This is area of India that I’ll spend most of March in. The region is rich in diverse styles of Indian music. After Saturday’s live broadcast, I launch for Udaipur. As time permits, I’ll post here pictures, video and ‘learning moments’ along the way. –Jonathan
This week my prepatory study includes viewing the DVD “Raga Unveiled” India’s Voice – the history and essence of North Indian classical music. Distributed by Gita Desal, 2009
“India, unlike any other country in the world, boasts of cradling an art music that has been sifted and refined over 4000 years. With the even flow of evolution and an unshakeable support of theory, raga music is at once vibrant, mesmeric and sublime to this day. At its core is an ambition to profoundly change the performer and the listener at the deepest level. Nothing more nothing less! Raga Unveiled is a most inspiring and sweeping look at the entire architectural brilliance of a musical system that gave birth to this most wonderful and profound musical art form. For the first time on film, eloquent commentaries by musicians, Vedic scholars, and musicologists join hands with spectacular cinematography, intoxicating spectrums of sound, and rare archival footage resulting in a grand synthesis to honor this music in its entirety. Raga Unveiled inspires, moves and transports one to a place that you never imagined existed. It is a spiritual engagement second to none.” -DVD liner notes
Here is my developing list of desired experiences 2.22.17:
-Understanding raga and tala
-encounter with Bollywood
-deeper understanding of Hinduism
-seeking any transformative interactions related to the expression of Indian music
-discovering artists of note, past and present
-creating informed acquaintance with the genres
-what to put in and what to leave out of a presentation on the excursion
-musical practices, structures, systems, rhythm, melody
-experiencing a full performance (khyal)
-experiencing the more obscure genres of north Indian music
“Music In North India”, a 2004 publication by Oxford University Press (a resource contributor to my research on world), is a well-written and informative book authored by George E. Ruckert, Senior Lecturer in Music at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just 100 pages in length with an accompanying CD compilation, the text is a ‘friendly’ read which I am primarily using in preparation for my upcoming excursion to North India in March of 2017. That’s not to say I don’t love richly informative and superbly researched volumes: The Garland Encyclopedias of World Music. It’s just that each volume is very heavy 10-12 lbs, and is best used atop my campus desk where I and each one can comfortably rest.
The following is the publisher’s introduction to Music in North India, “one of several case-study volumes that can be used along with Thinking Musically, the core book in the Global Music Series. Thinking Musically incorporates music from many diverse cultures and establishes the framework for exploring the practice of music around the world. It sets the stage for an array of case-study volumes, each of which focuses on a single area of the world. Each case study uses the contemporary musical situation as a point of departure, covering historical information and traditions as they relate to the present.
North India is home to a wealth of musical traditions composed of many different styles, genres, and practices. Music in North India provides a representative overview of this music, discussing rhythm and drumming traditions, song composition and performance styles, and melodic and rhythmic instruments. Drawing on his experience as a sarod player, vocalist, and music teacher, author George Ruckert incorporates numerous musical exercises to demonstrate important concepts. The book ranges from the chants of the ancient Vedas to modern devotional singing and from the serious and meditative rendering of raga to the concert-hall excitement of the modern sitar, sarod, and tabla.
It is framed around three major topics: the devotional component of North Indian music, the idea of fixity and spontaneity in the various styles of Indian music, and the importance of the verbal syllable to the expression of the musical aesthetic in North India. Featuring vivid eyewitness accounts of performances and descriptions of interviews with performers, Music in North India examines the form, structure, and expression of North Indian music while also illuminating its profound religious and cultural significance. A 70-minute CD containing examples of the music discussed in the text is packaged with the book.”
Visit: http://www.oup.com/us/globalmusic for a list of case studies in the Global Music Series. The website also includes instructional materials to accompany each study. We’ll see how it goes with internet access and the like, but I do hope to post a few of my ‘learning moments’ during my visit. More details on that coming as time permits. –Jonathan
Many Thanks to Jonathan Gramling, Editor and Owner of Madison Hues Newspaper for the following interview in promotion of the State of Wisconsin’s 37th Annual Tribute and Ceremony Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
For the past 38 years, Dr. Jonathan Overby has produced and hosted the state of
Wisconsin King Holiday Tribute & Ceremony in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. It
is always a dignified, meaningful, inspirational and entertaining event that fills the perimeter of the Rotunda with spectators and inspires thousands more on
Wisconsin Public Television and Radio — and this year on WORT Radio at noon on
photo by Jonathan Grambling, Editor of The Madison Hues – Overby in his WPR office.
Overby has always been adept at steering the ceremony through the shoals of
political partisanship and the societal divides of hatred and ignorance while
keeping the ceremony relevant to the civil rights movement.
“There have been a number of governors who have been in office, which gives
testimony to wither bipartisan or a spirit of good community by governors whether
they were Democrats or Republicans,” Overby said. “In fact, Governor Dreyfus
was in office when this event started. He used to march us around the State
Capitol. It was hysterical because he always teased me about my run-down
shoes. They were patent-leather and real glossy. Back in that day, I was trying to
make it income-wise. His sense of dedication to the event was amazing.
I appreciated that somehow this event for some and hopefully most transcends
political ideology that move away from the spirit of what Dr. King was really trying
to address, in my opinion, to show his commitment to reducing hatred.”Overby grew up in the inner city of Milwaukee in the 1950s and 1960s at a time when the NAACP’s open housing marches were met with resistance — and projectiles — as they tried to cross the 16th Avenue Bridge to the south side of Milwaukee. But he doesn’t remember the social divide being as wide and as vitriolic as it is today.
“It seems to be in vogue that people can say whatever they want to say about other people,” Overby observed. “And it is almost in code that you can say certain things and it speaks to a certain audience or to constituents or people in the communities that you are aligned with. And it is intended to be polarizing. I don’t know if that is at the front of what some people are creating when they make these comments. But if we were to analyze it, they could see that if you are building up one community as being better than the other, that is the very essence of discrimination.
And it is very sad. And aside from making political comments, which by employment I am not allowed to do, I have seen fear rekindled in people from the Muslim community, in people who are from Latin speaking countries, the genuine fear that they have of in addition to being ‘other,’ the outsider, they are now being marginalized in a way that puts them in a category of being a ‘suspect.’ And that is a whole new level that I don’t even know existed in the 1950s in which discrimination was so largely used because of a connection to fear.
And that change should terrify us all. Of all of the years that I produced this event, this year it is with mixed emotions that I am affiliated with it or producing it because even though it is a day of celebration of Dr. King’s legacy and what he lived for, it’s also a day of reflection. And there are some serious changes that need to occur in order for us to remind you and get reacquainted with the idea that there is no one set of ethnic groups who are American. And that is unfortunately the platform on which too many institutions and too many individuals are sustaining themselves.”
In spite of being the most informed generation to have ever walked this planet with instantaneous messaging and vast amounts of knowledge available at our fingertips, people appear to know less about the people who live around them, especially people who are different than them.
