*LOS ANGELES— In Israel, the sight of an African American man dressed in full Hasidic regalia tends to attract second glances even from people who don’t recognize this person as an internationally-known Orthodox Jewish rapper. Above all else, however, Nissim Black craves authenticity. He is who he is and can live with the attention.
“I get a lot of stares. Mostly good,” Black said. “They could be staring at you because you look different, or they could be staring at you because they like your music, and they don’t necessarily know how to come over and tell you so.”
Black spoke from Israel via Zoom before performing at the American Jewish University’s B’Yachad Together series. During the “From Gangs 2 God” discussion with AJU’s Rabbi Sherre Hirsch, Black reflected on a unique personal journey that took him across faiths and the world. He capped off the event with a performance of his 2020 hit “Mothaland Bounce,” which garnered more than 4 million views on YouTube.
In “Mothaland Bounce,” Black labels himself “Black and Yiddish … Hitler’s worst nightmare.” Hirsch brands him “the voice of a generation.”
“Talk about surviving and turning your life around,” Hirsch said. “All the stakes were against him. There should be no reason he should become this pillar not just of faith and hope but innovation and creation and music. It’s an extraordinary story.”
Born Damian Jamohl Black, the Seattle native is the son of two rappers and the grandson of other musicians. He was raised Muslim, and converted to Christianity in high school before turning to Judaism.
His upbringing included high school football, gang activity, and evangelical camps. Black is open about his achievements and missteps. His parents both had drug problems, and Black himself has been in what he characterizes as a “kill or be killed” situation with another rap artist.
From a young age, as others in his neighborhood dreamed of NFL or NBA super stardom, Black wanted something different. His decision in high school to turn toward faith was surprising to some and predictable to others. Black recalls a conversation with a cousin who said she recognized even then Black was special, before he realized it himself.
“I don’t know where she was coming from. I knew me back then and I thought I was a knucklehead … just like everybody else,” Black said. “I hooked up with my high school friends after some time, and they admitted they knew I was so on fire, so spiritually-focused that they would get jealous. They wanted me to belong even if they didn’t feel that I did.”
Asked about influences both musical and spiritual, Black admits to being equally moved by the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. and King David (The song “A Million Years” is inspired by a psalm of King David) as he is by the work of Eminem and fellow Jewish black recording artist Drake. Black released two albums as D. Black (“The Cause and Effect” in 2006 and “Ali’yah” in 2009) before stepping away from hip hop to focus on his spiritual journey.
“I couldn’t figure out a way to make the two worlds work,” Black said. “It was very hard for me because my relationship to hip hop, at one point, was associated with absolutely nothing that I was learning in Judaism. I started working a regular job. Of course, because I’m the creative soul that I am, I was never fulfilled. But my main focus was connecting and coming closer to God.”
Black changed his name knowing that both he and his wife would be converting and wanting the new name that he would be known by to be on his marriage contract. He settled on “Nissim” (meaning “miracles”) partly by happenstance and partly because of what he considers providence.
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After considering, Yehoshua, Black consulted several rabbis. One day, while praying over the name conundrum in temple, he reached behind the bench to grab a prayer book that said “Nissim” on it. He later realized that he was born on the seventh day of Kislev, the month of miracles in the Jewish calendar.
As Nissim Black, the artist appears to have discovered how to bridge the two worlds. Songs like “Mothaland Bounce” and the new single “RERUN” are part announcement and part self-reflection without anger or expletives.
The videos are distinctly playful, employing elements of both traditional hip hop and Orthodox Judaism. As Hirsch put it, the artist is “unafraid to bring together what most people think shouldn’t be blended.”
Have there been challenges to being Hasidic Jew and a rap star?
“I was told by everybody else, that nobody was going to embrace it,” Black said. “Maybe I should try something different. Maybe I should start singing Jewish medleys. But that’s not what God wanted from me. It’s not what he gave me. Everybody told me nobody’s going to accept you over here. I’m surprised to find it hasn’t been true.”
