gOD-Talk 2.0: Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith is the seventh episode of the award-winning web series presented by the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life (CSAARL) at the Smithonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in association with the Pew Research Center. In collaboration with the release of the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap, this special edition conversation explored the relationship between hip-hop music and culture and Black expressions of faith and spirituality. Questions explored:
gOD-Talk 2.0: Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith was a dinner conversation featuring two generations of hip-hop, Gen X (creators) and Millennials (second generation). Panelist explored the intersections of Black religion and spirituality, race, sexuality, gender, and more.
We were very intentional about filming the conversation over dinner. Within African American culture, particularly religious and spiritual, the sharing of communal meals is essential for building and fostering relationships in passing of norms and customs. With that in mind, we created a safe-space for intergenerational dialogue across religious and spiritual beliefs to transpire over a three course-meal and libations: appetizer, main course, and dessert. In selecting the cuisine for the conversation, we felt it was important to go with traditional Black culinary cuisine from New Orleans.
Additionally, we created the conversation to be around a table surrounded by African American civil rights luminaries, Representative John Lewis, Ruby Dee, and Ossie Davis, and so many more. With seating panelist around a table, we sought out to create shared common space—reminiscent of family dinner. Regarding the size of the table, we desired it to be large to push against the notions of scarcity and lack of space. By choosing an extended table, we wanted panelist and viewers to know that there was enough room at the table for all voices, identities, beliefs, and cultures.
The biggest challenge we encountered in the process of bring the conversation to the screen was the hot temperatures in New Orleans in May. The conversation was filmed at Studio Be, a beautiful gallery space curated by renowned artist, Brandon “BMike” Odums. In having a conversation about hip-hop, we knew we needed the set design to reflect the culture, style, and visual expressions of hip-hop. Brandon’s gallery and works provided that and more! With the enhancements of the table for panelist and additional LED walls, the space transformed into an oasis of Black artistic representation. With two days before filming, we were able to secure external vendors to provide portal air units in the space. The temperatures cooled down to 70 just in time for the beginning of filming; and we were able to execute a successful show!
gOD-Talk 2.0 Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith aired on both Facebook LIVE and subsequently on YouTube. Between both platforms, the episode has received more than 11,000 views with more than 35,000 people reached.
For the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) success is defined by our ability to engage multiple publics in innovative and diverse ways on the topic of African American religious and spiritual life. In measuring success, we ask ourselves several questions internally:
It is through the gOD-Talk conversation series that we are continuing to educate and expand the public discourse around Black faith and spirituality. The gOD-Talk 2.0 Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith conversation series is charting new territory in innovative research and scholarship because it has created new unique qualitative data for researchers and audiences interested in hip-hop and Black faith. The conversation centered the experiences of marginalized communities in both hip-hop and religion, Black women and LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals, to better understand the relationship between the most religious demographic in this country and creators of hip-hop music and culture—as Dr. Erika Gault states, "they [hip-hop and Black faith] have some of the same concerns."