“People have, unfortunately, become distrusting of each other, neighbors distrusting of what is going on next door because the people next door don’t look like most of the people in the neighborhood or their language or the clothing that they wear or their interactions in the community seem to be foreign,” Overby emphasized. “And because of that foreignness, people tend to not understand. They tend to fear. And
humanity has shown that when people fear, they hate.
And that hate often led to drastic events. And we are seeing it on a daily basis. And people have bought into a real lie, in my view, about how dangerous certain people are. You can argue about how this country was built and who served and who owns this and who doesn’t own that. But the fact is that Dr. King, as I have come to understand him, wasn’t asking for anyone to be set aside. He was asking to be given an opportunity to be in the big room, to be a part of the larger spirit of what being an American really meant. And that meant having access to the American Dream, education and housing and basically having equal rights in terms of voting and that kind of thing. I don’t think the equation is hard to put together that when some people fear, they tend to hate. And from there, it regresses to a much more dramatic ending.”
This year’s theme is “The Journey Ahead.” And Overby hopes people will use this time to reflect on what they can do to make our community and society a better place for everyone.
“My hope is for this event to give us pause to think about the work to be done,” Overby said. “Where can I as an individual do to make things better? And I think collectively and individually we have to speak up when we see other people saying and doing things that we know are morally and ethically wrong, whether it be with the institutions that we are serving or leaders in our own community, marginalizing people for either political or financial gain is a big part of the problem, in my own estimation and view. And I think if there were an issue to which Dr. King would speak to today, being different is not reason to be threatened. I think we have a lot of real deep thinking to do.
A lot of institutions that I interact with in which there are a number of good people working there, unfortunately, it involves risk to speak when they see things that are wrong. I think if ever we needed to be invested with the willingness to speak to these things, I think the time is certainly now more so that I have seen in the last 50 years.”
As always, the celebration will have a diversity of performances from around the region. There is the Tremper High School Wind Ensemble and the gospel group The Brown Sisters from Chicago. And this year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Valerie Daniels Carter from Milwaukee.
“Valerie is on the board of the Green Bay Packers,” Overby said. “I believe she’s one of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks. And the work that she has done in the Milwaukee community to elevate neighborhoods and the jobs that she has provided for people and her status as one of the very influential African American women in the country. And she is a dynamic speaker.”
With the majesty of this official state King Holiday Tribute, one would be surprised to find out that the state of Wisconsin contributes nothing to the event and even charges it to use the Rotunda space. In the past couple of years, Overby and his wife Amy have been forced to underwrite some of the expenses.
“All contributions are tax deductible,” Overby said. “We have a lot of work to do in that area. One of the things that has been an issue is taking a lot of small contributions and processing those versus getting it in big chunks. All we want to do is break even.”
Dr. Jonathan L. Overby
Jonathan Overby, originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States, began his career in radio as a student sports play-by-play announcer at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee. A recipient of a Ford Foundation Academic Scholarship, Jonathan attended San Francisco State University where he received his formal musical training in voice.
Upon returning to Wisconsin, Jonathan, a lyric baritone began performing extensively throughout Wisconsin, the U.S., and Europe with a number of recital tours in Germany, Switzerland, Japan and Poland. For nearly two decades, he produced and hosted “The Best of Gospel with Jonny O.” on the W.O.R.T. Community Radio station in Madison. The program, which he created, still retains its original title today.
Overby served from 1984-87 as music director for Pres House Campus Ministry on the UW-Madison campus. From 1989-1993, he also served as an Edgewood College Artist In Residence in the music department – conducting both the College Choral and the Community Choir.
In May of 1994, Jonathan joined Wisconsin Public Radio as a Sunday morning talk-show host. In 1996, he shifted to hosting and producing a live Saturday night variety show for WPR. On September 9, 2007, after just a few short weeks designing the concept for what would become a new music program on Wisconsin Public Radio, he began as host and executive producer of the current format of Higher Ground – the Saturday evening world music broadcast, “The Road To Higher Ground with Jonathan Overby“. The musical theme that opens each edition of the broadcast, was composed and written by Jonathan, and features the Lighthouse Chambers Singers, a choral collective he conducted from 1993-2010. From 2000-2010, he also conducted the big band, Highway To Heaven.
From 1994-2004 he served two terms as Vice Chair of the Wisconsin Arts Board. Currently, he is the executive producer and director of Wisconsin’s Official Annual State “Tribute & Ceremony” honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the oldest such state ceremony in the nation. Overby, a lyric baritone, conductor and ethnomusicologist, holds several degrees including a Doctorate in Education from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.
July 1, 2013, University of Wisconsin Extension Chancellor Ray Cross conferred on Dr. Overby the prefix title of “Distinguished” Wisconsin Public Radio Broadcaster for his efforts as a radio producer, host and, for his community service statewide. September 1, 2013, he became a member of the doctoral faculty at Edgewood College, where today, he continues to instruct doctoral students in the field of Administrative Leadership In Higher Education.
September of 2014, Overby became the first Post-Doctoral Fellow in the history of Edgewood College. His four year Joseph E. Schmiedicke Fellowship, was granted to advance his field research linked to “sacred world music and its potential to create greater understand of those who are different as a means of reducing human hatred.” With pending journeys to India and Tibet in 2017, Overby’s travels and research abroad have included independent excursions throughout the Caribbean, Japan, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Ghana, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Cuba, Peru, and Morocco.
These travel expeditions says Overby, “…inform how one might better understand the human condition through varied traditions of sacred world music which may have the potential for building bridges between diverse groups while illuminating and celebrating cultural diversity and the inclusion of marginalized groups…such understanding may in fact reduce human hatred”.
On September 22, 2016, UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, presented Dr. Overby with the “Wisconsin Idea” Award for his “outstanding contributions of service and education to society, and the quality of life in Wisconsin, the nation and the world.”
Education – under construction
1973 A.A. Administrative Arts Degree, Chabot College, Hayward, CA
2007 B.A. Edgewood College
2009 M.A. Religious Studies, Edgewood College, Madison, WI
2011 ED.D Education, Edgewood College, Madison, WI
Professional Associations – under construction
UW-Madison Campus Ministry – Minister Of Music (1984-88)
Edgewood College – Artist In Residence (1989-93)
Wisconsin Public Radio – (1994-present)
UW-Waukesha – Adjunct Faculty Member (2011-13)
Edgewood College Doctoral Program – Adjunct Faculty Member (2012-present)
Wisconsin Arts Board – Member and Vice Chair (1994-04)
Lectures – under construction
2015 Madison Civic Club – Madison, WI
Madison Area Technical College
UW-Madison School Of Music
Overture Center, Madison, WI – Salute To Gospel Music
2016 Rotary Club 6250 – District Conference, Madison, WI
2014 48th National Oral History Association Conference – Madison, WI
Membership In Professional Organizations – under construction
Society For Ethnomusicology (2015-16)
Major Performances, Productions And Presentations – under construction
State of Wisconsin – Executive Producer Annual Dr. King Tribute (1980-present)
Other – under construction
Ombeni Songoro School Foundation, Arusha, Tanzania – Advisor (2015-present)
Honors, Awards and Grants – under construction
Distinguished Alumni – Rufus King High School, Milwaukee, WI 2016
Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Edgewood College, Madison, WI (2014-2017)
As of 2017, 50 years ago, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited University of Wisconsin UW-Marathon County (UWMC) in 1967 at the behest of the SGA (Student Government Association). “Dr. King spoke to a packed house of students, staff, and community members – such a large crowd it had to be moved into the Youth Building in the adjacent county park.” -Dr. Keith Montgomery, Dean & Regional Executive Officer.
