by Dianne Glave
Walter Hidalgo has just published a book titled Beyond the Four Walls: The Rising Ministry and Spirituality of Hip-Hop .
He is currently working as an Associate Director of Youth Ministries for Riverside Church in New York City. In addition, he teaches Spanish and History as an adjunct professor at Touro College in New York City. Walter holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Political Science from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a Master of Arts degree in Church History and Society from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University in New York City. He is a native Rhode Islander and currently resides in New York City.
My motivation for writing this book is plentiful. But one reason stands out the most; the commercialization of Hip-hop. I believe that radio stations, music video channels and those individual Hip-hop artists that are making a lot of money from the business side of Hip-hop has created a monopoly in the music and in the culture. As a result, the “other” side of Hip-hop lacks exposure and what we get is a one-sided view of Hip-hop that has many critics. But what I try to do in this book is expose the positive side of Hip-hop by introducing its spiritual and social justice characteristics; which are most notably seen through its various ministries in (and outside) of the church.
Because education and spirituality is so important to me, one of the best ways I find these two to intersect with my youth specifically is through mission trips and retreats. This past summer 2011, we brought three of our youth from the Riverside Church to Cuba to learn about it’s economy, religious presence, African influence, etc. This was a collaboration between our youth ministry department and our Mission for Social Justice Department. In addition to these departments, we collaborated with our host organization called Pastors for Peace (www.ifco.org ) where we collected computers, medical supplies, toys for kids, etc. from all over the U.S. and Canada and crossed them over via the U.S. – Mexico border to transport them later to Cuba. Our objective was to defy and end the U.S. – Cuba blockade while being in solidarity with our Cuban brothers and sisters–because despite our historical and political differences, we are neighbors and therefore part of the Kingdom of God! Exposing this to our young people, especially when the Hip-hop culture was used to create socio-political change in Cuba, creates a long lasting memory–and in many cases crystallizes–this call toward social action while creating this sense of global (and local) responsibility to work toward social justice. So, some of the profits will be used to fund more mission trips like Cuba so we could bring more youth to various places (locally and globally) that need our help.
This push for more mission trips stems from my own experiences doing research for the book which basically reinforces this notion that Hip-hop is creating sacred and safe spaces of socio-political change and spiritual growth. For example, in the Conclusion section of my book I talk about my experience traveling to Colombia in South America as part of a travel seminar course that I took while studying at UTS back in 2008. About 15 of us traveled to study peace culture, peace education and liberation theology in a country that continues to struggle with internal displacement, racism, and paramilitary chaos. Not surprisingly, many of the organizations that we visited that supported youth utilized the Hip-hop culture as a medium for education, community building, and life learning skills, to just name a few. But what I remember the most was when a famous “Colombian politician Piedad Esneda Cardoba Ruiz said: “The youth are the key to the liberation of Colombia.” (pg. 102) This statement was said after several Hip-hop performances from Colombian youth (and myself) and before a discussion that I had with local (youth) MC’s where they said to me that it’s Hip-hop culture and music that is helping to provide a positive alternative to guerrilla army recruitment and racial bigotry that is sometimes found in Colombian youth culture.
In the Colombian context, like countless other places in the world, Hip-hop is being used to build communities that fight for social justice while creating sacred spaces of peace, love, unity and having fun! This mantra is no different then the Hip-hop culture here in the U.S., especially with my young people. Again, socio-political change, spiritual awareness and of course knowledge and agency using the Hip-hop culture are but a few ways that reflect the kind of work that I do whether its my youth ministry, youth organizing and/or youth worship because all are all encompassing with a call to take action to change themselves, there respective community(s) and there soul.