Friday, May 11, 2007

Lauryn Hill: Post-Modern Prophetic Hip-Hop Queen

Ben Brubaker
African-American Feminist Thought

Lauryn Hill: Post-Modern Prophetic Hip-Hop Queen

In the post-modern world we live in, it is often difficult to determine viable definitions for anything without resorting to modernist modes of classification and description. Still, certain cultural, technological and historical elements have combined to create new movements that represent the post-modern reality we live in. One such movement is hip-hop, an urban-born culture based around specific, yet fluid, styles of music, fashion, locution and visual art. Yet even a culture as post-modern as hip-hop will inevitably be defined in modernist terms and capitalized by the economic forces that pervade in society. One hip-hop artist that continues to redefine this culture through her music while rejecting the influence of oppressive social norms is Lauryn Hill. This prophetic vocalist/poet/musician/actress/activist/mother has redefined her self, and in doing so, has redefined notions of feminism and religion in the context of hip-hop.

Lauryn Hill is a complex individual manifestation of post-modernity, encompassing a wide range of beliefs and characteristics that often conflict and blend together. Lauryn Hill also represents the less narrowly defined 3rd wave of feminism because her post-modern complexity results in an incredibly empowering message for women, which often conflicts with her more traditional submission to certain patriarchal values. Lauryn Hill also embodies a post-modern approach to “Prophetic Christianity” (a term coined by Dr. Cornel West) in how her lyrics often break down the oppressive forces within the world on a spiritual level, including criticisms of the Catholic Church and expressions of liberation through personal testimony.

“The mixing of codes from religion with elements of contemporary and secular culture is at the heart of the [post-modernist] [sic] distinction. ”- Shayne Lee.

Lauryn Hill’s music, words and actions reflect her ability to constantly redefine her conception of self, escape the oppression of social norms and elevate her level of consciousness in the pursuit of freedom. Lauryn’s evolution from her early years to the present has encompassed a vast progression, including stardom and controversy, both radical and universal. One of her most notable acting roles was her character in Sister Act 2, where she displayed her vocal skills in remixed versions of traditional Christian hymns like “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. Her first big break into the music industry came with the Fugees, releasing popular hits such as the remix of “Killing Me Softly” and their single “Ready or Not”. In the meantime, Lauryn attended Columbia University. Then she dropped her solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which received 5 Grammy awards and vast critical acclaim. Her most popular hits were often infused with a neo-soul approach to hip-hop, similar to some works by Erykah Badu. This neo-soul movement reflected many feminist social critiques while also appealing as a powerful testimony to the streets, with a universally authentic appeal for many fans. Still, the parochial influence of the music industry continued to weigh heavily on Lauryn’s soul and creative energy.

I think it is evident in her actions that she did not “go crazy” as the media often reported, rather, she displayed her power over the forces of mass marketing, exploitation and stereotyping that are so ubiquitous in the mainstream hip-hop industry. This system of capitalization and commercialization reflected various covert attitudes of racism and sexism in mainstream American culture. Michael Eric Dyson poetically highlights this power system, describing how “the advocates of market multiculturalism appropriate marginalized minority discourses for the purpose of packaging and reproducing a hegemonic conception of what is authentically black” . Even in her early years with the Fugees, Lauryn was consistently spitting rhymes “admonish[ing] hip-hoppers to examine social issues critically and [using] art to fuel the psychic and aesthetic liberation of black people” . In many ways, her musical legacy bared resemblance to various historical traditions in black culture, including the oral traditions of West-African griots, poets and preachers, the influence of women Blues and Soul singers, and the religious worldview of liberation through spiritual experience. Heavily influenced by the life and music of Bob Marley, Lauryn saw the potential for political and social liberation through music. She is so deeply post-modern because she is able to mix and elaborate on these previous codes and narratives while using it to deconstruct the historically oppressive and racial forces that pervade in mainstream media. Her most recent album, MTV Unplugged, was almost entirely written and performed exclusively by Lauryn Hill, who accompanied herself with an acoustic guitar. This album in many ways deconstructed the expectations and previous limitations that defined hip-hop music, blending rap with spiritual requiems, personal religious testimony, freedom anthems and folk soul. It is ironic that rapper 50 Cent seemed so threatened by Ms. Hill’s personal revolution and challenge to mainstream hip-hop’s standards, that he ignorantly lashed out at her, rapping “I used to listen to Lauryn Hill, and tap my feet/ then the bitch put out a CD that didn’t have any beats”. 50 Cent’s misogynistic and violent music is extremely popular, because it has a massive marketing machine pushing it and a growing audience of people to consume it. Interestingly enough, 80% of the people buying these CD’s are white.

The industry’s exploitation of hip-hop and obsession with material gain in many ways reflects the original power structure that the United States economy was built on; slavery. Lauryn’s rejection of this new covert system of slavery was evident in her infamous comment that she would rather have her “children starve than have a white person buy [her] album”. This comment caused a national controversy, and in many ways contributed to Lauryn’s apparent dismissal/escape from the public spotlight. I believe Ms. Hill (who later apologized for those comments) was not so much speaking literally as representationally and metaphorically, comparing the cycle of mass production and white consumption of black hip-hop culture to the power relationship of slavery. Talib Kweli alludes to the various historical accounts of mothers giving birth in slavery and being forced to decide if they would “rather kill the babies then let the master get to them”. In her music, both before and after her departure, Lauryn mixed radical secular rhetoric with the sex appeal of the blues tradition and the spiritual content of liberation theology. She mixed codes while symbolically inverting the pervading social, political and religious power structures, first using her popular appeal to reach the masses and then rejecting the capitalization of her message. As a feminist figure, she reflected the post-modern reality of 3rd wave feminism, empowering women by deconstructing the patriarchal social structures while also embodying a more traditional and modernist view of romance and religion. As a female, she may have served as an exception, but as an artist, she was in good company.

This prophetic strain of hip-hop encompasses a number of profoundly underappreciated conscious rappers, such as KRS-1, De La Soul, Dead Prez, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common Sense, and Lauryn Hill. These lyricists all succeed in creating critical analysis of social systems, using references to historical and philosophical content, while also framing their message in terms that appeal to their true target audience, the “streets”. Their powerful and revolutionary styles have elevated all of them to some level just below mainstream commercial success, with the exception of Lauryn Hill, whose vocal abilities and unique style appealed to mainstream audiences. In many ways, her content is configured in specific ways; subtle, coded and deep, as if to slip by the record company executives unnoticed and unedited. Lauryn follows the prophetic hip-hop tradition using “coded language that informs the culture through metaphors and abstract images to express what is experienced” . Using coded language in rhymes “is one process used in hip-hop to be socially interactive” while also fulfilling “the need to speak in such a way that it doesn’t give too much information but just enough to rally listeners” .

Lauryn grew up in a convergence of identities, urban and suburban, working and middle class, college graduates and high school dropouts. Perhaps the tension between Lauryn’s relatively privileged suburban background and her later experiences with “ghetto” life, compelled her to seek out ways to prove her authenticity; “all [she] wanted was to sell like 500 and be a ghetto superstar since [her] first album”. Her exposure to the streets and collaborations with other musicians helped her “get diplomatic immunity in every ghetto community” even though she admits she “had opportunity”. She seems to identify with the streets, despite her more suburban upbringing, claiming to make an easy transition from “Hood-shock to Hood-chic”.
During her time with the Fugees, Lauryn adopted many elements of “gangsta rap”, which reflected the previous styles of the Notorious B.I.G., Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and other New York rap icons. Still, she managed to use this style to deconstruct stereotypes of African-Americans, both male and female, which gangsta rap and mainstream hip-hop seemed to propagate. In many ways, Lauryn was appropriating and inverting the combative style of lyricism that many male M.C.’s had coined as an expression of dominance and masculinity. Her use of gangsta stylistics helps her convey a powerful message while gaining respect from less conscious male listeners, rapping, “even after all my logic and all my theory, I add a motherfucka, so you ignorant n*ggas hear me”. This gangsta rap influence, along with her sheer brilliance, helped established her as one of the premier female lyricists in hip-hop history, a position that is heavily misogynistic and monopolized by men. Lauryn’s flow and lyrical content is, in my humble opinion, arguably one of the most intricate and significant expressions of consciousness and liberation in hip-hop, ever. Her blend of secular content and experience with spiritual testimony and reflection creates a powerful prophetic narrative of liberation in a post-modern world.

“People always ask me, ‘Yo, Mos, what is happening with hip-hop?’ I tell them, ‘Whatever is happening with us. If we smoked out, the hip-hop is going to be smoked out; if we are fine, then hip-hop is going to be fine. People be talking about hip-hop as if it is some type of giant sitting on the hill side. We are hip-hop! So the next time you wondering were hip-hop is going, ask yourself, ‘Where am I going? What am I doing?”- Excerpt from Mos Def’s album, Black on Both Sides

Mos Def’s statement above is expressing how “the hip-hop subculture manifests itself in people, and as people identify the needs in their life that hip-hop meets, the culture is sustained” . In many ways, the black church, which was once at the heart of the Civil Rights movement, has become too conservative and out of touch with the hip-hop generation. In contrast, Ms. Hill, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common redefine the boundaries of black spirituality, combining elements of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Rastafarianism, and secular philosophy in a liberation theology for the streets. They address real life experience without the limitations and taboos of the church, assembling their poetic manifestos in a street vernacular while taking cues from many of the greatest artists, musician, activists and religious figures in black culture. In many ways, hip-hop is the pinnacle of the post-modern evolution of Jazz, because it combines so many elements of European, African, Caribbean and Latin music, in electronic sound bytes, which can be instantaneously broadcasted around the world over internet, television, and radio. From South America to Europe, to Africa and even Asia, hip-hop has become an international medium of expression that resonates with oppressed peoples everywhere, while also influencing American youth culture from the upper-class suburbs to the projects.