“He spoke of social justice and of the Vietnam War. One additional element of the speech that is remarkable is the vocal trace, which starts very small and increases with perfect regularity through the entire 7.5 minutes to the climax: his control was amazing”, states Montgomery.
As I listened, I was profoundly moved by King’s words which could have easily been a speech targeting in part the challenges that the U.S. faces today. In the coming days I’ll post photos from Dr. King’s visit to UWMC.
Here is the audio recording of Dr. King’s speech.
This audio or photographs may not be used, reproduced or referenced without the expressed written consent of Africasong.org
Just hours ago I arrived back home from a near monthlong musical adventure in Edinburgh, Scotland where the annual Festival Fringe (www.edfringe.com) takes place.
This event is hailed as the “largest arts festival in the world” and based on the hundreds of stage acts taking place each day throughout the city from comedy to street performers, folk bands to orchestras including choral, dance, theatre, art and a host of other creative expressions – it’s hard to dispute the adage particularly in light of the festival’s phone book size program guide to all things Fringe (which they mailed to me here in the U.S.).
In the midst of attending nearly twenty concerts, I managed to spend sometime in a local music store with an expert on Scottish folk music who inspired me to purchase a heap of recordings.
Central Park, Edinburgh, Scotland
This was a transformative adventure for me, listening to, talking with and learning from so many established and ‘up and coming’ artists rendering music from diverse traditions around the world – of course various adaptations of Celtic and Irish music flourished throughout the festival – couldn’t return home to Wisconsin without several choice CDs. I was fortunate enough to be granted media credentials by the Fringe Organizers, which allowed me access to a host of events, performances, concerts and interviews with artists.
Superb Saxophonist Sue McKenzie (also associated with Salsa Celtica) performed at Fringe
Among the most impressive aspects of Fringe is the shear amount of acts each day – you could attend fifty each day and still miss another fifty or so. Now it’s fair to say that not all of the performances and presentations are by well-established artists. Some are just beginning their journey in the arts and from my end, that’s perfectly okay. Why? – because in my estimation the Fringe is the right venue to launch your career. Artists-Read This! Get to the Fringe to introduce your creative work and, if you are a seasoned artist, this is one of those events worth coming back to annually.
I also marveled at the number of stage venues set in churches, halls, clubs, museums and the like. By the way, if you are a street performer, mark your calendar for the 2017 Fringe and get there.
Festival Fringe Organizers – Bravo!!!
One of the performers at the festival was Youssou N’dour – among the globe’s greatest world music artists. What a gracious soul! It was a treat to visit with him once again.
I was equally impressed with the beauty of the city, the Highlands-Isle of Skye and the area’s many historical buildings and markers. In truth, I fell in love with Edinburgh, it’s people and it’s vibrant arts movement.
Isle Of Skye, Portree, Scotland
However, I was most taken by the genuine warmth and welcoming-spirit of the Scottish people. As a man of color, a world traveler, and a celebrant of other cultures, this has not always been the case.
Aboriginal Artist, Archie Roach performing at Festival Fringe, Edinburg, Scotland
Frankly, I was taken by the city’s cultural diversity and, with each passing day, I became more convinced that Edinburgh is truly an inclusive and welcoming city to all people. I could live there without a doubt. In fact, I’m exploring buying a flat in Edinburgh for semi-annual visits. I hesitate to say this, but, as much as I love my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin and my country, I felt more welcomed in Scotland than I ever have at home. I believe firmly that you can learn and tell a lot about a city by the manner in which it treats a ‘stranger’.
Isle Of Skye, Portree, Scotland
For the next few weeks, I’m just going to relax, reflect on and relive some of my favorite moments at the Fringe. Along the way, I’ll post photos and a few other recalled ideas from the trip. –Jonathan
More about Edinburgh: https://www.list.co.uk/article/32185-the-best-parks-and-green-spaces-in-edinburgh/
As a radio host, musician, ethnomusicologist and researcher, I’m sometimes asked the following questions: (1) Why are you affiliated with Wisconsin Public Radio, (2) why do you host and produce a world music program and (3), why are you researching sacred world music traditions?
(1) I’ve always loved radio, even at Rufus King H.S. in Milwaukee where my journey in radio began – Firmly, I believed then that radio was a powerful communicative vehicle – it remains so today! July,2016 The Rufus King Alumni Association honored me with the 2016 Distinguished Alumi Award In Media.
(2) Music, in my estimation is truly a “universal language” and sharing music, their narratives, discoveries unearthed from my travels around the world and, celebrating diverse cultures through music, is tied to an onus – my life’s mission. The sharing in fact gives me great joy.
In addition, something I don’t talk about as often as I should, is the importance of music and how it can I believe, change how we view each other- meaning people who are different, look different and hail from places that are so called, ‘different’.
Early in college as a undergraduate voice student at San Francisco State University in California, I struggled to find how my attachment to music might be used to celebrate ‘difference’. This reflective idea was inspired by my personal experiences, encounters with and witnessed-events of hatred, while growing up in my hometown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a place that remains today, the most or nearly the most segregated city in our nation.
Encouraged by my parents and teachers at St. Gall’s Catholic School in Milwaukee, to love those that hated me in spite of their entrenched hatred, and not because of it, remains a challenge, though one I remain committed to.
(3) If, through my research, designed to link “universal messages” in sacred world music, a pathway is found that even marginally has the potentially to reduce human hatred, increases our understanding of the ‘other’, the stranger, those that are ‘different’, I will celebrate and champion any conclusions, data or findings no matter how small or remote.
Hatred, like love transforms us. My message is that “what people don’t understand, they often hate, what they hate they fear and what they fear they often kill. This is a disease in urgent need of a cure. Perhaps, music will lead us to one. –Jonathan
I’m posting the following article by Rhodes http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/BlackTheology.html for possible discussion linked to sacred world music and the environment in which (Afrocentric Sacred Traditions) were formed and are linked.
“Black Theology, Black Power,
and the Black Experience”Part Two in a Three-Part Series on Liberation Theologyby Ron Rhodes
Between 1517 and 1840 it is estimated that twenty million blacks were captured in Africa, transported to America, and brutally enslaved. The experience of these blacks – and their descendants – serves as the backdrop for understanding contemporary black liberation theology.