Hirsch, who also served as AJU’s chief innovation officer, believes the world will benefit from Black’s artistry.
“He breaks barriers everywhere he goes,” Hirsch said. “The music itself is breaking records and breaking barriers … but also, it’s him. By being authentic and by being real, he sets a new standard for what it means to be impactful in the world.”
(Edited by Matt Rasnic and Blake French)
The post ‘He Breaks Barriers’: Nissim Black Becomes Internationally Known Jewish rapper appeared first on Zenger News.
Pastors of Different Races Merge Churches and Release New Book to Help Heal Racial Divides (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*In 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “11 ‘o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America.”
The civil rights leader’s famed quote was in reference to of course just how segregated church services were, and in many cases still are, across the United States.
Hoping to bridge this wide gap, in 2016, Pastors Derrick Hawkins (African American) and Jay Stewart (Caucasian American) decided to merge their racially separate congregations into The Refuge Church in North Carolina.
The recently released book, “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last,” co-authored by the pastors, chronicles their relationship and what led to this racial reckoning. (Buy book now).
“We are living in a time where there still is much division, anger, and confusion in our nation especially as it relates to racial unity,” Pastor Stewart said in an EUR phone interview. “The bottom line is that we have a very unique story and God has chosen to write a better narrative in the midst of all the confusion and anger.”
Pastor Stewart continued, “So, we have an opportunity to share our story but to also give practical guidelines for how people can build relationships with people who look different than they do. The subtitle of the book is ‘forming racial bonds that last’ and that’s really the reason we’ve written this book.”
Pastor Hawkins blames the media partly for the racial strife and sees their story as a positive alternative.
“I think there are so many different narratives going on across the media,” Pastor Hawkins told the EUR. “There are so many things that the enemy is trying to spread. We wanted a better narrative and not just a better story and to let people know that there are amazing things happening with the body of Christ that are positive.”
Guidelines in the book to start racial healing include practicing understanding others, respecting others’ opinions, getting out of one’s comfort zone, and committing to unity.
“We seek to understand more than we seek to be understood,” said Pastor Stewart. “So, we have to lay down our own agenda and really come to the table with the goal of understanding the other person. Secondly, we value the relationship more than being right. We live in a day where everybody feels that they have a right to their own opinion. One thing we’ve learned is that we lay down our rights because the relationship is more important.”
Pastor Stewart added, “We also have to break out of our comfort zones and be willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of others and if we do that we discover the most greatest and thrilling adventures in our relationship with Christ.”
Pastor Hawkins said of people coming together, “I live by the motto in Ephesians 4:3, just making unity a priority. We know that we don’t have the ability to create unity, but it is our job to project unity. Pastor Jay always said we want to take every opportunity to make unity a priority but also preserve it.”
“Unity doesn’t mean there’s an absence of disagreement, but we have the ability to protect unity at all costs,” added Pastor Hawkins. “And there’s a way to look at your own echo chamber to see what you can do to make sure you are building healthy relationships with people who don’t look the same as you.”
The recent presidential election and election in general showed that most white Christians favored Donald Trump and Republicans. This support has led many in the black community to believe that white Christians overwhelmingly support racism and other ideologies that divide the races. The pastors said political views should have no place in the church.
“The kingdom of heaven trumps any political party,” said Pastor Hawkins. “Our job is to always align people to the kingdom and those things that we know are biblical truth. That’s why Ephesians 4:3 is so important.”
“We’ve only chosen to focus on the things that we share in common,” said Pastor Stewart. “And those are the things that unite us in the word of God. Bottomline, our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and our loyalty is not to some political party or to some person and that’s the thing that unites us.”
Pastor Stewart and Pastor Hawkins met in 2014 and two years later the two merged their churches. The Refuge Church has three campuses in North Carolina- Kannapolis, NC (main campus), Salisbury, and Greensboro. Plus, an international location in Brazil.
