Rapper and criminal reform activist Vic Mensa on meditation, healing, and celebrating Black love

passage
Courtesy of OkayPlayer

As we all know by now, Black History Month is not the only month to celebrate Black culture, amplify Black voices, and understand the complex history of race in America.

That’s why earlier this month, Rachel Hislop––editor-in-chief of the online hip-hop and alternative music site Okayplayer (founded by Questlove, front-man for The Roots)––launched PASSAGE: The Practice of Healing. This 3-part live conversation series gathers prolific Black celebs to have conversations that delve into their healing journeys.

Alongside the event series, Okayplayer released PASSAGE, The EP, consisting of eight original guided meditation tracks voiced by artists and influencers, including a lead track with rapper Big K.R.I.T. The EP is available across all major streaming platforms.

Take a look at this short film, directed by Andrew Morrow, the man behind Beyonce’s Lemonade, Homecoming, and Black Is King:


Courtesy of Okayplayer ‌

We love how this short-film evokes beautiful images of Black resilience such as celebrations of Black love with Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King; resistance, with the Selma marches; spoken word from Maya Angelou, and more. 

The first live event took place on February 9th featuring GRAMMY-nominated‌ ‌rapper‌ ‌and‌ ‌criminal‌ ‌reform‌ ‌celebrity activist‌ Vic Mensa. Rachel Hislop and Vic Mensa discussed “how the collective as a people can benefit from tapping into history and ancestral wisdom to bring about change to break generation traumas.”

Lucky for us, the entire conversation is available to watch for free on YouTube, courtesy of Okayplayer:


Courtesy of Okayplayer

Keep reading to discover quotes from Vic Mensa on Black healing, Black excellence, fostering a safe space for people of color, meditation, and commentary on his new music video for the song “Shelter” feat. Chance the Rapper and Wyclef Jean

Vic Mensa on the art of healing as a Black person in America

passage
Courtesy of OkayPlayer

Growing up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Vic Mensa is no stranger to the violence often experienced in Black culture.

“We’re‌ ‌reflecting‌ ‌that‌ ‌same‌ ‌energy‌ ‌that‌ ‌we’ve‌ ‌taken‌ ‌in‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌around‌ ‌us,” Vic Mensa says in conversation with Rachel Hislop. “We’re‌ ‌hurting‌ ‌people‌ ‌that‌ ‌we‌ ‌really‌ ‌do‌ ‌love‌ ‌because‌ ‌we‌ ‌don’t‌ ‌know‌ ‌‌how‌‌ ‌to‌ ‌love.”

Vic Mensa expands on this point, asking “how‌ ‌can‌ ‌we‌ ‌heal‌ ‌if‌ ‌we‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌have‌ ‌a‌ ‌clear‌ ‌picture‌ ‌of‌ ‌how‌ ‌to‌ ‌love‌ ‌–‌ ‌ourselves,‌ ‌Black‌ ‌women,‌ ‌Black‌ ‌men,‌ ‌Black‌ ‌trans‌ ‌men‌ ‌and‌ ‌women?”

The talented rapper and activist doesn’t have all of the answers, but he touches on some solutions for healing, including fostering a safe space for yourself: “Show‌ ‌up‌ ‌for‌ ‌people.‌ ‌Love‌ ‌on‌ ‌people.‌ ‌Love‌ ‌on‌ ‌Black‌ ‌people,‌ ‌love‌ ‌on‌ ‌brown‌ ‌people.‌ ‌The‌ ‌realest‌ ‌relationships‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌are‌ ‌the‌ ‌people‌ ‌that‌ ‌I‌ ‌speak‌ ‌to‌ ‌just‌ ‌about‌ ‌life.‌ ‌Those‌ ‌are‌ ‌the‌ ‌safest‌ ‌spaces‌ ‌for‌ ‌me.”‌

Vic Mensa also embraces the practice of meditation: “As I learn more about different spiritual traditions, African spiritual traditions, priests especially – meditation is their sport…meditation in itself is almost like a form of prayer to me.”

As an artist himself, Vic Mensa turns to fellow Black artists as a source of comfort, entertainment, and inspiration: “Kendrick‌ ‌[Lamar]‌ ‌falls‌ ‌into‌ ‌that‌ ‌pantheon‌ ‌of‌ ‌artists‌ ‌that‌ ‌I’ve‌ ‌always‌ ‌loved.‌ ‌The‌ Mos ‌Defs,‌Common,‌ ‌Kanye,‌ ‌Hov‌ ‌–‌ ‌a‌ ‌person‌ ‌capable‌ ‌of‌ ‌expressing‌ ‌and‌ ‌understanding‌ ‌the‌ ‌world‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌high‌ ‌level‌ ‌–‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌words,‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌pen,‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌music.”‌ 

We’re lucky to have the music of Black artists like Vic Mensa who uses music as an outlet to process their emotions and experiences.