During slave trading days, blacks were crammed into ships like sardines into a can and brought across the Atlantic. Many died at sea from dysentery, smallpox, and other diseases. “Some starved themselves to death refusing to eat. To prevent this form of suicide, hot coals were applied to the lips to force the slaves to open their mouths to eat.”
Upon arriving on American shores, the slaves – men, women, and children – were forced to work from sunrise to sunset. Even old and ailing slaves were forced to work.
The brutality shown to the slaves is among the saddest chapters in American history. Black theologian Anthony Evans tells us that “black women were raped at will by their masters at the threat of death while their husbands could only look on. Families were separated as they were bought and sold like cattle.”
For tax purposes, slaves were counted as property – like domestic animals. Eventually, however, a question arose as to how to count slaves in the nation’s population. The Congress solved the problem by passing a bill that authorized the U.S. Census Bureau to count each slave as three-fifths of a person. This Congressional compromise resulted in what one Negro writer of the 1890s called “the ‘Inferior Race Theory,’ the placing of the Negro somewhere between the barnyard animals and human beings.”THE CHRISTIANIZATION OF SLAVERYInitially, there was heated resistance to evangelizing among slaves. Black scholar C. Eric Lincoln tells us there were three principal reasons for this: “(1) the hearing of the gospel required time that could be economically productive; (2) slaves gathered together in a religious assembly might become conscious of their own strength and plot insurrections under cover of religious instruction; (3) there was an English tradition of long standing that once a slave became a Christian he could no longer be held a slave.”
In addition, many whites were repulsed at the suggestion that blacks could go to heaven. Morgan Godwyn, a graduate of Oxford University who served in churches in Virginia around 1665, wrote that slavemasters would commonly exclaim, “What, such as they? What, those black dogs be made Christians? What, shall they be like us?”
Some whites tried to argue that blacks were less than human. Buckener H. Payne, in his book The Negro: What Is His Ethnological blacks are present with us today, they must have been in the ark. There were only eight souls saved in the ark, however, and they are fully accounted for by Noah’s family. As one of the beasts in the ark, the black has no soul to be saved.” So why try to evangelize them?
Regardless of such preposterous arguments, missionary work eventually began among the slaves in the early 1700s and many of them became Christians. The brand of Christianity that was preached to them, however, was one that justified slavery. It was argued that Paul and other New Testament writers issued specific instructions for master-slave relations, thus apparently sanctioning the practice. Moreover, a curse of slavery was placed on the “sons of Ham” (Gen. 9:20-27) – who were interpreted to be blacks. Furthermore, slavery was considered a “religious good,” for it amounted to importing unsaved heathens to a Christian land where they could hear the gospel and be saved.
(However, though Paul gave instructions on master-slave relations, his underlying belief was that slaves should be freed [1 Cor. 7:21]. Moreover, a curse of slavery was placed only on Ham’s son, Canaan – whose descendants later occupied Phoenicia and Palestine. They were Caucasians. As for slavery being a “religious good,” this seems an absurd claim in view of the cruel, inhuman treatment shown to the slaves.)
Most blacks accepted the slave brand of Christianity at face value. Moreover, white missionaries persuaded the blacks that life on earth was insignificant because “obedient servants of God could expect a reward in heaven after death.” The white interpretation of Christianity effectively divested the slaves of any concern they might have had about their freedom in the present.
As more blacks began attending white Christian churches, restrictions in seating, communion services, and property ownership caused many blacks to seek autonomy in their own congregations and ultimately, separate denominations. So, by the mid-1700s, black slaves had begun meeting in private to worship since authentic worship with whites was impossible. There is sufficient historical evidence to conclude that themes later developed by black liberation theologians were present in these early slave meetings in at least a nascent form.
For example, God was interpreted by the slaves as a loving Father who would eventually deliver them from slavery just as He had delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage. Jesus was considered both a Savior and an elder brother who was a fellow sufferer.
Heaven had a dual implication for black slaves. Yes, it referred to the future life, but it also came to refer to a state of liberation in the present. Because of the risk involved in preaching liberation, the slave learned how to sing liberation in the very presence of his master:
“Swing low, sweet chariot (underground railroad –
Coming for to carry me home (up North to freedom)
Swing low (come close to where I am),
Coming for to carry me home.
I looked over Jordan (Ohio River – border between North
and South) And what did I see,
Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels (northern emancipators with the
underground) coming after me.
Coming for to carry me home.”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF BLACK LIBERATIONIST THOUGHTIt was not long before slave theology gave rise to black activism. There are many important figures who contributed to the cause of black liberation throughout black history. We can only mention a few here.
Nat Turner (1800-1831) was the most notorious slave preacher who ever lived on American soil. Turner’s hatred of slavery propelled him to seek freedom by violence. Indeed, Turner killed nearly sixty white people before being captured and hanged in September, 1831. This violent revolt marked the beginning of the black struggle for liberation.
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) is regarded by many as “the apostle of black theology in the United States of America.” Martin Luther King, Jr., said Garvey “was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny, and make the Negro feel he is somebody.” Garvey was one of the first to speak of seeing God through black “spectacles.”
Howard Thurman, in his book Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), saw black life paralleling Jesus’ life because His poverty identified Him with the poor masses. Thurman also noted that Jesus was a member of a minority group (the Jews) in the midst of a larger and controlling dominant group (the Romans). Thurman thus drew many applications for the black experience from the life of Jesus.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was America’s most visible civil rights leader from 1955 until his assassination in April, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Though he cannot be called a formal participant in the black theology movement, he nevertheless roused the conscience of black America to passionate commitment to liberation.
King was an advocate of Ghandian nonviolent social change. Through nonviolent suffering, King believed that “blacks would not only liberate themselves from the necessity of bitterness and the feeling of inferiority toward whites, but would also prick the conscience of whites and liberate them from a feeling of superiority.” To some, King’s assassination indicated that nonviolence as a means of liberation had failed and that perhaps a more revolutionary theology was needed.
Albert Cleage was one of the more militant black writers of the 1960s. His claim to fame was The Black Messiah, a 1968 collection of sermons in which he set forth his brand of black nationalism.
Cleage rejected the Pauline books in the New Testament. He said that – in contrast to the black Messiah – there was a spiritualized Jesus constructed by the apostle Paul who “never knew Jesus and who modified his teaching to conform to the pagan philosophers of the white gentiles. We, as black Christians suffering oppression in a white man’s land, do not need the individualistic and other-worldly doctrines of Paul and the white man.”
THE EMERGENCE OF A FORMAL “BLACK THEOLOGY”Over one hundred and thirty years after Nat Turner was hanged, black theology emerged as a formal discipline. Beginning with the “black power” movement in 1966, black clergy in many major denominations began to reassess the relationship of the Christian church to the black community. Black caucuses developed in the Catholic, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches. “The central thrust of these new groups was to redefine the meaning and role of the church and religion in the lives of black people. Out of this reexamination has come what some have called a ‘Black Theology.'”
