"My elders taught me to see" / Spiritual Beings Having a Hip-Hop Experience

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Spiritual Beings Having a Hip-Hop Experience
by Ezir’ra James (Guest Contributor, The Liberator Magazine)

Born in Oklahoma, my political reality growing up was that we belonged to an unfortunate class of people that didn’t have a voice. No one believed in us, or our creative abilities, so our spirit went through outbursts of loud lyrics and beats, scratched records, body jerks, and spray paint all over city walls and public spaces. Through this spiritual outburst, we found fragments of our voice and, over time, put the pieces together in a more conscious form, creating a collective sense of self. Continuing my journey to New York at the age of 19, after submerging myself in the roots of hip-hop culture, much of its interpretation in the media displayed a downward spiral of integrity and self-realization. This psychologically concerned me, and I gravitated towards elders who were the mothers and fathers of our generation and was introduced to the spiritual practices of yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and meditation. I was introduced to yoga at the age of 22 by renowned healer Queen Afua, who became my mentor allowing me to substitute teach her Hatha yoga class in her Brooklyn neighborhood.

Concerned with the growth of my culture, my elders taught me to see my peers as spiritual beings, being given special abilities to experience and interpret life on earth, and these spiritual practices helped to maintain a deeper connection to our creative abilities. I began to intuitively explore yoga with hip-hop, through movements, music and spoken word with my peers at a community center in the middle of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. This is when I began to explore hip-hop as an open interpretation of life on earth as a spiritual being. Shortly after, I began traveling back and forth between New York and Atlanta, sharing my passion for hip-hop and new found love for Yoga, working with activists, artists, and organizers holding Yogetry [yoga + poetry], and B-Boy Yoga events that summoned youth into class wearing street and club clothes with yoga mats. I decided to write a book, Spiritual Beings Having a Hip-Hop Experience, to explore this era’s hip-hop experience as a conduit for spiritual growth.

Shortly after writing the book, I went through a tremendously spiritual period of my life that I couldn’t manage within the environment I was in. I ended up in a psychiatric ward with un-nurtured and neglected experiences that I had to keep to myself. I couldn't conform to political systems and institutions that create a psychological interpretation of who we should be. Being included in corporate America and the working class felt like a slow means toward retardation and depression. Our generation is taught the classical structures of living in our country and, upon being given suggestions to comply, we close our eyes with headphones, seeking to interpret a new one. As spiritual creative beings, hip-hop gives us space to. My book is an effort to administer tools to build upon this new and evolving experience with: essay’s on hip-hop, social studies and spiritual science; illustrations; psychotherapy exercises; ritual exercises; and poetry, prayers and affirmations.

Ezir’ra James has worked in Atlanta as a youth yoga instructor for at-risk teens within a mental health care institution and continues to hold classes while pursuing music and creative therapy studies.

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