The Words I Never Said

“Its so loud inside my head with words I should’ve said.” Lupe Fiasco

Music has a way of pulling the triggers of your mind and heart.  Once the trigger is pulled what comes out is what was in your mind and heart before the song began. So did the music influence your thoughts and feelings or did it just wake the sleeping giants inside of you?  This song pulled some triggers inside my head and heart and these are the words I never said:

1. I am a Christian who follows Jesus Christ and believes the bible is the true and living word of God.  The actions of the collective church have diluted the perception and reverence that the world has towards God and Christ. This makes it  more of a necessity to distinguish myself from a “Sunday Saint” or someone who believes in God but not the bible.  I am an imperfect man seeking perfection through God’s Holy Spirit residing inside of me.

2. Attempting to use Hip-Hop music and culture to teach or do anything else doesn’t make you Hip-Hop or a part of the culture.  Hip-Hop music and culture is being accepted in circles of academia because of the catastrophic failure of traditional education to remain relevant and engaging to its core audience within inner cities across America and beyond.  I’m not questioning the sincerity of an individual educator or writer, but the collective establishment’s embracing the culture and deeming their own colleagues the experts.  Ask yourself if Hip-Hop was no longer as popular and another music genre drove popular culture would you still be looking to use and or participate with Hip-Hop?

3. There must be a space created for men to feel and heal. Society has raised us to embrace the ideology that states that anger is the only acceptable emotion to express without a questioning of your manhood.  Think of the adjective we place in front of love, I got mad love for you. Think of the violent slang terms that describe making love or having sex? It has gotten so bad amongst young men that they will start a statement with “no homo” to say or do anything that expresses an emotion.  We need the space and methodology to heal in order to be real with ourselves and others.

4. The love, commitment, and passion that I have for my people should not be viewed as racist, prejudice, or radical.  Multi-Culturalism and diversity doesn’t always mean equality because all cultures or parties are not coming to the table of brotherhood as equal partners. The causes for the collective can not overshadow my commitment to the causes that disproportionately impact my people of color.

5. Hip-Hop is constantly being analyzed but rarely evaluated.  There was a value within Hip-Hop that is not as needed today or is it?  In the beginning as Hip-Hop came on the scene, it was responsible for speaking for a community that hadn’t had the opportunity to speak and be heard to society as a whole.  We need to create a system to evaluate today’s Hip-Hop and stop merely debating various analysis of the content.  What is the value of the content of many of today’s most popular Hip-Hop songs is the true question.

 THINK To Hear Is New Knowledge! Can You Hear the Words that I Write?

“Just My Thoughts”

At the age of 43 and being born and raised on what I know now to be Hip-Hop culture, I am always amazed at its evolution from being simply something that was done in the moment and talked about until the next moment came along to truly shaping the way people see themselves and the world around them.  I began to mature as a conscious intelligent man through engaging Hip-Hop while at Howard University without ever hearing the word “Pedagogy.”

I knew the power within the music. Its ability to conduct emotions like a great conductor controls an orchestra.  I knew that Hip-Hop was telling me things about myself that my formal education wasn’t telling me.  I also witnessed the stories that Hip-Hop told me. The other hoods throughout the US and soon the world which opened my eyes and sensitivity to the plight of my people instead of the plight of just my projects.

I soon realized that I had something to give to Hip-Hop that wasn’t via a four-track recorder, a sample, or a written rhyme.  I realized that what I had to offer Hip-Hop was a sense of direction for its protection and projection.  In 1991, at Howard University there was a Hip-Hop Conference called “Hip-Hop at its Crossroads: Seizing the Cultural Initiative.”  The students at Howard University and budding industry professionals from the stage, booth, and the office organized this event.  It was the first event that began to ask questions around the potential of Hip-Hop and its participants (the people).  Hip-Hop had enrolled in college and was being presented to the students, guests, staff and faculty in a manner that was all encompassing.  Hip-Hop was becoming more than entertainment, more than expressions. It was becoming economical, political, and spiritual.  Hip-Hop was now becoming the destination of resume and degree-toting individuals instead of the last resort for brothers and sisters on the block that missed the school bus of Opportunity to the University of Possibility.

