When I came home from Houston last week, I realized something: The Canvas was one of the best events I’ve ever had the opportunity to participate in. It certainly ranks high on my list of shows that I’d tell my mom about during her interrogations at family dinners (you know those year-end, top-ten mealtime Q&As).
I suppose I just wanted to thank the folks who put in hours of service to make it work, the other artists whose talent is astounding and humility more-so, and Joseph Solomon for birthing this brainchild and really blessing a lot of people - us as artists, and audience alike - through the vision he has for The Canvas.
Although LTP came up more in the hardcore music genre than within the slam / spoken-word / hip-hop realm, it’s a world I've followed and been privileged to enter into more and more, and I have enough experience with it to know that the artists selected for this year’s event are in a class of their own. Frankly, I walked in pretty far outside of my comfort zone wondering what in the world I was doing there.
Joseph prayed something before the evening began that struck me as significant because my wife had prayed a similar word over me that morning before I got on the plane. Joseph prayed that we, as artists, would be confident in our gifts as writers and communicators because our boasting is not in ourselves, but in the Giver of that gift. Brandi, that morning, had prayed that I would be protected from the fear that I didn't belong at the event at all.
Confidence is something that I truly struggle with. Maybe that’s an unprofessional admission (whatever “professionalism" looks like in the world of a guy who feeds his wife by rhyming confessions). Sometimes it comes across as humility but my fear is that it's actually self-absorption. Negative navel-gazing can be pride every bit as condemnable as a leg up on my high-horse. But, I don’t want this to be that, either. My point is that I appreciated those prayers because they reminded me that we really do have a place to rest both our anxieties and our boasts, and they’re on the same Person.
I came home from The Canvas encouraged by the people I was privileged to meet, and inspired by their love for the people they spoke to serve. Perhaps that was the most inspiring thing - the communal awareness of how easy it is to, as Luther described it, “curve inward on yourself” - incurvatus in se - and the petition for our eyes to be set outward, to the author and perfecter of our faith (and whatever gifts he’s given to express it).
To artist and audience alike - thank you for including and welcoming me. My wife told me that when Joseph originally called to connect about diversifying the talent for this year’s Canvas, Brandi interrupted him and said, jokingly, “Oh! So you need a white boy - Levi’s the whitest of white boys!” - and they laughed about it. Admittedly, my white boy ignorance feels tenfold watching the news recently and observing so many people suffering through the current social and political climate (let alone listening in on conversations and poetry from this year's artists and realizing that I simply have no way to sympathize with the pain), and perhaps I'm taking a risk in sharing this memory, but: When I was growing up as a little boy, I used to always ask my mom why God didn’t make me black. I always thought black people were cooler than white people, and that really hasn't changed, so I must say that - all poetry and showcasing aside - as the minority in last week’s event, it was a wonderful place to be.
The Canvas was a truly privilege and a joy, and I came home humbled and thankful for the opportunity. To whomever among you that attended (or participated) and happen across this “thank you” - thank you. For the kindness. For the jokes. For the Keller conversations. For the encouragement. For imaging Christ well. Hopefully this won't be the last of our opportunities to jam it out together again in the future.
Here are a list of the artists that participated in The Canvas this year, along with their Twitter handles (because Twitter is still the best social media platform out there). If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize. Check them out.
Joseph Solomon - @whatisjoedoing
Jackie Hill Perry - @jackiehillperry
Preston Perry - @preston_n_perry
John Givez - @johnGivez
Beleaf - @BeleafMel
Jamaica West - @jamaicawest312
Itohan Omolere - @toloveandobey
Alright, well, my DONT SINK tour starts tomorrow out west. I’ll see you soon.