University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kirk Franklin and the Significance of Hip-Hop-Oriented Gospel Music

The arrival of Kirk Franklin on the gospel music scene is without question a watershed in gospel music history. His contemporary style of music and willingness to collaborate with Hip-Hop artists engendered great controversy (and still does). Young African-American Christians and non-Christians received Kirk Franklin’s style of music tremendously well, but older African-American Christians did not. One of the reasons why I find such a tremendous interest in examining Kirk Franklin’s impact on gospel music is how he unsettled, unnerved, and unhoused traditional and limited notions of art within gospel music. His ability to usher in a Hip-Hop-oriented fusion of gospel music evinces how gospel music has the potential to have a significant influence across racial, ideological, and theological boundaries.

While I love traditional gospel artists like Shirley Ceasar, James Moore, James Cleveland and Dorothy Norwood, their music does not have the power to reach a much wider audience than Kirk Franklin’s music has and can. Please, don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that traditional gospel music did not and does not have a significant impact and influence on people’s lives. In fact, without traditional gospel music contemporary gospel music could not have emerged. Traditional gospel music has been such a powerful medium of support, uplift, and deliverance for scores of African-Americans (and people of all races and ethnicities). Traditional gospel music, however, needed an update to make it more appealing and relevant to the postmodern period in which we reside.  We live in a culture where Hip-Hop culture, particularly Hip-Hop music, is such a dominant force. Regardless of whether or not people embrace Hip-Hop, it cannot be avoided. Recognizing this social reality, Kirk Franklin revolutionized gospel music by merging the best of Hip-Hop music and culture with traditional gospel music.

Many proponents of traditional gospel music have posited that Franklin’s fusion of Hip-Hop music and culture with traditional gospel music is not gospel music at all. They see this type of music as turning gospel music from sacred music to more of a secular form of music. The contemporary gospel of Kirk Franklin still represents scared music: It maintains a fundamental commitment to the glorification, worship, and acknowledgement of God. What is different about Kirk Franklin’s postmodern Hip-Hop-oriented gospel music is it understands how times have changed in such a way that the music has to change in a way to reflect the times—while maintaining a core commitment to the same Jesus of the past, present, and future. Bishop Paul L. Fortson of Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia argues that any music that has “Jesus” in it is gospel music. I completely agree with him.

Today, I salute Kirk Franklin for having the willingness to unsettle, unnerve, and unhouse African-American Christians who hold limited views of what gospel music is. Because of his willingness to be a gospel music revolutionary artist, writer, and producer, thousands of lost souls have been able to be saved and know that there is a God looking out for them. Franklin has demonstrated that Hip-Hop culture does not have to be divorced from gospel music and the Church. He helps us to understand that Hip-Hop culture lives within the Church and the people who the Church serves and desires to reach. Without Kirk Franklin, we may have never been able to see R. Kelly singing a gospel song.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kevin Durant’s Acne

Despite the tremendous accomplishments of Kevin Durant early on in his National Basketball Association (NBA) career, it seems that some people will attempt to try to destroy him anyway. After doing a random Google and YouTube search on Kevin Durant, one can find a significant amount of negative coverage of his struggles with acne. Kevin Durant is an outstanding African-American male basketball player who does not deserve to be the subject of such hateful attacks. I have seen too many blogs, websites, messageboards, and etc. that are trying to exploit this great African-American male athlete (and genuinely nice guy). This is another attempt to demonize and exploit the African-American male body. The purpose of this article is to provide a counter-narrative to the mean-spirited coverage of Kevin Durant’s acne.

Kevin Durant’s acne is conspicuous. There has to be less ostensible phenomena and more important issues that people can discuss than Kevin Durant’s acne. With so many critical quandaries we face in the world, a number of people have found Kevin Durant’s acne to be worthy of covering. If people were really looking to cover something substantive about him, they would cover the fact that he is a rookie and won the NBA scoring title and the fact that he has led his team to a 2-2 series tie with the defending NBA world champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. He also shutdown Kobe Bryant in the 4th quarter of Game 3 of the current playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. This young star should be commended for his immediate impact in the NBA and for establishing himself already as one of the best players in the NBA.

How has Kevin Durant’s acne hindered him from accomplishing so much in the NBA at a young age? The easy answer to this query is it has not hindered his basketball performance at all. Although it has not hampered his play on the basketball court, we do not know how it has affected him personally, especially in the quiet moments of his life when he is surfing the internet. It cannot be a good feeling to surf the internet and see such egregious coverage of one’s acne problems. The same people who try to exploit Durant’s acne problems for a quick laugh would not like others to take advantage of their problems for a simple laugh.  It would be easier for me to accept this negative coverage of Kevin Durant if he was an arrogant player, but he is a tremendously humble basketball player.

