Hip-hop’s mourning for Nipsey Hussle shows beauty can be found in brokenness

Hip-hop’s mourning for Nipsey Hussle shows beauty can be found in brokenness

A mural of Nipsey Hussle at the Dreamville Festival on April 6, 2019, in Raleigh, N.C. Photo courtesy of Dreamville Festival

(RNS) — When hip-hop writer Yoh Phillips arrived at Dreamville Festival on April 6, 2019, he found a 10-foot mural of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle planted in the middle of Dorothea Dix Park.

Then he noticed Nipsey Hussle seemed to be everywhere.

He saw sweaters from the artist’s “Crenshaw” project and heard performer after performer mention the impact and legacy of Nipsey during the daylong festival. J. Cole, who is the founder of Dreamville Records and the mastermind behind the festival, performed a tribute with a montage from Nipsey’s life in the background.

But the mural painted by Paul Garson and Nik Soupé — and the timeline of its creation — stuck with Phillips.

“They had one week to paint that,” he said.

When artist Nipsey Hussle was shot at his clothing store in L.A. at the end of March, the shocked hip-hop community stopped and mourned. Musicians offered tributes on social media as his Grammy-nominated album “Victory Lap” rose back to number two on the Billboard 200 chart.

Whenever the hip-hop community loses an artist, it loses a member of the family.

Fans of rapper Nipsey Hussle gather at a makeshift memorial in the parking lot of The Marathon Clothing store in Los Angeles, Monday, April 1, 2019. Hussle was killed in a shooting outside his clothing store on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The mourning binds people together as they reflect on the life and legacy of an artist taken too soon and reveals the foundation of hip-hop culture: beauty from brokenness.

That’s what Dreamville Festival and the last-minute mural were for Phillips and many others: a space to mourn, remember Nipsey Hussle and return to what the hip-hop community is all about.

“Usually festivals feel like everyone’s there for something different, but Dreamville was a place for everyone to remember, to reminisce, to acknowledge all that Nipsey meant,” said Phillips. “There was something very church-like about it.”

The hip-hop community is no stranger to loss.

Some of the most public deaths in music have been hip-hop legends, from Tupac and Biggie in the ’90s to Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle most recently.

Jonathan Brooks, pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago and author of “Church Forsaken,” still mourns the death of Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.

Phife died at the age of 45 in March 2016 from complications related to diabetes. Brooks said the artist’s death was like losing a friend.

“So many members of my family and my church have diabetes, so that made the loss even more personal,” Brooks said.

Nipsey’s death because of gun violence and gang activity is sadly also a common theme in hip-hop.

“The lifestyle that Nipsey lived related to his demise,” Brooks said of Nipsey’s known gang affiliation. “But it’s also the lifestyle that he was trying to eradicate.”

Nipsey tried to defuse gang violence in his community.

He invested in Vector 90, a co-working space that teaches science, technology and math to kids from the inner city, and he founded The Marathon Clothing, a creative space for music merchandise and community.

It was outside The Marathon Clothing that Nipsey was shot.

Central to hip-hop culture and community is the violent context and the resilient life that survives within it. The pairing of difficulty and survival is the history of hip-hop, Brooks said.

“In the ’70s, people said that the Bronx was burning and that there was nothing beautiful there. From those ashes, hip-hop rises,” he said. “It’s the epitome of beauty in brokenness.”

That type of beauty in brokenness is also what draws writer Donna-Claire Chesman to hip-hop culture.

Donna-Claire Chesman. Courtesy photo

Donna-Claire Chesman. Courtesy photo

She said that hip-hop has a spirituality to it.

“A lot of the reasons that people turn to religion is the reason that I turn to music,” she said. “There’s so much solace to be found in hip-hop.”

Right after news of Mac Miller’s death on September 7, 2018, she tweeted in disbelief: “This is the man that got me through my brain surgery.”

Mac’s music was there for her through the ups and downs of her life, and losing him was crushing.

That day, she wrote her piece, “Thank you, Mac Miller,” before promptly returning to the floor to cry.

Since then, Chesman has been writing a yearlong weekly reflection called “The Year of Mac” about the scope and impact of Mac’s music.

She talks about the impact that the death has on the hip-hop community.

“When tragedy happens, the community gets stronger and the community expands,” she said.

She doesn’t agree with those who judge others who only started listening to an artist after their death.

“It doesn’t matter when they tuned in, it just matters that they did,” she said.

