How to Become a Hip-Hop Promoter
Two award-winning hip-hop groups; an exclusive New Years concert in a private venue protected by armed security; a Mennonite Church Canada Witness team. How did it come to this? It’s all pretty standard, really…
Step 1: Find out the programs available through Mennonite Church Canada
In 2012, Taryn and I found ourselves heading to Botswana for a three year term serving as Mennonite Church Canada Witness workers. Mennonite Church Canada has numerous opportunities for anyone to serve in local and overseas capacities, both short and long-term (follow this link for the opportunities currently available). If that’s inspirational, but not for you, you can always help to support these programs from your home congregation. In fact, all of the funding comes straight from MC Canada congregations (often through some really cool fundraising ideas, from bike events to canning and selling peach salsa), as does our incredible prayer support.
Step 2: Go!
Once we arrived in Botswana, our local church partners informed us of the needs which they felt were most pressing in their community. These partners have been in relationship with Mennonite volunteers for over 40 years; they know what they’re talking about, and we know that from experience! One of the consistent themes they expressed was the need for young people in the churches to be empowered and motivated as servants of Jesus. Being young (and inexperienced) ourselves, we thought hey, that’s right up our alley.
Step 3: Get creative
We asked God how to proceed (God strikes us as more creative than we are). A number of different opportunities came our way to help empower local Christian youth. One of these was in serving in local prisons. A number of barriers stood in the way, but as we tentatively pushed they all melted away. We followed God’s leading into the prisons, and for the past three years God has blessed us and our youth with the opportunity to serve there. It wasn’t what we expected, but it was the right thing at the right time, and we’ve been blessed to be a part of it, and to see it become sustainable through our local partners.
Step 4: Make the most of the opportunities presented
Lots of things are changing for Mennonite Church Canada (you can see what this has been proposed to look like in the near future through the proposals of the Future Directions Task Force by clicking here), including program funding. In Botswana, we realized that we couldn’t do some of the same things that we’ve done in the past, such as giving Christmas gift bags to everyone serving time in First Offenders Prison on behalf of our local church partners, our prison inmate congregation, and Mennonite Church Canada. However, this created an opportunity to figure out a way to bless the inmates without a reliance on funds.
Step 5: Become a hip-hop promoter
So, obviously, we planned a hip-hop concert. A few of our friends here in Gaborone perform in rap groups. And they’re good. Award-winning, local-radio-dominatingly good. Taryn and I, along with our friends Ame, Nabo, Ransley, Slim, and Kabo, worked out the details with the prison officers, who loved the initiative.
On January 1st, to celebrate the fresh new year, Kabo (who is known for his work with his group Xcalibur; follow the link to check out their music videos on YouTube), freestyle-rapped in front of a full house, under the shade of a massive tree in the middle of the prison yard. He loves Jesus, and his music honored God and inspired the whole 400-strong audience. Then, two different inmates followed up with their own rap performances, to the delight of everyone involved. MMP Family, managed by our good friend, Slim, closed out the show. They chose to play their song, ‘Problem Child’, feeling that it would resonate with the guys in prison. It deals with young people growing up in the shanty neighborhoods and struggling to make the right choices (check it out here). That’s the story of many of the inmates. Fresh off of winning a number of honors the previous week for their latest album, MMP Family entertained the crowd with a full set, as the audience moved to the music.
As the work in prison and among your youth continues, we’re blessed to have an incredible community of friends around us here and such great support from our congregations back in Canada. Both of these communities enable us to take part in creative ways to honor God.
That’s the classic route to becoming a hip-hop promoter, and we highly recommend it.