To those bloggers, messageboard authors, website creators, and YouTube contributors who have attempted to exploit Kevin Durant’s acne problems, I simply think you all are simple and mean-spirited people. Before you say something about somebody, start thinking about the full ramifications of your comments. Kevin Durant knows that he has acne problems—he has to live with this reality daily. He does not need to be reminded each time he surfs the internet. When will we reach a day when we love one another much more than we do right now?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Earth Day and a More Evironmentally Sustainable Future

No matter what our political ideologies and affiliations, we all should take a serious interest in our environment. Although there are specific methods of ameliorating the environment and sustaining it that are controversial, there are fundamental and practical ways to improve and sustain it that we all can agree on. Each year, Earth Day offers us an opportunity to unite to enhance and maintain our environment. The purpose of this article is to speak about the significant potential in Earth Day and to provide phenomena we all can engage in to ameliorate and sustain our environment.

I have always been tremendously disappointed about how little attention Earth Day receives. Earth Day should be everyday! We to have a more complex understanding of Earth Day as a signal of how much more value we should place on the environment in our daily lives. The need to have an “Earth Day” should help us to recognize that we are not doing enough to ameliorate the environment, and be good stewards of the environment. The “going green” movement is simply not enough to achieve good stewardship and improvement of our environment. While there is much discourse taking place across the nation about environmental sustainability, there has not been a significant improvement in actually moving toward a more sustainable environment.

Although we have not done all that we can do to move toward a more sustainable environment, we can begin to by adopting a more common sense approach. We can have monthly times of solidarity where we (on a national level) participate in picking up trash in our communities and find items to recycle. Local communities can hold meetings to establish tree planting projects. Using various forms of communication, discourses about how to live more environmentally sustainable personal lives and within our communites can emerge. Establishing a national discourse at the local community level about environmental sustainability is a critical way of enhancing the significance of Earth Day. These aforementioned recommendations would not involve much stress for individuals throughout the nation, but the implementation of these recommendations would dramatically buttress our environment, and will help us to move toward a more environomentally sustainable future.

No longer can we sit back and mock “tree huggers” and no longer can we simply be “tree huggers.” We have to work colloboratively to find consensus on how we can protect, perserve, and restore our environment. I encourage everyone to participate in Earth Day today and to make Earth Day an everyday reality!

Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tiger Woods and the Exploitation of His Penis

We have recently discovered the increased fascination the media has with Tiger Woods’s life. While in the past it has been more of a focus on his athletic talent, now the media is focused on his sexual prowess. I thought that the only stick that the media would be concerned with is the golf club he uses and not the one in his pants. How foolish was I? The media has engaged in an effort to try to reduce Tiger Woods to nothing more than his penis. The media wants to overlook Tiger’s great athletic skill and mental acuity to engage in a sensational exploration of his sexuality.

The last time that I checked it was not our business what Tiger does with his penis. It’s his penis and it does not belong to the media. If ever one wanted to know whether or not Tiger Woods is a Black man, the individual now knows that he is. All one has to do is consider the tremendous “news” coverage his penis has received. This fascination with Tiger’s love of women has a strong history that has to be explored. During slavery, the fascination with the Black male penis was shared by both White women and White men. The Black male body became viewed as useful for the slave labor it could produce and the entertainment value the Black male penis could generate for White people. Again, we have a media that is largely operated by non-Black people and a significant number of White people. I am, of course,  not suggesting that all White people are racist.  What I am suggesting, however, is there are still some racist White people living. Some of these racist White people are involved with the media. It benefits these individuals’ agenda to try to destroy the reputation of a man who is considered to be a Black man by many people. This probing into Tiger’s life is not about learning more about him as a golfer, but is more about discovering ways to exploit him as a Black man and to exploit negative perceptions, stereotypes, and stigmas about “blackness” and Black people, especially Black men.

One person who the public has not really thought about who has to be really suffering from all of this media coverage: Tiger Woods. Far too often, we, media consumers, are so eager to consume media’s sensationalism that we forget about the real lives that are being affected by this sensationalism.  Wow! What a shocker–Tiger Woods is human. He has a problem that he needs to address. Guess what? The rest of us also have problems we need to address too. I wonder how many people are willing to have their lives examined in the way Tiger has had his life examined because of his problem of being faithful to his wife. Many men cheat but I have not seen such interest in one man’s cheating ever in my life. With so many important problems in the world, I will be glad when we begin to challenge the media about what it covers. What Tiger Woods does with his penis does not having anything to do with us.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Falsehoods of Classroom Participation

How many of you have ever looked at your course syllabus and found that you were being evaluated for “classroom participation”? How many of you have also looked at your course syllabus and discovered that you were not provided with an understanding of how you would be evaluated based on “classroom participation”? I have wrestled with these two aforementioned queries for some time now. I contend that it is quite problematic to evaluate students based on “classroom participation” when they are not given specific details about how they will be evaluated.

One of the chief reasons why I find being evaluated based on classroom participation is it becomes a way for your instructor to punish you if he or she does not like you, or if he or she has ever taken offense to something that you have said in class. When one views classroom participation from this perspective, it becomes tremendously easy for one to understand how “classroom participation” can become a mask for discrimination. In college, I’m not sure that we (instructors) should even be focusing on evaluating students for their classroom participation. The focus for instructors should be on ensuring that students are learning and not on punishing them for a lack of attendance, which is often the larger rationale for why classroom participation is included on most course syllabi (in my opinion). The challenging way in which the course instruction is offered should be enough to drive students to class. Instructors should not use false ploys like “classroom participation” to try to punish students for not attending their classes.