Vic Mensa’s new music video: “Shelter” feat. Chance the Rapper and Wyclef Jean

passage
Courtesy of OkayPlayer

Vic Mensa wrapped up his conversation by sharing the inspiration‌ ‌behind ‌his‌ ‌new‌ ‌music‌ ‌video‌‌ ‌“Shelter”‌ ‌featuring fellow Chicago rapper ‌Chance‌ ‌the‌ ‌Rapper‌ ‌and‌ superstar rapper ‌Wyclef‌ ‌Jean.

“It’s‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌my‌ ‌favorite‌ ‌songs‌ ‌that‌ ‌I’ve‌ ‌ever‌ ‌made,” Vic Mensa recalls. “ ‌It’s‌ ‌something‌ ‌that‌ ‌came‌ together‌ ‌to‌ ‌express‌ ‌things‌ ‌that‌ ‌were‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌spirit,‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌chest.‌ ‌And‌ ‌when‌ ‌I‌ ‌wrote‌ ‌it,‌ ‌I‌ ‌felt‌ ‌like‌ ‌I‌ ‌had‌ ‌put‌ ‌that‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌ether.”‌

Vic Mensa was inspired ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌disproportionate‌ ‌coronavirus‌ ‌deaths‌ ‌in‌ ‌Black‌ ‌communities, ‌his‌ ‌personal self-care‌ ‌and‌ ‌meditation‌ ‌journey, ‌and‌ ‌poignant‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌about‌ ‌Black‌ ‌love‌ being‌ ‌synonymous‌ ‌with‌ ‌“brutality.”‌ ‌

“COVID‌ ‌was‌ ‌a‌ ‌microcosm‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌way‌ ‌everything‌ ‌disproportionately‌ ‌affects‌ ‌Black people.‌ ‌So‌ ‌we‌ ‌wanted‌ ‌to‌ ‌express‌ ‌that,” Vic Mensa says.

The “Shelter” music video is proof that you can find the good in everything, even the harsh reality of our world today. Just look at the lyrics of the chorus sung by Wyclef Jean and Chance The Rapper:

“I’ll be your shelter
Emergency
Please count on me, yeah, I
I’ll be your superhero
When danger arise (When danger arrives)
I’ll be by your side (I’ll be by your side)
You’re my lucky dime”

Lyric Source: Genius

Watch the full Okayplayer conversation with Vic Mensa here.

As Black History Month wraps up, what’s next for Passage?

passage
Courtesy of OkayPlayer

Okayplayer’s conversation with Vic Mensa is just the beginning of Passage.

“Passage is a celebration of resilience, positivity, healing, and a safe space created in support of millennials of color. We know what processing Black pain and trauma looks like, we are all too familiar with it. We have been inundated with a stream of negative messaging associated with identifying as a person of color in this country, while also fighting dual pandemics,” said Rachel Hislop. “The last four years have been hard, but they have been exceptionally hard for Black and brown communities and it’s clear that our responsibility to heal will be ours alone, so we wanted to do our part to contribute to that healing. Passage is a true labor of love and collaboration that we hope will serve to amplify the collective stories and healing practices for people of color, by people of color.”

Each month, Okayplayer will release content covering the revolutionary shift in perception of mental health in communities of color. Okayplayer will host monthly self-care sessions featuring experts, therapists, and wellness practitioners leading conversations and practices for audiences to learn, engage and interact with, including group therapy sessions, guided meditations, and soundbath meditations.

Starting in March, Okayplayer will introduce “The Heal Good, Feel Good” collection of limited-edition self-care products and apparel available in their OkayShop. Okayplayer also plans to release a limited-edition print zine featuring the personal essays, affirmations, and interviews of creatives and artists who have made healing their refuge. From moments of vulnerability to their healing practices, we will learn how their lives have been forever shaped by their courage to look within.

We look forward to seeing how Passage will continue to celebrate resilience, positivity, and healing for people of color and hope it inspires you to do the same––well beyond Black History Month. 

In the meantime, check out their Spotify playlist curated by Okayplayer editors and special celebrity guests. Each track intended to induce calm, inspiration, and entertainment:

More Like This: Here’s your soundtrack for Black History Month 

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