I believe Ms. Hills’s development as an artist reflects her intellectual and spiritual struggle and progression, highlighting the contradictory nature of post-modernity as it relates to African-American women. Her story exhibits the internal and external tension between “making it” and “selling out”, criticizing and excluding, intuition and epistemology, critical acclaim and street credibility, intellect and accessibility, sexuality and exploitation, personal truth and social lies, identity and persona. These conflicting tensions are primarily influenced by socially constructed narratives which shape her personal experiences and artistic expressions while the judgment of popular opinion looms over her. In many ways her escape from the music industry and the spotlight symbolized a milestone in her personal development, enabling her to confront the responsibilities and challenges of her love life, her motherhood and her spiritual life.

Ms. Hill expresses her growing resentment of the mainstream hip-hop machine and her need to define freedom in her own terms, rapping, “it's funny how money changes situations/ miscommunication leads to complication/ my emancipation don't fit your equation” . The mainstream media, upset over their loss of potential capital and the rebellious rejection of their expectations, depicted Lauryn as “crazy”, “schizophrenic”, and suffering from an “emotional breakdown”. Lauryn commented, before beginning a song on her MTV Unplugged album, that she was “talking to the people in [her] head”, referring to the constant internal dialogue that often takes place in our minds subconsciously. The media interpreted her candid personal commentary literally without understanding where Lauryn was coming from. The media did the same thing in reaction to the actions of successful comedian, Dave Chappelle, when he refused to compromise his artistic integrity and decided to escape the industry by spending months with his family and friends, and gaining perspective on life while staying in South Africa. Dave’s return yielded a milestone in both his and Ms. Hill’s careers, when they collaborated in the making of “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party”. Defying the conventional methods of the entertainment industry, Chappelle held a free block party for local Brooklyn residents, featuring a dream team of conscious hip-hop artists, including the Roots, Talib Kweli, Kayne West, Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and the recently reunited Fugees with Lauryn Hill. This DVD did reach a somewhat mainstream audience including hip-hop fans and Chappelle viewers, serving as a socially symbolic event in the establishment of this tradition of conscious hip-hop.

Beyond industry executives, even popular mainstream hip-hop artists often seem to miss out on the merits of living one’s life and using one’s talents for principles and purposes beyond making profits; they buy into the values and standards of the industry. Beyonce Knowles naively commented on Lauryn’s escape from the industry, claiming that she will “never ‘lose herself’ like Lauryn Hill”, describing Hill’s story as "tragic", because she “has been unable to cope with the demands of fame and success” . Lauryn’s talent, beauty and intelligence gave her the potential to be a Black female icon, much like Beyonce, while also gaining much more respected for her musical abilities. Instead, Lauryn rejected the expectations and limitations of fame in search of truth, spiritual renewal and meaningful experience. Her actions and decisions serve as an organically authentic paradigm for using art to deconstruct contemporary mainstream narratives.

As an African-American female pop icon, Lauryn Hill represents a uniquely 3rd wave approach to feminist issues, combining vivid critiques and empowering messages with some traditionally patriarchal values and semantics. To some extent, Lauryn represents the traditional maternal responsibilities of black womanhood, while infusing personal struggles with male lovers in ways that are both empowering and disempowering. Lauryn was a sexual icon to a large extent; however, her public persona reflected more modest fashion and behavior than many of the female stars in the hip-hop world. She talked about the influence of pop culture on her relationships, because “being young and female in America, you watch a lot of TV and grow up on false images of what love truly is” . Many feminist critics have condemned Lauryn’s very public struggles with her marriages and relationships, believing it a sign of weakness to be so heavily swayed by emotional dependencies on men. Her racially controversial comments made her susceptible to a wide range of criticism, both inside and outside the hip-hop community. Like 50 Cent, Eminem took a shot at Ms. Hill, saying he “bought a Lauryn Hill tape so her kids would starve”. Since her departure, it seems as if many of the Black female pop stars embody and submit to the sexual demands of a patriarchal society that objectifies women, perpetuates stereotypes about black culture, and equates masculinity with sexual prowess, wealth and violence.

Misogynistic rappers such as Eminem, 50 Cent and many others, seem to share a false opinion about gender roles, and valorize the lifestyle of “pimps” and “G’s”, gaining wealth and popular influence. In contrast, conscious artists like Talib Kweli and Common pay homage and respect to Ms. Hill’s example of strong black womanhood. Lauryn’s impact as a black female icon has clearly made a strong impression on men and women in different ways. Talib Kweli recently paid tribute to Lauryn’s influence on hip-hop in the song “Ms. Hill”. In the song, Talib describes a different side of Lauryn’s controversial escape from the industry, telling of her inspiring courage to seek redefinition of self and spirituality, even when it defies convention and mainstream expectations. Kweli shows deference to Ms. Hill in various ways:

“Her songs still better than anything out there, hotter power play/ remember how they accused her of saying she did her album without help?/ then she went to Rome to sing and tell the Pope about herself/ just after she left the Fugees, started rolling with the Marleys/ got back with her crew at Dave Chapelle's Block Party/ she made songs about Zion and trying to be faithful/ took the Blackstar on tour in Europe , I was so grateful… I know you hate Babylon, and wanna see it fall, but they won't let you read your poem at the BET awards/ you give us hope, you give us faith, you the one/ they don't like what you got to say but still they beg you to come/ whoa, now that's powerful sis, it's black power/ we get money, keep our eyes on the final hour, and no I ain't saying you Christ, that would be sacrilegious right? but you can blow up the night, sister them raps is vicious/ the raps the sisters recite with their black fist up/ the devil's last wish is a queen that rise past bitches”

Kweli arranged his own escape from the limitations his record label had placed on his music by creating his own label “Blacksmith Music”. Kweli’s devotion of an entire song to Ms. Hill shows just how influential she has been on conscious hip-hop artists, and how her influence as a hip-hop icon of female empowerment has resonated with both men and women. Kweli’s analysis of Hill’s influence and character negate the assumption that “women have been the only feminist forces in hip-hop and rap” and exemplifies “the contributions of progressive, anti-sexist men within the movement” . Another example of a male M.C. with empowering messages of respect for women is Common Sense, who shares a similar approach in describing sexuality, relationships and gender equality. Common depicts a romantic relationship based on equality, respect and communication, referring to his partner as “queen” and saying “it's important, we communicate and tune the fate of this union, to the right pitch/ I never call you my bitch or even my boo/ there's so much in a name and so much more in you” .

Lauryn Hill also addresses romantic relationships on a conscious level using street rhetoric to describe her lover as “sweet prince of the ghetto” with “precious dark skin tone” . Lauryn projects a sexy, consciously confident, yet affirmative attitude while describing the characteristics of her ideal man in a song with John Legend:

“you're so conscious and self aware/ I'm next to you, I hold your back and you express pure ecstasy/ It's more than just the sex to me, because mentally you take me there/ Yo, I pretended to be unaffected, you intended to be respected/ I commend your boldness, you don't fear being rejected/ So you approached me my love and didn't remain intimidated/ glad you did 'cause once you came you got much more than anticipated/ and its true, I've got the mind of a genius/ and every time we kiss we feel the magnetic field we got between us/ I think its something to witness your vulnerability/ the definition of a real man, he can acknowledge how he feels for me/ and I'm fascinated with your manhood exploration. Your transparent language, how you articulate the situation/ and I can see it in your stare, in the air, I love the texture of your hair, statuesque, black and beautiful like classical architecture…”- So High (Cloud 9 Remix)

These lyrics, along with the words of Talib Kweli and Common, construct a new narrative of gender relationships that values communication, respect, thoughtfulness, spirituality, and the positive affirmation of a shared black identity which transcends gender inequalities.

“Spirituality is sustaining one’s sanity in the midst of cultural conflict while pressing towards a moral goal that is highly unachievable yet still possible in order to sustain one’s spirituality, creating a social balance to live another day.”
-Michael Eric Dyson, at St. Sabina Catholic Church in 1999

The black church has been heavily influential in the political and personal realm for many African-Americans, yet many traditional sects are now failing to connect with younger generations and fulfill their desire for liberation and self-realization. The hip-hop generation has adopted many of the traditional elements associated with the black church’s struggle for liberation in America, thus “you can talk about neither hip-hop nor the Black church without looking at issues of justice, race and the inner-city or elements of song, shouting, praising and story-telling” . Lauryn Hill represents the prophetic strain of Christianity in hip-hop, reflecting how “throughout history, prophets provoked radical changes when the church disregarded the relevant needs of the masses” . Her criticism of the corrupt politics and practices of the church, blended secular and spiritual codes, signifying a turn to a more post-modern theology, freed from the narratives and contradictions of organized religion.

Lauryn’s use of music to convey a post-modern liberation theology enables her to develop more inclusive and profound connections with her listeners. It also shows how “spiritual revolutions occur when existing religious institutions lose their vitality and fail to be relevant to the human condition” . Lauryn exemplifies a paradigm in which “hip-hop liberation is found in personal self-awareness” when she “is spitting about a place of personal reflection and affirms that new decisions must be made for a destructive cycle to stop” . The rise of theological exploration in hip-hop is “often brought about… through a personal crossroads experience- maybe a brush with death, having a child, falling in love, sickness, or spiritual awakening” . In the time just prior to Lauryn’s “spiritual awakening”, she was dealing with having a child and falling in love. Her lyrics often operate on multiple levels, blending the sacred with the sensual and the religious with the romantic, in order to convey her love for God and the satisfaction of spiritual renewal.

