NORFOLK, VA (WVEC-TV) -- Local Christian rappers are trying to beat racism. They're using the word of God to do it.
Performers with Renaissance Movement have teamed up with a local pastor -- Kevin Tremper from Crossroads Church in Norfolk -- to travel to South Africa to help improve race relations there.
"We went to 8 high schools and did 3 concerts in 3 days," said Nigel "Legin" Anderson, one of the rap artists. "Just to see the influence of hip hop and we could use it for something positive versus what a lot of times it's commercially used for."
"The message isn't about the ..... racial divides, violence and drugs -- that's not the message you need to be celebrating," he said. "We want to give you something better -- listen to something that's going to build you up and we're just trying to point people to the King, man, and just tell them that there's a better message and a better life."
They received a hero's welcome.
"We did, that blew us away," NIgel said. "We're not used to that."
"My heart was just full with these little kids we had a chance to minister to," Nigel said.
And their efforts aren't just for an overseas audience. They're also working to make things better here at home. And they've started with an effort to reach out to Hampton Roads churches.
"Meeting with pastors to say hey how are you addressing this in your community?" Nigel said. "How are you leading your congregations to get involved? And they're really challenging meetings where we're saying -- hey -- you really have to be willing to be wrong about these issues . Your perspective may be off a little and not complete. Let's get together and just challenge that and see where we are. So we've been doing that -- and that's turned into different community forums we've had at ODU, at college campuses in the city -- at different churches where we basically come out -- we dialogue with the community ....and it's really been working out helping people think through different things -- seek forgiveness -- foster understanding and we think, to us, that dialogue is action. If you're willing to talk about these things honestly you can find yourself down the path where you're actually going to enact some change that comes from the heart."
They hold these meetings every month. they call them "Hope Talks". The goal is to get as many people -- from different backgrounds -- together in a dialogue -- rapping in a positive, respectful, constructive manner.
"We're inviting police officers -- people from Black Lives Matter -- people from different perspectives to come together to hear one another," Part of the challenge is people are talking over one another or at one another rather than having a conversation with somebody. And so part of how I think you work towards healing and hope is that you have to actually be able to have conversations with people -- maybe you don't agree with them -- but you're willing to hear them. You're willing to say I see that you're hurting. I see that there's something bothering you. Help me understand the way you feel the way you do."