Letter from America:with KENNETH MUFUKA
It was Thanksgiving Day in the United States on November 28. In the last three weeks, the television and print media have been captured by a Kanye West phenomenon. West is a black hip-hop artist, who has gone through violent life changing experiences.
I shall describe these below. The issue at hand is that during this Thanksgiving holiday, Kanye has redefined its meaning by returning to the roots of American exceptionalism, religion.
While the origins of this particular day are now disputed, here is a consensus that around 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers were rescued from starvation and extinction by American Indians, who brought them pumpkins, corn (maize) and turkey meat.
The pilgrims saw this as a reflection of God’s grace, the exceptionalism that permeates throughout American history. Thanksgiving holiday is the most revered of American holidays, surpassing even Christmas. It also marks the beginning of the Christmas holiday sales, on Black Friday, the day after.
It marks the 12 weeks in which American businesses make a third of their income.
By making a debut of his new phenomenon, Kanye has come in at a time when people are at their most generous and willing to spend money. As a business enterprise, Kanye is a genius.
On October 25, Kanye introduced his new album; Jesus is King as well as his new church, Sunday service, held in arenas and open to the public. At these services, he has invited other Hollywood celebrities, thus drawing huge adoring crowds of youngsters below 40.
The choir wears standard uniform robes designed by the master himself, Yeezy attire. Attendees can buy, if the Holy Spirit moves them US$50 socks with the words “Jesus Walks.” Another item is a hoodie for US$225 with the “Holy Spirit” inscription.
This above description of Kanye’s Sunday Service is the cause of much controversy in the print and television media.
The talk generally ends with “questions are being asked” about what he does with the money. I for one have no questions at all. All churches sell these peraphenalia.
The discussants say that Sunday service is Kanye’s creation and, therefore, not accountable to anyone for the money generated.
West enters into that Hollywood genre of lucrative religious expression through the television, print and the new gadgets, the I-Phone.
Kanye’s call to Holiness
West made his name and fortune as a Hip-Hop artist in California. He married a famous artist Kim Kardashian. Together, they combine fame, beauty and fortune.
But West, a favourite of the Bush family (former president George Walker Bush), is a Republican. When he was entertained by President Donald Trump, he was ostracised by fellow brothers and sisters, some suggesting that he needed mental healing.
In the black world any white leader tarred with the brush of racism is not given a chance to explain himself. The idea is that racism should be given the same chance in hell as a snowflake is allowed.
Kanye suffered a firestorm as black leaders ought to dishonour his blackness.
He retired on a pilgrimage to Paris, France; where many black artists and writers found the racial tolerance of that nation a huge reprieve from the vicissitudes of life in the United States.
Kanye says that the Holy Spirit came to him in a dream. “Found me a church.” It said. His answer was; “But Lord, I am not a minister.”
The issue here, which is debated only by ignorant whites, is whether Kanye can minister without the authority of ordination, and whether a formerly “worldly/secular” person can become a religious leader.
This argument shows the depth of ignorance, which still exists in this great country.
In the black world, all life is religious. There is no such thing as a differential between the secular and the religious.
So Kanye, while in exile, formulated this idea of reaching the world, particularly the demonic world of the American youth, captured by opioids (regulated pain killers), mbanje (processed marijuana) meth’s, sexual orgies and other demonic shenanigans.
Music is the answer
Oh, I left another innovation, dance and chilling off.
I return to my theme. While white pundits bother us with all kinds of explanations and write books, these ideas and actions are not new in the black world at all. All music is religious, and almost all black musicians started their various journeys in the black church, Arteha Franklin to mention only one. Their debut in the concert world was but a variation of their church gospel music.
The black church does not exist, if it is not for the choir.
Kanye trained a vast combination of voice and instrumental choir, numbering over 100 members.
My Catholic brother who visited Kanye’s Sunday Service, conducted in a public arena, says that as many as 175, 120 attended. Americans love figures. The music, he confessed, was heavenly, and fantastic. The dancing was inexorable and drew him (a priest) into some spiritual circle of fire.
The songs were theologically correct, and while Kanye invited preachers, he sometimes said “preachy words” himself.
His album, released on October 25, Jesus is King has sold, at the time for going to press 109 000 copies and attracted 197 million streams. A golden album sells 500 000 copies and he is on his way there as his tunes have already been on the 200 Billboard.
The best seller reads as follows.
Jesus is King
And I will extol him
Give him the glory
And honour his name.
In his “preachy words” Kanye also exhorts his audience to give their tithes to God (perhaps through some religious body) and to honour and respect the poor.
In this regard, he has been experimenting with adobe houses, round Athabasca Indian igloo type one room self-contained houses.
He also has been experimenting with new shoes, which will auto biodegrade and return into the universe.
A huge debate has exploded whether Kanye is just a new kind of industrial robber baron amassing wealth through religious fakery. If he works under a religious tax bracket, he does not have to pay any taxes at all to the Internal Revenue.
Oh, that comes as a shock to certain people. The controversy itself is fake. Any religious group is allowed by tradition to use its money as it sees fit without Internal Revenue interference. The Reverend Billy Graham directs the Samaritan Purse, which works on a global scale to feed the hungry.
Kanye may have found, through the Holy Spirit, two problems and offered a possible solution for such a time as this. The younger generation is yearning for a spiritual experience without the accoutrements and trappings of hierarchical religion. If Kanye can influence 175 120 attendees of his one Sunday service to abstain from opioids, use of mbanje and other demonic activities, he is alright in my book.
His second mission is to find affordable housing for the poor. While at the back of our minds, we know that the “poor you will always have” all religions offer at least a fig-tree towards poverty alleviation. On that score, Kanye may reach the unwashed where theologians and theoreticians have failed. He is alright in my book.
The force of a fashion fade may propel shoe manufacturers to create more environmentally friendly biodegradable shoes and clothes. All religions are utopian. They set an unattainable standard, which then forms the basis of inspiration and dreams, that are at the heart of the American exceptionalism idea.
Thanksgiving is the celebration of this elusive utopian American dream.
l Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwe patriot, who writes from the US. He has written 10 books, the latest is: Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed available in Zimbabwe at INNOV Bookshops and in the world at kenmufukabooks.com.