He’s an award-winning speaker, emcee, writer, and musician, moonlighting as half of the hip-hop duo The Iccsters (pronounced ‘icksters’) and director of worship at Irvington Covenant Church.
March 28th, 2011
(This poem was written to me by my friend James, after he witnessed a particular exchange I had with my uncle at a church function. Without unpacking all of my personal history, I can say that I found it to be deeply moving and personal. If you know James personally, that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. At any rate, the way these words connected to my past and present was really valuable to me, and helped to compensate for any latent awkwardness over the idea of a dude writing a poem for another dude.)
December 8th, 2008
I have emerged, healthy and generally in my right mind, from what has affectionately come to be known as “J.R.’s Hostage Weekend.” That term, admittedly melodramatic, is actually a pretty fitting description of what I’ve just endured (and for the second time, no less).
The “J.R.” in question is J.R. Cifani, one of the head honchos at the Monster Worldwide subsidiary Making It Count. And I just spent three days certifying on two – not one, but, count ‘em, TWO – presentation scripts at the training weekend in for the MIC spring season of 2009.
If those details mean nothing to you, they’re just more evidence that I have the privilege of stringing together seven of the coolest words in the English language:
I am a Making It Count speaker.
For the uninitiated, Making It Count is a company that convinces large companies to help underwrite the cost of sending speakers into high schools and colleges, then trains and deploys those speakers to do the presentations, educating the students and giving the partner companies positive branding opportunities in the process.
While it doesn’t necessarily pay that well, it’s quite addicting work. There’s nothing quite like the high you get from corralling a bunch of students, establishing a connection with them, and then imparting to them information that could impact their trajectory for the better.
Of course, in order to experience that high, you must first be certified by MIC to present the material. So that’s what I was doing this weekend, going through the grueling process of learning the content and refining my technique, and collaborating with others doing the same.
One of the coolest things for me about attending a Making It Count training weekend is that I get to spend three intense days with a bunch of people who are a lot like me. It’s a great change of pace from the everyday grind, and a great opportunity to make and develop relationships. And not just in the networking sense, but you know, actually making friends. It’s a blast hanging out with people with whom I have so much in common.
And I mean that on several levels. Not only is the whole conference populated with a whole crop of dynamic, engaging personalities, but a significant portion of the speakers – a sizable majority actually — are people of color. So both hotels were besieged by African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and biracial folks from all across the country. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not used to seeing so many passionate, intelligent, good-looking Black people at any event that’s not a concert or a church service. So gettin’ to chop it up like that in a corporate training environment is always a special thing for me. We worked hard, but we had fun.
And speaking of church, that’s the other thing that many of us had in common. I met so many people who were in some form of Christian ministry in their “other” lives. Pastors, youth pastors, even a few music ministers. During my first training in August, I thought it was just a big coincidence.
Now, I can see why.
Most people in some kind of vocational ministry need some form of supplemental income. Working for Making It Count means we can get a little extra cash by giving people a message of hope and empowerment, which is what we would normally be doing anyway. The chance to travel, do some networking, and still maintain the flexibility we need to continue in ministry, practically makes it a lock.
Now I’m not gonna lie… even though I really enjoy this work, I wasn’t particularly excited about coming to this training. The holiday season is always busy, especially for a church music director. I had a lot of stuff going on, and I didn’t get to engage in the weekend as fully as I wanted to because I was still spending some of my downtime taking care of tasks related to church.
On top of that, just getting there was a challenge. The first leg of my trip was delayed about 8 hours, which means instead of taking a noon flight to Houston and getting into Columbus that evening, I didn’t even LEAVE Portland until almost 11pm. Instead of spending the day flying and the night in a hotel room, I spent the day at the airport and the night in cramped airline seats that I couldn’t sleep in. It threw off my body clock something fierce, and the next morning I ended up oversleeping by two hours and nearly missing my opportunity to certify.
