When I came to Los Angeles, I wanted so badly to reach my community that I decided to try to relate. I tried to talk like neighborhood, walk like the neighborhood, and identify with those in the community. The only problem…it didn’t work. It wasn’t me. One day, God spoke to me after the repetition of failing in my journey to try to be “hood” to stop being relevant and start being revolutionary. My life began at that revelation.
I’m writing this a day after a group of inner-city kids put on a Broadway musical at the Dream Center by a man who found his cause to raise up theater in the inner-city. Many of these kids are from single parent homes; many had to take the city bus to grueling practices all week long. I wept all night watching them perform. It took me back to a place where I decided that being revolutionary meant staying in this city and not leaving these kids. Seventeen years later I’m still here trying to be different then the community and not obsess on relating to it.
Our inner-cities don’t need what they see every day. They don’t need people who understand every urban trend, they just need people to stay, be consistent, and not leave. There’s no quick fix to the urban ills. There are just people who refuse to leave. The great misconception is that you have to understand the culture to reach it. The truth is you have to show people a spark they’ve never seen before, a love they’ve never seen before, a staying power that will turn the tide. The greatest gift I can give my community is a joyful, committed heart that refuses to give up. Never let the burden of trying to be relevant replace the opportunity of being revolutionary. The greatest thing God ever taught me was just to be me. The nerdy white guy who can’t relate but refuses to give up on these kids. It will never be about being a “cultural expert.” It’s about a massive revolutionary love that drives everything we do.