Mural artist Gustavo Zermeno Jr. walks on a basketball court mural he dedicated to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles on April 17, 2019. More than 50 colorful murals of Hussle have popped up in Los Angeles since the beloved rapper and community activist was gunned down outside his clothing store. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Brooks agreed.

He said Nipsey Hussle reaches a larger audience now than when he was alive. His final music video, a collaboration with DJ Khaled and John Legend, was released on Thursday (May 16).

And his legacy lives on.

“This is why hip-hop is different than other cultures,” Brooks said. “We try to embody the spirit of an artist in the way that we live.”

This message also impacts his ministry as a pastor.

“When I preach at funerals, I say that the best tribute you can give to this person is how you live moving forward. That’s a very hip-hop way of thinking.”

(Chris Karnadi is an assistant editor at Duke Divinity’s Faith & Leadership and a columnist at Sojourners. Follow him on Twitter @chriskarnadi. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

God’s Gift of Being Your Mother

God’s Gift of Being Your Mother


Video Courtesy of Anointed Praise Dance Ministry


When I was a child growing up and playing house with my dolls, I always dreamed of the day when I would one day be a mother.  I had it all planned out.  I would get married­­­­­­, and have two children; a boy would be the oldest and the girl would be the youngest.  I would live happily ever after.  As fate would have it, that day never came.  Well, not in the way I had expected it to happen.  I am not a biological mother, but I have mothered so many children throughout my life. My life has not played out the way I planned it, but it has worked out exactly as God has planned it.

I am happy that God has placed some awesome women in my life who exemplify a true gift from God.  Some have played major roles in my life throughout my upbringing and adulthood and others are great friends who I have had the pleasure of witnessing in their motherhood role.  I wanted to be a mother like my mother was to me.  My mother was a gift from God – and so are many mothers.

Think about it.  Mothers carried you for nine long months, lost their figure, and some were sick during their entire pregnancy.  Not to mention, with children come sleepless nights, temper tantrums, potty training, teething, measles, mumps, chicken pox and everything else.  Mothers mostly were the taxi cab drivers to school, numerous athletic practices, and games.  They are our biggest cheerleaders with and experts in home economics, counseling, doctoring, teaching, and whatever else is needed. Your mother made sure you were college prepared and, if college wasn’t your thing, then she supported you as you followed your dreams. Mothers are small business owners and can fix most things.  Mothers are intelligent, loving, compassionate, patient, and supportive.  Mothers have so much wisdom.

Unfortunately, some people have not had the experience of knowing and loving the previously described mothers above.  That is so unfortunate.  I won’t bash anyone who has not had the love of a mother.  However, I pray that at some point in your life you are able to experience the love of a mother figure.  Everyone that births a child is not always the best mother figure.  But then there are those like me, who have never birthed a child but love children and love being around them.  I hope that at some point in my life, I have been able to share my love with someone who hasn’t had the best experience with a mother.

God has made us share the love of a mother with unloved children.  No child should ever feel as if they have not had the love of a mother in their life.  There are so many places that childless women can go and be a mother figure to young children.  Help them to have the kind of love that your mother gave you. We want them to know that Mothers are a gift from God, whether it is their biological mother or someone who just has a lot of love to give.  “A child doesn’t have to be biologically yours for you to love them like your own.”

Always know, God can and will be your mother.  He has been for me since my mother passed.  He comforts me.  He is patient with me.  He is all knowing.  He is compassionate.  God is love.

My mother has been gone for 19 years, and I still grieve her especially during the holidays.  But God has been with me through it all.  Throughout scripture, you can see where God can and is seen as a mother figure. 

Deuteronomy 32:10 (NIV) “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.”

Hosea 11:3-4 (NIV) “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 4I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them, I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.”

Luke 13:34 (NIV) “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Psalm 91:4 (NIV) “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Isaiah 42:14 (NIV) “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.”

Isaiah 49:15 (NIV) “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

Let God comfort you and protect you.  He will be the mother you never had or the mother that is no longer with you.  God can be whatever you need God to be.

