Discipleship In The Hood Series: Eric B. And Rakim…In The GhettoPosted: February 26, 2014
Being a “Hip Hop Head” (someone fascinated with Hip Hop music) growing up in the late 80‘s and early 90‘s, I have no reluctance in using songs as illustrations. The famous rap duo from New York, “Eric B. And Rakim” had a song they recorded from the record, “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em” in 1990 with MCA Records. The song, “In The Ghetto” has a hook (chorus) that to this day is still etched in my brain from almost 24 years ago. Every time the hook comes in with the hypnotic beat and sampled snippets, you can’t help but to bob your head with a tough lookin’ grin on your face. I sometimes find it interesting that though I serve in the hood currently, I grew up in the suburbs of Prince George’s County (the state of Maryland) in the 80‘s-90‘s. Even though my upbringing wasn’t one of the “ghetto experience”, the rapper Rakim vividly paints the picture for all to see and understand. “The ghetto…nobody’s smilin’, the ghetto…nobody’s smilin’, the ghetto…” goes the hook. This hook carries a lot of weight with me, more now than before. Nobody’s smilin’ in the ghetto because there is not much to smile about. According to the dictionary, the ghetto is defined as a section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships. In many ghettos in America and around the world, there are extreme poverty, hopelessness, frustration, desperation, dissipation (to escape the difficulties of life), depression, violence, and abuse. For many from the hood, they would describe the hood as the struggle, survival, or in Tupac’s words, the underdog. This is not to say these adjectives are not descriptive of any other neighborhood but in the hood it is a unique tension.
According to Dr. Carl Ellis’ research, the roots of this crisis (Ghetto Culture) do not go back to Africa, but to the old South. Few of us remember this, but at one time, the dominant influence in the old South was a chaotic culture that came from pre-18th Century regions of the British Isles, namely, 1) the Scottish highlands, 2) the “midlands” – the anarchic region between England and Scotland and 3) what is now Northern Ireland. Before the formation of the United Kingdom, these regions were unstable, lawless, violent and uncontrollable. Most southern Whites can trace their roots back to “these regions”. These individuals would have a worldview of them being the victims and everyone else being the problem. When the Europeans came over to “civilize the Indians” in the Americas, they couldn’t help but to bring their culture with them. The Northerners description of the Southern Blacks in the early 1900‘s matched the description of the British. Once blacks were captured from Africa in the Slave Trade by Southern Whites, the African slaves began to adopt their way of living. This “redneck culture” were recognized and described when the black americans began to migrate from the South to the North. The Reconstruction South, Jim Crow backlash, and racial segregation caused the migration (1875-1900). But when the Industrial Revolution was going on in the North, massive European immigration began to take all the available jobs black Americans held before. Eventually, the migration of the European immigrants began the isolation and discrimination of blacks in the North. You began to have marginalization in the North and the South toward the blacks. While the areas of concentrated blacks were together, you had a mixture of diverse character (according to Carl Ellis: achievers and non-achievers). Everything from being a teacher, doctor, lawyer, to the janitor, single mom with kids, prostitute, drug dealer, etc. lived in the neighborhood together.
This information on the roots of Ghetto Culture is important to know and understand because it protects you from having a negative, preconceived bias against people living in “the hood”. It is important for you or anyone to come away with people, whether European American, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Korean, etc. are sinners and sinners sin! Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…not just people in the hood. Every people group have not done what God requires perfectly 24/7, 100% of the time. This goes for the rich, privilege latent culture in the suburbs on the Eastside of town (or whatever side of town that represents the opposite of the hood). All are equally wicked before a holy and righteous God who will one day bring His righteous judgment through His Son Jesus Christ! We all need to repent and trust the gospel for change! Repentance (turning away in sorrow from sin and self) and trusting in the good news of Christ’s forgiveness of sins and power to glorify Him enables us to live lives that honor God and bless our neighbors around us! I believe, if this is not fundamentally understood in your approach to making disciples in the hood, you will be shooting yourself and the one’s you are trying to reach in the foot. Making disciples in the hood with this understanding and knowledge will give us a shot in graciously but boldly transforming the hood to God’s hood over time through our verbal proclamation and life on life of training others. For God’s kingdom (hood) is one of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost! May God’s hood come to the hood! Then the opposite of Eric B. And Rakim’s song would ring different…the ghetto…everyone’s smilin’!