I was raised in the Catholic Church. From the moment I was placed under this religious institution, I was put in a situation where my savior would never look like me. For me Jesus Christ was a white men with blond hair and blue eyes. Much of my high-school years were spent going to church and confessing my teenage sins to a white man who would absolve me of those sins and tell me to pray to a white women(virgin mary) who in turn would save my soul. By the time I was 14 I thought all white men and women did was save people, the only man of color I saw in an position of authority was my dad, and papi did not look like Jesus and neither did mami.
While for many our spiritual path gives us strength the Catholic Church robbed me of my strength; it made me question why Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit(also known as the trinity) did not look like me. One day after school I went to my best friend’s house and noticed a picture on the wall; a picture of Jesus Christ, but unlike in my house, Jesus in this picture was Black. I stared at the picture and that image seared into my consciousness, that sunday when I went to church I was so conflicted, it didn’t make sense, when you are brainwashed by a religious institution and contradictions arise that conflict with your spirituality its hard to see the truth. That sunday would be my last as a member of the catholic religion. Although this decision caused some family schisms I realize now that it was one of the best personal decisions i could have ever made to save my spirit, my soul, the essence of who I am.
As a search for spiritual lessons for my daughter, I have committed myself to focus on the readings of different religions. While reading the teachings of Jesus Christ, not the King James version of the Bible, I have learned what I believe is the truth of this person. and understand the fullness of him as a man in a specific historical time. An African revolutionary, whom walked with the dispossessed.
So today when, a spokersperson for the Catholic League condemned Kanye West for portraying Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone, and preceded to call him and the magazine “moronic” I ask him, was it wrong for Jesus to be portrayed by Charlton Heston, a gun-touting member of the National Rifle Association, or what about the hoopla surrounding the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ, I do not recall similar outrage from the Catholic League when the actor, Jim Caviezel was on every cover of every major magazine and what about the many 1000s of white men portray Jesus Christ in the last 100 years of cinema and television.
But I am not naive, it is not about seeing Jesus in a contemporary light, renderings of what people believe to be Jesus Christ have been around forever, the problem for the Catholic League and many white christians whom will start coming out of the woodwork to also condemn Kanye and begin to attack Hip Hop is that Kanye West as a Black man does not represent their revisionist history of whom Jesus was. This week the South African Film “Son of man” which premiered at the Sundance Film festival this week portrays Christ as a modern African revolutionary. I am hoping that we as a Hip Hop community will support this movie, Hip Hop as a tool of cultural resistance has the power to not only fight the images and words of those who would seek to oppress us but also has the power to use imagery to liberate million of minds who everyday see the lord and savior as a white boy, here and internationally.
So once again brother Kanye West has used the mainstream media to shake up white America, score 2 for Hip-Hop culture. It may seem small and insignificant to many folks but as someone who believed for years that white men were my spiritual saviors, seeing the cover of Rolling Stone was a reaffirmation of my decision when I was a teenager, so late last night as I was walking in my ‘hood Flatbush, I was singing in my head, “To the hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers even the strippers, (Jesus walks with them), To the victims of welfare feel we living in hell here, hell yea(Jesus walks with them)(Jesus Walks)God show me the way because the Devil try to break me down(Jesus Walks with me)” when I walked into my house and picked up my baby girl Alicia, I showed her the picture of Kanye on the cover of Rolling Stone, she looked and smiled, I laid her down in her crib and she stared at the picture of Kanye that I just put above her crib, she fell asleep knowing that not only does Jesus walk with her but Jesus looks like her too.