Field Notes

Interview with CP, Associate Director of Mentor Tech

CP: “I’m originally from San Antonio; I came here to go to Tech. When I came here, I was a music major and I grew up in a black church. Music is very much an essential part of the black worship experience. And I think it can be traced back all the way to the days of slavery where you know that was really the method of communicating messages through the songs and things of that nature. Lubbock is a little bit different in that there is no black gospel radio station. We’ve had some AM stations in the past but never like an FM station. But on Sunday mornings I think from 9:00am-10:00am 104.9 plays gospel music. So, in many ways that’s the only outlet, the only opportunity to hear that locally. So that effects what you hear in churches because a lot of the people don’t have access to that information. So when I came here in 88 I was stunned by what you would hear when you went to church, because I came from a very progressive area that had a 24 hour radio station that played gospel music and things of that nature. So it was a little bit different. The music I would hear in church I was like we were singing that 8 years ago and you’re still singing it like it was brand new. You know looking at gospel music you have hymns you know the more traditional side and then it’s progressively become more contemporary and so forth. And the challenges here is, you know Lubbock is a little bit different from the east coast you know in the DC area they are big with anthems and cantatas in addition to the contemporary style of worship. Here you don’t find any of that. It’s more traditional gospel music vs. the more contemporary, more modern. It’s a continuum within gospel artist wise. Traditional you’re talking about James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Shirley Caesar. Those are like staples of traditional gospel music. More contemporary you’re talking Kurt Franklyn, Fred Hammond, Jonathan Nelson, and the Clark Sisters. And it’s interesting because what was considered traditional now was contemporary 20 years ago. So, the churches here you’re going to find a mix if you want a really traditional experience you would go to St. Lukes Baptist Church if you want and the church you went to, Alexander Chapel is going to be more contemporary because that’s really the style. Now in 93 I started a gospel choir here at the university, Visions of Light gospel choir. And that choir is in its 16th year now. The director of that choir is Darius Luckey. They rehearse on Saturday’s from 2-4 at the SUB. That would be a good rehearsal to go to because you would see a more current style of gospel. You either have to have connections outside of Lubbock, or you have to purposefully go out and get it because it just doesn’t come here. Gospel artists just don’t come here. So that choir has been very cutting edge in bringing recording artists of name and notoriety within the gospel sector here doing music workshops, concerts and thing like that to help bring up the local area as far as music is concerned.”

Valerie: “Are there any churches here that you know of that have a really strong music program?”

I’m going to summarize his response to this question.
CP suggested that I visit a few different churches to get a feel for the variety of styles and resources that exist in Lubbock. He suggested I visit Community Baptist, Agape, Trinity church, Lyons Chapel Baptist.

More progressive will have praise team style and the more traditional will have a choir.

Valerie: “What can you tell me about the demographics here in Lubbock within the African-American community?”

CP: “The last time I checked it was about 17,000 African-American’s living in Lubbock. If you go to the city of Lubbock website you can look at the population numbers there. There has been a shift; you don’t have a lot of people who are in their mid-20 to early 30’s. They leave Lubbock to go to more metropolitan areas and then they come back when they want to settle down and have a family. So economically here there is great disparity, you’ll see very very impoverished and very very affluent. And there are not a lot of middle class younger people because they don’t stick around, they move away. So your more educated professional African-American’s in that 25-30 range they leave. Which makes it challenging, when you go to church you’ll see really young and really old. When I got here there was a great disparity between African-American’s who were living in Lubbock and who were at Tech. Because back in the day you had to be affluent or an athlete to go to Tech, at least that was the perspective. Not realizing that there were students like myself of whom wasn’t an athlete and wasn’t affluent. So when I’d go and interface with the community the reception would be kind of cold. Until you went to church.

Valerie: “You mentioned before the particular challenge of new music reading Lubbock, are there any other challenges that are unique to Lubbock?”

CP: “Well, within the black church finding musicians is challenging. You’ll find several churches here that do not have musicians. They use tracks and things like that. That’s one of the challenges. So, you have a bunch of people who do not have any formal training they were taught by ear and picked it up, unlike the average prodominatly white church where the music staff will read music that is not going to be the case. The majority of the musicians you’re going to run into here play by ear. They are some that do both but that is going to be very rare to find here. Which is unusual for me because I come from a tradition that does both. And beyond that there are people who don’t want to invest the time and energy to be better, there is no reason to because there are so few of them you can be mediocre and have a part time gig playing and be considered great even though they’re not. So, that’s really one of the challenges that is really unique to here, people think they are better than they are and they are not willing to invest the time, energy and resources to become better.”

Valerie: “Are there any other avenues where this kind of music is being played in town?”

CP: “Churches are going to be the biggest place. There are a couple groups in town that are trying to do more contemporary styles of music. In fact the guy who is over the music at Community, he has a group that plays locally. I think there are a couple others but not really.”

Valerie: “Is there anyone within the radio station community, a radio personality that is involved in or supports gospel music at all.”

CP: “no, the station that plays it on Sunday morning, it’s just someone who said, hey we should play that, they don’t have any connection to the community at all.”

Valerie: “Anything else you think would be valuable for me to know stepping into this?”