Lauryn’s theology of liberation is a unique blend of linguistic, moral and historical elements from a wide variety of religious traditions, including Rastafarianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In what is perhaps an allusion to the internal spiritual warfare (which Islam refers to as Jihad), Lauryn describes her current view of Christianity in the song “Freedom Time”, saying:

“There's a war in the mind, over territory for the dominion/ who will dominate the opinion, schisms and isms, keepin' us in forms of religion/ conforming' our vision to the world churches decision/ trapped in a section, submitted to committee election, moral infection, epidemic lies and deception”.

Lauryn blends more traditional Islamic and Christian morality with feminist commentary in her song “Doo Wop”, admonishing women who are “talking out [their] neck sayin' [they’re] a Christian/ A Muslim sleeping with the gin [gentile], now that was the sin that did Jezebel in” . Hill later combines Black Baptist and Pentecostal allusions with references to the prominent female figure in the Black Nation of Islam, Betty Shabaz, describing her rhymes as “heavy, like the mind of Sister Betty”.
Ms. Hill also blends Old Testament imagery with the Zionist traditions of Rastafarianism, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Judaism. It is interesting that Ms. Hill refers to her home state, New Jersey, as “New Jerusalem”, considering the relatively large population of Jewish families in East Orange and surrounding suburbs. Lauren even embodies a Marxist perspective towards organized religion at times, viewing it as an opiate of the masses and a system for propagating and justifying arbitrary and oppressive historical power structures. Her analysis is really more post-modern and deconstructionist, questioning the epistemological sources of modern societal beliefs and their validity.

“Are you sure it's God you servin'? Obligated to a system, getting less then you're deserving, who made up these schools? I say who made up these rules? I say animal conditioning, Oh, just to keep us as a slave.”-Lauryn Hill

The religious narrative of oppression, exodus and eventual liberation is a common thread in many African-American religious traditions; however, nowhere is it more thoroughly explored and emphasized than in Rastafarianism. In many ways, Rastafarianism is like a blend between Christianity and Judaism, with an emphasis on a distinct interpretation Old Testament scripture and the coming of Christ. Most closely attributed to Jamaican and Ethiopian peoples, Rastafarianism was a religious response to the slave experience in Jamaica, and focuses heavily on a Zionistic return to the African Diaspora’s “homeland” in Ethiopia. One of the major symbols in the religion is the Lion of Judah, which is closely related to literary allusions to Christ. Lauryn blends Rastafarian symbolism and other cultural codes, claiming to have the “Heart of lioness”, while also being a” scientist” and “street Zionist”. In the same song she sings, “I’ll never forget how they crucified Jesus Christ… how they sold Marcus Garvey for rice…I'll never forget, no way, how they turned their back on Paul Bogle”. Marcus Garvey was one of the largest figures in the black Zionist movement in America and Africa in the early 20th Century and is often credited for helping form an “imagined community” of African peoples; an “African Identity”. Paul Bogle was a Baptist Deacon and a Jamaican rebel who “helped his congregation cope with poverty and injustice” , and was later executed by the United Kingdom for leading the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865.

For many Jamaicans and other peoples of the African Diaspora, the idea of “Zion symbolizes a longing by wandering peoples for a safe homeland”, but also sometimes refers to a “safe spiritual homeland… or a kind of peace of mind in one’s present life” . Lauryn’s Rastafarian influence came from a variety of sources, including immersion in the culture of Jamaica, Queens in New York, her musical and personal relationship with Haitian immigrant, Wycleff Jean, and her later relationship with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan. Bob Marley’s musical influence is prevalent in Hill’s music which often emulates the way Marley conveyed a universal struggle for liberation through religiously influenced lyrics.

Lauryn’s ability to convey deeply personal spiritual experiences is heightened by her tendency to blend narratives of romatic/human relationships with spiritual/divine relationships. Many of her song lyrics reflects multiple layers of meaning, sometimes depicting a male lover as a divine figure in her life, and other times describing her relationship with God in terms of worldly romantic imagery. A third-dimension of meaning can also be drawn from her love songs; the relationship between the personal and the political. In a different way, these same lyrics reflect her post-modern contradictions as a champion of female empowerment; the lyrics can be simultaneously read as empowering and disempowering in many instances. In her song, “Just like the Water”, she uses the juxtaposition of these two opposing extremes, addressing an undefined lover/Lord who is “melting down the walls of inhibition/ evaporating all of [her] fears/ baptizing [her] into complete submission/ dissolving [her] condition with his tears”. Later, she blends descriptions of spiritual renewal with erotic allusions and imagery, saying “He's pouring out his soul to me for hours and hours/ drawing out my nature with his hands/ yearning I'm so thirsty for his power/ burning to be worthy of his land”. In some ways, Hill’s coding of spiritual, political and erotic language in her music reflects the complexity of early female blues singers, who used coding as a way of ensuring popular exposure while expressing the complex play between the spiritual, political and personal. A similar approach to spirituality can be seen in the erotic poetry of the book, Song of Solomon, in some versions of the Old Testament.

Ms. Hill’s Prophetic Christian approach to music is best shown through her appropriation and inversion of biblical stories, figures and terminology, which express complex adaptations of traditional scripture to modern situations. One great example of this textual manipulation is seen in her song, “Adam Lives in Theory”. As young 3rd wave feminist writes, “the story of Adam and Eve reveals the church’s view on women” in which the woman is “created specifically to meet the man’s needs,” and eventually leads him into sin. In Lauryn’s account, Adam is “Praying to the alter of himself, making pilgrimages, thinking he's religious, like he's got all the light, and no one else”. In contrast, Eve is corrupted and exploited by Adam, “caught up in emotion, burning up in her devotion to the king of exploitation in the field, she handed him her virtue, cause he told her ‘I won't hurt you’, so she lay with him to see how good it feels”. She also uses Adam to allude to the ways in which men have often failed to assume responsibility for their shortcomings, “hiding from the truth, he provided an excuse to explain away his desperate situation/ when confronted, blamed his wife, giving birth to carnal life, refusing to acknowledge what he’d done”. Lauryn’s reconfiguration of scripture reflects a historically hermeneutic tradition stemming from Traditional African Religions and the Black Church, which interprets ancient biblical stories in ways that adapt and remain relevant to current events. Her blending of secular and religious themes in the form of hip-hop allows her to take that hermeneutic approach one step further, adapting to a medium that is more relevant to young people.

Lauryn Hill is a unique manifestation of the post-modern tensions within the black community, gender relations and modern society. Her complex blend of the erotic and the spiritual, in empowering and disempowering ways, reflects a 3rd wave approach to feminism that utilizes a wide variety of narratives to deconstruct patriarchal social systems of oppression. Her post-modern complexity lends itself to a profound spirituality, a prophetic Christian gospel packaged in a pseudo-secular medium. As a prophetic voice, Lauryn Hill blends the modernist traditions of the black church with impeccable social analysis. Dr. Cornel West asserts that the latest expression of the “prophetic Christian tradition in the Afro-American experience” must be seen in the context of “post-modern times” in which black theology is defined by its critique of capitalist civilization” .

Hill has proven herself as a pioneer in the conscious hip-hop movement, not only for women but men as well, using music to “challenge vectors of oppression in post-modern society by using ideologically eclectic philosophies and methods to intercept and intervene upon rapidly changing and heterogeneous exploitative and violent forces and discourses” . Hill’s life experiences, from fame to motherhood to controversy and spiritual rebirth, all come together in a complex narrative of personal progression and self-definition in a contradictory post-modern world. Ultimately, I believe that Hill’s life and works were far ahead of her time, and as a result, they will never receive the level of respect, appreciation or understanding they deserve. Hill’s potential as an artist, activist and public figure will fall short of the popular potential she could achieve; however, her decisions reflect a profound understanding of the oppressive forces which pervade in society and a paradigm for personal liberation.

1. Dyson, Michael Eric, Open Mike: Reflections on Philosophy, Race, Sex, Culture and Religion, Basic Civitas Books, New York, NY 2003

2. Smith, Efrem and Jackson, Phil, The Hip-Hop Church: Connecting with the Movement Shaping our Culture, IVP Books, 2006

3. Tate, Greg, Ed., Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture, First Edition, Harlem Moon Publishing, New York, NY, 2003.

4. Zugna, Daniel, “Beyonce Deals With Fame”, August 21 2006


6. Phillips, Layli, et al., Oppositional Consciousness within an Oppositional Realm: the Case of Feminism and Womanism in Rap and Hip-Hop, 1976-2004, published in the Journal of African-American History.

7. Lee, Shayne, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher, New York University Press, New York, NY, 2005.

8. Article on Paul Bogle,,

9. Article on Zionism,,

10. Hernandez, Daisy, Ed., Rehman, Bushra, Ed. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism, Seal Press, New York, NY, 2002.

