Thug Life Revisited/ Thug Life Reimagined


Thug Life Revisited

As I sat alone in a darkened theater with the anticipation of a child being strapped into a seat waiting for a monster size roller coaster to take off, I eagerly waited for the movie “The Hate U Give” to begin. I watched the previews for the film and I followed via social media the intentional education centered campaign to promote the movie and celebrate the book that inspired the movie. I was ready to be emotional in my silence and to be stimulated to action through tears that would water the seeds of love that the Lord has planted inside of me for the plight of teenagers and my community. I hadn’t read the book or knew much of anything about the Author Angie Davis before seeing the movie, so I was in for a treat when a dominant theme presented itself in the movie that drew me on a very professional and personal level.

This theme is the ideology that was coined “Thug Life” by Tupac Shakur. The phrase’s popularity and enduring quality in some sense shined brighter than what Tupac was communicating through these two words, eight letters and a reality that continues to exist more than 20 years after his death in 1996. Thug Life according to Tupac stands for The Hate U Give Little Infants F&@k Everybody. This theme is at the center of the film and the book and it stirs up the embodiment of Tupac Shakur in a way that transcends Tupac the artist to Tupac the social commentary philosopher and fore teller for what the plight of our community will be because of “Thug Life.”

Now to everyone who is put off by the breakdown of the word “Life” let’s not allow a profane word to derail our thinking from examining the premise that Tupac was communicating. If we focus on the way, we treat our children as a litmus test for examining our values and beliefs as a society then we can look at Thug Life and see more than enough validity to have a conversation. I will even venture to look at the warning expressed around the mistreatment of children in the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” Jesus was speaking about misleading a child of God but in an earlier verse He states that to fully believe in Him we must come to Him like a child. Think of a child’s innocence, imagination, and intrigue in the natural, this how Christ wants us to come and belief in Him. The use of “child” as descriptive state of being and relationship is one that I am standing on when drawing a connection to the warning in the scriptures to the warning given by Tupac.

Thug Life Reimagined

“The Hate U Give” examines hatred coming from various directions and this is key because it is not just an us versus them whereas we are the sole recipients of hate and don’t have the capacity to give hate ourselves. When I finished watching the movie and meditating on what I watched and what I believe I began to reimagine Thug Life to identify where forms of hatred comes from that are impacting our children and youth. The reimagining of Thug Life is not one where I plan on reciting sources, data points and headlines to prove its validity. I simply want you to take a moment and think about where we stand as a society when it comes to how a growing number of our black and brown children in lower economic communities are impacted by the various institutions and people that operate within the ecosystems of their lives to the point where their ability to be their full selves are stifled.

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Education

If we think about the inequities as far as resources made available to schools based on zip codes and funding allocation formulas coupled with the perceptions of black and brown children embodied by and acted upon by predominately white educators and administrators; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When our black and brown children don’t see reflections of themselves in the wide array of fields of study that are available to them to pursue and when their knowledge and brilliance is often undervalued; is a stretch to view this as form of hatred?  When education is presented as the key to unlock the doors of opportunity, but the locks and the doors are changing faster than a new key of education can be created in the hood; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Entertainment

If we think about the honesty and vulnerability that is embedded in the God given ability to create that then gets bastardized in its capitalistic packing and purpose to shape the ideals and identities of a targeted community under the moniker of entertainment; is it a stretch to view this is as a form of hatred?  When the marketplace dictates that there can only be a very limited number of women voices in Hip-Hop that are successful at a given moment, thus creating an unhealthy form of competition; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?   When contrived creative expressions over saturates the developing minds of our youth to the point where it is difficult for them to see themselves through a non-entertainment lens; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Enforcement

If we think about how the instincts of enforcement often begin with aggression when engaging black and brown youth regardless of the setting where they interact with these youth; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When fear can override training in the hood and allowances are given selectively to people in select communities; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When the system treats drug use as a crime in one community in one era and treats drug use as a health issue in a different community today; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

Thug Life: The Hate U Give Limiting Insights From Environments

If we think about the differing landscapes and amenities within varying communities that can often be differentiated by race/ethnicity and income; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  When we think about the continuing water crisis in Flint Michigan that has seemingly slid to obscurity based on its place in the news cycle; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?  If we compare the access to healthy food eateries, supermarkets, specialty stores and restaurants by zip codes within various cities; is it a stretch to view this as a form of hatred?