The conference ran from 1991-1996 and its impact was something that we didn’t fully acknowledge or even properly document. This conference birthed theories that are being discussed today on the street corner and the dorm room.  We didn’t know that the same corporate America that asked us not use the name “Hip-Hop” because of its negative perception would become its bed fellow behind closed doors and then become its “John” and place its #1 girl out on the streets, so others may eat (the others being themselves).

As I grew and the Lord redirected my career path from being an Accountant to working with youth, I used the most viable tool that I had. My students were reflections of me. I used Hip-Hop to connect and respect with my congregation and then continued to use Hip-Hop to project a path that we would walk and learn on together.  Since I was not a university-trained educator, I still had no knowledge of pedagogy or theoretical methods of teaching.  I was doing what I knew and what I saw working with the students that the trained teachers had put to the side.  Ms. Thompson couldn’t reach them but I realized that Tupac could so Tupac became my assistant on a daily basis in class.  I just began to ask the right questions after Tupac’s lectures and show the students how to shape their responses. The results were essays, poems, readings, conversations, and anthologies.

Over the past 20 years since the first Hip-Hop conference, you have a generation of educators and parents that have been raised on Hip-Hop to various degrees and now you even have some of them with Hip-Hop degrees.  The school system and the prison system secretly or not so secretly formed a deal that resulted in tunnels that lead from the classroom to the cell block for anyone who doesn’t show the immediate capacity to learn and excel.

I believe that for some using Hip-Hop in the classroom is out of a sense of desperation because everything that would be deemed traditional has failed.  When there is a true lack of respect and sincerity in how the culture is used to interact with youth, they can easily see right through the feeble attempt and will often create a larger communication gap than the one that you were attempting to use Hip-Hop to fill in the first place.  The introduction of Hip-Hp in the classroom should begin with the students presenting what they define as Hip-Hop and it can be guided by your critical thinking prompts that challenge them to listen to their music with a more critical ear and to watch their videos with a more critical eye.

The truth is that to a large number of adults Hip-Hop is either friend or foe or both depending on the setting.  My focus when it comes to using Hip-Hop as an educational device can change with the audience and the purpose that I am trying to achieve.  With my middle school students, I use my ability to rhyme coupled with music to help students increase their ability to comprehend and communicate.  With my High School students, I examine Hip-Hop’s influence on popular culture and popular culture’s influence on adolescent development.

Can there be a line drawn from the portrayal of prison experiences in Hip-Hop music, videos, and movies to the change in the perception of going to prison and therefore prison becoming a rite of passage as opposed to a punishment?  Is the “Hip-Hop” that the youth are adapting their identity to, the industry or the culture?  Is it more authentic for a person who considers him or herself “Hip-Hop” to learn how to be an educator than an educator trying to become “Hip-Hop?”  What happens to this movement when Corporate America and the Academic Academy choose to move to the next thing leaving Hip-Hop back where it started from, the streets?

Let’s keep these discussions going and let’s connect on twitter @tdj6899 and every Tuesday at 9:00 pm EST #hiphoped


When the Son teaches the Father about faith in the Father

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” – Mark 10:15

Isaiah Jeremiah Ezra Jones is 12 years old and he is my youngest of two children and my only son.  My son was spending the last days of his summer vacation school shopping and visiting family in New York City.  His trip was cut short by Hurricane Irene, so he had to come back home to Maryland on Saturday morning instead of later that evening.  I was glad when Isaiah and my Mother-in-law arrived home safely and was grateful to find him in a good mood even though the trip was cut short.

My wife and I had prepared for the pending storm by getting some supplies including batteries for the boom box and some DVDs to play in the computer once the lights went out from the wind and rain.  We had everything in place and the last item on our agenda was to ensure that Isaiah and my Mother-in-law made it home safely.  My daughter was in New York with Isaiah and she took the train home to Lawrenceville New Jersey.  By Saturday afternoon everyone was in place and I was thankful and we just chilled and braced for whatever Hurricane Irene was going to bring to our area.  In essence, we were simply enjoying watching TV, surfing the Internet, and playing video games while we waited for the power to go out, which to me was an inevitable side affect of Hurricane Irene coming up the East Coast.