11. West, Cornel, Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2002.

The Fugees, the Score, 1996:
-“Killing Me Softly With His Song”
-“Ready or Not”

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998
-“Lost One”
-“Doo Wop”
-“Final Hour”

MTV Unplugged No. 2, 2002
-“Adam Lives in Theory”
-“Just Like the Water”
-“Freedom Time”
-“So Much Things to Say”

Talib Kweli, Reflection Eternal, 2000
-“For Women”

Right About Now!, 2005
-“Ms. Hill”

Mos Def, Black on Both Sides, 2005

Common Sense, Like Water for Chocolate, 2000
-“The Light”

A New Black Liberation Theology

Ben Brubaker
African-American Religion and Liberation

Essay: A New Black Liberation Theology

“And I fear that what I saying won't be heard until I'm gone
But it's all good, Cause I didn't expect to live long
So if it takes for me to suffer for me brother to see the light
Give me pain till I die but please lord treat him right”
-DMX, Prayer

While the Civil Rights generation broke new grounds and took tremendous strides in the battle against American racism, oppression and inequality using radical theological messages, it is evident that America is still suffering the woes of institutionally and culturally imposed injustice. With the advent of the Hip-Hop generation and the rising significance of globalization and international politics, the circumstances surrounding today’s injustice have dramatically changed, and therefore a new Black Liberation Theology is necessary. A new Black Liberation Theology for the 21st Century must be prophetic; breaking down the constrictive institutions of oppression, while simultaneously seeking to unify previously divided groups of people based on common beliefs, goals and practices. While I personally believe that this theology must be predominantly influenced by Christianity, positing Jesus as the ultimate model for liberation, I also believe that it must be open to the influences of alternative religions which permeate the society we live in. Christianity must open up to embrace and converge with Islam, Judaism and other less mainstream religions, as well as various contemporary philosophical paradigms which share common themes of otherism, pragmatism, existentialism and, most importantly, liberation. In order to assemble effective theological perspectives, it is necessary to acknowledge and expand upon the previous work of thinkers like James Cone, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Delores Williams, as well as contemporary visionaries like Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson and T.D. Jakes. When assessing these approaches and attempting to synthesize a new Liberation Theology, it is also essential to focus on the various ways in which oppression and liberation permeate our political, economic, cultural, and religious realities. Finally, it is necessary to look towards the future as best as we can in order to shape a lasting theology that will be capable of continual adaptations in the context of future societal changes.

While the Civil Rights Movement yielded one of the most profound changes in American society throughout its entire history, we must acknowledge that institutionalized oppression still exists alongside deep societal divisions. Although important laws were changed and many people would argue that all U.S. citizens now have an equal share of legal, political and societal freedoms, there are many covert barriers which hinder Blacks and other marginalized groups in society from obtaining physical and spiritual liberation. These obstructions are best exemplified in their political, economic, and cultural manifestations. In terms of politics, while African Americans are legally permitted to vote and participate in all legal political processes, there are a number of things that hinder their ability to vote in their best interests, effectively organize in political forums, and secure proper representation in government. The discrepancy of education between predominantly black, poor urban communities and the rest of the country yields a political disconnect in which these communities are susceptible to political manipulation and political apathy; both of which result in the collective silencing of the voices of the black community. The rhetoric politicians use, including euphemisms, double speak and complex political jargon, play off of the vulnerabilities of the uneducated who either take words for their face value, trust that politicians will come through on their promises, or accept faulty explanations for mistakes which are shrouded in esoteric vocabulary. This lack of a political voice contributes to their continual economic problems, while simultaneously their economic problems contribute to their inability to gain a political voice, whether it is through lobbying, campaigning or attaining proper education on political processes. Part of the economic problem for African-Americans is a combination of a long history of poverty combined with newly adopted cultural values that have been shaped by capitalist tendencies. While all Americans are flooded with messages and images which attempt to promote consumption, poor African Americans are especially vulnerable to the negative ramifications. Some of the most impoverished spend their entire savings on cars, clothing and jewelry to gain status while others spend their earnings on alcohol, drugs and other temporary escapes from the world of poverty into a fantasy world of bodily pleasure or absent mindedness.

“These cats drink champagne and toast to death and pain
Like slaves on a ship talking about who got the flyest chain”
- Talib Kweli, Africa Dream

While many of the problems facing African-Americans today are due to changes in cultural norms and contemporary circumstances, this does not mean that these circumstances cannot be used to facilitate an effective liberation theology. The most obvious example of this is present in the growing popularity and significance of hip-hop music. While popular hip-hop culture does, on one level promote crime, violence, domestic abuse, distorted values and a lack of economic prudence, it is a growing forum for debate, expression and leadership which has rapidly expanded beyond its origins in the city slums to encompass rural and suburban societies around the globe. Hip-hop artists such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Nas, and Common Sense have all adopted music as a medium to express their progressive political and cultural views through intellectual lyricism, popular production methods and genuinely passionate expression. After successfully launching two Grammy-award winning albums, rapper Kanye West was given the opportunity to participate in a highly televised, live broadcast to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. West took this chance to voice his concerns, completely unedited and uncensored, saying, among other thing, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. All criticism or praise aside, West proved that hip-hop icons not only have the influence and opportunities to have their voices heard, but also that they can voice their beliefs in profoundly prophetic and unrestricted ways, free from the traditional bounds of political and religious leadership.
Hip-hop is a uniquely American music, representing much of the oppression that has plagued America’s poor urban communities for decades. Still, it has evolved in such a way that it speaks to much of the current generation’s hopes, beliefs and anxieties. At its best, gangsta rap draws attention to complex dimensions of ghetto life ignored by most Americans, while its in-your-face style has already begun to force America to confront crucial social problems in ways that a million sermons or political speeches could not . Tupac Shakur championed this form of rap by delivering passionate testimonies of life in the ghetto, mixed with the complex internal struggle many young black men face in attempting to reconcile their moralistic and religious tendencies with the rugged struggle for survival. In many ways, gangsta rap has evolved into two forms; commercial (which emphasizes the reckless quest for wealth, sexual conquest and power through violence) and underground (which maintains linguistic and contextual elements of gangsta rap, but focuses on a more intellectual and insightful message). A great example of a group that represents the transition from gangsta rap to a more underground intellectual form is the Wu-Tang Clan. While the Wu-Tang Clan is arguably one of the most vulgar and violent hip-hop groups, deeper analysis of the lyrical references and context shows a profoundly innovative turn towards “ghetto philosophy”. Their recent publication of the “Wu-Tang Manual” provides glimpses into the complex blend of eastern philosophy and cultural references embedded in their lyrics. The manual is just one example of how hip-hop lyrics are deeply complex, capable of combining a broad range of cultural and linguistic elements and arguably worthy of further academic exploration.

While gangsta rap is capable of fusing both prophetic criticism of society along with the politics of pleasure, along with partying, all of that can easily become mixed up in very destructive and unfortunate ways . Some critics argue that hip-hop has already become commercialized and diluted by mainstream culture. According to Cornell West, “the main dilemma for black musicians who try to preserve a tradition from mainstream domestication and dilution is in fact that they lose contact with the black masses” . This could potentially be a good thing, however, if the dilution of hip-hop meant the marketing of violence, misogyny, extravagance and crime, and the result was a massive black rejection of that form of hip-hop, or at least, a heightened awareness of how major labels exploit the hardships and vices of the black community. Still, music is and will continue to be the black means of cultural expression, along with preaching. Since hip-hop combines both of these elements, and has lately exhibited components of more traditionally “white” melodies and structure, it will likely continue to serve as a medium of expression for blacks while maintaining its popular appeal to whites as well.
Hip-hop is only one aspect of changing cultural norms, and many would agree that it is largely less important than the role that globalization has played on reshaping the international political spectrum. One might wonder how globalization and international politics fits into the creation of a Black Liberation Theology, but it is intrinsically linked, and unfortunately it has been historically overlooked. Oppression and Liberation are not American struggles alone, in fact, the U.S. arguably has it easy when compared to many third world countries. First of all, Black people face oppression around the world, such as in Africa, where the remnants of European Colonialism have left the continent in shambles of poverty, violence and disease. Secondly, it is not only Blacks who face oppression, but instead there are hundreds of marginalized groups within their respective societies that face oppression, such as in Latin America, the Middle East and even Europe. While these groups are just as important, and equally, if not more so, oppressed, it is essential to view a New Black Liberation Theology in terms of America’s role as the sole superpower in international politics. This theology must address the problems within the U.S. if the U.S. is going to effectively lead the rest of the world into a future of peace, stability and freedom. If the U.S. is going to push democracy as a medium necessary to attain the prior goals, it is essential the American democracy is transformed into a more effective, equitable and inclusive form.

In order to transform American society and politics with a new Liberation Theology, it is essential that this theology be prophetic while simultaneously expansive in order to unify previously divided groups of people. Realistically, institutions, traditions and laws persist which prohibit and inhibit the process of liberation. Still, history has shown that these same institutions, traditions and laws can be creatively manipulated to enact lasting and legitimate changes in society. Examples of institutions include Schools and universities, corporations, non-profit groups and government. Traditions in America are deeply rooted and diverse, but they have also proven to be adaptable in response to public opinion and economic pressures. Finally, law has provided opportunities for marginalized groups to challenge the status quo and gain legitimate victories in society. Changing institutions requires pressure from within, such as a grassroots movements, as well as infiltration into the leadership positions which shape the way the institution behaves. Changing traditions requires innovative publicity campaigns, separating the views of new generations from those of their parents, and providing a forum in which new forms of traditions can flourish. Finally, laws can be changed through proactive support of progressive legal experts, putting public pressure on law makers and promoting a new generation of lawyers, judges, representatives and executive leaders who will push for progressive changes. A new Black Liberation Theology must not only address the importance of uniting to enact change in these institutions, but it should also focus on establishing a central institution of its own to support progressive change through actual application.