I must say, however, that if a clear standard is being employed when one includes “classroom participation” on his or her syllabus, then I do not have a problem with including it. For example, when an instructor decides to engage students in a significant amount of the learning activities inside of the classroom, then I think that it would certainly be reasonable for classroom participation to be included on the syllabus, and, in this case, it is justified to have it account for a significant percentage of students’ grades (if this is the desire of the instructor). From my experience as a college instructor, I know how important class attendance and participation in class is. I do not think, however, that it is my duty as an instructor to be students’ parents and force them to attend my classes. I have hardly ever had a problem with any student who elected to not attend my classes. One of the dominant reasons why I believe that this has happened is I empowered students to make the decision about whether or not to come to my classes or not. From the very first day of class, I always let them know that without an excused absence I would not do anything to help them with what they missed in class.

Instructors need to rethink how they construct their notions of “classroom participation” and students need to begin to understand the value behind coming to class and actively participating in class. It is not simply the responsibility of the instructor to provide students with knowledge, but students have to become stakeholders in their own education. The next time you see “classroom participation” on your course syllabus be sure to ask probing questions of your instructor about what it really means, especially if he or she has not provided you with any specific details.

Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hip-Hop’s Potential in South Africa

I understand that there are some problems with hip-hop, as there are with all phenomena, there is tremendous potential in hip-hop to deliver serious improvements in health in South Africa. With this idea in mind, I am seriously exploring this potential of hip-hop in my Educational Policy Studies 750 seminar course, “African Education: Past, Present, Future,” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to improve health-related decision making in South Africa. The inspiration behind this idea is the great popularity of hip-hop on the continent of Africa and the significant meaning of songs to Africans. It is my hope that hip-hop can be used in South Africa as a tool of engendering change in health-related decision making.

When I first announced this idea in response to a question on a good friend’s Facebook status, a University of Wisconsin-Madison female student responded that South Africans need more than pamphlets being passed out to them to improve health-related decision making. While I completely understood her desire not to see more literature simply being disseminated to South Africans, this was not my simple intention. My intention is to use the full range of the power and influence of hip-hop to change the culture of health-related decision making. I think she was afraid of my use of “health literacy.” Unfortunately, her understanding of my use of health literacy was egregiously misunderstood. She does not understand that I am promoting an active, living, and meaningful notion of health literacy, one that is just as real as the hip-hop culture South Africans engage with. I do hope, however, that this young lady has not given up on the power of literature to create social change.

In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson, a Marxist theorist and leading cultural critic, contends that one of the most damaging dimensions of the postmodern epoch is a rejection of thinking in terms of totality. If we were willing to think in terms of totality, we would be much more inclined to use whatever means available to us to try to ameliorate our health conditions throughout the world, including South Africa. While hip-hop has not traditionally been associated with health interventions, this should not cause us to not engage it with issues pertaining to health. Since one of the critical problems with health-related decision making in South Africa has to do with how men interact with women sexually, including the raping them, hip-hop artists have an opportunity to start communicating to them through their art about why they should value their women’s bodies better and treat them much better. These messages will certainly have some potential to reach South African boys and men in ways that we have never thought possible: The words of these hip-hop artists can become topics of great interest to them in their everyday lives–simply because hip-hop artists are talking about issues pertaining to health-related decision making.

My study will be completely finished in less than a month, and I plan to publish this study in a scholarly journal. I will make access to this study available on this site after it has been published. I look very forward to concluding my work that will offer South Africans and potentially people across the globe new solutions for improving health-related decision making.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Protein Shake Struggle

While this is probably the least serious piece I have ever composed, I thought that I would share my horrible experience today with you. For those of you who drink protein shakes, I know you can understand that these phenomena are quite horrible. Although this is not my first day drinking a protein shake, I had the most difficult time getting this protein shake down today. I tried everything that I could do today to get this protein shake down and finally did! It took me from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to get this protein shake down!

It is quite amazing the phenomena we are willing to do to keep our bodies in great condition. I have to drink one more of these shakes tonight and hope that I do not have the same struggle that I experienced early today. I know my reader is wondering why I am wasting time composing such an article, but it has a larger significance: It causes everyone to think about the phenomena that they consume and how he or she cares for his or her health.

We have to become more conscious about taking care of our bodies. Although I am having fun with my struggle with drinking my protein shake today, I understand how important it is to helping me to achieve the physique I desire. I am making tremendous progress toward my goal of achieving a highly muscular body and being in tremendous shape and health. I have discovered that what is most critical to moving toward great health is having the mental commitment to achieving great health. Once the individual makes up in his or her mind that he or she is going to have great health, then he or she will do what it takes to accomplish this feat.

I hope this article will help those of you struggling with protein shakes to be better able to drink them after reading this article. If it does not, I hope that it will add some level of comfort that you are doing an essential deed by drinking the protein shake. It is my desire that companies will begin to make protein shakes that are better tasting, while not sacrificing the effectiveness of the shake. My deepest support is with all of you protein shake drinkers!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison