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

Love, Lessons, Learning and Leadership

I look back fondly on my upbringing in the housing projects of East New York, Brooklyn. My environment then, along with hip-hop, included me in its blended family. The family values that I learned early on from hip-hop taught me unconditional love and helped me to be a father in my own blended family today.

I grew up in a family of five boys and I am the youngest. My father was in the house until I was about ten or eleven. During adolescence I was blessed to be fathered by men who guided me with wisdom and purpose throughout my life. Men such as Jeremiah Jones (who headed the youth center in my projects) and the brothers who, despite their life choices, knew right from wrong and steered me away from the mistakes that they made.

I also came to know the blessings of family life through the positive influence of hip-hop. The music and the culture served as a bond that formed many relationships. This new phenomenon called hip-hop served as the rationale to put differences and personal agendas to the side in an effort to be a part of something that was bigger than the individual. Hip-hop encouraged individuals to form the positive family bonds that previously were presented to inner city youth in the form of gangs. In fact, the most renowned MCs where parts of groups or crews: LL Cool J was partnered with DJs Bob Cat and Cut Creator; Rakim with Eric B; KRS-One with Scott LaRock and Boogie Down Productions; Queen Latifah with the Flavor Unit; Chuck D with Public Enemy; Scarface with the Geto Boys; Ice Cube with NWA; and Big Daddy Kane with Mr. Cee and the Juice Crew, just to name a few. Whether they intended to or not, all of these groups promoted the value of (and need for) strong family ties.

I carried this perspective throughout my college years and it helped me form a family bond with a group of friends who I consider brothers to this day. We created our own standards of manhood and look out for each other constantly: we attend each other’s weddings, celebrate the birth of our children, and so on. In college, I was blessed to have another strong connection with a man who guided me into adulthood. He continues to be a strong father figure in my life today. Dr. Barron H. Harvey was the man who fathered me while, in my head, I was having conversations with my biological dad that now remind me of one of lyrics by Lupe fiasco: “I want you to be a father / I’m your little boy and you don’t even bother / like “brother” without the R.” my relationship with my dad had eventually became non-existent to the point where I would wonder: “You see what my problem is? That I don’t know where my poppa is.” Those were the thoughts in my head that laid heavy on my heart as I transitioned into adulthood, despite the father figures in my life.

As a young adult, with my personal and professional lives ahead of me, I met Mr. Mahmood “Billo” Harper. Mahmood invited me into his world and I saw in him a futuristic interpretation of myself as a “Hip-Hop Dad.” Mahmood showed me how to incorporate my love of hip-hop into my business and family life.

Within hip-hop culture, the crews evolved similar to how relationships develop in personal life. Rappers went from coming together to do shows and songs to coming together to establish businesses. This shift is exemplified in the emergence of Wu-Tang Clan in 1994. Wu-Tang redefined how to do business within hip-hop. The family structure of “the posse” was a new model. Hip-hop evolved from having crews on the street corner to having clans in the corner office . . . similar to how relationships can evolve from boyfriend/girlfriend status to a husband and wife union. As hip-hop continued to develop in this way, so did I. In 1998, I put aside my boyhood ways and got married. I became a husband and a father in the same moment because my wife, Vanessa, had a seven-year-old daughter.

Raising my daughter Jasmine (I never use the term “step”) called forth all the positive images and lessons that were presented to me by hip-hop and by the wise men in my life— both my elders and my peers. I was now initiated into a new sort of hip-hop crew. Within my new family, some of hip-hop’s basic values and practices applied: nothing should break down the unit, posses roll deep, and your word is your bond. And if someone in the crew presents an “outsider” (i.e., me, in this case) as being “down,” then the so-called outsider must receive the same love and support as every other member of the family . . . regardless of tenure. I joined Vanessa and Jasmine’s crew by making my wedding vows to both of them. I knew that the success of my marriage would be based on my ability to keep my promises to my wife and my new daughter. Without these rules to live by, I don’t think that I would have been psychologically or emotionally equipped to be a father to Jasmine.

By 1999, I was a happily married man in my thirties. I was still a hip-hop head and I began to notice a growing frustration within the hip-hop community—mostly centered on the issue of fatherhood. More and more, rappers began to address the pain caused by fathers’ dysfunctional relationships with their children. Though I had forgiven my father for his not being around, I could still relate to this pain. It motivated me to do my best for my daughter and for the young people that I worked with as director of the teen program at Martha’s Table (Martha’s Table is a prominent non-profit community-based organization in Washington, D.C.). Many of the teens in my program don’t have fathers or father figures in their lives. Through my work, I felt I was answering Quan’s hip-hop plea: “Can we please have a moment for children who got raped or murdered, or trapped in the system who never knew their father, never learned to dream but was guided by drug dealers, killers and crack fiends.” I have established long lasting bonds with most of the teens in my program over the past twelve years and I saw, once again, the value of the blended family.

Still and all, I longed to have a son. I believed a son would help heal any remaining wounds that were created by my biological father. In 1999, god answered my prayers and my son Isaiah Jeremiah Ezra Jones was born on my thirty-first birthday. He was named in honor of all the father figures who filled in the gaps for me and my wife. Since that day and moving forward, Isaiah will always know what life is like with his dad. His life challenges will not be based on the hard circumstances that come with growing up in a single parent home. Instead, he will benefit from my having broken a cycle of bitterness and my having learned how to love past pain. The father and the man that I become; and the man that I will raise my son to be, are deeply rooted in my belief, trust, confidence, and reliance on Jesus Christ for all things. As I continued to mature into manhood, I found comfort and joy in serving Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, in my rewarding work, and in a faithful marriage. All these things helped me to be secure in my identity and purpose in life.

When teens ask why I am the way that I am and why I care as much as I do, I love that I get the chance to tell them that I love them because Jesus first loved me and that He gave me so many fathers to model after. I believe I must be a father for them too. I am also proud to tell them that hip-hop culture, contrary to popular belief, has been a guidepost for me to follow with regard to building a family unit—be that family in the household, in the projects, on the block, or at the local community center. The role that hip-hop has played in my life is based on an insight that was god-given. Hip-hop influences my ministry from the pulpit as a minister and I have been afforded a spiritual father who leads me as my Pastor, Bishop Larry H. Jordan, Sr. I am able to reflect on hip-hop culture in a way that many see as contradictory to how hip-hop has been defined by society. I know better. In the words of Inspector Deck I say, “Leave it up to me while I be living proof to kick the truth to the young black youth.” my life with hip-hop, family, mentors, and friends has consisted of the love, lessons, learning, and leadership necessary to mold me into what I am and all the things I will become.

By Optimus

A Mother’s Legacy on Mother’s Day

Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands.”

May 13, 2012 marks the first Mother’s Day that I will not see, speak with, or spend time with my mother.  My mother’s body became a victim to the effects of pancreatic cancer on Sunday, July 3, 2011 after a 2 ½ year bout with the disease.  My mother’s spirit is with the Lord because 2 Corinthians 5:8 states “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

On this mother’s day I want to thank my Mom for fulfilling the first portion of Proverbs 14:1.  My Mother was a wise woman who built her house according to the blueprint laid out by the Lord for her life.  My Mom built her house for her five children in such a way that we were able to take portions of the house to use as the foundation for building our homes for our families.  The plate reads “Forever Fruitful” and references John 15:5, where Jesus states “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  This is the wisdom that my Mother built her house and life upon and this is the inheritance that she left for her children’s children.

I have a great Mother-In-Law who loves me very much and loved my Mother like a sister.  I also have been blessed to have various women care for me along my path and they have been mother figures.  I am thankful to the Lord for placing all of these great women in my life, but my thanks for them cannot compare to how much I thank the Lord for my Mother.  Beyond the physical manifestation of life, I would not be the person that I am today if it wasn’t for my Mother.  My Mother even helped me to become a better man throughout her sickness and even more through her death.

My Mother’s funeral service taught me how to live.  The love that was present at the service was the result of the life that my Mother lived.  Once again she left a blueprint for me and my family to follow. So on this Mother’s Day I will take a moment to look up and talk to my Mom just to let her know that I am following the blueprint that she laid for her children and her children’s children.  My prayer is that the Lord will bless anyone that is remembering their Mom on this Mother’s Day, Amen.