For the first time in the history of black religious thought, black clergy (primarily educated, middle-class black clergy) and black theologians began to recognize the need for a completely new “starting point” in theology. They insisted that this starting point must be defined by people at the bottom and not the top of the socioeconomic ladder. So, black theologians began to re-read the Bible through the eyes of their slave grandparents and started to speak of God’s solidarity with the oppressed of the earth.
The most prolific and sophisticated writer of this new theological movement has been James Cone. No one has matched him either in terms of sheer volume of writing, or in terms of the challenge posed by his books. For this reason, we shall examine his theology in depth.
James Cone: Theologian of Black LiberationIn assessing the theology of James Cone, it is critical to recognize that he sees black experience as the fundamental starting point for ascertaining theological truth. And his own writings are a reflection of his own “black experience” – that is, the discrimination he suffered while growing up as a child in Bearden, Arkansas.
What was it like in Bearden? “It meant attending ‘separate but equal’ schools, going to the balcony when attending a movie, and drinking water from a ‘colored’ fountain. It meant refusing to retaliate when called a nigger unless you were prepared to leave town at the precise moment of your rebellion. You had no name except for your first name of ‘boy.'” Cone concedes that “my theological reflections are inseparable from the Bearden experience. What I write is urged out of my blood.”
Cone says that “it is this common experience among black people in America that Black Theology elevates as the supreme test of truth. To put it simply, Black Theology knows no authority more binding than the experience of oppression itself. This alone must be the ultimate authority in religious matters.”
From the above, one may immediately suspect that Cone has a deficient view of the authority of Scripture. Indeed, his view seems very close to the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth, as when Cone writes: “It is true that the Bible is not the revelation of God, only Christ is. But it is an indispensable witness to God’s revelation.” Moreover, “we should not conclude that the Bible is an infallible witness.” Cone believes the meaning of Scripture is not to be found in the words of Scripture as such, but only in its power to point beyond itself to the reality of God’s “revelation,” which – in America – takes place experientially in God’s liberating work among blacks.
Black Theology and Black Power. Based on the preeminence of “black experience,” Cone defines theology as “a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus Christ.” Cone’s theology asks (and seeks to answer) the question, “What does the Christian gospel have to say to powerless black men whose existence is threatened daily by the insidious tentacles of white power?”
In answering this pivotal question, Cone emphasizes that there is a very close relationship between black theology and what has been termed “black power.” Cone says that black power is a phrase that represents both black freedom and black self-determination “wherein black people no longer view themselves as without human dignity but as men, human beings with the ability to carve out their own destiny.”
Cone says black theology is the religious counterpart of black power. “Black Theology is the theological arm of Black Power, and Black Power is the political arm of Black Theology.” And, “while Black Power focuses on the political, social, and economic condition of black people, Black Theology puts black identity in a theological context.”
We gain insights about what Cone means by “black theology” and “black power” by understanding what blackness means in his theology. Cone notes two aspects of blackness: the physiological and ontological. In the first sense, “black” indicates a physiological trait. It refers to “a particular black-skinned people in America.”
In the second sense, “black” and “white” relate not to skin pigmentation but to “one’s attitude and action toward the liberation of the oppressed black people from white racism.” Blackness is thus “an ontological symbol for all people who participate in the liberation of man from oppression.” Seen in this light, “blackness” can be attributed to people who do not have black skin but who do work for liberation.
By contrast, “whiteness” in Cone’s thought symbolizes the ethnocentric activity of “madmen sick with their own self-concept” and thus blind to that which ails them and oppresses others. Whiteness symbolizes sickness and oppression. White theology is therefore viewed as a theological extension of that sickness and oppression.
Having established that the black experience is the governing principle in Cone’s interpretation of Scripture, it is important to understand how this governing principle has affected his views of specific doctrines.
God. Cone bases much of his liberationist theology on God’s deliverance of Israel from oppression under the Egyptians. He says that the consistent theme in Israelite prophecy is Yahweh’s concern for “the lack of social, economic, and political justice for those who are poor and unwanted in the society.”
This same God, Cone argues, is working for the deliverance of oppressed blacks in twentieth-century America. Because God is helping oppressed blacks and has identified with them, God Himself is spoken of as “black.”
Black theology’s dominant perspective on God is “God in action, delivering the oppressed because of His righteousness. He is to be seen, not in the transcendent way of Greek philosophy, but immanent, among His people.” God is “immanent” in the sense that He is met in concrete historical situations of liberation.
This is very similar to the idea of the immanence of God in process theology. Indeed, process theologian David Ray Griffin, while recognizing important differences between process and black theology, has suggested that “process philosophy supports liberation theologians in locating the reality of God’s presence and creative activity in this world.”
Jesus Christ. Cone’s intention is to stand in the Chalcedonian tradition in his understanding of Jesus Christ. The Chalcedonian creed (A.D. 451) affirmed that Christ is “truly God and truly man.” Cone agrees with this, but adds that the role of Jesus as God-Incarnate was to liberate the oppressed: Jesus Christ “is God himself coming into the very depths of human existence for the sole purpose of striking off the chains of slavery, thereby freeing man from ungodly principalities and powers that hinder his relationship with God.”
One of the more controversial aspects of Cone’s Christology is his view that Jesus was (is) black: “The ‘raceless’ American Christ has a light skin, wavy brown hair, and sometimes – wonder of wonders – blue eyes. For whites to find him with big lips and kinky hair is as offensive as it was for the Pharisees to find him partying with tax-collectors. But whether whites want to hear it or not, Christ is black, baby, with all of the features which are so detestable to white society” (emphasis in original).
Cone believes it is very important for black people to view Jesus as black: “It’s very important because you’ve got a lot of white images of Christ. In reality, Christ was not white, not European. That’s important to the psychic and to the spiritual consciousness of black people who live in a ghetto and in a white society in which their lord and savior looks just like people who victimize them. God is whatever color God needs to be in order to let people know they’re not nobodies, they’re somebodies.”
For Cone, the Resurrection of the black Jesus – a real event – symbolizes universal freedom for all who are bound. It is not just a future-oriented hope in a heavenly compensation for earthly woes. Rather, it is a hope that focuses on the future in such a way that it prevents blacks from tolerating present inequities. This is closely related to Cone’s understanding of eschatology (more on this shortly).
Sin and Salvation. In Cone’s view, sin is “a condition of human existence in which man denies the essence of God’s liberating activity as revealed in Jesus Christ.” In this view, sin is anything that is contrary to the oppressed community or its liberation.
Salvation for Cone primarily has to do with earthly reality, not heavenly hopes. “To see the salvation of God is to see this people [i.e., the blacks] rise up against their oppressors, demanding that justice become a reality now and not tomorrow.” Hence, though Cone often speaks of Jesus as the Liberator, in practical terms he emphasizes the human work of self-liberation among blacks and downplays divine help.