As Tupac stated, The Hate U Give Little Infants F@#k Everybody


Timothy Jones @tdj6899


The Unity In Community

We are living in perilous times and two things that we have the power to change and control, that are magnifying the negative impact of these particular times over others that we have endured as a people is the lack of unity and true functionality of the church. I am grateful to be a part of a community that has been able to stay connected through various methods and I am excited about what greater works we can do together as a community. In Acts 2:44-45 it states “44 now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” This passage represents the methodology of the people who received the gospel from Peter after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. I want to focus on the sense of unity and community that is clearly described because these concepts are vital to our survival during these times that we are living in regardless of your spiritual beliefs.

People are hurting and are searching to find their way for themselves and their children and it is the role of the church to play its part in serving the people in their greatest hour of need. This work of the church was stating best by Jesus Christ in Luke 4:18 where He states “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” We all know someone who is poor and or has experienced poverty in resources, faith and or in spirit. We all know someone who has experienced a broken heart. We all know someone who has been seemingly held captive by the circumstances of life to the point where they live in a prison where the bars are made out of perceived reality instead of steel. We all know someone who has become so short sighted based on what they see today that they can’t see tomorrow being any different so they live in a state of blindness because they have no hope. We all know someone who has experienced feeling oppressed because life has made it almost too difficult for them to believe in their God given capacity to allow their perception to ignite the changes that are necessary for them to address the issues within their lives. In addition to all of us knowing someone who has experienced these states of mind, circumstance and emotions, we all may have dealt with and are dealing with these ourselves and for some of us, even as we read this letter.

I am a Minister at The Believers Worship Center in Upper Marlboro, MD and we are in the process of renovating a building so that we can be in a position to impact the community the way the church once did for our parents and for some our grandparents. I have also been laboring as a youth worker and educator for over the past 18 years and through this work (ministry) I have been blessed to meet many of you that I am sending this letter. For some of you, our paths crossed before I truly gave my life to Christ and you have been a witness to the testimony of what Christ has done in my life. I am asking that you help impact a community that is in need by contributing $25, $50 or any amount that you may have avail to assist us in this effort. You can make your contribution by going to . I know that you have all heard of church fundraisers and have sadly become skeptical of its purpose and impact. I am asking for you to contribute based on the example of Christ that you can see in the work that I have been able to do and believe that I am part of a ministry that will make a difference. The goal of my church is to be an example for other churches to emulate by following the scriptures that outline how the church should interact with and serve the community as a whole. If you are led to contribute, please select “building fund raiser” and include my name so that we can keep track of who you are giving on behalf of because we are all reaching out to family and friends in an effort to complete this work.

If you are not able to contribute at this time, I totally understand. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter and know that if you are reading this letter, it is because I prayed for direction in who to send this letter to and prayed for whoever reads it to be blessed as they meditate on these words. I know that in your own way you are all making a positive impact on your community and this is the energy that has kept us connected and or connected us virtually (for my social media family). This is me taking a step out on faith in asking that you join me in making a natural and spiritual impact. There are infinite lessons available to us when we reflect back as a community and evaluate how we made it over when the enemy wanted us dead, we not only survived, we persevered and thrived.

In Love for our people,


Hip-Hop Summertime Learning

get-attachment.aspxby Timothy Jones @tdj6899, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd

The summer is a great time to engage in learning as a life style because you do not have to be concerned with a test at the end of the summer to quantify your knowledge gained unless you are attending summer school. #HipHopEd would like to propose some ideas that will provide opportunities to teach and learn throughout the summer for the educator, parent and student. The following are some projects and activities that have Hip-Hop music, culture and or pedagogy at its core but are simple to implement:
1. Summer Breeze: Create an Instagram account and challenge yourself to take a picture a day and select a song that the picture represents. You can write in the text of a lyric from a song that you feel the picture represents. You should also include the name of the song and the artist so that those who are participating with you in the project can look up the songs and possibly add their own lyrics as a comment to your post. If you are advanced you can create 15 second videos that include your still photo with the sample of the music playing. (Critical Thinking, Creativity and Communication)
2. Folders & Crates: This activity is targeted to parents and children but can also be done with teachers/educators who may be working with a small group of students during the summer.