Pray About It: God, you are so awesome in all that you do.  Thank you for the wonderful gift of mothers.  We are grateful for your love, comfort, and protection for the motherless.  God, you are a gift that fulfills needs for the motherless.  Thank you for nurturing us and holding us close through all circumstances.  Thank you, God.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NIV)

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”


About the Author

TONIA WILLIAMS: Tonia lives in North Augusta, SC where she grew up.  She received her BA degree in Journalism from the University of South Carolina (USC), Columbia, SC and her MBA degree from Brenau College in Gainesville, GA.  She is actively involved with her church, Old Macedonia Baptist Church, where she sings on the choir, is Director of Vacation Bible School, and teaches the Women’s Sunday School class

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts

The Mother of All Gifts for Urban FaithFlowers, candy, and cards are nice, but for moms, the best Mother’s Day gifts of all are the people who make us mothers.

Usually, when Mother’s Day comes, we think of the women in our lives who nurture, teach, rear and comfort us. We think of blood mothers and other mothers who love us with an unselfish love that is its own brand of insanity. And a grandmother’s love is quintessential radical love. However, Mother’s Day is also a day to consider the gift of love that our children are to us.

When my son and daughter were still children and old enough to cook some basic things, they served me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day: sliced hot dogs in scrambled eggs with fresh fruit on the side. When our dog was a puppy, he tried his best to get into bed with me and share my breakfast. But mother did not play that. No doggie in my bed. On Mother’s Day morning, my bed became our breakfast table.

After breakfast we got ready for church while listening to Mother’s Day music on the radio — Bill Withers singing “Grandma’s Hands” and Dianne Reeves singing “Better Days.” The songs reminded us of mother wisdom that counsels patience. “You can’t get to better days unless you make it through the night.” My Aunt Sarah usually came to church with us, since we lived in Philadelphia and my mother lived in East St. Louis. After church we went to dinner. The day became a treasure, a precious memory gem that a mother hides in her heart.

The Bible speaks of such a moment when Jesus’ parents find him in the Temple in conversation with the teachers. He tells his parents that he is compelled to be in his Father’s house, to be about his Father’s business. The Bible tells us: “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

We watch our children grow and they amaze us. Through laughter and tears, through achievement and disappointment, we watch them grow as Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and humanity. Even those episodes that make us think they are creatures from another planet beamed down to Earth by some evil genius with a singular mission to pluck our last nerve become a part of the mix of events that is accumulated wealth, no matter the amount of money we have in the bank.

Our children are the reason we get up every day to work to earn a living and work for social justice and for peace. We want them to live in a more beautiful, sensible, and happy world. We work to demonstrate the praise of the glory of God, because it is through what they see us do that they will know their own moral responsibility to Creation.

God shows his love to us in a multitude of ways. God’s presence in our lives is present in uncomplicated gestures, simple and pure. God’s love loves us through our children. It is a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Related Article: Calling All Moms.

Time to straighten out our Jericho Road

Time to straighten out our Jericho Road

Video Courtesy of hardknocktv


When Jesus wanted to teach a lawyer the universal truth about what it means to be a neighbor, He told a story about a man from one ethnic group who helped a man from another ethnic group who had been beaten and left for dead along the Jericho Road. This anonymous brother’s keeper has been venerated as the Good Samaritan, and schools, hospitals, and streets are named after him. But today, if Jesus were telling this story, I wonder if He would only focus on one person helping another person. Today’s Jericho Road is not a one-person problem. If we’re to understand what it means to be a neighbor and straighten out our Jericho Road, we’ll need a national body of determined individuals who come together to fix a dangerous curve in our historical road that has caused damage to many for far too long.

What do I mean by straighten out our Jericho Road? First, a little context. In biblical times, the Jericho Road was the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, a flourishing city. The rich and famous built their vacation homes in Jericho. Religious leaders spent their days off there, perhaps resting under a palm tree. But the road to Jericho had many twists and turns where evil people lurked and attacked unsuspecting travelers. Far too many people taking the four-hour trek down the Jericho Road found themselves victims of evildoers.

Some would question why anyone would knowingly travel such a dangerous roadway, but a better question would be: Why should anyone be unable to travel to Jericho in safety? Are we to surrender our freedom because some would want to deny our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Why are we told to go back to Africa when our forefathers and foremothers helped build this great society—for free? When we gather for Bible study in our own churches, do we have to fear that evil people are going to jump out of nowhere and attack us?

Today’s Jericho Road is a twisted state of mind

Our Jericho Road is not offenders lurking on some mountain path over in Israel. It’s individuals with twisted states of mind who believe they can wait in their own dark shadows and then, without warning, jump out and attack people because they don’t like how they look or falsely believe that individuals searching for peace and rest are a threat to them. How do we straighten out such a mindset? Do we need metal detectors at every church door? Should we take off our shoes off before we enter our places of worship, not because we’re standing on holy ground, but because we want to ensure no one is hiding a bomb in their shoes?

