The Show Goes On

by caitlin

JUST A WARNING: there are words in this post that some of you might find offensive. Here’s what I know: over and over in scripture Jesus likes to shake up the people who have an affinity for rule following. Now, my words are not Jesus’ and neither are Lupe Fiasco’s; but maybe try to let yourself be a little disturbed and then rejoice with me that there is HOPE only in Jesus, not in avoiding harsh words. Adam and I feel like most 4 letter words are just that…words. We ascribe them meaning when we use them in certain ways. Four letter words used in a derogatory manner towards another person are not okay in our book (unless that person REALLY deserves it…I jest). HOWEVER, I do not ever like the n-word, but I understand its use here.

Now that that’s out of the way, let the fun (and cursing) begin!

So, some of you may know that A and I both worked in Title 1 elementary schools before he started UBreakiFix and we moved away. That meant we spent a lot of time in the hood, the ghetto, the other side of the tracks. While there, we realized that we both LOVE serving neglected people. In Jacksonville that meant poor, black people. We also realized that we both LOVE hip hop music. I am most certainly NOT going to espouse the virtues of gangsta rap, but I won’t deny that I listen to it and, ahem, enjoy it.

Appreciating rap/hip hop was a way for Adam and I to relate to and bond with our students. It made MY LIFE when a student would get in my car (maybe against the rules, but oh well) and hear my bass and say, “Ms. Nations, I didn’t know you listened to this. I thought you listened to country.” Ha, not all us white people crackas, Son!

I will try to avoid getting on my soap box about why A and I have such a special place in our hearts for black boys in particular, but let it suffice to say that they are–by and large–given up on by everyone around them. It breaks us to the core.

My boy students, the youngest at age 4 and maxing out at age 14, got messages about man-hood from the men that hung around their moms, older kids who had also been misguided, and music. It pained me that the status quo for my boys was gang life, AND that that life of violence and crime was glorified in the music that they listened to with no accurate reflection of the consequences and pain that followed.

All of that brings me to Monday. A and I were riding in the car, and I turned the radio from a Top 40 station with a whiny too-young white girl lamenting her broken relationship (not Tay Swift, I LOVE her) to our local hip hop station. There was a male artist, Lupe Fiasco, rapping about one thing or another. When I began to really listen to what he was saying, I was pretty choked up.

“One in the air for the people ain’t here
Two in the air for the father that’s there
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto
Four for the kids that don’t wanna be there

None for the niggas tryin’ hold them back
Five in the air for the teachers not scared
To tell those kids that’s livin’ in the ghetto
That the niggas holdin’ back that the world is theirs”

(click here for the full lyrics)

The song talks about how Lupe overcame other people’s doubts to be a big star. He hollas at the dads that are sticking around (a rarity, especially in the hood). He hollas at the kids living in the ghetto (the ones most of us try to pretend don’t exist so that we can feel good about the ‘A’ schools that our kids attend). He hollas at the kids that aren’t content to stay in the ghetto and are willing to work to get out. He ranks on the haters who try to keep the kids from doing any better than them. Then he gives a shout out to the adults in the kids’ lives who are telling them that they CAN DO WHATEVER THEY WANT.

Yeah, the song praises the idol of self-reliance that results from fame and Lupe goes on to talk about drinking all night; but I say, “SO WHAT?!” If my boys can get into this and hear that they don’t have to carry a gun or be a D-boy (a phrase coined by Lil’ Wayne that means, among other things, a drug dealer), then I am 100% stoked on Lupe Fiasco (bear in mind that I don’t know much of his other music).

Please rejoice with me that there is someone other than a white, female social worker telling ghetto kids that the world is theirs for the taking, that they don’t HAVE to become sad statistics.

Please also pray with A and I for the black boys in our urban areas. They need positive male role models early, because the reality is that the other side starts recruiting young too. They need strong, consistent mommas (and dads, if they’re around). They need patient, high-standard-setting, relentless teachers. They need to believe that they have choices. They need to be able to feel. They need to be able to grieve. They need to be able to celebrate. They need Jesus.