Tag Archives: live from the kitchen table

The New N Word

Bad, dope, sick, ill, and even crack are all adjetives I’ve used to describe something good, exceptional rather. I mean really good, not just anything, It has to be really cool to warrant such potent vanacular. You know, I’m talking something thats off the chain! This kind of vocab makes sense to most of my generation, kids born somewhere between Malcom X, and DMX, but not quite generation X. I googled generation names and it turns out being born in 85 makes me a part of generation (wh)Y, a millinial, an 80’s baby; but being born in Harlem in the 80’s to parents of Jaimacan, African American, & Puerto Rican decent , the label I identify with most is the Hip Hop generation. I grew up in the Boogie down, and it wasn’t long before I was exposed to the culture and language of Hip Hop, and by a preteen I was fluent and lyrically killin it! We didn’t invent the slang we used, most of it had been passed down from generation to generation, particularely in the urban context, but we sure did remix them joints. After all, what is Hip Hop if it isn’t taking something that already exists, and giving it a totally new purpose and meaning? Hip Hop is infamous for redefining things, from style, to language. Perhaps the conditions that birthed Hip Hop contibute to the way we view and use words. See, in the 60’s the Bronx was on fire, literally, and out of the ashes came Hip Hop; something beautiful out of something broken. Today we say “thats fire!” when complimenting someone or something. The N word we redefined and used as a term of endearment, synonymous with friend, or brother, but also generally synonymous with people. Instead of saying ‘people’, we pluralized the N word. I was 9 years old when rapper Biggie Smalls said “I love the life I live, cause I went from negative to positive, and it’s all good”.

The I(N) Word (Crash Course in Culture, Context, Contradiction, and Conflict for Children)

So as a kid the N word was more like the in word. It seemed all the kids used it regularly, it was just the norm. I can’t remember when it infiltrated my vocabulary, but I can remember it rolling off my tongue with ease for over a decade. A few key experiences shaped my relationship to the word, and taught me in live action the diversity of the word’s history, meaning, and cultural application. So rap music is undoubtedly the most influential source of urban slang, and absolutely the culprit that popularized the N word around the world. Within the Hip Hop communities of East Harlem, & the South Bronx the word was sung, flung, but never stung. When my family moved to Throgs Neck the word took on a whole new meaning, which ironically was it’s original meaning. Throgs Neck at the time was still somehwat segregated, and prone to racial issues. Prior to moving there, I rarely thought twice about race. One day while sitting in a park with my best friend at the time, who happened to be white, another older kid came by and sat to talk with us. We looked up to the older kid, because… well because he was older. He spoke about high school, and things that intruiged us. Then he said something I’ll never forget. He said the same word I had been completely comfortable hearing, and saying myself, but with a different tone, and it stung like a killer bee. I stood quiet, embarrassed and ashamed as he made racist remarks unaware that I represented the people he was reffering to in such a hateful way.  Another time in math class my teacher who was African heard me use the word and flipped out! Sent me to the office and accused me of being racist. I argued how can I be racist against black people when I’m black!? You see, my pops complexion is light and most people think he is spanish, my mom is light skin, and low and behold I’m light skin as well. A few similar experiences caused me to learn and understand the N word has a different meaning, and effect on different people, in different places, at different times. I remember the day vividly that my brother and I explored alternative words to refer to our friends as we walked through the same park where the N word had left an inward bruise on me.

Remixing The N word

What is Hip Hop if it isn’t taking something that already exists, and giving it new life and meaning? We remix everything, It’s what we do. -Randy Mason 

“What’s poppin’ my neighbor?” – Damion B Sanders

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a gospel Hip Hop CD that his co-worker Dame made, and that joint was fire! One line in particular blew my mind when I heard it. On a Kanye West remix the rapper flipped Kanye’s line which originaly used the N word, and replaced it with the word neighbor. “What’s poppin’ my neighbor?”  That line was, and is still one of the dopest lines I’ve ever heard, it’s profound! I loved the CD so much, eventually Dame and I connected and formed a rap duo called Jesus Peace. Fast forward to a few days ago, (that’s an interesting sentence combining future & past tense) Dame and I are at our Church (Elements Church) youth concert where we were performing a few new songs. Prior to us going up, a brother went up to share his testimony. While passionately explaining the life God delivered him from he slipped up and said the N word.  Oops! Everyone kind of shockingly laughed it off as he apologized. As an urban church we knew exactly where he came from, what he meant, and how any of us could potentially slip up like that; especially when talking about our past life. So when Dame and I went up to do our song, I referenced our brothers raw testimony, gave God thanks for transforming his life, and lastly told the congregation that Neighbor, is now the new N word.

Biblebonics (Everything New)

Jesus flipped a lot of generational traditions, and cultural idealogy’s on their head. Because of the “new” perspective he brought someone once asked Jesus “what is the greatest commandment?” If that isn’t a loaded question I don’t know what is. In Jesus’s response we discover the two things that God esteems as paramount for humanity.