While the new Black Liberation Theology will ultimately be a set of principles, ideals and beliefs, it must also focus on action. The only way theology can transition from idea to action is through the creation of an institution that promotes the ideals, enables the actors, and provides the resources for a successful revolution of liberation. There are dangers inherent in establishing a centralized institution and the inevitable bureaucracy that follows. Centralizing power tends to limit the goals and beliefs of a movement, pushing energetic but less mainstream agents to the fringes and empowering leaders who share a limited vision. Still, a centralized source of power is essential to unifying people as a whole and directing the force of individuals towards specific aims. This institution must employ leaders of the highest moral caliber while providing them with a staff of competent and practical operatives who are capable of carrying out communication, finance, research and planning. Lately, American’s have assumed a disposition of apathy or nihilism with regards to its leaders and heroes, but make no mistake; tomorrow’s leaders are out there, they are capable, and they are desperately seeking a forum which will support their visionary leadership. In terms of inclusiveness, this institution should openly work with the leaders of churches, mosques and temples around the country to accomplish shared goals, such as localized urban relief work, massive fundraising for charities and socio-political campaigns. While this institution will likely have a centralized headquarters, it should aspire to establish local branches in some of the most devastated urban communities to provide jobs, job training, free education, educational resources, bases for local community service outreach and shelter for the homeless. There is no ideological panacea that will make this institution any different from the hundreds of similar non-profit organizations; however, initially there must be a concerted effort on research and analysis to combine the most effective elements of these organizations in a way that is uniquely progressive while avoiding the negative drawbacks inherent in each.

“If we're going to talk about the black church as the seedbed of liberty and as the site for emancipation, let's extend that emancipation beyond race to issues of gender”
-Michael Eric Dyson

In terms of prophetic Christian Black liberation theology, two things are often overlooked; feminist theology and the black experience outside of America. Another important aspect of Black religion; whether American or non-American, Christian or Muslim; is the characteristic of adaptation and blending of cultures that is deeply rooted in Traditional African Religion. While there are many profoundly intellectual and revolutionary prophetic Christian voices today, most of them fail to address the concerns and perceptions of the everyday person. Those preachers and spiritual leaders that can reach the masses tend to lose their prophetic edge, relying too much on marketing strategies and mass appeal and not enough on preaching a practical and prophetic message that will lead the herds towards spiritual and material liberation. The leaders in a new Black Liberation Theology movement must be comprised of both highly qualified women as well as men who are culturally aware of the oppression women face even today. Black women were the backbone of the Black Church for centuries, and the driving force behind the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, it is time that women are given opportunities to continue on that legacy, this time, given the proper respect and authority they deserve. If Black women see their fellow sisters inciting change from the pulpit and taking on active roles of leadership in the liberation movement, they will be inspired to do the same in their communities and they will feel a sense of belonging in the new congregation. This new Theology must be prophetic, breaking down the barriers of perception and deception that have limited our abilities as individuals and as a community. One barrier that stands in the way of true liberation is our blind devotion to cultural identities, whether they be racial, regional or national. Therefore, we must transcend the boundaries of our limited alliances; reach out across geographical and metaphorical borders, and demand liberation for all, or liberation for none. This quest would likely take on a socio-political form, inciting public pressure on the federal government to restrict corporations from exploiting third-world labor forces and urging decision makers to seek a more globally minded diplomacy that is not limited to U.S. national interests.

“My mind had dealt with the books of Zen, Tao the lessons Koran and the Bible, to me they all vital/ And got truth within 'em, gotta read them boys You just can't skim 'em/ different branches of belief But one root that stem 'em/ but people of the venom try to trim 'em And use religion as an emblem/ When it should be a natural way of life “
-Common Sense, “G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition)”

The new Black Liberation Theology must be universal, inclusive and comprehensive; therefore, it is essential that it combines the philosophies and beliefs of various world religions and cultural beliefs. It is not only important to combine various religions for the sake of uniting the disillusioned masses who have been cast to the fringes of their own communities, but it is also essential to unite the theological content in order to convey a more universally accepted set of beliefs. Michael Eric Dyson argues that using many languages and speaking in many tongues, is a habit of survival that African-American people across the board have learned . In that sense, a new Liberation Theology that draws from a variety of religions (which all use different languages to convey similar themes) would still be a distinctively Black Theology. When one analyzes the different beliefs of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism, It is clear to see that there are many commonalities between them that a new theology could emphasize and draw upon. Not only would this foster a deeper respect for others (especially in highly diversified urban communities), but it would also facilitate the process of supplemental education in referring to the history, practices, and philosophies behind each religion. One can expect that fundamentalist religious zealots and traditionalists would react violently to the integration of various beliefs, but for a large majority of the country (most of whom share radical hopes for liberation and social change, as well as a common desire to simply live peacefully with others), this new Theology could be a revolutionary banner of freedom from ignorance and isolation. While this new Theology should seek to synthesize beliefs from a wide range of religions, if it is going to be a successful Black Liberation Theology, the synthesis must take place within the framework of Christianity. Not only is Christianity the most influential religion for Blacks and Whites in America, it also reflects the themes of humanity, sacrifice, reconciliation, and most importantly, liberation.

In terms of practical application, this synthesized Liberation Theology would likely have to facilitate separate worship services (Friday for Muslims, Saturday for Jews, Sunday for Christians) to satisfy the various member’s personal worship needs. Still, each service could incorporate themes from the other religions to supplement their own particular beliefs, providing fresh language from scriptures that ultimately speak to similar messages. The services could also incorporate elements of multi-cultural understanding and respect for the members of the congregation that choose to worship on other days. Ideally, a system could be imposed to encourage members to meet up with a buddy, or family comprised of different faiths, to share the experience of a different worship services once a month. Also, a single, unified worship service must be established to bring the entire congregation together. This service would focus entirely on the similarities between the scriptures, themes of liberation and common struggles, socio-political philosophy and a post-modern synthesis of worship styles, songs and sermons. The unified service would be structured, but open to changes from within the congregation and adaptations intended to meet the changing needs of the community; various members of the community could all contribute their special talents and influences for a celebration of diversity and liberation.

In terms of Theology, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all share similar elements which tend to be the most important aspects of each respective religion. The 10 Commandments, for example, are essentially shared by Christians and Jews alike, while Islam promotes a similar code of morals. Christianity and Judaism proclaim “thou shall not kill” while Muslims are told not to “take life which Allah has made sacred” . Islam and Christianity share an emphasis on not simply having “faith without works”, and all three religions insist that humans have rights which should not be violated by murder, theft, lying and violence . In Judaism, “Jesus is not seen as the messiah” because “in the Jewish view, the messiah is a human being who will usher in an era of peace” . Still, a new Liberation Theology could easily accommodate progressive Jews if it were centered on the life and teachings of Jesus with the aim of working towards an era of peace. A unification of the religions themselves for the purpose of a greater good would be a sign of the approaching era of peace. All three of these religions share the view that simply believing in the scriptures and attending services does not secure the individual a place in heaven, but rather, individual ethical behavior is what is most important . Since the ethical codes of each religion are philosophically congruent and only semantically different, it is conceivable that a unification of these religions is possible. The implications of such unification are endless. If enough people in America and around the world believed in this New Liberation Theology which emphasizes peace, justice and respect for human rights, perhaps it could be a driving force for ending the dispute over the holy lands between Palestine and Israel (which Christians also claim as their holy land).

While these “Abrahamic Religions” are compatible with the goals of synthesis and unification inherent in a New Liberation Theology, it is important to also analyze more non-western religions. Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism not only represent about 1.2 billion believers around the globe, but also encompass philosophies and beliefs that are congruent with the universal goals of a New Black Liberation Theology, and they can provide fresh perspectives for people who have been limited to the beliefs of the Abrahamic Religions. The figures of Buddha and Jesus are remarkably similar in their personal biographies; both had remarkable births surrounded by prophecy, both showed otherworldly wisdom at early ages, both were tempted by the devil before beginning their ministries and both performed miracles such as walking on water and feeding masses of people by dividing up a small amount of food . Both Jesus and Buddha shared starkly similar ethical teachings, including the “Golden Rule”, love for neighbors and enemies alike, and both emphasized liberation from worldly suffering. One particular Buddhist parable that is especially apt in synthesizing different religions for a Liberation Theology is the parable of the blind men and the elephant, which tells of how different blind men felt different parts of an elephant, and knowing only that specific part could not properly name or know the elephant as a whole. This parable expresses the underlying principle in the Liberation Theology that we all have limited wisdom, that without communication and cooperation we cannot fully grasp that which is truly there, and that because we often find the blind leading the blind, we must learn to see beyond merely that which is closest to us. Many of the non-western religions contain elements of meditation and philosophy which could easily translate into positive messages and methods of coping with the burden of liberation.

