Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Weekend of Contrasts - Youth Summit and Battle Cry

Last Saturday I attended two events, both very different and I had certain reservations about each.

On Saturday morning I attended the 'Goin' Smart' East Palo Alto Youth summit on violence. Goin' smart is a play on words, taking from a form of dance, 'goin' dumb' which is part of the Bay Area hip-hop movement called 'hyphy'. This movement is 'live' and I suspect it'll soon be a national hip hop fad. Here is a news article about the event. If you remember I previously blogged about some of my concerns about the event. You can read them here.

For the most part, the event was a success. Many kids came out and the organizers did a fabulous job including my friends and colleagues Malcom, Khabral and Marina. There was a positive vibe all day. One thing I've learned, when East Palo Alto comes together it really becomes a party. This is a tight knit community that has a clear feeling of family and love.

One of the workshops was mediated by Doug Fort from For Youth By Youth (FYBY). FYBY is led by my friends Doug Fort, Kristina Thompson and Heather Starnes. I am a vocal supporter of their efforts to combat violence through wise teaching and the Gospel. The workshop was about getting out of the 'game', the gang scene and included rapper Bandaide from Hoodstarz and other 'OG's', locally known street veterans who got out of the lifestyle.

During the workshop, one of the OG's in the audience looked at one of the panelists and apologized for the negative influence he had on him in the audience. The panelist has spent time in prison for his involvement in the drug trade. It was a powerful and poignant moment where repentance occurred, forgiveness was sought and received.

The only down side for me was the involvement of the rappers from the hyphy movement. The participated in a panel discussion where they attempted to justify their actions and music. Their poorly taken point was they their music is soely 'art' and entertainment and should be takes as such. My contention is that their 'art', which includes drug references, exploitation of women and glorification of a culture that, in my opinion, goes against the artistic and social conciseness that was at the core of hip-hip during it's inception. One artist said he won't let his kids listen to his own music, and that it was up to other parents to do the same. He felt no obligation or responsibility. I was asked to be on the panel. When I was given the mic I attempted to graciously call the issue of role modeling the the responsibility to question. I was not given the chance to speak again.

However, in the end the event was a success. I'm grateful for the folks who put the event on. They have my respect.

Andy Westall took some of the St. Samuel youth up to San Francisco for the Battle Cry event during the summit. We felt given the nature of the event that the junior and senior high kids were better served at that event. I joined them in the late afternoon.

The kids loved the event. Acquire the Fire puts on excellent event that engages the kids all day long. They especially liked seeing Ty Tribbitt and GA. I missed Ty, bummer. I did, however, catch the end of POD's set. They were great. Andy and I liked them better than the kids... no big surprise there. The event encouraged the kids to reject the negative effects of mainstream culture that dictates to them how to dress, act, live... They came back energized and ready to change the community! I appreciate greatly what they received at the event.

As with the youth summit, I have some mixed feelings about Battle Cry. Most especially I don't care for the 'battle' imagery, the call to be a 'culture warrior' (a little much Bill O'Reilly for my taste) and the march on San Francisco city hall which seems more like a media event than a helpful statement on culture. The event, while trying to include 'urban' kids is much more for 'suburban' kids. Our kids simply are dealing with other issues such as drug and gang violence in the streets. Each group has it's own set of issues and each are important, they are just different.

Again, in the end the Battle Cry event was a great event for our kids. I'm thankful for my good friend Angie Ibarra for hooking us up with the tickets. Angie, when am I getting the pozole you promised;) You're a great sister and co-laborer.

Both events were very different. The contrasts were stark. I guess it takes alot of different colors to make a masterpiece. Given the current trend of gentrification bringing 'urban' kids to the 'burbs' we're going to have to begin changing our methodology for reaching kids. The lines are being blurred. I came away from each of these events thinking a lot about youth outreach and ministry and how we are going to have to be carefully consider the kids we're reaching and what reaches them. Lots of questions, not too many answers yet.

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