November 26, 2010

Why Do You Exist Here?

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark — Katryna Starks @ 10:46 pm

by Katryna Starks

A few years ago, I watched a brand new sci-fi show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The show featured a space crew who went around responding to intergalactic incidents. In the premier episode, the crew encountered an empty ship in space. When they boarded the ship to investigate, they realized that they were not alone. Mysterious aliens were on the ship. They were made of light, and they communicated in both words and pictures. The crew was on the ship for several days, and periodically they would seize captain Sisko’s mind and replay the moment his wife was killed. Eventually, the crew figured out how to communicate with the aliens. The first thing captain Sisko asked the aliens was “why do you keep torturing me?” but they answered him with a question of their own, “why do you exist here?” The aliens informed that they were not bringing Sisko the image of his wife’s death, he was taking them to it. Although his physical life had moved forward, mentally and spiritually, he never left the moment his wife died. He existed there.

Like captain Sisko, we can exist at some painful point in our past, stuck and unable to move on. God lovingly comes and takes us back to those times, not to torture us, but to heal us. There are several times in the Bible where someone will have a strong desire for something and pray to God for it. Sometimes they will have a promise from God that doesn’t happen for a long time. The wait is painful. But these times are always followed by a wonderful phrase. “And God remembered . . .” God remembered Noah, Sarah, Rachel and Joseph. He lifted them out of their pain, blessed them and helped them move on.

I have an example of this from my own life. My parents divorced when I was seven years old and at first it was amicable, but later it turned ugly. In those years, every time I needed something, it would be the catalyst for my parents to argue. When I was 14, I stopped telling them my needs and my grades dropped. When I was 16, I wondered why they continued to speak to each other when they weren’t married anymore. Then I realized. It was me. I was the only connection they had to one another. I was the reason they fought. If I didn’t exist, they would be free. Mercifully, God reminded me that I would be an adult and away at college shortly, and that would also free them from any obligation to communicate. That was 20 years ago. Still, last year I thought of that situation, and the pain was as fresh as if it all happened yesterday.

Recently, I was on Facebook and I noticed that my cousins were encouraging one another in the Lord. The thing is, they are not directly related to one another. One is my mother’s niece, and the other is my father’s nephew. They are both musicians, and they were talking about a worship concert that he was in and she attended, and another performance where she took the stage and he was in the audience. They called each other cousins. And then it hit me. I am the only connection they have to one another. I am the reason they are family. If I didn’t exist, they wouldn’t necessarily know each other. Through that incident, God healed the pain I felt for tying my parents to each other. I realized that God had a greater purpose for my existence, and it wasn’t to cause others pain.

In our pain, we can be assured that God will remember us, too. When we start being reminded of painful events in our past, sometimes that is a sign that God is coming to heal, restore, and bless.

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.