I prayed and I asked the Lord to keep our power on because it is such a drag when the power goes out in our neighborhood.  I have a great time with my family, but it is uncomfortable without A/C, we have an electric stove, and I don’t have a landline phone so for some reason when the power is out my cell reception is horrible.  If I had a say in the matter, I was prepared to lose cable service, but I was hoping to not lose power.  I prayed for my family and friends from Virginia to New York and asked for the Lord to provide his protection throughout the storm.   In retrospect my prayer to the Lord asking him to keep our power throughout the storm was one that merely resulted in me having hope.  The prayer was almost cliché because I didn’t have faith that my power would stay on, I hoped that it would stay on, but the word of God says that without faith it is impossible to please God.

Isaiah told me with the most sincere level of confidence that he could muster saying “Daddy the power is not going to go out because I PRAYED AND ASKED GOD.”  I listened to him but I didn’t really hear him.  I said that it was good that he prayed and that we would see what happens as the day progressed.  Isaiah reiterated his statement saying that the power would not go out throughout the storm because he prayed.  In the silence that ended our discussion there seemed to be a slight division between the unwavering faith of my son’s prayer and the meager hope in my request in the form of a prayer.

As the day progressed, I watched the never-ending weather reports that were predicting the range of time where we would get hit the hardest by the storm.  I was relieved to a point that the storm had seemed to slow down so that the range of time that we would get hit the hardest would actually be the late evening into the night.  I was hopeful that if the power went out it could possibly be restored by the morning so we would just sleep through the night while the power was out.  I told this to Isaiah to provide a sense of comfort to him about the timing of the expected power outages happening while we would be heading to bed so that his activities in the house for the day wouldn’t be impaired.  What I received from Isaiah was a confused look as to say why I am still talking to him about something that is not going to happen.  “Daddy the power is not going to go out,” Isaiah stated in response to my attempt to continue to comfort him.

Isaiah and I have been driving when a storm hit with such velocity that we witnessed the sky blacken, the rain pour, and trees fall knocking down power lines on the street that we were driving on at the time the storm hit.  I was driving trying not show any emotion because Isaiah was in the back seat crying and the only thing I told him was that if you are ever in a situation where you can only say one word, you call out the name of “JESUS” as if your life depended upon the Lord hearing your cry.  I continued to drive up the road as the water was rushing along side of my car as the secret service positioned outside to run along side a moving motorcade.  I kept one hand on the steering wheel and reached my other hand back to hold Isaiah’s hand as he cried out “JESUS.”  We parked the car and ran into the house drenched with water and he ran into his mother’s arms and just wept because he was both thankful and afraid.

This incident happened last summer so it was on my mind to try to assure Isaiah as much as possible that everything would be fine even if the power were to go out.  I know now that I was trying to provide comfort to him that he had already received by his faith in his heavenly father.  My heart was in the right place but my mind wasn’t because I am supposed to have the mind of God, which would have let me know that Isaiah’s faith would be rewarded because my son had diligently sought him with his prayer regarding the storm.

Well the night progressed and the storm came.  It is one thing for the Lord to move and control the wind and the rain the way he spoke to calm the sea when he was in the boat and the disciples were afraid.  But to hear the wind and see the rains come throughout the night and the power not go out is an example of how the Lord is with you in the midst of the storm.  There were brief moments where there was a quick flicker but the lights never went out.  The Lord heard Isaiah’s prayer and was moved by his faith.  Isaiah unknowingly prayed and the entire community was blessed because the power remained on throughout our entire neighborhood.

Isaiah is 12 years old and he is at the age where he will begin to decide who he really is and he will have to decide whether he will identify himself in the image that world has prepared for him or the image of the Lord who created him.  Jesus began to teach in the temple as a 12 year old.  David defeated Goliath as a youth much to his dismay and surprise.  The point that I’m making is that this is the season for my son to step into what the Lord has for him by Isaiah choosing Jesus and the word of God as his roadmap to navigate through the maze known as adolescence.  I humbly receive the lesson in faith that my son taught me in the midst of the storm.  I must grow to have child like faith in the Lord so that the Lord will order my steps so that I can be a greater example of the Lord for Isaiah that I have been in the past.