While the new Black Liberation Theology should incorporate different religious beliefs and practices into a unified belief system, it should also emphasize secular philosophical arguments and reasoning. One such philosophy that would be particularly useful for the New Liberation Theology is Immanuel Kant’s idea of Cosmopolitanism. Kant’s Cosmopolitanism essentially refers to the widening of spheres of cultural identity over time, ultimately leading to individuals respecting the rights of all humans as if they were their own family members. The spheres begin with ties to family, then city, then state, nation, race, etc, comprising “an enduring and ever expanding society, solely designed for the preservation of morality” . This philosophy could serve to fill in the gaps between religious differences, such as those between Christianity and Hinduism. In Hinduism, God requires humans to respect all living creatures as sacred, whereas Christianity emphasizes on humans . Perhaps in this day and age, where the environment is quickly dying due to mass human consumption, the new Liberation Theology should address concerns about how we treat our environment. The famous ecologist Aldo Leopold referred to Kantian Cosmopolitanism when arguing for a more ethical respect and treatment of nature, which better aligns with the beliefs of Hinduism. This same Cosmopolitan ethic is also another reason why the new Black Liberation Theology must not be limited to just Whites, Blacks, Americans or Western Society, but should instead include all of humanity and the natural blessings which God has bestowed upon us.

While this new Black Liberation Theology would draw upon a wide variety of cultural and religious influences, it is essential that it also utilize post-modern elements of worship, media, and networking in order to successfully gain a significant number of followers. One person who has mastered this approach is the Bishop T.D. Jakes. Over the last decade, Bishop Jakes has risen to become one of the most popular and influential preachers in America. Jakes holds conferences in different cities which attract thousands of followers, he has written more than a handful of best selling books, he has recorded Grammy-award winning albums and he continues to make weekly appearances on national television. While Jake’s theology is considered to be flawed or questionable to many, his talent for marketing, organizing and performing has won him a broad audience of believers. For the purpose of forming a New Liberation Theology, we will avoid discussing his theological perspective and focus instead on the ways in which he has captured such a large and devoted audience.

One of the defining characteristics of Jake’s ministry is the way in which he “obscures traditional lines of distinction between the secular and sacred” by running his ministry like a corporation rather than a church. Some would argue that, in terms of membership growth and sustainability, the traditional church is antiquated. This appears to be the common trend, largely due to the shift into today’s post-modern age which is characterized “by the relentless penetration of advertising, television, and other media into people’s lives, as well as the fragmented identities and new values that derive from continuous exposure to a saturation of ideas and images” . This new post-modernism results in two general changes in society that will inevitably influence the effectiveness of a new Liberation Theology. The first is the way in which people hear about, learn about and participate in this Black Liberation Theology. The centralized institution of the new theology must incorporate modern publicity tactics, including radio, television and the internet, so that it is accessible in a variety of formats. The second change is the growing fragmentation of identities and the complex values that are intrinsically linked to popular advertising and media. The new Black Liberation Theology must accommodate and reflect the complex and diverse identities of its congregation, work through media and advertising to project a progressive, inclusive and appealing image, and lastly, educate people about the influences of the media and the ways in which corporations seek to manipulate people for profit. Worship services must incorporate elements of popular music and theatrics, while maintaining a level of sanctity, in order to attract and retain young and middle-aged followers.

Jake’s blurring of the lines between the secular and the sacred often draw harsh criticism, however, it has proven to be effective in appealing to modern society and it must not be assumed that the two cannot coexist. Part of the way in which the new Black Liberation Theology should incorporate the secular with the sacred is by using non-religious philosophical discourse that aligns with the religious beliefs that make up the backbone of the theology. This may take the form of psychological, political, economic and metaphysical discourse. The medium through which the Theology is expressed may also take on a more secular form, utilizing hip-hop and other popular music, as well as popular film and television, to illustrate the message at hand. This would result in a responsive theology that is constantly adapting to new circumstances and addressing the concerns and goals of the community at large. Less emphasis should be placed on the strict disciplines of specific religions to avoid confrontation and intimidation amongst members, and more emphasis should be placed on the larger themes of unity, love, respect, education and liberation. In this way, Jesus’ gospel is quite pertinent when he tells the disciples, “I am giving you these commandments so that you may love one another” , emphasizing love as the new commandment above all others. Therefore, people should not be made to feel guilty for petty sin and vice, but should seek the empowerment of love and divine knowledge to overcome common obstacles. The focus should be positive and empowering, not destructive and debilitating. Knowledge is one of the greatest sources of empowerment, and therefore, a secularized education on social, economic and political issues should be emphasized as a common objective for all followers on their journey to spiritual salvation and liberation.

“It’s legitimate to abhor and hate oppression and exploitation, but we cannot lose sight of the humanity of those who are perpetuating it”
-Cornel West

The new Black Liberation Theology must encompass the diversity and complexity of modern society in which globalization, market values and popular culture heavily influence the individual. The main objective should be unity for the purpose of liberation. The liberation it seeks to attain should not only be social, material and political, but also intellectual and spiritual. While a main objective is the liberation of the poor and oppressed, shown through the example of Jesus in the Bible, it must also fight the mental and spiritual evils which are so rapidly eating away at the fabric of modern society. People of all classes, rich and poor, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, gay, straight, young and old, must find a common bond in working towards supporting and uplifting their fellow brothers and sisters from all walks of life. This new congregation must unify and empower itself through education, providing resources and opportunities where they are often lacking. The new Black Liberation Theology must use the powerful message of love not only to strengthen the bonds of unity, but also to counteract the hatred of critics and opponents. It must, in every way, seek to be inclusive in its mission so that those who society often deems as the oppressor realize that they themselves suffer from oppression themselves, whether it be in the form of self-hate, ignorance, greed or depression. Ultimately, the new Black Liberation Theology must continue to combine elements of radical philosophical transformation, acknowledging the equal rights and abilities of all genders, races and classes, and reaching out to those who suffer from far worse oppression in third world countries. It must strive to remain idealistic, always reaching towards the pinnacle of human achievement, even when it seems impossible. It must also remain practical, utilizing organization, technology, and other means of practical action to allow the theology of liberation to manifest into a reality.

Bibliography:, “Biographies: Michael Eric Dyson”

Spivey, Angela “Speaking in Tongues, Michael Eric Dyson--Dec. '95 Endeavors”

West, Cornel, The Cornel West Reader, The Political Intellectual and A World of Ideas, Basic Civitas Books, New York, NY. 1999

The Bible, Exodus, 20:13

Qur'an, 17:33

James Abdul Rahim Gaudet, Rabia Mills and Syed Mumtaz Ali, “Islam and Christianity: Similarities and Differences”,

“The Differences between Judaism and Christianity”

“Buddhism and Christianity: Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ”,

Kant, Immanuel, Louden, Robert B. Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Cambridge University Press, April 2006

Kant, Immanuel, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Cambridge University Press (November 26, 1998)

Dew, Jim, “Christianity and Hindu Influence”

Lee, Shayne, T.D. Jakes: America’s New Preacher, New York University Press, New York, NY. 2005

Artist Profiles: J-Dubble

My boy... the one and only, doing his thing. I have much respect for this man, check him out at

J-Dubble represents the new movement in Hip-Hop today. Being a southern artist from Marrero, located across the river from New Orleans, He displays an old school style with a new school sound of music. Reminding listeners of the golden era of Hip-Hop when you could create any type of music and have a good time doing it.

For example: Run-DMC mixed with J-Dilla. Breaking away from the stereotypes of Southern artists in the Big Easy, J-Dubble manages to avoid the typical rhyme patterns of bling-bling, booty shaking, drug dealing, and gun-totting the latter two only happening in the movies type of music.

"Right now everyones tired of hearing about your car, how many women you have or how many guns you bust. People want music and thats what Im going to give them", says J-Dubble.

J-Dubble establishes a unique sound blending in harmonizing vocals with truthful lyrics and a style that resembles no other artist out right now. J-Dubble supplies the industry and city with a breath of fresh air with various musical influences ranging from J-Dilla to Michael Jackson.

Background by a deep voice and a passion for making good music, J-Dubbles music and lyrics tells its own story. On his brand new album, Rock-Box Music J-Dubble displays a versatility to speak on a array of topics such as being an only child to admitting his personal struggles with life. The former English major believes that artists are not being real with their fans and thats where he differs.

"Im the everyday persons rapper, I go through the same things that they go though. So listeners can relate to me and my music because Ive been in the same scenarios that they have. I think thats how I make my connection with the fans and they make their connection with me," says J-Dubble.

Artist Profiles: Truth Universal

Truth Universal is like the unofficial sage M.C. for New Orleans. Truth has been at it for a while now, enlightening listeners and moving the crowd. Check him out.

The following biographical information comes from:

Name: MC Truth Universal/Tajiri Kamau
Birthplace: Trinidad
Residence: New Orleans
Occupation: Warrior MC
Birthdate: Remotest Antiquity

Any true Emcee, B-boy, DJ, Graff Writer, Producer, or any participant in the Hip Hop art form knows that the art should remain in tradition of the pioneers. Enter Truth Universal: A Trinidad born New Orleans based MC, who is dedicated to the preservation of Hip Hop and the cultivation and liberation of the Afrikan (Black) community. Consciousness of the oppression of people of color worldwide is expressed in his strategic and iconoclastic compositions. Truth draws from the strength and/or example of the Divine Intelligence/Creative Force, the Ancestors, his family, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Public Enemy, Just-Ice, KRS1, Poor Righteous Teachers, Z-3 MC's, Dana Dane and Clark Kent, Slick Rick and Dougie Fresh, Gang Starr, Eric B and Rakim, George & Jonathan Jackson, and Assata Shakur to name a few. Truth has affiliation with Advanced Ideas Music, Son Of Soul Music/Cross Country Gold Medalists, and 12 Fact Productions. He is preparing to release his initial full length project--"Decolonization," which promises to be a monumental offering!

