Tag Archives: religion

All Eyes on Us: The Zimmerman Aftermath and Our Need to Organize

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By: Daniel Hodgman

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” –George Washington, September 19, 1796

With the recent verdict and acquittal of George Zimmerman regarding the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we have once again been thrown into the twirling ring of “true America”. Although the concord of the United States has proven itself at times in this country’s young history, we live in an age where George Washington’s grave prediction of a “frightful despotism” is hard to shake off. It’s not just the Zimmerman trial that has caused an eruption and desecration of our country’s whole either. Rather, it’s been a multitude of tragedies and events for centuries. At this point, how can we have a country where the government doesn’t trust the people, the people don’t trust the government and the people don’t trust the people? Why do we have to live in a constant divide? Now, of course America is not alone in this regard, but if we want to solidify our world as a whole (because our government thinks we should police this planet), we can’t be living in a country with blatant injustice thrown before our feet. The result of this injustice is the separation of our country, whether it’s regarding race, politics, religion or gender, and the suffering from this divide is immense.

The story revolving around Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman has represented so much depending on how you see it—this goes without saying that most people see this story representing multiple facets of its overall blueprint. For most, it’s been an issue about race, civil rights and racial oppression. For others, this story represents everything from the country’s legal system, to gun control laws and mainstream media, and if anything is to come out of this case unhinged from the start it’s that we are still a grossly divided nation: those fighting for Trayvon Martin, his family and justice in America are opposed by those who firmly believe Zimmerman acted in self-defense and nuts like Ann Coulter; those fighting for stricter gun laws and background checks are opposed by those who stand by today’s gun regulations and most likely own many firearms (three out of the six jurors in the Zimmerman trial are gun owners); and those fighting for blue states are opposed by those fighting for red ones.

To put this into a perspective that makes more sense these days, Unreal News Online has reported that last Sunday (24 hours after the Zimmerman verdict) Facebook experienced more blocking and un-friending than any day in its history. Says Mark Zuckerberg:

“Everybody had something to say about (Saturday’s) verdict. Charges of racism were thrown around at everyone. Tempers flared and a lot of connections and ties were severed. It was even worse than the day the Casey Anthony verdict was announced. It really makes you wonder what would have happened if Facebook were around in 1995 when the O.J. Simpson trial reached its conclusion.”

Although this is a small sample of the big picture, it nonetheless shows how we are at the core. Our division amongst each other and our government not only hinders the country’s ability to progress as a whole, but it clinically showcases our flaws. Most of the time, we as people tend to bash on the things that we hate rather than promoting what we love. I think, to speak realistically, we’re all susceptible to this flaw and it truly affects our overall being.

And yet, through all of the division and separation, anger and sadness, our country continues to amaze me.

If there’s a positive I can take from recent travesties such as the Trayvon story, the Oscar Grant shooting (Fruitvale Station is now out in theaters), the Marissa Alexander conviction, the highly unreported slaying of Jordan Russell Davis and the thousands of other stories that go unreported, it’s that these events have spurred the congealing of people from all backgrounds and cultures unified for a common cause. Just when I think the division among the people of this country has come to an all time high, rallies and protests in response to these tragic events have calmed me down, subtly reminding me that the good always outnumbers the bad.

Regarding the George Zimmerman verdict, much like the protests that spurred an investigation in the first place, people from all over the country have come together to resist the forces that continue to separate the people.

On Sunday evening in New York City, thousands gathered as part of a nation-wide movement to fight against injustice in the legal system and racial oppression.

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New York City via AP

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New York City via AP

Like New York City, protests all around the country connected thousands.

Neighborhood Watch Wisconsin Reax

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via AP

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Detroit, Michigan via AP

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Seattle, Washington via seattlepi.com

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Jacksonville, Florida via AP

The Trayvon Martin blackout protests and million hoodie marches have further shown me that our country is still a wondrous entity. For times I have forgotten just how immense and absorbing we all are. But to this I must ask why it takes a tragic or monumental event like this to bring us all together. A year from now, if things haven’t changed, will we continue to march upon the steps of Washington with words of protest? Or will we, like so many times before, step down until another saddening event throttles our emotions? Is this just human nature?

If we can take something like the Trayvon Martin story and demand change for our legal system and call for justice, we must learn how to do this without the wake of such an event. To continually fight means to never succumb and forever persist, and it’s with this where we must stand.

The common result among our country has been that one of the biggest injustices is that of the separation of our country, whether it’s among racial, religious, political, sexual or cultural grounds. From the Trayvon Martin story to the NYPD pat down service to the ridiculous bills being passed that are further trying to chip away at women’s rights, the core institution of the United States has divided us instead of celebrating the uniqueness everyone brings to this great country. We have, as citizens, joined together to fight these injustices and demand change, but we need to be more frequent. By doing this, our voice will constantly be heard, and we will never fall beneath the abyss. By doing this, we’re not only demanding change, but we’re shaping the future of our country and the way it’ll speak for generations.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

Milwaukee, Wisconsin via @ShantTHEGREAT

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Album of the Week: “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill

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Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Columbia, 1998

Daniel’s Thought

Though Lauryn Hill was the catalyst that drove the Fugees commercial and critical success, no one was ready for her debut solo LP, a stunning record clouded in hip-hop neo-soul that is encased in a sheath of love, religion and turmoil. Beyond the gilded trim of the album itself, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill finds the MC fighting off two reeling relationships (that of the Fugees and Wyclef Jean), and because of this the album itself shows its audience the inner-reflection of a woman swirling in emotion. From “Ex-Factor” to “Everything is Everything,” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill stands as an album that tracks pure sentiment sprawling from the ideals of motherhood, relationships, remembrance, heartbreak and God.

The idea of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill being lauded a classic could stem from how brilliantly and personally the lyrics mix with the luscious melodies; it could stem from the fact that the album itself is a genre-bender, a piece that infuses hip-hop, soul, R&B and reggae into a variable drum of mind-transforming tunes; or it could stem from the record’s background, and how Hill turned to God and motherhood as a means of transforming a dark period into a worthwhile one. However, the main mechanism behind the album’s success is simply its emotion.

The album’s second single “Ex-Factor” is a touching song that willingly tugs at Hill’s emotions and pours her insecurities into an open bowl for listeners to dissect. “To Zion” is a Carlos Santana-backed track dedicated to Hill’s son that slithers from the tip of her tongue to the headphones of the listener. “Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a lifting piece built on horns and a quick-tapping piano pointing out the differences between men and women. And “Lost Ones” is the first proper track of the album that sets the medium for the rest of the record. “Never underestimate those who you scar, because karma comes back at you hard.

Delving into The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is as simplistic as the emotion pouring from the album itself because it’s a modern classic that comes with straightforward authority. The majority of the record paints a vivid picture of vital emotions and feelings. Add that to Lauryn Hill’s vocal strength and production and you have an album comparable to Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul or Stevie Wonder’s I Was Made to Love Her. At the base of this record however stands an original piece of work that was fueled by reckless emotion and faith, something that is rarely seen anymore.

Gus’ Thought

Lauryn Hill’s solo debut from 1998, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, was released to immense critical acclaim. Topping the billboards charts and winning Grammy awards including Album of the Year, Ms. Hill’s Miseducation stands as a decisive hip-hop/soul record with it’s original sound. The impact of this masterpiece cannot be understated; without this album, hip-hop and neo-soul would sound completely different. With classics such as “Everything Is Everything,” “Doo-Wop (That Thing), “Ex-Factor,” “Every Ghetto, Every City,” “Final Hour” and “Forgive Them Father,” Ms. Hill discusses the ups and downs of love, success and The Fugees, all the while demonstrating her talents as a songwriter, MC and singer. Produced almost exclusively by Lauryn herself, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill stands the test of time and continues to inspire artists of all genres.

The album begins with the familiar sounds and commotion of a classroom. In this moment, attendance is being taken and as the teacher calls for Lauryn: there is no response. As the record progresses the listener is repeatedly taken back to this classroom and the teacher is heard engaging the students in discussion. At the end of “Lost Ones” the class is heard spelling out the word “love”. From there, the teacher asks if the students know any songs or movies about love. In this outro/skit the students react as most grade-schoolers would and don’t take the question very seriously, as they laugh, joke and throw out examples such as The Titanic. Instead of resorting to some sort of disciplinary measure, the teacher continues to inquire about love. Later, after the jams “Ex-Factor” and “To Zion” the teacher asks the students, “How many of y’all have ever been in love” and adds jokingly, “I know none of the guys have ever been in love, we don’t get in love right?” This time the students respond with more focused answers that move the discussion forward. Again we are left with a cliffhanger as the teacher clearly knows he can get deeper answers from the students. However, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” begins and the discussion is forgotten as Ms. Hill takes you away with her musical brilliance.

After “Doo Wop (That Thing)” the listener is taken back into the classroom. This time the teacher addresses the young women, “Hey, we got some very intelligent women in here, man. Do you think you’re too young to really love somebody?” The teacher is met with emphatic rejection of this question and from this inquiry the dialogue is able to begin. One of the students describes being in love; “There’s a difference between loving somebody and being in love. You can love anybody but when you’re in love with somebody you’re looking at it like this: You’re taking that person for what he or she is no matter what he or she look like or no matter what he or she do.” Yes, the music on this record was revolutionary and changed hip-hop and neo-soul forever. Nevertheless, this moment and the other instances in the classroom are as important.

These flashes in the classroom are as significant as the music because they demonstrate how a classroom can be set up to encourage dialogue. In these short sketches the teacher acts as a facilitator, creating the safe environment needed for students to share their experiences. What emerges are students that are wise beyond their years and feel comfortable sharing their story. Beyond that they are able to connect their learning within the classroom to the knowledge they have gained outside of it. When this happens, teachers and students are able to learn from each other and think critically about subjects such as math, science, English and social studies. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill reached critical acclaim because of its innovative approach to hip-hop and neo soul. That being said, it should also be praised for its glimpses into a classroom where an environment of empowerment is created, critical education is embraced and learning is able to occur.

Listen

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