Pastor Stewart heads the main campus, while Pastor Hawkins leads the Greensboro location. They often lead together in the church as one unit.
Here is a video clip regarding the merging.
If you have not noticed, the pastors are also of different ages. They maintain a close father-son relationship because, “I’m just incredibly cool,” said Pastor Stewart. “I just have a heart for the kingdom and age doesn’t matter to me. God just knit us together in a really special way. It’s never been an issue for me, and I don’t think it’s been an issue for him.”
“I grew up around my grandmothers and older individuals and I love gleaning from the wisdom from the generations,” Pastor Hawkins said. “There’s no future without the shoulders of the previous generations. Outside of white, black, political differences, chaos, and challenges, this man has poured into me and my life has been better because of his core and his relationship with the Holy Spirit.”
Actors Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli Talk About Their Roles in The New Saved By The Bell
*The 90s sitcom “Saved by the Bell” is returning to TV. The revised Saturday morning favorite will be airing on NBC’s new streaming service Peacock.
The show will focus on a new generation of Bayside High students along with some old favorites. Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is now the governor of California and come under heat as he is blamed for the closing of many low-income schools. To rectify the situation he proposes those students attend Bayside High.
The transferred students find themselves adjusting to being out of their element, while the Bayside students try to play nice and make room for the new kids. We spoke with Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli about their characters.
“It really is important to show that just where you are doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’re going to go. For Devante to come to Bayside and meet Jamie Spano and Mac Morris and have the opportunity to interact with all these kids who aren’t like him and not what he’s used to, it’s really special,” is what Dexter had to say about his character Devante.
Belmont Camelin plays Jamie who is the son of Jessie Spano, played by Elizabeth Berkley. As a true fan of the original, you have to wonder if the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree? Is Jessie’s son a passionate outspoken book worm kind of kid? Well only somewhat according to Belmont:
“I don’t think he’s as strong about his academics but he’s certainly passionate and he’s a very expressive person. His mom has made him very aware of his feelings and relationships,” says Belmont.
Not only was Jessie a straight-A student she was also vocal about anything she felt wasn’t right, so it’ll be interesting to see her son be just as vocal as the show covers topics that the 90’s version didn’t cover.
Check out the new generation of “Saved By The Bell” November 25 on Peacock.
Young Filmmaker Kalia Love Jones Evokes ‘Power of Hope’ and A Bright Future
*Kalia Love Jones is a young filmmaker who has taken the transformative words of former First Lady Michelle Obama to another level.
At just fourteen years old, she is now the writer, producer and director of an animated short called “The Power of Hope.” Kalia got the idea for the film when she was twelve.
Her parents supported the idea but encouraged her to earn her own money to finance her film. Kalia rose to the challenge and a year later her film was complete thanks to the funds she acquired from recycling.
“The Power of Hope” depicts a young girl who aspires to be a renown architect. When she encounters obstacles, she commits to staying focused on her goals and working harder while remembering the words of Michelle Obama. The six minute animated short is on par with the work of seasoned filmmakers, layered with emotion, vibrant cinematography, a lyrical score and anchored by a beautiful aspirational story. Well Hollywood, make way for a new femme fantabulous in the field of animation. Kalia is currently on the festival circuit with “The Power of Hope” and it is evident that the sky is the limit. Visit www.ThePowerofHopefilm.com. For info on Kalia Love Jones contact: Yvonne Gilliam [email protected] or call (214)336-1583.
LaRita “Jazzy Rita” Shelby is a writer & entertainer and Director of Digital Strategy & Sales for EURweb.com, newly branded Everything Urban & Radioscope. Winner of MIMPA’S 2020 Entertainment Journalist of the Year Award & Proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho. LaRita is the author of The Brand Beside the Brand and On My Father’s Side. Check out her new single on iTunes “Goodbye 2020.” Chat, swap ideas & vision at [email protected]
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