Artist Profiles: Jimi Clever

The following is a biography of one of my favorite underground hip-hop artists in New Orleans, Jimi Clever. I first heard Jimi's music while searching for local acts for Hip-Hop for Hope. His songs about Hurricane Katrina and life in New Orleans were essentially the epitome of what I thought Hip-Hop for Hope was all about; expression, telling one's story, healing through performance, and dedicating our musical talents for a good cause. Jimi's heart is bigger than any M.C. I think I have ever met, and he carries himself with dignity and humility, showing respect and thoughtfulness in his actions. Make sure to check out his music.

Jimi Clever Biography from

Welcome to New Orleans, the party capitol of the world. 
Home of Mardi Gras, Voodoo, and various forms of art...
Also known for being one of the most colorful and creative cities in the world, the N.O is also home to many musical icons ranging from Hip Hop to Jazz and everything in between. Many describe this city as a melting pot, a mixture of race, styles and music all combined into one undeniably creative substance contained in a small vessel. Such descriptions can be used to describe one certain young man. He is the newest and fastest rising star from the N.O. he is the truth’ he is the future, he is JIMI CLEVER. Born and raised up-town in the 13th ward of the N.O, JIMI CLEVER has always been a step ahead of the average. The level of professionalism that he presents through his cutting edge rhymes and crystal clear vocals pushes him so far ahead of the competition, he leaves his audience watering at the mouth for more. His heavenly flow, combined with wittiness and clever wordplay can be compared to the likes of EMINEM, with a touch of LL COOL J, and TALIB KWELI. Combine that with a mixture of vocal and harmonizing abilities and u have a natural born star. Standing at only 5ft 4 with a slim frame, it is quite an experience to witness so much power and creative energy come from such a small individual. After years of experience, JIMI CLEVER has become well seasoned and has all the makings of a star, and has proven so by dazzling crowds up to 1200 plus at various clubs and events in New Orleans such as the world famous HOUSE OF BLUES , 6 FLAGS, even at the center stage for BAYOU CLASSIC. He has won a staggering amount of contests and battles, including the AND ONE MIXTAPE TOUR 2004, which earned him a chance to compete in the finals at the SOURCE UNSIGNED HYPE in Miami Florida later that year. From radio intros, to on-air freestyles, to live performances’ JIMI CLEVER has become one of the most strongly respected and sought after unsigned artists from New Orleans. “He is so different!” says WILD WAYNE, an on-air personality from Q93.3. “He is going to change the perception of what an artist from New Orleans should sound like!” With two incredible mix tapes in heavy circulation on the streets of the N.O, JIMI CLEVER’S ability to influence everyone around him has become even greater than himself and is poised to change the face of New Orleans hip hop forever. Journey with him as he takes you on a voyage through the colorful, creative and emotional landscape that is his life. He is the future, he is the truth, he is the peoples champion, he is JIMI CLEVER. Welcome….To the JIMI CLEVER EXPERIENCE!!!

Hip-Hop for Hope 2006: Creating Common Grounds

November 16th, 2006
New Orleans, LA-
It was a cool November day in New Orleans as the sun was setting over the Mississippi River. The sounds of a local brass band echoed down the blocks and through the neighborhoods as curious residents arched their necks to get a view of the crowd gathering down the road. It was clear that something unusual was happening in the city, as young students and families began to trickle in to the massive parking lot on the corner of Tchopitoulous and Napolean. It was the first annual Hip-Hop for Hope Block Party and Benefit Concert- an event hosted by a group of Tulane students with the help of local businesses and community organizations, to raise money for the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology. Teachers from the school, along with dozens of students and their families, joined in on the celebration, dancing to the sounds of Da Truth Brass Band and enjoying the variety of food and games. There were dozens of tables where local community organizations passed out information to raise awareness about a variety of issues that effect the New Orleans community, including the environment, HIV/AIDS, violence, leadership and education. Criminal Sheriff of New Orleans, Marlin D. Gusman, stopped by towards the end of the Block Party to deliver a heart-felt speech about the importance of education and the need to work together to end the tragic violence that had been taking a toll on the city. As the sun set, luminaries lit the area and the crowd lit candles as the brass band led a traditional Second Line march from the block party stage, across the street to the doors of the legendary music venue, Tipitina’s. The march symbolized the participants’ commitment to ending the violence so often affecting the hip-hop community.
As the crowd began to pour in through the doors, they were met by the upbeat rhythms of the Soul Rebels Brass Band, one of New Orleans’ premier live hip-hop acts. DJ Soul Sista, a well-respected local DJ, was excited about the event, saying “This benefit for hope gives me hope that the younger kids still care about hip hop activism .” She was especially excited about the musical lineup, which she described as “large, varied and impressive, including both established artists and some you've never heard of”. Along with the Soul Rebels, the event featured performances by acts such as Baby Boy da Prince, Outlaw Nation, Jimi Clever, Impulss, Dam Nathan, Soapbox, J-Dubble, 5th Child, Nomadic Souls, and a variety of other local MC’s and groups. The resident D.J. for the night was the prolific, E.F. Cuttin, who donated his time in support of the mission. Baby Boy, whose recently released hit single “This is the Way We Live”, was one of the crowd favorites, getting huge applause as he switched effortlessly between rapping the verses of his hit song and dancing on his head. Local MC, Jimi Clever, struck a profound note with the crowd when performing his single “Shine Your Light”, and autobiographical song about his tragic experience during Hurricane Katrina. The crowd itself brought an energy to the event rarely seen since the tragedy of the storm, composed of an eclectic mix of local college students, young professionals and hip-hop heads. Despite the wide variety of social backgrounds present at the event, the crowd moved as one unit, shouting at the top of their lungs for every artist, from the young up and coming MC’s to the well established acts. The Hip-Hop for Hope staff, comprised of a class of Tulane University students, sold T-Shirts and raffle tickets near the door. English Professor, Nghana Lewis, taught the class, entitled “Hip-Hop and HIV/AIDS”, as part of Tulane’s post-Katrina “Service Learning” program. Lewis and her students used the semester to help organize and execute the event, whose main aim was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and education in New Orleans. Despite limited resources and huge obstacles, there have been a number of events, programs and projects to help New Orleans bounce back after the storm, many of which have been led by local Colleges and Universities, as well as individuals in the music community. The students involved in organizing the event are looking forward to expanding the event in years to come to incorporate more community participation as well as other forms of hip-hop expression, like graffiti art, step and breaking competitions and spoken word.

Philosophical Biography

Who I am is not where I have lived, or what I have accomplished thus far. I refuse to define myself in those terms, because we are all works in progress, and we are all the potential within ourselves, struggling towards that realization. For me, that struggle takes the form of a calling from somewhere far off and deep down inside. I am a philosopher at heart, a lover of knowledge, of wonder and experience. This inner self is manifested through the arts, specifically the venue of music.

As a musician, I constantly live in a dualistic reality; the tension between living for the music and facing the reality that the music industry is brutal, between writing music to inspire and affect positive change in the world and writing simply because I have emotions, whether dissapointments, love, happiness, confusion, angst or celebration. I am constantly trying to strike a middle ground that can resonate with people from all walks of life and especially with people who feel like me; torn between dreams and reality, right and wrong, and unable to fit into the convenient categories of superficial judgements. Yes, I am your typical white kid from the suburbs who has experienced hardly any of the hardships that many people around the world endure. No, I am not that person.

I have been blessed with many gifts; different talents and abilties, caring friends and family, and opportunities which many people will never have. I have also been cursed, with the white skin that constantly reminds me of a tainted history, with the limitations of a body and mind which could never do justice to the dreams in my heart, and with the inability to give in to apathy and resign myself to indifference. The latter is often times the most troubling, because the world we live in today is overwhelmingly filled with impossible challanges, unbearable tragedies and insurmountable obstacles.

Still, If we are to remain human, to hold on to individuality and embrace freedom, we must fight with all of our might against indifference, injustice and impossibilty. We must each accept responsibility for the fate of this world we live in, and no longer wait for others to make the difference that we want to see in the world. And while we must embrace the fight for freedom and humanity in all seriousness, we must never forget how to laugh. We must always remember what it is we are fighting for, the things we still have to celebrate and cherish, and the ability to love others. I am no more a hero than you or the next person, but I am determined to make a difference in my own way.

Why It Matters: Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Unity Through Music

Why Support New Orleans Hip-Hop for Hope?

 Raising awareness about issues which affect our community; violence, HIV/AIDS, and education.
 A unique experience: achieving unity through music.

Raising awareness about issues that affect our community: Violence

 In the mainstream media, Hip-Hop music is often associated with an urban culture of violence and crime, however, Hip-Hop has done a great deal in uniting communities, providing young people with alternative ways of expressing themselves, and calling for an end to violence.
 We aim to support artists who actively speak out for positive change and peaceful expression, and attempt to create an event centered around positive actions.
 New Orleans has one of the highest crime and murder rates in the country; many studies have shown that violence and crime are closely linked to poverty.
 We are dedicated to raising money for education in New Orleans, with the belief that education is fundamental for combating poverty.
 We are actively engaging the young people in the city in an attempt to provide a positive outlet, a source of hope and a sense of pride in New Orleans culture.

Raising awareness about issues that affect our community: HIV/AIDS

 New Orleans is struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, however, with so much work to be done, many issues that affect the community are being overlooked.
 Healthcare is one major issue that is impacting New Orleans; one major crisis is the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS that disproportionately affects minority youth.
 The mainstream media often blames hip-hop music for glorifying sexual promiscuity, however, many hip-hop artists are using their influence to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and encourage safe sex.
 One way of fighting back against this epidemic is by raising awareness; hip-hop music provides us with one of the best means of communicating with today’s young people.
 We actively seek to raise awareness about this epidemic in appropriate and effective ways, and we provide condoms at events intended for young adult audiences to promote safe sex.

