November 26, 2010

Antoine Dodson Is A Hero

Filed under: Loving Thy Neighbor — Katryna Starks @ 7:14 pm

by Katryna Starks

I stayed away from the Antoine Dodson circus until someone posted the video on my Facebook page. People have said that reporters chose this man to speak to because he is stereotypical, that he exploited himself by speaking into the camera, that the song was a mockery and that his BET Awards performance only furthered it. In essence, Antoine Dodson is seen as a negative portrayal of black men.

Now that I’ve familiarized myself with the story, I think people are letting their own stereotypes get in the way of what actually happened. In the process, they are missing several points.

The Interview: As someone with a degree in Communications, i don’t think he was ill-chosen at all. In cases involving sex crimes, reporters usually don’t put the actual victim on camera. In this case, the woman wasn’t actually raped but the reporter may still have hesitated to identify her. The person in the home who was closest to her and was also an eyewitness was the brother who ran the would-be rapist out of the house. That was Antoine. He wasn’t interviewed for or despite his demeanor and appearance, but because of his actual relevance to the story. With that understanding, there was no foolishness in the initial choice for him as an interviewee.

The Camera: As for him speaking directly into the camera to the criminal, parents of kidnapping victims often do the same thing. They are often pleading for the safe return of family members. Antoine chose to issue a threat instead. Either way, his addressing the camera in order to send a message to the criminal is not new or even unusual.

The Look: As Maurice Dolberry said in this story, Dobson did not seek fame and fortune on his own. His family was the victim of an attempted crime and he was interviewed about it. Right after it happened. Was he supposed to be articulate and well-dressed? Are all crime victims that way? If someone broke into your house and attempted to rape you or your loved one, was chased off and then reporters came to investigate – would you be camera-ready? Would you be concerned about that? Neither was Antoine.

The Song: Again, Antoine did not seek fame. He did not make a song out of his threat. Someone else did. It doesn’t matter why they did. The point is that it went viral and Antoine used the opportunity to move his family out of a dangerous neighborhood. Whether the song is likable or not, he didn’t make it so he can’t be blamed for it. He did, however, make sure that he benefited from someone else swiping his image and using it for their own gain – and that is commendable.

The BET Awards: Let’s face it. What happens every year on the BET awards is that people spend 2-3 hours celebrating some of the most misogynistic music that has ever been created. Music with lyrics that celebrate he sexual prowess of the artist, often referring to women as bitches in the process. Narcissistic music that celebrates the artist’s fame. Self-protective music that threatens the artists rival artists because of some perceived act of disrespect. In the midst of that, Antoine’s song was an oasis. His song celebrated the dignity of women in that they aren’t to be intruded upon and raped. His song was protective of women, suggesting that they were to be hidden away from such intruders. His song was not a narcissistic celebration of himself but a threat to those who would harm others.

Antoine Dodson is not a stereotype that perpetuates a negative image of black men, he is a human being who acted bravely and stood up for others. Seeing him as anything else only reveals the bias of the observer. It doesn’t make or change what Antoine really is. Antoine Dodson is a hero.

August 20, 2010

The Real “Secret”

By Katryna Starks

I recently watched a documentary called “The Secret”. It claimed that people could “harness the power of the universe” and have it deliver whatever they wanted. In one scene, a young boy supposedly wished for a bike – and got it. In another, a man used the power of The Secret to get a red sportscar, a big house, and a beautiful woman.

I was bothered by this documentary. Not because they told people that they could wish for what they wanted, but because it was so shallow. If I actually believed that I could snap my fingers and the power of the universe would be at my command, why would I wish for a car? I don’t need the power of the universe to get a car. I just need a job. Why not encourage the use of that power to end war? Simultaneous worldwide nuclear disarmament? End poverty? End sickness? Clean the ocean? Pretty much anything that serves humanity rather than . . . a car?

And herein lies the dilemma of The Secret and other Get-Rich-Quick schemes. They promote spiritual principles for shallow purposes.

The Bible says “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:24) but it also says “and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22) which means that there is an expectation that we have behaved in ways that are pleasing.

But here is where The Secret really gets it wrong. First, one needs to ask God, not “the universe”, but even so, here is what God says about what we ask for: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3). This is exactly what I’m talking about. If the people who believe the secret actually believe they have that much power, why spend it only on themselves? What a waste.

There is a story in the Bible about someone who follows God and asks him for the right things, things that will help others. His name is Solomon, and this is what he asked God for, and how God answered him: “Now, LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” (2 Chron: 9-12)

That is The Secret for Christians. Follow God and share His concern for His people and you won’t get left out of the blessings that follow. Matthew said it best: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

April 16, 2010

Secret Samaritans

Filed under: Loving Thy Neighbor — Katryna Starks @ 11:11 am

by Kevin Eikenberry

“Make it a habit to do nice things for people who’ll never find out.”
– Life’s Little Instruction Book

Got something for you to try. The next time you are at a toll booth, after paying for your toll, pay for the person behind you too! I had read of this idea several years ago, paying for the next person and asking the toll taker to give them your business card. (Apparently at least one realtor has done very well with this marketing approach.)

I always thought this was an interesting tactic, but had left it at that. Last week, though, as I neared the Bay Bridge, heading towards San Francisco, I was reminded of this idea, by a friend and associate, Leslie Brunker. She said that she always pays for the person behind her, anytime she’s at a toll booth. So, that’s what I did, I told the toll taker to pay for the next person, and tell them “Happy Valentine’s Day.” This led to a discussion of Leslie’s experiences in doing this, with some great stories of how people respond. During our conversation, the receiver of my dollar, barreled up along side me and waved a thank you.

The entertainment value was worth the dollar, but that is not why I am recommending you try it. I’m recommending it for what it does for the other person. Ever find a quarter on the ground? What happens after you find that quarter? Are you a bit nicer? Are you a bit more friendly, is there a bit more lightness in your step? I’ll bet the answer is yes to all three of those questions.

There was even a study done to look at what is now called the Good Samaritan Effect. In the study researchers stood near a pay phone and studied the people who made calls. One of the things they learned was that nearly everyone checks to see if there are any coins in the coin return after placing their call. The urge is nearly irresistible, to see if the machine made a mistake and returned your quarter.

This behavior gave the researchers an idea. The next day they randomly placed coins in the coin return slots, so that some people did actually discover money. The researchers then had a young woman walk by the phone at the exact moment the people were hanging up. When the woman walked by with her arms full of books, she pretended to stumble and drop them on the ground.

What they learned was that the people who had just found money in the coin return were four times more likely to stop and help the women with her books than were those who didn’t find any money. They concluded that when we feel good, we tend to do good.

This simple act of helping someone – with no desire (or possibility) of repayment is good for us and our self image, and it may positively change the life or outlook of the receiver for the day!

Maybe you don’t have a toll booth near you. But there are other ways to apply this advice.

Pay extra in the parking meter.

Randomly drop coins as you run or jog

Put a coin in the coin return – pay phone, candy machine, newspaper machine, wherever!

Buy a movie ticket for the next guest who walks up (especially if there is no one in line!)

These are just a few. There are many other ways! I’d love to hear what your experiences are with trying this, and what other ways you find to try it. Please send those on to me – I’ll happily put together a postscript for the everyone else.

Try it today – you’ll be glad you did!