The Church. Cone believes the black church has played an instrumental role in the religious and social life of black America. He says the black church was the creation of a black people “whose daily existence was an encounter with the overwhelming and brutalizing reality of white power. For the slaves it was the sole source of identity and the sense of community. The black church became the only sphere of black experience that was free of white power.”
Still, Cone believes that – since the days of slavery – the black church has largely capitulated to the demands of a white racist society. He argues that in order to survive, the black churches have given up their freedom and dignity. After the Civil War, black churches became passive in the struggle for civil rights and freedom while currying favors from the white establishment. This condition, Cone says, has persisted up to the present day, rendering the black church “the lifeless pawn of the status quo.”
Only faithfulness to the “pre-Civil War black church tradition” will issue in “an exclusive identification with black power,” Cone believes. He says that a continued emphasis on black power is “the only hope of the black church in America.” (Though “black power” as a movement faded after the 1960s, the primary emphasis of the movement – the dignity, freedom, and self-determination of black people – has continued in Cone’s theological writings. It is this emphasis that Cone says has been missing in many black churches.)
Eschatology. Cone rejects what he terms the “white lie” that Christianity is primarily concerned with life in the next world: “If eschatology means that one believes that God is totally uninvolved in the suffering of man because he is preparing them for another world, then black theology is not eschatological. Black theology has hope for this life.”
Cone asks what good there is in golden crowns, slippers, and white robes “if it means that we have to turn our backs on the pain and suffering of our own children? Unless the future can become present, thereby forcing us to make changes in this world, what significance could eschatology have for black people who believe that their self-determination must become a reality now?”
Revolution and Violence. I would be remiss to close this discussion of James Cone without noting his views on revolution and violence. Cone defines liberation as the “emancipation of black people from white oppression by whatever means black people deem necessary.” This definition would seem to allow for the use of violence.
Cone does not advocate armed revolution against white society. But some violence, he says, seems unavoidable. He points out that “the Christian does not decide between violence and nonviolence, evil and good. He decides between the lesser and the greater evil. He must ponder whether revolutionary violence is less or more deplorable than the violence perpetuated by the system.” Injustice, slave labor, hunger, and exploitation are all violent forms that must be considered against the cost of revolutionary violence.
LIBERATION THEOLOGY AND THE BLACK CHURCHWe have seen that James Cone has developed a full theology based on a reading of Scripture through the eyeglasses of “blackness.” The question is, How influential has black liberation theology been in the life of the black church in America?
C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya have recently completed a ten-year statistical study of the black church in America. They’ve published their findings in a hefty volume entitled, The Black Church in the African American Experience (1990). Part of the Lincoln/Mamiya study dealt with black liberation theology: “In our urban questionnaire we asked the pastors of 1,531 urban churches, ‘Have you been influenced by any of the authors and thinkers of black liberation theology?'”
Responses to the urban questionnaire were quite revealing. Only 34.9 percent of urban black clergy said they had been influenced by black liberation theologians as opposed to 65.1 percent who said they had not. Little more than one-third of the black pastors interviewed claimed any influence from this movement!
Lincoln and Mamiya discerned that age and education were among the most significant variables in determining clergy responses:
Clergy who are forty and under claimed to be more strongly influenced by black liberation theology than those who are older. Education was also very strongly associated with knowledge of black liberation theology. Pastors with a high school and less educational background said that they were minimally influenced by liberation theology, while those with a college education have the most positive views of the movement. The majority of the less educated pastors have neither heard of the movement nor of the names of theologians associated with it. Among educated clergy familiar with the movement, James Cone has the highest name recognition.
These differences are not that surprising, Lincoln and Mamiya say, since black liberation theology is a relatively recent intellectual movement “occurring largely among the educated elite of the black clergy.”
Another significant variable was found to be denominational affiliation. According to Lincoln and Mamiya, the black denominations with higher educational levels among their clergy – such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church – are the major proponents of liberation theology. “The fact that the Pentecostal ministers of the Church of God in Christ, which has the largest sector of lower-class members among the seven [major black] denominations, have been scarcely influenced by this theological perspective suggests some of the class limitations of this movement.” This would seem to indicate that the formulators of black liberation theology have not been able to move beyond their middle-class origins, even though black liberationists have sought to do theology from the “bottom up” – that is, from the perspective of the oppressed in American society.
Based on their nationwide field experience, Lincoln and Mamiya have observed that the majority of black clergy are educated as apprentices – learning “on the job” under the direction of senior clergy. What little academic education they receive is usually at the local Bible school level. Moreover, most of their reading is denominationally oriented. “It is this local level of clergy education,” Lincoln and Mamiya suggest, “that the new black liberation theology has thus far failed to penetrate.”
Lincoln and Mamiya close with this warning: “Unless the movement of black liberation theology reaches beyond its present location in an intellectual elite and gives more attention to a mass education of clergy and laity in the churches, the movement will continue to have minimal influence among its key constituencies.”
Lincoln and Mamiya are probably correct. However, the problems of black liberation theology go much deeper than a simple failure to reach the masses. This I shall make clear in what follows.
A CRITIQUEIt is difficult for a white person such as myself to critique black theology. As I write, I am mindful of James Cone’s conviction that any criticism of black theology by a white theologian will be influenced by white racism and is thus invalid. To help disarm this objection, I will draw support for each of my points from one or more black theologians.
I want to begin by affirming that black theology has made some important contributions. I will mention only four here. First, black theology has reminded us that theology – if it is going to meet the needs of twentieth century (and beyond) Christians – must find practical expression in society. Second, black theology has reminded us that God is involved with His people in real-life situations. Third, black theology has focused our attention on the need to reach out to others in the body of Christ who are suffering. And fourth, black theology serves as an indictment against the racist views that have been all-too-often (but not always) present among white people. These contributions are important and extremely relevant.
Despite these contributions, however, there are some serious problems that must be addressed. As a preface to my criticisms, I want to draw attention to Part One of this series in which I criticized the hermeneutic of Latin American liberation theology. In that article, I pointed out that Latin American theologians have approached Scripture with a preunderstanding that has led them to interpret Scripture with a bias toward the poor. I emphasized that if we are to understand the biblical author’s intended meaning, it is imperative that preunderstandings be in harmony with Scripture and subject to correction by it. This same point must be made with reference to black theology. However, since I will not repeat any material from Part One, I urge the reader to review my comments on preunderstandings in that article.
“Blackness” and ScriptureIn my critique of black liberation theology, I will focus my attention on the particular preunderstanding which interprets Scripture through the eyeglasses of “blackness.” More specifically, I shall address the question: Is it legitimate to make the black experience the fundamental criterion for interpreting Scripture?
Certainly I do not wish to minimize the importance of the black experience. Nor do I want to come across as unsympathetic to the plight of African Americans in a white-dominated society. There can be little doubt that black liberation theologians have a legitimate gripe regarding the treatment of their people throughout American history. But imposing the black experience (or any other experience – including feminist, gay, anti-supernaturalist, New Age, mystic, etc.) onto Scripture robs Scripture of its intrinsic authority and distorts its intended meaning.
Theologians who make black experience all-determinative have, in a way, made the same mistake some white racists did during the days of slavery – only in reverse. Just as some whites imposed their “experience” as slavemasters onto Scripture in order to justify slavery, so some blacks have imposed the “black experience” onto Scripture to justify their radical views on liberation. Both positions have erred. For blacks to use such an experience-oriented methodology is to condone the very kind of method used by those who enslaved them. In my thinking, this is self-defeating at best.
Black theologian Anthony Evans directly challenges Cone’s methodology by arguing that the black experience must be seen as “real but not revelatory, important but not inspired.” Black writer Tom Skinner agrees and argues that “like any theology, black theology must have a frame of reference There are some black theologians who seek to make their frame of reference purely the black experience, but this assumes the black experience is absolutely moral and absolutely just, and that is not the case. There must be a moral frame of reference through which the black experience can be judged.” That frame of reference must be Scripture.
To produce a biblical liberation theology, Scripture – not the “black experience” – must be the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice. By following this approach, a strong biblical case can be constructed against racism – something I would think should be at the very heart of a biblical black theology.
The unity of the human race, for example, is a consistent emphasis in Scripture – in terms of creation (Gen. 1:28), the sin problem (Rom. 3:23), God’s love for all men (John 3:16), and the scope of salvation (Matt. 28:19). The apostle Paul emphasized mankind’s unity in his sermon to the Athenians: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26). Moreover, Revelation 5:9 tells us that God’s redeemed will be from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Because of the unity of humanity, there is no place for racial discrimination – white, black, or otherwise – for all men are equal in God’s sight.
Transcending CultureIn Part One, I criticized the hermeneutic of Latin American liberation theology for its inability to develop a culture-transcending theology. Black theology’s hermeneutic – with its emphasis on the “black experience” – is open to the same criticism.
A passage relevant to this is John 4 where we find Jesus confronting a Samaritan woman. Here Jesus deals with the relationship between truth and culture.
The Jews considered the Samaritans an “unclean” mixed breed – with Israelite and Assyrian ancestry. Because of this, the Jews were harshly prejudiced against the Samaritans and discriminated against them. This cultural hostility led the Samaritan woman to ask Jesus: “‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)” (John 4:9).
During the ensuing discussion, the woman asked Jesus about which cultural place of worship was valid: Mt. Gerizim where the Samaritans built their temple, or Jerusalem where the Jews built theirs. Anthony Evans alerts us to the significance of Jesus’ response: “Jesus does not hesitate to let her know that once you bring God into the picture, the issue is no longer culture, but truth. He informs her that the question is not Mt. Gerizim or Jerusalem, that it is not according to Samaritan tradition or Jewish tradition (v. 21). In fact, He denounces her cultural heritage in relation to worship, for he told her, ‘Ye worship ye know not what’ (v. 22). When she began to impose her culture on sacred things, Christ invaded her cultural world to tell her she was spiritually ignorant.”
Jesus transcended the whole issue of culture in discussing spiritual issues with the woman. When it came to her relationship with God, the issue moved from her cultural heritage to her heart and the criteria for that relationship was truth. Jesus acknowledged cultural distinctions, but disallowed them when they interfered in any way with truth about God. A principle we can derive from this is: Culture must always take back seat to the truth of God as revealed in Scripture.
What does this passage say to the relationship of Scripture to the black experience? Evans answers: “It says that we as black people cannot base our relationship with God, or our understanding of God, on our cultural heritage. Jesus is not asking blacks to become white or whites to become Jews, but he insists that all reflect God’s truth as given in Scripture. Where culture does not infringe upon the Word of God, we are free to be what God created us to be, with all the uniqueness that accompanies our cultural heritage. However, the truth from Scripture places limits on our cultural experience.”
Reconciliation: The Better WayA biblical theology of liberation must include an emphasis on reconciliation among men, without which the theology ceases to be Christian (Eph. 2:14ff.). Black liberation theologian DeOtis Roberts (b. 1927), though committed to liberation, agrees with this and insists that black theology must speak of “reconciliation that brings black men together and of reconciliation that brings black and white men together.” Roberts says “it is my belief that true freedom overcomes estrangement and heals the brokenness between peoples.” However, Roberts argues, “reconciliation can take place only between equals. It cannot coexist with a situation of Whites over Blacks.”
Roberts’s point is well taken. Reconciliation and racism are birds of a different feather; they never fly together. Genuine reconciliation can come only if people – both black and white – commit to a scriptural view of their brothers of a different color, seeing all people as created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and of infinite value to God (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18).
There is much more that needs to be said on this important issue, but space forbids. As the theological dialogue continues in coming years, I would like to suggest the following goal: Let us all – both black and white – seek to build a body of unified believers who are so committed to the Scriptures and to Christ that the name Christian becomes truly descriptive of who they are, and not the color of their skin.
NOTES1 William L. Banks, The Black Church in the U.S. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), 12.
2 Anthony T. Evans, Biblical Theology and the Black Experience (Dallas: Black Evangelistic Enterprise, 1977), 19.
3 James W. English, “Could Racism Be Hereditary?,” Eternity, September 1970, 22.
4 C. Eric Lincoln, “The Development of Black Religion in America,” Review and Expositor 70 (Summer 1973):302.
5 Ibid., 303.
6 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983), 543.
7 James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power (hereafter Theology) (New York: Seabury Press, 1969), 121.
8 Emmanuel McCall, “Black Liberation Theology: A Politics of Freedom,” Review and Expositor 73 (Summer 1976):330; cf. C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham: Duke University Press, 1990), 352.
9 Lindsay A. Arscott, “Black Theology,” Evangelical Review of Theology 10 (April-June 1986):137.
10 Quoted by Clair Drake, Foreword to Garveyism as a Religious Movement, Randall Burkett (Metucher, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978), 15.
11 James H. Cone, “Black Theology in American Religion,” Theology Today 43 (April 1986):13.
12 Albert B. Cleage, The Black Messiah (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969), 4.
13 Charles V. Hamilton, The Black Preacher in America (New York: William Morrow, 1972), 140.
14 James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 3.
16 Cone, Theology, 120.
17 James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (hereafter Liberation) (Philadelphia: J. P. Lippencott, 1970), 66.
18 Ibid., 67.
19 Ibid., 17-18.
20 Ibid., 32.
21 Cone, Theology, 6.
22 James H. Cone, “Black Power, Black Theology,” Theological Education 6 (Spring 1970):209.
23 James H. Cone, quoted in K. Bediako, “Black Theology,” in New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Sinclair B. Ferguson and David F. Wright (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 103.
24 Cone, Liberation, 32.
25 Nyameko Pityana, “What Is Black Consciousness?” Black Theology: The South African Voice, ed. Basil Moore (London: C. Hurst & Co., 1973), 63.