When our nation has experienced natural disasters and terrorist tragedies in the past, we’ve come together, stepped up with celebrity telethons, public service announcements, days of silence, and other forms of active support to tell ourselves and the world that we’re better than this… that we shall overcome all terrorist threats to a humane society.

Go public against racial hatred

When a group of African Americans tried to cross a bridge in Selma and were denied, the country rallied. People of all ethnic stripes came against forces that wanted to infringe upon the God-given dignity of others. In one collective voice, they said, “No more. Not on my watch. Never again.”

Do we have enough Good Samaritans today who are willing to go public with their determination to end racism? Can we get enough people to just say no to racism so that our national consciousness reaches a tipping point that ends racial injustice? Will we call out and straighten out our own family members, friends, co-workers, and associates when they espouse ideas and actions that would undermine the safety and sanctity of others?

There’s been a lot of talk about having conversations about race, but as we all know, talk is cheap—unless it’s meant to broaden our understanding and respect for people who are “other” to us. Should we have such honest and transparent conversations, we’d quickly find out that underneath the skin, we’re all pretty much the same, with the same dreams and aspirations for ourselves and future generations. But until people, famous and anonymous, lock arm in arm and publicly declare that life matters and that racial hatred is wrong and will not be tolerated here, we can expect more of the same.

It’s been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. If that is true, then good people must take just actions until evildoers realize that we the people are intolerant of racial injustice. What Jesus taught must still be shared: We are all neighbors. We all are made in the image of God. Christ died so we could all experience our universal oneness in Him. When a Black child is murdered in the streets, we all suffer. When a White child is murdered in her elementary schoolroom, we all suffer. We are all human. No one else needs to be senselessly gunned down to make this heart-wrenching point.

 

Modesty in the Church

Modesty in the Church

Just How Far Is Too Far This Summer?

As summer temperatures kick into high gear, concern increases about women’s church attire. In fact, many churches are printing bulletins this very second kindly asking women to be mindful of their hemlines, necklines, and exposed shoulders. There’s certainly nothing wrong with desiring women to observe modest dress during warm weather. Paul’s appeal wasn’t for women to adorn themselves in modest apparel (unless temperatures exceed 70 degrees) (1 Timothy 2:9). But what concerns me is the limited concept most Christians have of “modesty.” Modesty is a virtue involving much more than women’s fashion choices.

Actually, church dress codes might not even be necessary if more grasped these four lessons in true modesty:

Modesty Begins in the Heart

Many often quote 1 Timothy 2:9–10 to tell women to “cover up.” But Paul’s appeal is actually deeper than that. He’s asking women to forsake gaudiness and vanity in favor of a spiritual posture that glorifies God, inside and out. Paul is essentially saying that what we profess should be reflected in how we dress, assuming what we profess is sincere. True and consistent outward modesty only springs forth when the heart desires to please God. One could certainly “cover up” for the sake of following man-made rules, but it is hypocritical to clean up our exterior to please man while our hearts remain impure before God (Matthew 23:25–26). When we make a decision to revere Him, modest behavior and dress become personal convictions.

Modesty is a Daily Practice

Most women know that dressing like Gomer just won’t cut it for worship service. From my observation, women in general, despite their church-going experience, are keenly aware of the need to cover up and be appropriately attired for church service—even in the dead heat of summer. But what about how we dress for ministry meetings and other events hosted by the church throughout the week? What about how we appear to the world outside of church? The level of care we take to maintain modest dress on Sunday doesn’t seem to translate Monday through Saturday. This may occur because the church often teaches “modesty” as an outward religious practice, rather than a way of life for those who are called to be sanctified and set apart as people of God. For many, Sunday service is where we “officially” meet God. But people of faith should revere God daily, and our hearts, public appearance, and behavior should reflect that.

Modesty is an Act of Love

Men are visual creatures and women definitely know this. To deny this fact is to either be utterly naïve or embarrassingly disingenuous. Genuine concern for our brothers should help us refrain from dressing or behaving in any way that could cause them to stumble. This point is not politically correct, but it is nonetheless legitimate for followers of Christ. We are called to love one another as ourselves and abide by God’s standards, not society’s (Matthew 22:33; Romans 12:2). Jesus makes it clear that any man who so much as looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). While we cannot be burdened by what men think when they see us, we can choose to honor God by not seeking to intentionally motivate lascivious thoughts and behavior.

