Today in Meeting for Worship at Brooklyn Quaker Meeting, my mind was spinning on the subject of hip-hop. Although the Meeting was just about over, I couldn’t help but stand up and share this:
This morning I can’t stop thinking about hip-hop.
As a form of expression, hip-hop, at its best, challenges the powers that be. It is as a way of giving voice to the marginalized, the dispossessed, those who don’t get heard in the dominant culture. Hip-hop is about breaking the rules, being outrageous, making art where you shouldn’t, moving your bodies in ways that shouldn’t be possible.
As a Quaker, I wonder what I can learn from hip-hop.
In the early days of Quakerism, our daily practice centered around challenging the powers that be, breaking social norms, setting ourselves apart by our speech and dress and actions. Now I’m not about to start using "thee" and "thou" in my daily speech. But I wonder what as a Quaker I can be doing to set myself apart, to publicly exhibit our testimonies to the world.
It seems to me that hip-hop and Quakerism attack the dominant culture in different but perhaps complementary ways. Where one is about beats that shake the ceiling tiles, another is about seeking truth in the silence. Where one embraces a rhythmic staccato attack of shouted poetry, another expresses itself in slow, considered, spoken prose. One is about frenetic motion — twisting your body on the floor and moving waves through your body — the other values calm stillness.
I find deep satisfaction and power in both hip-hop and Quakerism. Bring the noiz, bring the silence.