Letters for the week of May 22-28 

Talking about prosperity; frying up some young meat; choosing a first-round draft.

Send that boy to church
I am an active member of the Love Center, a large church in East Oakland, and have attended many of Acts Full Gospel's weeknight Holy Ghost services. Chris Thompson's article ("Preaching Prosperity," April 24) mystified me. I work with a member of Acts Full Gospel -- she found the dollar bill in the headline objectionable, and expressed confusion to me: "How could he come to only one or two of our services, and say he knows everything that Brother Bob talks about?"

Thompson is guilty of simplification -- what he observed at a few services cannot be generalized to all churches in the East Bay, all black churches, or even to Acts Full Gospel itself. Thompson is guilty of reductionism, as well, in his interpretation of the word "prosperity." If Pastor Jackson tells a "parabolic" story about money, it is one that operates as a parable, in that it has several layers of meaning. One of the layers of meaning, as Thompson clearly records, is the foolishness of a man who loved money so much that he tried to take it to the grave with him. It is clearly recorded, but not understood by Thompson: when Pastor Jackson talks about prosperity, he is talking about much more than money.

Thompson has recorded (but not understood), from his interviews with Pastor Jackson and Acts Full Gospel members, a type of prosperity that cannot be reducible to owning a house and "leaving town for the suburbs." Prosperity includes sobriety, honesty in relationships, stewardship of sexuality and all bad habits, including poor spending habits, and having hope and goals. The subtext is release, from oppression and self-enslavement. The oppression is the given for the congregation, not the nonexistent factor in the equation of poverty that Thompson seems to wish it were.

Observing the services at Acts Full Gospel, Thompson sees congregants who are "in a lather," and "barking," and "stumbling drunkenly ... wailing at the carpet." Is it possible that at least some of them might know something that Thompson doesn't about joy and faith and trials overcome? Thompson's descriptions of the "pockmarked" landscape of East Oakland, and impoverished lives "pockmarked" with urban dysfunction and "broken families" are offensive in their level of cliché and poor verb choice -- but no more so than his reference to African Americans "swarming" into the suburbs. Thompson might benefit from a few more visits to Acts Full Gospel, and to other churches in the neighborhoods of East Oakland.
Gwendolyn Bikis, Oakland

Highlights of the band's 1,565-word response to our 29-word description
Thank you for the short blurb (Calendar, April 17) about the April 20 show produced by our band at iMusicast on Telegraph. This is one show in the all-ages series the Locals put on called L3: Live, Loud, and Local. However, we are dismayed by the attitude expressed in those lines, which are so demeaning and insulting to a huge section of your community and so unsupportive of a bootstrapped, musician-run enterprise.

In a few short lines you manage to be antifemale, antiyouth, and destructive and unsupportive to young musicians who sweated to successfully put together an emerging, grassroots live music series for an audience who wasn't finding their favorite music available to them on stage elsewhere.

"Ready for some high school meat?" With those words you begin that item (without byline). In fact, we don't deny that our shows are aimed at people in their late teens or early twenties. Actually, as a band of four young guys from the East Bay (one of us is sixteen, two are nineteen, one is twenty) who put together (and play) our own shows in Oakland, booking bands of similar ages that appeal to a similar college-age and high-school audience, we emphasize it.

So who is your "meat" comment about, and who is at aimed at? As commonly understood, this slang you use refers to young women in a derogatory and debasing way. Our crowd does not look at teenage females this way. We discovered long ago that the girls we hang with are bright, funny, feisty, and worthy of much more respect than your paper gives them with this joke ... and we know these girls would kick the asses of any boys who spouted anything close to this insulting, degrading garbage. Maybe we got this wrong, and this "meat" thing is about the guys on stage or the guys in the audience or about both genders at the show. In any interpretation, it is still viciously demeaning and derogatory, dehumanizing, and disrespectful to an entire age demographic.

You do note that our band, the Locals, "packs them in." Then you go on to slight our music as "fairly standard pop-rock."

The Express tries to present itself as supportive of the local music scene. Well, here we are, a bunch of teenagers in a band from Oakland and El Cerrito who took a big risk and busted our butts to put on these L3 shows in an undiscovered Oakland venue.

In the future, please just run the facts about our L3 shows (band lineup, date, place, times, ticket price). Maybe you could add that these shows offer an alternative to the thriving hard-core scene, with the L3 shows featuring young bands playing punk, ska, funk, rock 'n' roll and good, loud music with lots of energy and excitement that appeals to a college and high-school crowd. Sure, some of your readers might gag at that description, but others will be eager to hear about what we do.

Otherwise, just skip it. This crowd's been finding L3 since August without your listing and commentary, anyway.
The Locals (Matt Whalen, Justin Sansouci, Shawn Harris, Jon Devoto), Oakland

Playing to win
Face it, people: Al Davis ("Just Sue, Baby," April 10) is one hell of a businessman!

Bureaucrats and politicians are naturally bad businesspeople! These types can't cut it in a private industry atmosphere and that's why they are in government. When Al finds a first-round draft pick like (deputy city manager) Ezra Rapport in government, he hires him. That's good business, not bad business. What Al Davis did in Compton should be a classic, textbook case.
George Schneider, Oakland

Corrections
In our Best of the East Bay 2002 issue, we erroneously stated that the Richmond Swim Center's pool is "Olympic size." In fact, it is 25 meters long.

We also incorrectly referred to the Aurora Theatre as an amateur company. On our Web site we will henceforth identify it as the "Best Small Theater Company."

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