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Lessons on prayer from the movie Lucy

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Over the weekend, I finally got to watch the movie Lucy, an interesting science fiction action piece starring the lovely Scarlett Johansson, legendary Morgan Freeman and helmed by French director Luc Besson. Whenever I need to be immersed in something huge, loud and “visually rich”, I look no further than Luc Besson’s work for a fix.

Lucy is built upon a dramatic premise that has fascinated me for a while: what would happen if human beings could explore the full capacity of their brains? I’ve never known if this is true or not but, growing up, I used to hear all my geek friends say that we humans only ever fully make use of somewhere between 4 and 10% of our cerebral regions. Now, a lot of neuroscientists have disputed this claim and it looks like the 10% theory has been dismissed as a myth. This doesn’t stop Besson from exploring it cinematically and I think, though the story isn’t watertight by a long shot, it still makes for great entertainment.

So, coming to the title of this post: Lessons on prayer from the movie Lucy. What exactly is that about?

In the first act of the movie, the lead and title character is forced by her new boyfriend to act as a drug mule without her knowledge. He asks her to carry a locked briefcase with unknown contents to his employer, a shady and ruthless mob boss by the name of Mr. Jang. She enters the building where she must meet Jang and asks the attendant at reception to alert him of her arrival. The situation suddenly becomes hostile when a group of armed and very unfriendly-looking guys come down to Lucy and seize her. Within seconds, they whisk her off to the room where she finds that Jang has just tortured and killed a couple of guys. I assume they’re mules too. Very quickly, she realizes that she may not make it out of this alive. In that moment, she does something that I have observed as a regular occurrence in movies when people are in trouble – she pleads to God for help.

Isn’t it crazy how often that happens in movies, especially when danger lurks or when death looms? Our favorite characters, who have been pretty self-sufficient and heroic up until that point, all suddenly seem inspired to pray. I’m not suggesting this happens in all movies but it’s frequent enough to be noticeable. I’ve noticed it in real life too. Whenever tragedy strikes, perhaps in the form of a natural disaster or a major road accident or plane crash which claims the lives of hundreds or even thousands, we all seem to turn to God. It may not even be some huge, widespread calamity. Sometimes, when a loved one has been badly hurt or is in danger and hope is fading fast, we pray. We all of a sudden stop talking about ‘The Universe’ or ‘The Great Cosmic Energy’ or even ‘Mother Nature’. We say ‘God’. Why is that?

Like our screen heroes, we have a tendency to think we can do it all and fix it all ourselves and yet, when things go horribly wrong, we suddenly call upon this God that we have been doing everything in our power to discount and ignore. In our human relationships, we know how much of a put-off it can be when people only ever come to us when they need something. Could it be that we are exactly the same way when it comes to God?

What’s it like for you? Perhaps you do believe in the existence of God but you only ever really look for him when you are in trouble or you have dug yourself into a hole you can’t get out of. There is so much more to relationship with God than a crutch that we lean on when we’re down and out.

We’ve got a video that talks exactly about such a relationship with God and how you can discover it for yourself. Check it out by clicking on the ‘Continue’ prompt.

If Jesus wasn’t, Yeezy wouldn’t.

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I love music. Nothing can penetrate the soul and alter the emotions like a well-written, thoughtfully arranged song. It doesn’t matter what genre of music it belongs to – beautiful music is beautiful music.

There is, however, something that’s always bugged me and even amused me about love songs in particular. I’ve never quite been able to make sense of songs that have as their theme, “I’m writing this song to tell you that I’m over you. I’ve forgotten you. I don’t think about you anymore. Like I said just now, I sat down and took a couple of days to write this song just to let you know that I’ve forgotten about you and I’m over you”. Really? Are you really over me if you still need to tell me that you’re over me?

Boyz II Men - "I'm doin' just fine... without you in my life"
Boyz II Men – “I’m doin’ just fine… without you in my life”

Now, while my humorous illustration might offend a couple of people because Doin’ Just Fine by Boyz II Men got them through a difficult break-up, I actually am trying to make a point: as a lover of hip-hop specifically, I’ve been asking myself something about the frequent use of religious themes, especially those referring to the name of Jesus Christ. The artwork below, one from the past year and the rest from further in the past, all features some themes that are clearly about Christianity.