emotionwheelThe emotion wheel above can be used as a leader in you and your child and or student identifying songs or can be used to evaluate the songs that each of you bring to the session. You can use this wheel to begin to have discussions around what are some of the characteristics that songs have that touch on these emotions. Are there songs that touch on multiple emotions and or songs that evoke one emotion to one listener and a different one to another? The concept of crates and folders is to strive for the older individual to bring in music from when they were around the age of the child and or students they are working with (crate) and the child or student would bring music that they currently have in the folders of their “i-pod” or other music device. (Critical Thinking and Collaboration)
3. You Must Learn: This is primarily for educators but a parent can do this as well on a small scale. Ask your students and or child to give the names of their top three artists. You can ask the student and or child to briefly explain why these individuals are their favorite artists and ask them to include either their favorite album or songs. You will create a playlist that you will listen to over the summer to gain some insights into how your students and or children view themselves and the world around them based on the music they consume. As you listen to the playlist you are not making judgments on the songs based on whether they fit you musical taste buds; you are listening to later present insightful revelations gained and or thought provoking questions to ask the students and or children about the song. If you are not able to get a list from students you can go to billboard and or i-tunes and create a playlist based on their top artist, or look up the playlist of your local urban radio station (Critical Thinking and Communication)              4. Step into the Arena: This is an activity that students, parents and educators can do together or individually. Try your hand at one of the Hip-Hop arts over the summer. You can get a sketch pad and some sharpie markers and try to make some graffiti art. Think of a pseudonym that best describes you and develop it over the summer through various Hip-Hop arts. You can try to write and recite rhymes about your favorite activities that you plan on doing throughout the summer. If music is your thing, challenge yourself to become a DJ by looking into resources such as If you are game to try Hip-Hop dance, you may be able to find a local recreation center or workout facility that offers Hip-Hop dance. (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking)
5. #POP Power Of Perspective: This is primarily for educators and students, parents can challenge themselves to do this and reflect on the impact that Hip-Hop may have had on their upbringing as well as seeing the possibilities. As an Educator or Parent can you see the ability of a MC to move the crowd and engage a young person as something that you would like the ability to do?   What aspects of the MCs presentation, preparation and delivery do you see feasible to incorporate into your presentation, preparation and delivery of lessons and information that you present to your students or children? This is the power of perspective where one person can see the teachable moments that exist within the expressions of Hip-Hop where others can’t see them or choose not to acknowledge them. Here are some videos that posses some incredible wordplay as well as powerful visuals and references of education, school culture and setting. Review these videos and see if you are willing to take on the “Hip-Hop Wordsmith Alliteration” challenge. Here are four videos to get you inspired:

Papoose Alphabetical Slaughter A-Z:

Papoose Alphabetical Slaughter Part 2 (Z-A) pay attention to school setting within the video:

Masta Ace / Ed OG A’s & E’s:

Smoothe The Hustler “The Art of Rap” Count the MCs:

Check me out on twitter @tdj6899 and on #HipHopEd, every Tuesday from 9-10 pm EST


Civil Rights Education via A Beat & A Rhyme

TakeMe2YourLeaderDownload Mix Tape Here:

By Timothy Jones, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd @tdj6899

I’m sitting at my computer with my headphones on listening to “Take Me To Your Leader” created by DJ Hoodwink provided by @raptjr as my personal way to reflect on the day that the nation celebrates and commemorates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This is not a standard mix tape review where I say this song is hot and this artist is featured.  This is a mix tape overview where I expound on the intent of the mix tape and the hope that the listener gets the responsibility that comes within the re-creation of the project. 

To drop “Take Me To Your Leader” on #MLKDAY14 would naturally make you believe that the leader that we are being taken to is Dr. King and what he represented for us as a people.  But if you really listen to the music and focus on the power of Hip-Hop as a medium that is now a worldwide phenomenon; the leader(s) are the voices of the artists on the project.  Leadership is something that can no longer be embodied in an individual that can be assassinated in an attempt to stop whatever movement the individual represented.  Leadership is a shared responsibility that we do not have the luxury of deciding whether to embrace without severe consequences for our failure to act.  There are roles within the notion of leadership that position some as leaders, but not in the traditional sense that led to the assassinations of Malcolm and Martin amongst others.

Leadership is the theory by which we embrace our connectivity to one another as people who are aligned by our experiences which include our victories, sacrifices and our sufferings.  Music and art has always been one of our most powerful weapons in evoking collective thought that incite a people to the point that they see themselves and the world around them through the paradigms created by the music.  Art is a continual remix of sounds, thoughts and method of expression; which inherently attaches a responsibility to all who dare call themselves artists.  This ideology is not prevalent in our commercialized Hip-Hop that dominates American airwaves, but is bubbling in what we call the “Underground.”  Is it a coincidence that the “Underground Railroad” is the name of the system that was developed to transport individuals from enslaved to free?  Can the music on “Take Me To Your Leader” be a stop on the “Underground Railroad” of Hip-Hop music that can transport the mentality of our youth and adults from enslaved to free?  A mindset that is free to question the way things are and presenting an alternative narrative that explains the way things can and should be?

