When I was a kid, just like most of you who are reading this, my religious beliefs were handed to me from parents who’s beliefs were handed to them. Whether you were raised Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Taoist, more than likely it was because some adult informed you that worshipping God is what you are supposed to do. I started questioning my belief at an early age, when everybody was able to catch the Holy Ghost except me. I even faked it a couple times to see if maybe the Holy Ghost would be like “Hey, that girl right there is hella down with us” and then come to me for real. It didn’t happen, it actually earned me an ass whooping. Yet, the true turning point was when I found out, in my teens, that Christianity had been forced on Black people during slavery. I was pissed. I felt betrayed and disgusted, and on Sundays when my mom woke me and my sibs up to visit the church my family owned, I would beg not to go. That earned me an ass whooping, too. And it was one of those “You told Harpo to beat me” levels of ass whooping. But you know what? It was totally worth it.
My song “Praying to a God I Don’t Believe In” is the first song I ever wrote about my beliefs. It’s part of a larger project called “Gone But Not // Duality” that is all about making a statement on how the past affects the future. This famous piano player named Lee Musiker did a whole album of really beautiful, original piano pieces, produced by Ira Antelis. Usually, when you are dealing with folks who have worked with superstars like Tony Bennet and Christina Aguilera, you don’t think of them as the kinda people who’s music would be easy to sample. But Lee and Ira actually went looking for producers and artists to remix their stuff, that’s how I got involved. To keep with the concept of the project, I thought about something in my life that is “gone but not,” and the first thing that came to my mind was… well… God. I’m not more enlightened than anybody who’s reading this. I’m just not scared to be honest about what I don’t know.
I have friends of multiple races and have dated my fair share of long-haired white boys, but despite being counterculture I am unapologetically black. So much so that whenever people ask what I’m mixed with, I reply “I’m mixed with slave and other slave.” Just like you, I’m still figuring out life as I go along. Too often, religion takes away personal responsibility and puts it in the hands of the dude in the sky who somehow doesn’t care when children are dying in Israel and Palestine but totally cares about being shouted out during music award ceremonies when some overhyped rapper wins in the “Best New Coon Ni**a” category.
I have seen “God” change the lives of people who are recovering from substance abuse. I have seen thugs become husbands and hoes become housewives. For those people, God is not only real, but necessary. But where was God when I underwent molestation and sexual abuse as a kid? Where was God when I was a teen runaway, cross-dressing so I wouldn’t get caught? Where was God during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, during the Jewish Holocaust or the Bombing of Hiroshima? The same higher power that has been such a loud motivating force for others hasn’t been much more than a quiet whisper for me. I’m not an atheist or an agnostic, because in order for me to pick a title I would need to know where I stand on God. All I know is it’s my job to be a good person, whether the big homey in the sky has my back or not. And that’s why, when people ask me what I believe in, my reply is “I believe in myself.”