Hip-hop, spirituality and empowerment: utilizing hip-hop culture as a medium to create spaces of social and spiritual transformation

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Hip-hop culture’s birthplace is in the South Bronx which is also the home of El Fogon Center for the Arts—the community in which I serve. With over twenty-two years’ experience in Hip-hop culture and twelve years of experience in lay leadership, I have found that youth and young adults ages 18-24 are strongly influenced by negative lyrical content and multi-media imagery that is associated with Rap music, ultimately creating a spiritual crisis. This predicament affects the future of countless youth, communities and Hip-hop culture in a negative way, especially considering Hip-hop’s global influence as a multi-billion-dollar industry. From a spiritual perspective, the consequences are much broader in scale when you consider the phenomenon of dying mainstream churches and other faith-based communities due to its dwindling numbers. So, who or what is now helping to fill these spiritual voids to these countless thirsty souls from the streets?
This demonstration project will attempt to create a public awareness campaign that will teach this demographic the original intentions of Hip-hop culture, for the purpose of encouraging this population to stay true to its original objective. In applying ethnographic research through countless interviews with Hip-hop artist and organizations through communal events, focus group stimuli and ministerial work, we are able to capture for the first time ever an intergenerational dialogue that connects Hip-hop cultures history with its spiritual trajectory. The results of this case study indicate that Hip-hop culture can serve as an alternative pathway to the traditional views and interpretations of sacred spaces and spirituality. Because of its unlimited capabilities (via its aesthetics) along with its ability to organically create spaces for ecumenical dialogue, Hip-hop is helping to connect countless human beings that are searching for God through purpose—the beginning of the spiritual journey.
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