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So here we are in the year 2015, a lot has changed, and a lot is still the same. In regards to race in America things are once again beginning to intensify. In regards to Hip Hop culture and music, “consciousness” seems to be making a return as rappers address racial/political/social/economical issues in their music and interviews. Hip Hop & Christianity have a lot in common. From the underdog achieveing the impossible, to the remixing of culture, traditions, and perspectives; Most importantly the transformative aspect that they both employ; producing beauty from brokenness. So yo, consider this a Jesus Peace public service announcement: Neighbor is officially the new N word. Effective immediately. Tell a friend, tell all your neighbors.  We have an opportunity to make history! Lets make it so that when people look back at this time, and at our generation, they will see  a cultural shift in language and slang, when the N word was officially abolished and a new term flourished.


We Roll Deeper (Un-urbanized translation: There are more of us than them)

  What can we do? This question is frequently impressed upon my heart in response to many overwhelming & discouraging atrocities and injustices plaguing our world & communities today. Most recently in a discussion with my brother about the ongoing & seemingly worsening Fukushima catastrophe that took place in 2011, I became burdened with a feeling of helplessness.  Today it’s quietly being underreported that due to the nuclear plant meltdown during Fukushima, the Pacific Ocean is now becoming dangerously contaminated with radiation showing up on California shores. Adversely affecting sea life, and threatening the health and well being of all life within its reach. Beyond this looming dark cloud of death & despair, linger other dark clouds of the same character, manufactured by the dictator of darkness himself, the devil. As I write this now I can hear the news caster’s voice from a distant television, reporting a missing air craft that took off from Malaysia and has literally vanished in mid air with 200 passengers on board. Yesterday I received a text from my wife prompting me to pray since there had been a fatal explosion in an east Harlem residential building at 9:30 in the morning. So what can we do?  The rumors of war, the untimely death due to sickness, poverty, violence, each case of abuse, and neglect, the persecution of the church, the perversion of morality, the attack on family & marriage, the campaign of evil powered by music, movies, television & literature. We believers know the spiritual warfare that is taking place, and understand what’s behind the rapid increase of the desensitization to sin in this world, and the result of it. Even with this knowledge at times we can still feel helpless and frightened as we see bible prophecy unfolding further each day. In Mark 29:13 Jesus said “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near- at the doors!”

     In Romans 6:23 Paul writes; “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The latter half of that scripture is so much easier to read, but no truer than the 1st. Even the earth’s natural disasters are a result of the fall. Paul describes this in Romans 8:21-22- “Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pains together until now.”  So the question remains; what can I do? Well there are many answers to this question found in the word of God. Psalm 91 being one, and 1 John 4:4 being another, but I would like to focus on one particular story that recently resonated with me.

     The story of Elisha’s servant, a young man like myself who became afraid as the enemy drew near his camp and even asked the very same question that I find myself asking today.  2 Kings 6: 8-23 tells us of a time when God shut the eyes of the enemy & opened the eye of Elisha’s fearful servant. Elisha was a mighty man of God, a prophet! My assumption is, if you knew Elisha, you knew Jehovah, by his workings through the prophet. Therefore Elisha’s servant must have been well acquainted with the mighty power and provision of God. Even still Elisha’s servant became afraid when he arose early one morning to find his camp had been surrounded by the enemy sent by the King of Syria. A great army of horses and chariots had come by night and surrounded the place where Elisha dwelt. Kind of what it seems like when we awake to terrible news on any given day. Elisha’s servant shouted frantically “Master! What shall we do?” This question although now, may be more contemplative than immediate as in the context it was asked then, is the same question ultimately. The same concern is felt. The enemy is all around, and they appear to be great in number and strength. So what was Elisha’s response to his servant’s panicked reaction? “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” What?! How crazy is that? Elisha’s servant is looking at a giant wave of wickedness about to flood their camp, and yet Elisha confidently assures his servant there is no need to fear for they are greater in number and strength than the enemy. Elisha was obviously plugged into the unseen, aware of the supernatural; and although he may have been weak in himself he was strong in his reliance upon God. Elisha prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant. And the Lord did. When the eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened he saw the mountain full of Angels, horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were not alone! And neither are we. Elisha then prayed that the enemy would be blinded, subsequently fooled foiling their plan of attack. In the end, Elisha chose not to retaliate advising the king of Israel to feed the enemy and send them back to their master instead of killing them. This speaks to me about God’s abounding mercy & the authority we have as God’s people. When because of our Lord Jesus Christ, our enemies retreat to their master, defeated & empty handed, they will know we are a Godly people that cannot be moved, nor shaken. They will know that we are grounded in the Lord.  My prayer is that God open our eyes as he did Elisha servant. That we may sleep peacefully amidst the trials of this world because we have the peace and the hope of Jesus Christ.  My brothers and sisters in Christ be strong, be courageous, and trust in the Lord with all your heart. We roll deeper!