Christian hip-hop artist Sho Baraka was the feature panelist at an April 20 community forum sponsored by ReCity, a Durham non-profit dedicated to connecting community organizations and promoting opportunity to Durham’s youth. The forum, Race & the City with Sho Baraka, explored how the role the gospel can play towards racial reconciliation.
Sho Baraka released his first hip-hop gospel album, “Turn Up My Life” in 2007. Later albums “Lions and Liars” and “Talented 10th” topped the US Gospel charts.
“The gospel doesn’t call us to be assimilated to one particular type of people group,” Baraka said. “The gospel doesn’t ask us to have ceasefires with one another, it desires to make enemies family. Now that we are family it creates environments of hospitality.”
Baraka, speaking to a diverse crowd of about 50 said that people need to celebrate their separate cultures without turning their culture into an idol. If people are made in the image of God, he argued, we should love them and treat them as ourselves, no matter their creed or religion.
Reconciliation, Baraka explained, is a two-way street.
The color blind approach often taken by whites, he said, too often denies the existence of white privilege and institutional racism. These views affect the progress of reconciliation. Being educated and knowing history is important in order to fight against it.
“There’s traditionally a group of people in this country who don’t want to hear the truth but want reconciliation,” he said. “There’s also a side of people who just want to tell the truth with no desire of reconciliation.”
According to Baraka the folks who say “naw cuz you owned some slaves and I don’t like you and there ain’t no hope for us to be reconciled” need to hear the message of the gospel.
Panelist Reynolds Chapman, further talks from the perspective as a white male, white people shouldn’t forget where the suppression comes from and how important it is to not run away from action.
Chapman is the executive director of DurhamCares and a minister at Evangelical Covenant Church.
“In Durham if you are African American you are four times more likely to be stopped by police.” Chapman said. “The way the police force enforces laws are oppressing to the black community. Because I don’t experience this on a daily basis I have to steep myself in the history and what’s going on in the community.”
According to Chapman white guilt is fragility when people run away from the issue but repentance is true recognition of the problem and what’s going on.
Attendee La’Treall Maddox said she appreciated the panelists reflections and their honesty about racial issues, adding that she has herself experienced hostility in the black community because of her lighter complexion. “They were very candid and forth coming with their commentary,” she said. “There was a level of raw authenticity that was unusual but refreshing.”
Maddox said she is now 49 and finally just getting to that place in my life where real dialogue about race and disparity can happen.”
“The constant theme that the gospel is the real solution to the situation that we’re in as a nation, resonates with me.”