CP: “I think when you approach the people, naturally there might be a little apprehension you know what are you doing and I think doing all you can to show a genuine interest will make it a lot easier for you. I think you should just go and then afterwards contact the pastor. Just absorb first and then make contact…I’m going to give you some suggestions of some people you should listen too. Richard Smallwood and his group Visions. Donald Lawrence and Tri City, Joe Pace, Hezekiah Walker. That’ll give you a good spectrum of the best that is out there.”

Valerie: “Can you give me your perspective on the responsiveness of a typical African-American worship service?”

CP: “I think it’s just part of the whole cultural experience, you know trace it back and Sunday was the only day where there was a breath of freedom for slaves. When they were not forced to go to church with the slave owner, when they were permitted to have their own it was a day of jubilations, a day of joy. And that’s why a typical church people will be so dressed up its still part of the culture. I think that the enthusiasm, the interaction you know if you go to a church like Trinity your not going to hear as much ‘amen” and “yes’ whereas in the typical black church it’s an expected thing. Keep in mind that you still do have a spectrum, St. Lukes is going to be much more conservative in their style of worship, then a Alexander chapel where someone may dance or whatever a quite different experience. I really think it’s part of the jubilation culturally that was a day that you went, you were hoping for a day of freedom a day when you were no longer oppressed the church experience is very emotionally driven in it’s display then other kinds of churches. It’s the only time of freedom and culturally that’s where the roots of the emotionally driven worship service come from. The hymns were always call and response and now it’s just more upbeat but it’s still there. You know if you’re a pastor and your standing up there preaching and your congregation isn’t responding your up there thinking I’m sucking real bad today my delivery is off, what’s wrong will ya’ll because you’re accustomed to getting that feedback. It almost drives the worship experience hey more they respond. When the audience is engaged it’s much better. The cultural worship experience is motivated encouraging and driven to take you to another place, despite the depression. Just like another worship experience but it’s just more expected that you’ll be engaged…look up Bishop T.D. Jakes and you’ll get a good feel for what they are expecting. It’s demonstrative and emotionally charged. I think it is a big contrast to go from a more reserved Caucasian style to a black style of worship….there are more individuals that are embracing a mix of styles now. By in large African-American are more demonstrative, it’s the cultural experience…Thing here really are more subtle and more covert. Whereas in SC the divide is very distinctive there really is subtle racism it’s more institutionalized here. So you’re not going to see black business owners on the same level as you would in Huston or Austin or even on the East coast. Because you’re fighting years, I mean the first African-American graduated from Tech in 1964, that’s not that long ago. TTU was founded in 1923 and even after the first one graduated from Tech there was still such disparity. I mean I heard stories from people who were from a Lubbock in high school who were on championship teams, their teammates were offered scholarships to TTU and they were not. Same team, so there is a divide, a great divide a disparity. When people come to town, say a new faculty member, you would be shown Lubbock based on whoever showed you Lubbock. So in some cases you’re told to not go east of Avenue Q, and you go over there and I promise you the ghetto in Lubbock is not really a ghetto. The reality is the highest crime area in town is by the mall, and that’s not east Lubbock. I mean you do have pockets, where I won’t’ go no matter what color you are. The perception is that if you go to North Lubbock you’re dealing with the Hispanic community and it’s going to be shoot um up and if you go east Lubbock it’s going to be gang banning and it’s just not at all true. So what happens is those sectors of town get really bad reps. East Lubbock has not always been predominantly black, it used to be mostly white, because there were not that many blacks here in Lubbock. As people started moving west because the houses were bigger, I mean you can buy a house in east Lubbock for 22,000 and have 3 bedrooms front yard, nice size little house. But that was much more affordable people started moving west to the bigger houses, so the people who owned them started renting those houses and eventually started selling them. Eventually people started coming in who ‘did not look like them’ and started buying up those houses. And then as African-Americans started doing better they started moving west as well. And here is why, there are no businesses going up in that area. Because everyone says don’t go over there. They are no investments over there, no pizza delivery no fast food, last year built a sonic corner of 19th and MLK of all the sonic in Lubbock it has the highest sales because there is no anything over there. No full service banks either. Well, people go where they want to make profit, and if someone is telling you not to go over there and your new to town you’re going to listen to them. There was a churches chicken and that was it, it closed and now it’s on Avenue Q. Not even a gas station. United on Parkway is the only United that does not have a gas pump…so it’s more institutionalized here. Without an economic engine you’re not going to have any development. You’ll see the churches over there will be run down. Other places in the south the racism is in your face whereas here it’s subtle.”

“You know I’m not one to harp or stay stuck on those things, I’m progressive you know you can’t change the past all you can do is learn from it. But you can’t deny that it happened that oppression is part of our history and it’s not been that long. People are still affected by it on both sides…”

Many of the problems the African-American community still has to this day are linked back to things that happened during slavery. Things were passed on or the absence of knowledge was passed on from one generation to the next, which perpetuated certain social problems like absent fathers and lack of education.

We had a funny discussion about colonialism, (“You can’t discover someone’s house!”), immigration, healthcare and other social issues and religion.

We also talked about current diversity issues among the faculty, deans and students at Texas Tech and well as a few specific instances of racist activity at TTU.

CP also pointed me to a really wonderful video of “Stand by Me” played by many different cultural musical traditions all layered on top of each other.