’ve leaned as a politico during this past election year that there’s a force called:
(…Even for the Tory government)
Along with hope, I’ve also had a particular tune resonate in my mind all week, which I’ve discovered had subtly been convicting me to be intent on promoting with more passion but also to engage myself even more on the theme of the conference (amidst the powers). Satirically hopeful anthem that emancipated me in my younger years between Celine Dion and Roch Voisine (Quebecers know who I’m referring to); became part of my soundtrack for life.
It was the summer of 1996, and I stumbled upon a song from 1988, with the even more audacious music video released in 1989; I had heard it on one of our exclusive hip-hop radio stations in Montreal, K103 FM (now, CKRK-FM) streamed by way from Kahnawake, a First nation reserve south of the metropolitan.
It wasn’t a coincidence that such station was featuring the song, “Fight The Power” by legendary hip-hop group, Public Enemy (See video below)
Thought my friend’s commercial was hilarious, with a touch of SNL, but my eyes were seeing high tops, big clock necklaces, pants now worn by hipsters, and fists lifted in the air; while my ears were attuned to disc scratching and brassy chants. Fellow friends who are punk-rock aficionados can partially relate to such portrait with the 90s grunge scene.
Lead group member, Chuck D was in his state of lyrical aggression at his best, and Flavor Flav was…well he was Flavor Flav but well before the sorrowful reality shows.
On that trip from Kipling Station to Downsview Station, I was figuring out how I could best convince the guys to adopt the music video as another commercial for their March 21 event at The MeetingHouse (another pathetic plug).
Maybe they would think it’s the video too subversive?
Especially, the manner in which Hip-Hop has undergone scrutiny, will they choose the more moderate road?
Maybe a more lyrically delicate hip-hop song would fit best?
Will a suburban white Christian audience even understand?
During our politically and economically potent times, we need not just moderate change, but we need to ponder and reevaluate all ways in which we’ve been practicing our faith, relating to the powers of politics and commerce and most of all our own powers of ego and indifference.
My hope is that even if this video is not shown as a commercial, it can still be used as a teaser that inspires us (or angers us) to move from idleness to progressive thought and action and allow this conference to not just be a country club of intellectual superficiality but one of substantial discourse and contemplation used as a catalyst to further ourselves as a community of faith to humbly engage, and actively fight the powers that be, even if it starts with ourselves from people in suburban castles to those in the urban high rise apartment buildings, to wealthy denominations to independent storefront churches and from to the educated idealist yuppie to the cynical immigrant elderly.
And that reality can happen, though it may require me to travel across the city to Scarborough for one more stop with time for one more train of thought that leads me the conference.
See you in March!