Raising Awareness about Issues that Affect our Community: Education

 Many scholars and social commentators have called today’s young people the “Hip-Hop Generation”, due to the broad influence of hip-hop culture on young people from a variety of backgrounds. White or black, rich or poor, toddlers or adults, and everything in-between, hip-hop culture is heavily influential in breaking down social barriers and opening up dialogue.
 While many criticize the negative aspects often associated with hip-hop and rap, there has always been a strong movement within the culture to raise social-consciousness and empower the powerless. If we want to reach today’s youth, it seems evident that we must learn to speak their language.
 We believe a solid education is the foundation for a healthy community because it provides individuals with valuable life skills, enables people to think critically and creatively, and helps prepare children to become responsible citizens.
 Fact: New Orleans has a 40% illiteracy rate.
 Fact: Louisiana has the third-lowest rank for teacher salaries in the nation.
 Fact: Louisiana is ranked 49th out 50 states in education.

A Unique Experience: Achieving Unity through Music
• New Orleans, birthplace of jazz and home of the blues, has a rich tradition of music dating back centuries.
• In New Orleans, and later the Nation as a whole, Jazz served as a shared culture for young people from a variety of backgrounds, and helped to break down social and economic barriers.
• Hip-Hop is arguably the latest movement in the Jazz, Blues and R&B legacies, combining many elements from these different traditions in a uniquely modern and American music.
• Hip-Hop makes you dance! Hip-Hop makes you think! This music is universal because it has great rhythms that almost anyone can dance to, yet it continues to be relevant because it is able to convey messages that people can relate to and take interest in.
• At Hip-Hop for Hope 2006, Tipitina’s was full of people of all different ages, races, backgrounds and interests, yet everyone came together through the enjoyment and appreciation of the music.


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Hip-Hop for Hope 2007: Event Development

 Increase the level of community participation:
 The success of our event is dependent upon community interaction, participation and communication.
 In order to maximize interaction, it is important to utilize a variety of media sources to promote the event, while providing ways in which people can get involved in the process and the event itself.
 By utilizing a variety of media sources, we are able to communicate to a diverse group of people on a number of levels, while setting a positive tone of tolerance, respect and cooperation for the event.
 One way we are seeking to increase involvement is by holding poetry and music showcases for local amateur artists, who will compete for an opportunity to perform at the main event.
 We are seeking out community leaders, students and individuals for their input in order to shape the event around the people it is serving. We are responsive and open to new ideas, and constantly seeking out individuals with specific talents who want to contribute to our mission.

Goals: Expand Event Planning
 Diversify Event Programming:
 Hip-Hop is more than just music; it is a culture that is expressed in a variety of other art forms, including poetry, dance and visual arts.
 In order to increase artist participation and the overall appeal of the event, we are seeking to expand our events in 2007 to include spoken word performances, break dancing and step competitions, DJ and MC battles and graffiti art.
 We are seeking out nationally acclaimed poets such as Asali Devan, Sunni Patterson, and Shelton “Shakespeare” Alexander, as well as other local spoken word poets.
 Devan is a dedicated poet and community activist, as well the founder of a service based Poetry Festival, the Akoben Poetry Festival.
 Patterson and Alexander are both talented spoken word artists, and were recently featured in Spike Lee’s Hurricane Katrina documentary, “When the Levee’s Broke”.
 Diversify community programs.
 More artistic diversity leads to a more accurate representation of Hip-Hop culture with a positive message, and will increase participation from a variety of individuals.
 Diverse programming will inevitably lead to greater interest in the event from a variety of different individuals and groups, while opening up our event to a broader range of media outlets.
 The use of different art forms throughout the event, will help encourage young people to use art, in any form, as a means of expression, communication and positive affirmation of self. The various sights, sounds, smells and tastes of such a diverse event will lead to the ultimate experience for the audience, thereby enhancing the events’ viability and credibility for future years.

Hip-Hop for Hope: Laying the Groundwork for 2007 and Beyond...

Information about Hip-Hop for Hope 2007

 GOALS: Fundraising, Media Coverage, & Event Development.

 Fundraising Goals: To double or triple last year’s donation of $5,500, by raising anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 for MLK Jr. Charter School.

 Media Coverage: Gain increased coverage and support from local and regional news affiliates, and begin attracting National media coverage.

 Event Development: Increase the level of community participation, diversify event programming, and expand our mission in order to incorporate various educational programs and internship opportunities.

Fundraising Goal:

To double or triple last year’s donation of $5,500, by raising anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 for MLK Jr. Charter School.

Why: We believe in making a significant difference in the educational experience for young New Orleans students. The MLK Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology is in the process of rebuilding after setbacks, caused by Hurricane Katrina. We are dedicated to sponsoring them once again in 2007 in order help the school purchase learning supplies and make improvements on their new building, located in the 9th Ward. We are committed to helping restore and rebuild New Orleans, and we believe that education is the key for the city’s long-term sustainability, growth and community.

How: We are actively seeking out grants, sponsorships and private donations that will allow us to run a more cost-effective program, while increasing the level of donations for MLK. We are seeking out well-known local and national artists who are willing to donate their time and talent for our event, therefore minimizing our expenses and maximizing the overall attendance and proceeds. We are working with a number of city, university and community organizations which will donate inexpensive services and resources that will better enable us to fundraise, advertise, and network.

Who: We have teamed up with a number of partners, including Radio Stations (Q93, WTUL, WWNO), Television Programs (Channel 6 News, WWNOA’s Talk To Me New Orleans), Magazines (Offbeat Magazine, Where Y’at, Section 8), Local Business Sponsors (SAV-A-CENTER, Abita Brewing Co., New Orleans Music Exchange) and Music Companies (Tipitina’s, The Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Op, The National Recording Academy, Media Darling Records, 2Cent Entertainment, the Loyola University Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association, and others).

Goals: Media Coverage

» We are developing articles, press releases and PSA’s for 2007, and working with authors, journalists and radio personalities to create interesting and informative press coverage for our event.
» We are in the process of submitting articles for publication in magazines such as Vibe, The Source, and Fader.
» We are consistently seeking out national media outlets such as CNN, NBC, MTV and BET in order to show the positive ways in which Hip-Hop can impact a community, as well as the ways in which New Orleans residents are coming together to help rebuild the city.
» We are constantly networking through on-line magazines, blogs and websites. We have a myspace web-page ( where we have attracted several hundred viewers and friends, as well as an independent website:
» We have established important relationships with local media sponsors including:
» Q93, WTUL, and WNNO
» Offbeat Magazine, Where Ya’t, The Times-Picayune, the Tulane Hullabaloo, and NOLA.Com.
» Channel 6 News & WWNOA’s “Talk to Me New Orleans”.

New Orleans Hip-Hop for Hope: Overview

New Orleans Hip-Hop for Hope

 “A fully functional multiracial society cannot be achieved without a sense of history and open, honest dialogue”
-Cornel West
 New Orleans Hip-Hop for Hope is more than just a benefit concert and an organization; it is a shared vision for a better future.
 Hip-Hop for Hope is a student-led organization comprised of college students, professors, local businesses, artists, activists, and community leaders who all recognize the power of music as a means of communicating a positive message.
 Hip-Hop provides a forum for raising awareness about important community issues and is a means to raise money for education in New Orleans.

Mission Statement
 The goal of this annual event is to raise money to support educational programming at local schools and to raise awareness about two key community issues; Education and HIV/AIDS.
 This not-for-profit event is focused on building community through the music and culture of New Orleans Hip-Hop, by providing a forum for expression, an avenue for contributing back to the community, and a venue for positive affirmation and cross-cultural interaction.
 Summary of Hip-Hop for Hope 2006

 The first annual event was held on November 16th, 2006, in two stages:
 1. A Community Block Party, from 4pm- 7pm, held in the parking lot of SAV-A-CENTER on the corner of Tchopitoulous and Napoleon.
 2. A Benefit Concert across the street at Tipitina’s, from 7pm-1pm.
Recap of 2006 Block Party

The Community Block Party featured food and games for young people, as well as live music from Da Truth Brass Band, 5th Child and Sir Dilla.
 New Orleans Criminal Sheriff Marlin D. Gusman gave a speech addressing issues such as violence, crime and HIV/AIDS, and encouraging young people to stay in school and work together to end these problems.
 Local community groups and student organizations from Tulane and Loyola purchased tables at the event to raise awareness about their organizations and the issues they address.
 These groups focused on a variety of topics such as music, College Preparatory Programs, Leadership Seminars, HIV/AIDS, and the Environment.
» The event ended with a candle-lit “Second Line March,” led by Da Truth Brass Band, symbolizing the community’s commitment to ending violence in the city.
Summary of 2006 Benefit Concert

The Benefit Concert featured a wide variety of local and nationally recognized artists, including:
Baby Boy da Prince, the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Outlaw Nation, Truth Universal, Jimi Clever, J-Dubble, Nomadic Souls, the Zoo, Impulss, Soap Box, the Able Chris, and many others.
The Hip-Hop for Hope staff, comprised of students and volunteers, sold concert tickets, T-Shirts and raffle tickets at the event.
The concert drew in an audience of over 600 people from a variety of backgrounds and age groups.
Through the sale of tickets, T-Shirts and raffle tickets, the event was able to raise over $5,500 to benefit the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School.