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Last week was the fiftieth anniversary of Hip-Hop.

In his book Blue Note Preaching  the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Minister of Trinity UCC in Chicago, wrote:

Now remember that Hip-Hop is the first cultural creation that does not explicitly come out of the church. . . . Hip-Hop is standing outside of the church looking in the window because no one is raising questions about poverty and deindustrialized urban landscapes . . . . Young people become the Griot to be able to speak prophetically when preachers said, “We will not speak.”

I’ll save you googling “Griot.”  It is defined as “a member of a class of traveling poets, musicians, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa.”

I do have one significant ministry story tied to a Hip-Hop album.  What follows comes from a blogpost I wrote in 2015 as part of a series I was doing about my cd collection.


It was an early morning, and I was driving along a two-lane state highway in the Arkansas Delta headed for Helena, the place that Mark Twain wrote was the prettiest on the Mississippi.  I popped Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama into the cd player as I rolled along past soybeans and cotton.

This was complicated terrain I was entering, filled with racial tensions.  The past was not glorious–one of the largest mass murders in American history occurred nearby in Elaine when white people massacred African-American farmers in the early 20th century.  The area had experienced forty years of agricultural recession and white flight.  Helena has once been a city of 40,000 and was now around 6,000.  Entire city blocks were empty waste lands.  As I entered Phillips County I noticed the signs for the upcoming election–all the candidates were white.  I knew that the population was overwhelmingly black.  The colleagues I met up with showed me neighborhoods without indoor plumbing, this in 2002.

So tired, tired of this drama
No more, no more
I wanna be free
I’m so tired, so tired

No More Drama is a great road trip album, no matter where you are driving, but it was quite fitting in the Arkansas Delta as I had my first serious experience seeing systemic racism in America.

No more drama


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First Central Congregational Church