5 Ways to use “Take Me To Your Leader” as way to introduce civil rights education to youth and adults

1. Listen to Mix Tape with a group of young people and conduct searches for the subject matters that are in the songs.  An example would be listening to “Dear Chicago Summer” and examine how violence increases in the summer and discuss ways that this pattern can be changed for summer 2014.

2. There are portions of tracks where you hear words from President Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela laid over Hip-Hop beats.  Take some of the words of Dr. King that speak to the realities that many people are still dealing with and have them remix the words by putting them to music.  Here is a Dr. King snippet that is seldom presented in schools, Dr. King said it: “I’m Black and I’m Proud”

3. Track 28 “Wake Up Everybody” on the Mix Tape is a remake of “Wake Up Everybody” by Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1975.  This creative expression is a great time travel bridge to begin to look at music from the past that called for us as a community to go higher and the Hip-Hop that is doing the same thing today.

4. Track 10 Jasiri X’s “21 Forever” provides the backdrop to look at the portrayal of young adulthood that is presented in commercial Hip-Hop and compare it to the role that young people played in the civil rights movement.  Teach our young people what the Freedom Riders were doing as 21 year olds.

5. Track 29 Dee-1 “Walking Revolution” provides a list of rules embodied by Dee-1 and the movement behind his music.  Look up some of the rules or creeds developed by organizations that were involved with civil rights.  Have the students develop their own set of rules that they must agree upon as a class for a movement to empower themselves.  Also check out Dee-1’s “American Dream” and discuss the feasibility of achieving an “American Dream” from an “Inner City Nightmare”

“A man without a mission is in mental prison, no bail”- Dee-1

The Christian Road Map

My 12 year old son asked for an example of “Perfect Christian.”  I mentioned some people in our family that operate in the fruits of the spirit according to Galatians 5:22, 23.  I told him that no one is perfect, but that is why God forgives us of our sins so that we can be blameless in front of him.  At church the next day, the Lord began to give me scriptures to share with him so that he can have a road map to perfection in Jesus Christ.

  1.  Romans 10:9 This is the scripture that is the blueprint that everyone must follow in order to receive the gift of salvation.  This scripture tells you that you must believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and God sent Christ to die and rose from the dead for our sins.
  2. John 14:26 This scripture is Jesus promising the helper which is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will reveal to you the things of God that you will need to know as you walk throughout your life.  The Holy Spirit can only bring to remembrance the things of God.  This will help you focus on the things of God when you want to do things that are against what God’s instructions are for your life.
  3. Proverbs 3:5, 6 In this passage of scripture the approach to dealing with every decision in your life is laid out in simplicity.  The scripture is telling you to trust God over your own thoughts and understanding of life.  As a young person you are constantly being given instructions and you are starting to make your own decisions.  The best decision that you can make as a child of God is to trust in his wisdom (intelligence/instructions within the Bible) over your own.
  4. John 15:5 In school you learn what a simile is, which is making a comparison using the words “like” or “as.”  The simile in this scripture compares the relationship that you should have with God as a believer is the same as a tree and its branches.  God is the vine and we as believers are the branches.  If you keep this relationship with God you will live a life like the branch that bears fruit when it is connected to a strong tree.
  5. Romans 12:1, 2 We live in a world that is driven by desires to be popular, in style, and accepted.  The culture is featured in today’s music, movies, sports, and video games and it is trying to shape how you see yourself and the world around you.  This scripture instructs you to present your total self to Jesus Christ for his purpose for your life.  The fight for your mind is a battle that will take place throughout your life.  Your behaviors begin with thoughts.  You have to keep your mind focused on Christ at all times.

There are countless scriptures that focus on the behaviors that we should exhibit as Christians.  Too many times Christianity is presented to young people as a bunch of rules with a promise of eternal life at the end.  Many times young people look for a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” constantly determining whether something is wrong or right in their own eyes.  If you take the time to read and understand these scriptures you will truly begin to create a relationship with Jesus Christ that will keep you for the rest of your life.

©timothydavidjones   @tdj6899

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.