 Modesty Also Applies to Men

Women are often the burden bearers of modesty, but each point above also applies to men. Modesty is a Christian disposition, not a female characteristic. Men in Christ are also charged to observe decency and propriety and to revere God daily. And just as women should avoid intentionally enticing men with immodest dress or behavior, men must love their sisters in Christ enough to not take advantage of those they assume are “immodest.” Paul is clear that female and male believers must clothe themselves in Christ; walk properly and “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:14).

Dress codes and guidelines for attire may be helpful this summer, but such policies are only half the battle. True modesty is about physical and spiritual clothing. Churches truly seeking to ensure appropriate attire in the house of God must be equally vigilant in outfitting their female and male parishioners in the spirit of Christ Jesus.

How far is too far when it comes to appropriate clothing in the church? Weigh in below.

At The Cross

At The Cross

Video Courtesy of The Kingdom Choir


Up on the cross is where Jesus overcame. I have a victorious life, but I will remain at the foot of the cross.

Sometimes I find myself getting so caught up in me and the things I experience day to day.  I think back over my career the past thirty years and I feel as if I’ve been dealt a bad hand.  I did all the things I was taught to do to be able to have a prosperous career.  After high school, I attended a major university and received a bachelor’s degree.  After securing a good job and working for several years, I decided to further my education and get an MBA so I could move up in the corporate world.  It wasn’t enough to boost my career, so I joined associations in my field and even held offices.  It still wasn’t enough. I had gone as far as I could and started seeking employment with other companies.

I got another job, and I was starting to rise up the ladder. But when a new management group came on board, I was stuck again.  Less qualified people were hired on my level, even though I had more experience.  It became clear to me that it’s not about what you know, but who you know. 

I began to feel that life is so unfair.  I did all the things I had been taught to do, but I was never able to move into management positions.  I complained to God, asking, “Why am I being treated so unfairly? I’ve done the right things, but I’m not prospering like others.  What am I doing wrong?  Am I being punished for something I did earlier in my life?  I go to church every Sunday. I teach Sunday School. I attend Bible study. I sing on the choir. I am the VBS director. I don’t just know your name, but I personally have a relationship with you.”

God dropped in my spirit: Because of who you are and whose you are, you will experience trials and tribulations.  You may never have more than what you have.  As a matter of fact, you may have even less than what you have now.  I need you to be a vessel for me.  I need you to serve.  You say you want to do My Will, experiencing these types of things and not getting where you think you should be is exactly where I want you to be. 

I am understanding why I need to remain at the foot of the cross.  I’ve done what I perceive to be the right things, but that doesn’t mean I will get what I have planned for my life.  I need to be able to accept the disappointments in life and continue to have joy and peace.  I need to know that the things I want are not necessarily the things God wants for me or needs for me to be. When His will is placed in my life, I need to know it may not look like what I expected. 

Every day of my life is a victorious life.  I need to stop complaining, stop whining.  Each day that I am alive is a new opportunity for me be an example to others on how to take disappointment and handle it as an assignment from God. 

As I feed on God’s word, my actions should be as the Bible states “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). I should be challenging myself to live a victorious life and to stay away from sin, such as complaining and whining about what I wasn’t able to accomplish but concentrate on and be thankful for my many blessings from God.

I will stay at the foot of the cross.  I need to keep “executing God’s plan for my life.  Keep advancing in my kingdom purpose.  I need to stay focused on the outcome.”  I will stay around the Cross and live a victorious life. Are you challenging yourself to live a victorious life? Search yourself and decide what you will leave at the foot of the cross.


Video Courtesy of The Kingdom Choir

Pray About It

Lord, each day I am alive is a victorious day for me.  I need to be an example so others can see that I am at the foot of the cross.  I have sins such as complaining, whining, gossiping, not always being humble and so much more that I need to leave at the foot of the cross.  Thank you, God, that you correct me and instill in me the desire to do better.  In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 14:27, NLT: “And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”


TONIA WILLIAMS. Tonia lives in North Augusta, SC where she grew up.  She received her BA degree in Journalism from the University of South Carolina (USC), Columbia, SC and her MBA degree from Brenau College in Gainesville, GA.  She is actively involved with her church, Old Macedonia Baptist Church, where she sings on the choir, is Director of Vacation Bible School, and teaches the Women’s Sunday School class