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Verses: Celebrating June, our hip-hop and our healing

Photography by: Dexter Fletcher. Design and Creative by: Airen Washington and Susan Akinyemi

Verses have always been healing for me — whether it is biblical verses telling a powerful testimony or perfectly crafted verses over a tight beat. Growing up, my parents gave me the Bible and the stereo gave me hip-hop. I’ve always been able to see God in music with great ease.

When the Notorious B.I.G. said, “And my whole crew is loungin’, Celebrating everyday, no more public housing,’ thinkin’ back on my one-room shack,” Biggie was reminiscing and speaking fondly of his small beginnings. It is the mirror image of the scripture, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last: for many be called, but few chosen.” 

Those two verses have elements of pain yet speak to a notion of hope and healing.  

There are many healing elements that exist within the month of June. It almost always felt like a second Black History-Celebratory Month, but the one with more calendar days. Juneteenth, the celebration of Texas slaves learning of their freedom, is in June. Father’s Day is in June. Black Music Month, decreed by President Jimmy Carter, is in June. Tupac Shakur, one of the most prolific artists we’ve ever known, was born in June. A well-known hip hop song from my city, Houston (aka Screwston) Texas “June 27th” is celebrated in June. However, the main reason June is a significant month to me, is because my father’s name is June and his birthday (and his twin sister’s birthday) is in June.  

When I think of my relationship with June, Jay-Z’s love letter to his father, Adnis (which also dropped in June 2017) surfaces to the top.

When Jay-Z previewed the 4:44 album, he teased the album with this song, and I was shaken to the core by the sheer preview of the verse, “Letters to my dad that I never wrote, speeches I prepared that I never spoke, words on a paper that I never read, proses never penned they stayed in my head.” 

My father was deported from my home when I was 7 years old and I saw him 20 years later. Although physically absent, he was very much so present. Raising my sister and I with beautifully written letters, he would also send math and physics exam questions prompting us to answer them and followed up weeks later with the answer key.  His verses, coupled with hip hop lyrics and the words of a praying mother, is what gives me solace, even after him passing away after nine months of us being reunited.  

Until now.

With the severe intentional brutality against Black people in the United States and feelings of being degraded and devalued, I don’t know which biblical stories or hip-hop lyrics to share with you. I am still searching for the right verse myself. One comes to mind…. “Mad” by Solange’s from A Seat At The Table …. “You Got the Light, Count it all Joy, You Got The Right to be Mad.” 

Here are a few songs that have helped me. I do hope you will listen and find a verse that gives you hope and provides some form of healing. Please take good care of your mental health during this time. And remember…remember where you come from and the lineage that has paved the way for you. In the words of Jay-Z from “Adnis,” “What ancestors did you summon to the summit, to give me what I needed, what you need to take from ‘em.  Maybe I did have a couple of verses for you. Be well.

Listen to this Music Playlist: Celebrating June: Hip Hop + Healing @ https://linktr.ee/albummixtape.

 

—julie m. wenah is a tech, civil rights, and entertainment lawyer by day and on nights and weekends, she creates content with a dope team that aims to heal the black community with The Album and The Mixtape, a movement and startup she founded that is committed to exploring storytelling and healing through bars. She is a hip-hop storyteller, mathematician, proud Houstonian by way of Nigeria, Obama alum, and most importantly, a Jesus lover/worshipper/glorifier.