But still… it was all so worth it. I’m not kidding. Flight delays and bitter cold and hustling from concourse to concourse for almost 24 hours straight, if it means I get to spend a weekend with likeminded (read: insane) people, all reaching toward the same goal of strengthening our ability to reach people, then I’m down.
If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would.
I’d just make sure to get a loooooooooong nap first.
I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.
November 4th, 2008
In my book, any weekend spent rockin’ mics and reppin’ Christ is a great weekend. And despite my battles with an overcrowded schedule and a nasty chest cold, this weekend was no exception.
Jaamar McKelvey (a.k.a. “J-MAC”) and I flew down to L.A. for two performance dates with Church of the Redeemer, a sister congregation in the Evangelical Covenant network of churches. The church, in an attempt to engage the youth and young adults in their neighborhood, called on the crime-fighting hip-hop duo known as The Iccsters to come down and rock mics for their harvest carnival.
By this point, astute readers of this space will have noticed a personnel discrepancy. My regular partner-in-rhyme, Sahaan (a.k.a. Sir-1) was unavailable for this trip, as he and his wife were taking some much-needed time together. So I called on his ably-skilled brother to fill in. Having Jaamar on call for these kinds of occasions is a wonderful luxury to enjoy, not only because he shares our passion for outreach and is also supremely talented on the mic, but also because he already knows all of our material.
(Plus, most people can’t tell them apart on first sight anyway.)
As expected, our trip was an absolute blast. I got to see some old friends (Douglas and Erika Haub and their children Mercy, Aaron and Elijah, as well as Danny and Donna Martinez and their dynamic prodigy Eric) and make some new ones (Richard and Anna, Justin and Ali, Sylvia, Scott, Damion and Isaac). Big shouts of love to all of them, they made our trip quite memorable.
Besides our two sets at the harvest party and ministering during Sunday morning service, we ate great food (including my first trip to Roscoe’s), enjoyed great conversation and generally tried to take in as much authentic L.A. flavor as we could in just over 48 hours.
So watching Mercy swoon, listening to Richard and Justin debate the merits of California’s Proposition 8, breaking down Doug’s chord progressions, waking up to the sickly sound of a rooster outside the guest room window in the apartment where we stayed, choppin’ it up with the bootleg CD salesman outside of Roscoe’s, narrowly avoiding impact with several reckless drivers on the 10, shaking our heads at all the crazy characters on Venice Beach, marveling at the distances from which one can hear the tamale lady yelling “ta-MA-le!!!!!,” and joining in the chorus of people trying to get Damion to quit stalling and do the rap that he wrote… these are memories you can’t buy on a cruise line or a resort. Thanks to all of you.
By the way, I never really understood the significance behind that languid R&B hit by Tony! Toni! Tone!, “It Never Rains (In Southern California).” I thought its title was more of a gimmicky exaggeration than a generalized statement of truth. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest where rain is as surely a part of life as death and taxes, I figured that it must rain occasionally in Southern Cali, just not as often.
So it was with detached amusement that I heard the shrieks (of delight? or horror?) coming from several Angeleno ladies who were getting unexpectedly rained on. The following drizzly morning, my local host dryly informed me that he ordered up some Portland weather to make me feel comfortable. When I casually asked him how long it had been since this weekend’s spate of precipitation, he had to stop and think.
“Almost a year, I think.”
Los Angeles, CA: Where Rain Is An Event.
(Note to any LA county regional power-brokers: I’ll trade you the rights to that slogan for your assurance that the Blazers won’t have to play the Lakers in the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.)
Anyway, I hope not to wait another nine years before I return. Maybe by the next time, instead of people remarking on Doug’s resemblence to Lakers center Pau Gasol, they’ll be comparing me to Blazers center Greg Oden.
What I meant to say is, maybe by then they’ll be comparing my dad to Greg Oden.
(I don’t look that old, do I?)
(You know what… don’t answer that.)
I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.