Updated: Jun 17
With the power of word, Messiah challenges, educates and uplifts. A poet, hip hop artist and youth activist, he exposes inequalities and champions knowledge and progression. A three-time winner at the legendary Apollo Theater, Messiah brought the crowd to their feet with 'Shareka Was A Champ' a poem highlighting the HIV crisis.
Dedicated to his community, Messiah creates conscious music and mentors young incarcerated men at Rikers Island. His new track ‘Rotton Cotton’ calls on the culture to ‘reclaim its value’.
Your poetry challenges, educates and uplifts – can you explain your driving force?
Thank you. My driving force is knowing that I have a voice that speaks for many who do not have a platform to tell our stories, which are often misconstrued. Mainstream media has told our story for years in a way that can be deemed as one sided, conveying a reality that's often misleading to the viewer. As an artist, it is my responsibility to tell the truth. That's my greatest motivation.
A three-time champion at Harlem’s famous Apollo stage – what was the experience like?
Winning the Apollo three times consecutively was something I never predicted myself doing as a child and sometimes I still smile when I reflect on it. I didn't begin my creative process with the idea to compete but to rather share my voice with passion and purpose. With that said, I always respected the legacy of the Apollo and what it means to Black Culture from names like James Brown to Lauryn Hill. You can feel the energy of greatness in that space and I was a sponge while there absorbing the energy and lessons needed to prepare me for the road ahead.
As a youth activist, you mentor young men at Rikers Island jail. Can you share with us the importance of this role?
My work with young men incarcerated involves mentorship, providing enriching programming and activities to support productivity and stimulate critical thinking, assessing resources in the community to help them post release and lastly pooling credible messengers and people of value to build a sense of community around each young person I work with. The goal is to convene a space that allows each young mind to realize their value and begin making decisions that are a reflection of such.
When one knows his or her value they no longer are okay with being a pawn on the chessboard or a puppet in the hands of the judicial system. They begin to take ownership of their lives by tapping into their internal power and realizing that these systems of oppression do not deserve their presence.
In your opinion how can creativity influence growth and change?
Creativity influences change as art has always been the pulse of the universe and humanity. How is this achieved? The key is consistency. The sun rises at a certain time each morning allowing life to be charged on the planet so we can handle our daily functions. Similar to the duty of the creative. Artists must believe in their truth regardless of the push back by those who may be afraid of such.
Do not wait for the world to get ready. Be bold and know that you are a representative/ambassador of the people. Artists must also take their voices to the youth, public schools and areas where many politicians and public officially won't frequently visit to reach and inspire those who need it most. It is our responsibility to be the light in spaces of darkness and to use our dark moments to birth light.