CD1

The question for me is, if Jesus Christ was the non-entity or mere prophet that the culture tries to tell us that he was, why does he appear as a theme or point of discussion as much as he does? Why is his name a constant cuss word in movies and the subject of so much scorn and mockery in the music of our time? We believe ourselves to be a rational generation and have come up with intelligent phrases like “there is no smoke without fire”. If this is the case, is Jesus Christ really the figment of some ignorant radicals’ imagination?

What are your thoughts about Jesus Christ? Does the name mean anything to you at all? Perhaps you have questions and comments about him or even about the significance of his name and its usage in entertainment and pop culture.

We want to hear from you!

Do Only Women Get Abused?

Last weekend, I watched a horrifying video. In all honesty, a part of me regrets watching it and I’ve been battling to erase the images of what I saw from my mind. In the video, a nanny in Uganda force-feeds an infant on a couch and smacks her around, probably because she isn’t eating fast enough for her liking. At a certain point when the child, 18 month old Arnella, starts throwing up, she gets annoyed with her so much that she pushes her to the floor, hits her repeatedly with a blunt object and literally walks over the little one more than once. Beyond this point, I was so disgusted and hurt that I couldn’t watch any further. Arnella was completely helpless and had no choice but to receive this torture from this woman, now dubbed “Uganda’s monster maid”.

That night, it took me a while before I could sleep. Since the video has gone viral in our part of the world, I have heard about various reactions to this video. The main ones have been outrage, regret about watching the hidden cam-captured footage, and some (including the lady who looks after my own daughter and saw the video somewhere too) breaking down, unable to stomach what they have seen.

What is the point of this horror story? It’s simple really. We honor and respect the fact that the 16 Days of Activism campaign is for no violence against women and children. People who are meant to be nurtured and loved are receiving the opposite kind of treatment, and the main culprits are men. The reality, however, is that it is not only women and children who get abused. Women – and even children – are committing serious acts of violence in the home and other places.

Is it not time perhaps to think of campaigns that tackle violence as an entirely human problem so that all of us can take action?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this.

(PS – Arnella is alive and well :))

Ferguson On Fire

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We recently wrote a post called State of Emergency in Missouri. In it we, like many others, were eagerly waiting to hear a decision that was about to be made by a grand jury on whether or not to prosecute Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot and killed teenager, Michael Brown in August this year. Since then, the jury has announced that no charges will be brought against Wilson. This has led to an eruption of chaos and violence much worse than what had been seen immediately after the shooting. The video below, courtesy of CBS, gives just a glimpse of some of the violence which broke out in the Missouri neighborhood.

There have been all kinds of responses to the riots and protests in Ferguson. Even for people not directly affected by all that is happening, the issue is stirring up a great deal of emotion. Celebrities and influencers speaking up on the matter and offering their opinions are receiving some major pushback, depending on which side of the fence they sit. Among the people taking some flack on social media platforms is chart-topping hip hop artist, Lecrae. Some of his followers have declared that they have lost respect for him and expressed “profound disappointment” in him for his stance. It really is quite revealing how emotive matters really change the game in so many ways. One thing is for sure: Ferguson is an extremely divisive issue.

Another thing that is certain is that we human beings are fickle. Opinions will always differ and we will never agree on everything. Perhaps, it’s in moments like these, where we see troubles plaguing places like Ferguson as they do every other nation in the world in different forms, that we need to take stock. It is Lecrae, in all of this painful drama, that has provided me with the greatest food for thought in a tweet he wrote recently.

Does this tweet from Lecrae possibly capture what our human struggles are all about?
Does this tweet from Lecrae possibly capture what our human struggles are all about?

As human beings, is it possible that we are always looking for our answers in the wrong places? We’ve searched for answers in better policies and legislation. We constantly hope that the next president will be the best one and will be a messiah. We cross our fingers and believe that a new calendar year will be my year. But surely there’s more.

Where do you stand in all of this? Have you had your hope dashed time and time and time again by someone in whom you placed faith but they never came through? Sad and brutal as it may seem to say this, the people of Ferguson may never find their fulfillment through the policies of Congress or the Senate. Human fulfillment goes way deeper than this. Certainly, for us at 1Africa, it’s about a deeper hope. We want you to click on the link that follows as you scroll down this page to know what it’s really about for us.

 

How Bad Is The Problem?

