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Backstreet Faiths

I've come to believe that inner-city life is a amalgam of metaphors and a microcosm of the world itself. There's love, as well as love in confusion--hate. There's anger, as well as its cousin--frustration. There's beauty in the midst of chaos, fragmentation, and ruin. In an environment so deeply layered, the lack of cognizance can lead to ingratitude; ingratitude can lead to the loss of faith, a situation no person of color should ever be in. Take a look around the hood and notice the amount of churches and mosques. Of course there's several theories as to why this is. I believe it is because the hood is both a portal to heaven and a representation of hell. There's a higher chance of hearing and seeing joy, love, community and the proverbial village than hearing gunfire or seeing murder. These temples, mosques, and churches serve as the bridge from this portal to the next (heaven). When the spirit is dismayed, that bridge can be completely overlooked. The world that would have been part spiritual, part secular becomes purely secular and based on complete tangibility. The issue with this is, the fabric of our communities are made up of intangible threads. We then become disconnected, unable to fully see and understand the beauty from which we came. Granted, not all priests, pastors, rabbis, or imams are true in spirit or mission. The books and philosophies they represent are true, in their own individual ways. When confronted by falsehood, a mind grown, groomed, and sharpened through inner city life is able to discern. We may have been born into Christianity, but we may find Ifá more suitable. We may have been born without any religion at all, just a framework passed down from elders. From this we build and find our way, identifying the appropriate 'bridge' to take to heaven in the present life. We worship differently in the hood. Ancestors are venerated through spray painted murals, tattoos of smiling portraits, and airbrushed T shirts. We eat communally with play cousins, thanking God for the moment. The guys go girl crazy in search of the divine feminine, falling for the beautiful, charismatic girls with scarred, love filled hearts. The women we grow up around and under inspire and move us to be better, worshipping them with the sweetest words and actions possible. Faith is everywhere in the hood. Faith in the plug, faith in Ma to make things right, faith that we will pull through. We see Black beauty at its rawest point, on an intimate level. We pray over Styrofoam to-go plates, happy to break bread with each other, hoping more days like these would come again. In essence, the hood is the manifestation of faith itself.

- DeMario Rayvon

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