26 Cone, Liberation, 32.
27 Ibid., 29.
28 Ibid., 19.
29 H. Wayne House, “An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology,” Bibliotheca Sacra 139 (April-June 1982):163.
30 David Ray Griffin, “Values, Evil, and Liberation Theology,” in Process Philosophy and Social Thought, ed. John B. Cobb (Chicago: Center for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1981), 185. Process theology espouses a finite God that evolves, is subject to change, and is intrinsically related to the world.
31 Cone, Theology, 35.
32 J. H. Cone, “The White Church and Black Power,” in G. S. Wilmore and J. H. Cone, Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979), 116-17.
33 James H. Cone, interviewed by Barbara Reynolds, USA Today, 8 November 1989, 11A.
34 Cone, Liberation, 21.
35 Ibid., 190.
36 Ibid., 227.
37 James H. Cone, “Black Theology and Black Liberation,” in Black Theology: The South African Voice, ed. Basil Moore (London: C. Hurst & Co., 1973), 92, 96.
38 Cone, Liberation, 236-37.
39 Cone, Theology, 109.
40 Ibid., 123.
41 Cone, Liberation, 241-42.
42 Cone, Theology, 6.
43 Ibid., 143.
44 Lincoln and Mamiya, 178-79.
45 Ibid., 179.
47 Ibid., 180.
50 Ibid., 181.
51 Cone, “Black Power, Black Theology,” 214.
52 Evans, 8.
53 Tom Skinner, If Christ is the Answer, What are the Questions? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 112-13.
54 Evans, 13.
55 Ibid., 13-14.
56 DeOtis Roberts, Liberation and Reconciliation: A Black Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), 152.
57 DeOtis Roberts, “Black Theology in the Making,” Review and Expositor 70 (Summer 1973):328.
58 Ibid., 327.
(An article from the Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991, page 27)
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The King of Congolese Rumba
A revered Musician Dies On Stage
Economist Article Apr 30th 2016
Just days ago, the world, particularly fans in the U.S. mourned the death of Prince, (Prince Rogers Nelson) the American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was a musical innovator and known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop.
Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for the film Purple Rain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He was considered one of the most influential artists of the rock & roll era.
(Jun 07, 1958 – Apr 21, 2016 (age 57). Prince, like so many American musicians before him died tragically as a result of some measure of attachment to various drugs to which there is a more profound narrative to discuss.
This post centers on the loss of another highly celebrated musical artist from Africa, whose statue was in my view, as highly favored as any the U.S. has ever produced. What is perhaps more compelling is the fact that his name and body of work isn’t as widely known around the world or in the United States. That said, on the African continent, the name Papa Wemba and his music making by comparision, is as grandly celebrated as any American popular artist in the last 50 years. Here is his story published in the The Economist (April 30th – May 6th 2016 Issue)
MOST people measure their national history in rulers; Britons count back in monarchs, Americans in presidents. Many Congolese like to reflect on five generations of musicians, whose languorous rumbas and faster modern beats, adored across Africa and beyond, have served them better than any government. Papa Wemba, who died on stage in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 24th, was of the third musical generation. But as the most travelled of Congo’s peripatetic singers, possessed of a distinctive and beautiful voice, he often seemed to stand for them all.
Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, as he was properly called, was born in Lubefu, central Congo, in 1949. This was at the end of a decade of growth, driven partly by wartime demand for Congolese resources. A swelling music scene in the colonial capital, Léopoldville, catering for a rising African middle class, was one result. It was fuelled by enthusiasm for the new Congolese rumba, a sound the first generation of stars had repurposed from the Cuban songs they discovered on a budget range of ten-inch, 78rpm records put out by a British label, “His Master’s Voice”. Wemba moved to the city soon after.
Wemba’s first band, Zaiko Langa Langa, launched in 1969, announced him as an innovator, not an acolyte, however. Its name came from a garbled folksaying about the Zaire, or Congo, river—Zaire ya bankoko, “Zaire of our ancestors”. But Zaiko was rebellious, not folkish. Reacting against the big bands of the latest titans of the rumba, such as François “Franco” Luambo, Zaiko swapped brass instruments for a snare drum and electric guitars, and upped the tempo. The critics were scandalised; but this was a time of hope and change in Congo which Zaiko’s thrusting rhythms captured. After five years of upheaval and war, following Belgium’s abrupt exit from the country in 1960, Congo was enjoying a burst of optimism under Mobutu Sese Seko, its first dictator. By 1970 the Congolese were buying a million records a year.
Then Mobutu lost the plot. He launched a nativist programme, “Zairianisation”, which began as a cultural revivalist campaign and would end with the expropriation of white-owned industry, wrecking the economy. Wemba, who, like all Congo’s star musicians, naturally maintained an ambivalent attitude to power—sometimes critical, but generally compliant—at first played along. He and his bandmates adopted folk instruments such as the lokole, a log-drum; he would also sometimes perform in traditional raffia skirts, wearing hats decorated with cowrie shells. But Wemba soon became associated with a more compelling and subversive fashion movement, the Religion Kitembo, or “worship of clothes”, which was in part a sardonic comment on the charmless weeds and general decay that Zairianisation had brought.
Through the sad boulevards of Kinshasa—as the Congolese capital had been renamed—worshippers strutted (and they strut still) in glorious assemblages, perhaps matching a sharp suit with an ebony cane and a fur coat, quite possibly lifted from some faraway European boutique. They were also known as Sapeurs, after another of their names, in English, The Society of Ambience Makers and Elegant People; and Wemba—Le Pape de la Sape, “the Pope of Sapeurs”—was the movement’s high priest. “Listen my love,” he sang, “On our wedding day/The label will be Torrente/The label will be Giorgio Armani/The label will be Daniel Hechter/The label for the shoes will be J.M. Weston.”
By now the star performer of several bands—including Viva La Musica, whose hit single “Ana Lengo” sold half a million copies in Africa—Wemba wanted more than a wilting Kinshasa could provide. In the early 1980s he moved to Paris, where he produced ballads in Lingala and pop versions of the rumba, more accessible to a Western audience that was increasingly eager for exotic “World” music. He sang with Stevie Wonder and toured with Peter Gabriel, whose Real World label produced one of his best-selling albums, “Emotion”. He kept his feet in Congo, however—as was apparent, in 2003, when he was arrested in Paris, and briefly jailed, for smuggling dozens of Congolese into Europe as bogus members of his entourage.
His fans back in Kinshasa were aggrieved. The fine reputation of Congolese musicians is one of their country’s last boasts. Many also believed Wemba, despite his success, had been overcharging desperate migrants for their passage. But they still turned out, in multitudes, to welcome him home to Kinshasa from prison. And when Wemba announced, at a packed press conference, that although he had reconnected with Jesus there, he still liked dancing and pretty girls, the crowd thundered with joy and relief.
Papa Wemba’s Album, “Emotion” on the Real World Records label, 1995 is a must for any world music library.