Day 6: Freestyle
Scripture: Exodus 15:20-21 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. Mariam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.
Song: "Do That"
Happy Sixth Day of Thanks Everyone!
I give thanks to God for the creativity and the ability to spit a rhyme, aka freestyle, and bust out a poem in extemporaneous worship to him.
I think most of you know by now that I live in the best place on the planet, but if you don’t know you should know that I hail from the South Bronx. You’re probably asking yourself, “Why is that piece of information important?” It’s important because I carry the spiritual DNA of the geographical location of where I was born.
Not only is the motto of the South Bronx’s creed, “No cede malis” embedded in the make-up of who I am, the knack for original creativity in artistry is embedded there too. In the streets and neighborhoods of the South Bronx, young black and brown youth, spit sounds and lyrics that would eventually take the world by storm. Almost nothing is done today without the “seasoning” of hip hop. And we are the originators of it. In these same communities, from the streets and many small night clubs another sound, jazz, was also indoctrinated that would also take the world by storm. Our graffiti art was tagged all over buildings and sidewalks. And what was once thought of to be a nuisance, is now glorified, considered art, and paid for at the highest bid to decorate some of our street murals. And let’s not forget the spoken word artists that hail from here too.
Most Bronxites are the most creative, talented, multi-faceted, “diamond in the rough” folks that you will ever meet in your life. They have raw talent seeping through their pores, and although often misunderstood, have the greatest hearts and look after the members of their community.
Are you starting to get my point about our ability to create and freestyle?
If not, I’ll show you.
One of the organizations that I’ve co-founded, South Bronx Unite, several months ago started doing these community discussions. We planned the first conversation in a park area on 140th Street between Alexander and Willis Avenues in the middle of a project building and the Old Lincoln Recovery Center (which we are going to change into the H.e.Arts Center) to talk about the results of our voter’s campaign. We invited one young lady, who trains in our local music school, Upbeat NYC, to play her violin for us. Within minutes, we had artist asking if they could bring their instruments to come vibe with us. No lie, we had an unplanned concert in the park with drums, piano, trumpet, violin to spearhead our event. Then, if that was not enough, during the event the chief of staff in our congressional office started freestyling, dropping knowledge about current events, what it was like growing up in our neighborhood, and the kinds of intellectual conversations we need to be having about what’s going on in our community now. It was beautiful! And all done spontaneously!
If that hasn’t convinced you, here’s another example.
One of my friends who I have known since I was ten or 11 is another one of those raw talents from the South Bronx. He can draw, takes amazing photos and stills, raps, does spoken word, and acts. You name it, he does it. It’s almost as if a new talent is birthed from him every day. One of the things that we’ll sometimes do together is freestyle. Recently, we were talking and I said something to which his response was “ooooow, that sounds like the start of a poem.” I replied, “then you’re supposed to write the next line!” After a few nudges, since he was already recording his spoken word in the studio, he engaged and for some time, we went back and forth freestyling, creating the next lines of our poetry together. It’s really cool and fun. Our most recent work is still not finished, because he “got next on the mic,” but it goes like this:
Me: “May the fire be ignited to the embers of smoke…”
Him: “And from the clearing of smog my sight is obstructed but abducted by the path made by God.”
Me: “Calling me to my first love and first hope. In fear, I couldn’t cope. So, I dropped it. Nothing erased”
Him: “And my prime base was a faceless face staring back at myself in a rat race drawing near the finish line as I fell asleep in mind I woke up as my number was being called first in line”
Me: “To achieve access to a future carved and orchestrated as solely mine, Not even to be stolen by the wasting of time. Yah-protected.”
Him: “And if neglected I can only blame my own name for the spelling was incorrect, ballroom dancing with my own introspect
Me: “forgetting that I sold out to his will, his thoughts, his call. I promised to give him my all. His claim put a stake in the game and changed my name. Can’t turn back…”
I told you he got talent! And I love the way, the freestyle naturally went in the vein of honoring God. It reminded me of how Mariam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, spontaneously broke out singing, dancing, and playing her tambourine when she acknowledged the saving mercy of God. Imagine that! Mariam started freestyling. In her gratitude for God saving her and the Israelites from the Egyptian armies, she didn’t hold back her praise. And neither should we!
Today, as we give thanks for freestyling, reflect on God’s goodness to you and don’t hold back your praise. Give God some of your creative praise! Go ahead and freestyle. Whether it’s a shout, a rhyme, a song, a dance, or playing an instrument, give it to Him. It’s your worship to Him and it’s your acknowledgement of His worth-ship. Additionally, I ask that you to donate your time and/or resources to my favorite music school, Upbeat NYC (https://upbeatnyc.org/get-involved/donate/), and The Thrive Collective (https://www.thrivecollective.org/bringartback/), which is doing an amazing job bringing the arts back to public schools.
Have a Great Day of Thanks!