We’re not here to discuss whether or not there is a problem. That part is clear and should be taken as read. We live in a violent world and it’s not getting any better. As I type this up, violent protests have broken out in Ferguson, a previously low key neighborhood in Missouri, USA (see our post: State of Emergency in Missouri). This because a grand jury made a decision not to indict a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager on August 9 this year. Closer to home, militants belonging to the feared Boko Haram group and disguised as traders have killed about 48 people in northern Nigeria. 48 lives, probably innocent people, snuffed out just like that. Pick a continent; a country; a city or village. The story is the same – we have a violence problem in our world.

This post is about another form of violence. It is a type of violence perpetrated against a group of people who should actually be protected, nurtured and loved in our homes and in our societies. If it isn’t clear yet, I’m talking about violence against women and children. Today marks the beginning of an annual global campaign known officially as 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, or simply the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. Over the next 16 days, 1Africa will ask 16 questions on this site and put up various forms of content with the hope that we can provoke thought and challenge but also share hope and encouragement where it’s needed. Our questions are shaped by an unashamed worldview born out of a desire to see everyone live a better life. A life plagued by violence is not a better life. A life of fear, distress and insecurity is not a better life. We cannot conquer if we don’t recognize that we have a problem. Violence against women and children is a problem. But just how bad is the problem?

 

Big Up Africa: A Blue Carpet Event

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Every so often, we all get tired of the fast life and need to take a moment to relax and take in something soothing for the soul. That may mean different things to different people but, generally, most people agree that music is definitely one thing that can calm the weary traveler. As the year starts to wind down, perhaps you’re starting to draw up a list of things to do, places to go and people to visit.

Well, if you happen to be in Cape Town this month and you’re a fan of soulful music for the heart, look no further than the Cape Town Victory Gospel Music Awards – referred to more deliciously as A Blue Carpet Event – happening on the 28th November 2014. Billed to perform at the award show are top notch artists across the musical genres, among them Neville D (we’ve featured him here on 1Africa) and Sandile Cele of Joyous Celebration fame. For our Big Up Africa feature, our man Brad recently sat down with the affable, bubbly founder of the awards, Nwabisa Lisa for an exclusive interview. Check out the video below!

State of Emergency in Missouri

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The State of Missouri in Midwestern United States is holding its breath right now. A grand jury is set to make a very important decision about whether or not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of African-American teenager Michael Brown on August 9 this year. After an altercation with the policeman, Darren Wilson, Brown – apparently a suspect in a robbery – was shot six times, leading to his death. Since then, Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where this incident happened, has been a hotbed of racial tension and violence. With conflicting witness reports and the “possibility of expanded unrest”, Ferguson is at a critical crossroads. So great is the threat to stability that the Governor, Jay Nixon, has declared a state of emergency in Missouri “as a precaution in the event of unrest or violence”.

What do we make of this? Well, one thing is for sure – Missouri is not the only place that is in trouble. When we look at the bigger picture, the whole world is in a state of emergency. One of the things plaguing us is hate. There is hate on the basis of race, gender, class and sexual orientation. You see it between nations, in the workplace and, sadly, even in families. Hate seems to be something we are all infected with in one way or the other and it is killing us… quite literally.

But there is good news though. Every new day is an opportunity to do something better. Mind you, this isn’t just some motivation-speak. It’s true. We have opportunities to choose to make something new of our lives by virtue of the very fact that we are alive. Just as the people of Ferguson – whether they are black or white, ‘pro-Wilson’ or ‘pro-Brown’ – have an opportunity to make decisions that will build their neighborhood or destroy it, we too have an opportunity to choose a path that will either make us better people or fill us with bitterness and resentment. Often, as humans, we like to fool ourselves into thinking we have all the time in the world and we can fix things later. Consider this: Michael Brown was only 18; Darren Wilson is 28.

Have you allowed hate to rule you and let bitterness build up inside of you? Hope isn’t lost. Make a choice for something better and turn your life around. Check out the video that follows.

 

What Jennifer Lawrence said about the photo leak

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There’s nothing like a great fantasy movie or TV show to escape the hustle and bustle of fast-paced, high-pressure modern life. Of all the genres of visual entertainment, none is as capable of transporting us into make-believe worlds as fantasy is. Whether it’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the Game of Thrones TV series, we love to get lost in places that are new, unknown and strange. Is it any surprise that these movie and TV titles make so much money, not just from ticket sales or advertising but from the video games and other merchandising that are a natural follow-on from them?

I often find myself wondering if my (and our) human desire to escape comes from something deeper. Surely, the logic is “why would I want to escape if I’m happy where I am”, right? So, what exactly are we all trying to escape from? Whether it’s the porn, excessive alcohol intake or hard drugs that are prevalent in our culture, it’s really clear there’s something in us that’s unhappy about something.

