Stop Hating and Pray for urban faithIf the stories in this edition of Pop & Circumstance have a common theme, it’s the call for audiences — viewers, listeners, and users of media — to exercise more compassion, discernment, and responsibility in the way they interact with pop culture. Come to think of it, those are themes found in many editions of P&C. Anyway, we talk about them more explicitly this time around. So let’s get started.

Praying for Whitney Houston

Stop Hating and Pray for urban faithFor the past few days folks have been bashing Whitney Houston’s appearance on Good Morning America, where the singer delivered a less than stellar “comeback” performance before an audience of 4,000 fans in Central Park, and millions of TV viewers around the country. They’re saying she’s lost “it” and her comeback album I Look To You may be in jeopardy. And while I’ll grant that she was indeed breathless and rusty, my question is, did Whitney Houston really have anything to prove? I mean, we’re not talking about Britney Spears here, right? This is Whitney Houston–the woman who gave us The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher’s Wife soundtracks and who has become the inspiration for any number of American Idol wannabes. Her voice became the definition of pop-music excellence and one of the measures against which all other female vocalists are judged. She’s allowed to have a bad day.

And apparently I’m not the only one who wants to show Houston some compassion. Filmmaker Tyler Perry, a close friend of the Atlanta native, is now calling on fans to combat the negative energy surrounding the singer by sending some prayer her way as she embarks on this next chapter of her career. He told The Atlanta Journal Constitution, “I’ve watched her regain her strength, her fight and her faith. […] She is truly looking to you and to God for all her strength. And do me this favor, if you will, add her to your prayer list…. Just because she’s Whitney Houston doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need prayer, we all do.”

Don’t quote me on this, but Tyler Perry is right. (Sigh.) This new album isn’t about Whitney Houston cleaning herself up to prove she’s still got it. As an artist, her legacy should be secure by now. Even amid her cracking voice on GMA, it was clear that her talent remains. Over the last decade, it simply got hidden beneath a cloak of distraction, poor decisions, and insecurity. So now that she’s stepping out and choosing to live more in the light than in the darkness, let’s show her some love. UrbanFaith contributor Nicole Symmonds recently offered this “Prayer for Whitney Houston” over at Beliefnet. If you’re a fan, or simply someone who cares, you can use Nicole’s written petition to send some love up for Ms. Houston.

Chris Brown Talks! But Must We Listen?

Family, I’ll be honest: my personal well of compassion for Chris Brown is beginning to run dry. Back in July I explained how I’d forgiven the young singer for his violent acts against then-girlfriend Rihanna, and I hoped he would move forward with his life by finding a positive way to make amends for his behavior while educating others on domestic violence. But after watching his obligatory tell-all appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live, I may have changed my mind. I don’t want Chris Brown to become the poster boy for reformed domestic abusers. I’m not sure I even want his music career to make a comeback (that kind of material success may not be what he needs right now). I just want the boy to stop talking … period. And for the record, I’d also like his bow tie-wearing privileges to be revoked.

I’m certainly not the first to say how disappointed I am by Chris Brown’s explanation of the events that transpired with Rihanna. He didn’t offer much of a reason for why things resorted to violence with his girlfriend, and he didn’t appear to be truly remorseful over what happened. Sure he said the right things, but like a child who has been scripted to “tell your sister sorry for pulling her hair,” the apology was just words; the sentiment callous. Everything about his interview with Larry King reeked of the work of a publicist trying to restore a client’s image, right down to the baby blue sweater with matching bow tie.

So where does Chris Brown go from here? Is it another appearance on television that will bring redemption? Does Oprah need to give him a stern talking to? Should he just seek Jesus and forget about returning to pop-music stardom? I’m not sure. But if I was Chris Brown I would lay low for a long while. And if he insists on remaining in the limelight, at the very least he needs to fire his stylist and invest in a few T-shirts.

Maia Campbell: The Real Story

Stop Hating and Pray for urban faithI haven’t given actress Maia Campbell much thought since the late ’90s when she played the role of Debbie Allen’s daughter Tiffany Warren on the LL Cool J sitcom In The House. So last Thursday, when Campbell’s name flew to the top of the Twitter trend list, I was surprised to see her back in the spotlight. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding the Web noise were pretty tragic.

This week a video surfaced online of a seemingly drugged and violent Campbell propositioning and then verbally attacking a man while he videotaped her incoherent rant. As word spread, the rumor mill went into overdrive claiming the young actress was a prostitute and a crystal meth addict. Within a few hours, it seemed like everyone was talking about Campbell, calling her psycho, promiscuous, and a horrible mother — and those were just the nice comments. Unfortunately it took much longer for the real story about the actress’s ongoing struggle with a mental illness to make its way through gossip circles.

Maia Campbell is the daughter of the late author Bebe Moore Campbell (Brothers and Sisters and Singing in the Comeback Choir). Before the famed author’s death, it was speculated that Maia’s real-life battle with bipolar disorder was the inspiration for her mother’s 2005 novel, 72 Hour Hold, about a mother dealing with her 18-year-old daughter’s mental illness. Given the recent video, it appears the public’s suspicion around the plot may be grounded in truth. Though Campbell has reportedly been vocal about past struggles with drug abuse, following the mania seen in the video, some are saying her erratic behavior is indicative of schizophrenia.

Clearly Campbell is in a state of desperation and need. It’s a shame her private struggles have been displayed on the public stage for open criticism. Perhaps one of the most disheartening results of our culture’s rapidly expanding use of social media is the tendency for people to be mean-spirited and judgmental. Rather than scorn or ridicule, Maia Campbell needs our prayers.

In Other News:

Many of us were enchanted by the inspiring story about pioneering female rapper Roxanne Shante that went viral a couple weeks ago. Word was that she had earned her Ph.D. by including a clause in her recording contract requiring the record label to pay for her doctorate. “Good for her!” we thought. Well, unfortunately, it now looks like those reports were erroneous. Too bad; we liked the idea of a hip-hop artist who believes there are things more important than fame and bling…

Many Christians and pro-life groups were encouraged by the recent news that pregnant reality-TV star Kourtney Kardashian (older sister of Kim) decided to keep her baby after reading painful stories of women who regretted having abortions. She told People magazine, “I was sitting on the bed hysterically crying, reading these stories of people who felt so guilty from having an abortion.” Kardashian explained, “I do think every woman should have the right to do what they want, but I don’t think it’s talked through enough. I can’t even tell you how many people just say, ‘Oh, get an abortion.’ Like it’s not a big deal.” While we don’t expect Kardashian to become the pro-life movement’s Carrie Prejean, it’s refreshing to hear a more nuanced perspective about the abortion issue coming out of Hollywood.

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