Thursday, April 22, 2010

Deborah Smith Pollard Receives Susan B. Anthony Award at U of M-Dearborn

Pollard receives Susan B. Anthony Award for contributions to gender equality

Deborah Smith Pollard, associate professor of English literature, has received the 32nd annual Susan B. Anthony Award from UM-Dearborn.
Presented by the campus’ Commission for Women, the award recognizes a member of the UM-Dearborn community who has made significant contributions to gender equality.
Pollard received the award during a dinner ceremony on April 15 at Fairlane Center South. Patricia Ireland, an attorney, social activist, author and former president of the National Organization for Women, was the evening’s keynote speaker.
Pollard has been a role model of the Susan B. Anthony motto, “Failure is impossible,” according to those who nominated her for the award.
Her many academic, professional, scholarly and personal achievements include being a former director of UM-Dearborn’s African and African-American Studies Program, co-sponsoring campus events and teaching the course “Black Women in Literature, Film and Music” for the Women’s and Gender Studies program at UM-Dearborn.
The Library of Michigan In 2008 named her book, “When the Church is your Party,” one of 20 Michigan Notable Books. Pollard’s book is a collection of essays on topics in gospel music, both in Detroit and on the national level, including praise and worship, women gospel music announcers and “holy hip hop.”
In addition to her academic role at UM-Dearborn, Pollard is well known for her gospel music program on Detroit radio powerhouse WJLB-FM. In 2005 she was named Gospel Announcer of the Year in the annual Stellar Awards.  
Last month, Pollard received UM-Dearborn’s Distinguished Service Award at the campus’s annual Honor Scholars and Faculty Awards ceremony.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Muscle Tee Shirts, Tight Jeans and Cleavage: Has Gospel Really Gone Wild?

In a recent commentary in Jet magazine, free lance columnist Katti Gray wrote that there are so many gospel artists showing skin and wearing body-conscious clothing, it's as if gospel has "gone wild." I have been looking at this change of wardrobe, if you will, for more than a decade and have found individuals have very strong opinions on both sides.

In my book chapter entitled "Muscle Tee Shirts, Tight Jeans and Cleavage," Tracey Artis of "I Hear Music in the Air" music promotions and the annual conference of the same name had this to say when I interviewed her:

"There is a general trend to be “free style” rather than dressed for church. But if a Yolanda Adams is singing a ballad, I prefer to see her in a gown. When you begin to talk about the church, there is a standard wardrobe that is not offensive. I don’t want to see [female] artists in pantsuits. If you are before God’s people in church, remember I’m from the church; that’s my experience, so come before me with a dress or skirt on."

But with so many on stage, in the choir, and in the audience wearing less conservative clothing--pantsuits, jeans, thigh high skirts, belly shirts, and push up bras--there are clearly those who think differently from Ms. Artis.

Here is what Tina Campbell of Mary Mary said during an interview with National Public Radio (April 2009) about how some people see her and her sister Erica:

“Sometimes, people think we’re a little bit sexy. I don’t have a problem with that,” she says. “I would like to think that I’m sexy. I have a husband who I would like to think that every time he sees me. Truth be known, I’m a woman. I would love to be appealing to men. It is not my endeavor [to] entice, to cause anyone to lust.”

Believe it or not, this whole discussion of who is and what is sexy is not new to gospel. Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sam Cooke, and even Mahalia Jackson had fans who found them appealing. And to paraphrase Steve Harvey, "If Christians aren't sexy, where are all of these little Christians coming from?"

So, how much is enough and how much is too little when it comes to attire? And can the gospel and sexy attire really go hand in hand? My Sunday morning radio neighbor, Pastor Marvin L. Winans, says no: "You can't sell sex and Jesus."

If gospel artists dress too conservatively, will their young audience members tune them out? If some see their clothing as too sexy, will they lose their core church following?

Or should we make this easy and tell all of the singers put on a church robe and call it a day? LOL!

What do YOU think?