Coming back to fantasy movies specifically, Jennifer Lawrence, star of the highly successful Hunger Games franchise recently broke her silence after a nude photo leak which saw her personal and private photos – and those of other celebrities like Rihanna, Kate Upton, Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian – leaked to various sites like Reddit and 4chan. The August 31 leak, which came to be widely known as Celebgate or, for the more hardcore among us, The Fappening (don’t ask if you don’t wanna know), caused quite a stir in the media and raised a tonne of questions about privacy and how safe we should really feel  around technology and ‘The Cloud’ (cue celestial music).

Lawrence, in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw and talking about the hackers responsible for Celebgate, made a statement worth thinking about and taking seriously: “…I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside”

How thoughtless, careless and empty have we become as society? Is there any hope for us or does it all go downhill from here?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Big Up Africa: Uche Pedro

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What happens when you combine an entrepreneurial spirit, real beauty and a passion for Afrocentric online media? Well, you get Uche Pedro, a young businesswoman making waves in Africa and the subject of our focus on this week’s edition of Big Up Africa. Who is Uche Pedro, you may ask. What? You didn’t know…  Uche is “the founder of  BellaNaija, a thriving new media company that develops online media content for African (primarily Nigerian) audiences. BellaNaija.com is Nigeria’s premier lifestyle, entertainment and fashion website, and garners an average of 10 million page views every month” (Forbes Africa). Talk about serious stats and serious influence! Uche has made it onto the list of Forbes’ 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs of 2014 so it’s clear that this is just the beginning for her.

It’s really exciting to see a passionate, young African businesswoman pursuing her dream and making things happen. Uche is an inspiration, not just to young women on our continent, but to all young people and she is living proof that if you are serious and dream big, you can achieve pretty much anything. It might be safe to assume that we haven’s seen the last of this young lady just yet.

Here’s an interview she did on CNN while she was still known by her maiden name, Eze. In it, she shares how BellaNaija began and where she sees it going. It’s inspiring stuff and why we think it’s only fitting that we celebrate her story today on Big Up Africa!

 

Review: Trip Lee – “Rise”

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I must say right off the bat that Trip Lee has always been my favorite rapper from the Reach Records stable. Don’t get me wrong – the entire 116 clique is made up of incredibly talented emcees who can hold their own against the best of them. If you doubt me, you only have to check out Lecrae’s appearance on Sway’s Universe and how he left them with their tongues wagging after taking on the Five Fingers of Death. This crew doesn’t play around.

Coming to Trip Lee, he’s been quiet for a while, having made a decision to cut down on his involvement in music – specifically the touring side of things – to pursue other things but now he’s back. And what a comeback too! His new album Rise, released October 27th, is an emphatic return to studio for a man who has refused to be described as a Christian rapper but as a rapper whose music will make it clear to the listener that he loves Jesus.

I must admit that the first thing that struck me when I first put on my headphones to listen to Rise was how ‘dark’ a couple of the tracks are. From the cinematic and eerie intro of the title track to the menacing and almost sinister sound of Lazarus or the de-tuned, sci-fi sound of Shweet, you immediately realize you’ve been pulled into something quite unusual. If this statement makes any sense at all, it doesn’t sound Christian. Take that to mean whatever you will. I, personally, am intrigued by the twisted vocal effects and feel they add something to the LP. This is by no means to suggest that this is all there is to the album. For all the “ridin’ with my top down listenin’ to this Jesus music” people, there’s something for you in Manolo, featuring Lecrae. I thoroughly enjoyed the epic All Rise Up which sees Trip Lee reminisce about the journey with fellow 116 crew members and remind listeners why they do what they do and why they’ve been doing it all along. He also throws in some fatherly love into the mix with Beautiful Life 2 (Mine), which is dedicated to his young son and features playful vocals from the little one.

Rise is a great piece of work and carries the same consistent message that we’ve been hearing from the Reach team for many years now – humanity is lost, searching desperately for answers and in need of a greater light than any celebrity or human being is able to provide. The light is found in a place far higher than our minds can grasp. This message is captured beautifully in the deeply personal Sweet Victory, the last song on the album where Trip shares some personal struggles. As the song draws to an end, Leah Smith’s voice powerfully leads us to absorb what this album is really about. Every one of us has a choice about whether or not we believe. If we truly want to rise, we must believe!

Our rating: 8/10

 

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