Righteous B is hip-hoppin' to the faith

By 
  • May 2, 2008

TORONTO - With a new face for its annual “Faith Day,” Dante Alighieri Academy in Toronto gave students a taste of the Gospel with a hip-hop beat.

Bob Lefnesky, an American Catholic hip-hop artist known as “Righteous B,” made his first appearance at the school with an afternoon performance April 24 that meshed the fun and the serious for the school’s 1,300 students.

“Whatever your story is, God wants to enter into those wounds, no matter how messy,” he told the students.

Lefnesky, who speaks and performs his music for thousands of youth every year at conferences across the United States and recently also in Canada, worked as a youth minister in inner-city New York for many years. He recorded his first album in 2001 and has since produced three more.

Because of his history with youth ministry, he said he liked the challenge of going into the school, even more so than speaking at parishes, to spread Christ’s message.

“There are kids here who might already be strong in their faith,” he told The Catholic Register. “Then there are those who don’t care, don’t know if they don’t care and who might relate better to the hip-hop culture. It’s definitely a tougher nut to crack, but that’s the name of the game in outreach.”

When speaking to youth, Lefnesky comes back often to the verse from John 10:10: “I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the fullest.”

“I asked them, ‘what’s ultimate in your life?’ and ‘what’s your life revolve on?’” he said.

Besides performing some of his upbeat music, Lefnesky shared personal stories about his own life growing up, something that helped students to relate his message to their own teenage lives, said Robert Quaglia, a religion teacher and youth minister at the school.

“He started the assembly really hyped, but in the second half he brought it down to a personal level,” Quaglia said. “The one thing I got from the students as feedback was that they were able to step into his personal story and many students came up to me crying, he said it with so much heart.”

Quaglia had asked Lefnesky to say a little something about Reconciliation, because for the first time in years, the school chaplaincy planned to host a period for students to attend Confession the day after Lefnesky’s visit.

“We’re very humbled by the response of the students,” Quaglia said. “We expected maybe 50 students; we didn’t expect 200 students to show up for Reconciliation the next day — we didn’t have enough priests.”

Quaglia said while the kids were having fun, and music played a huge part in the afternoon, Lefnesky’s personal testimonies really set it apart from any concert.

“There were at least three times where it was completely silent,” he said.

Lefnesky performed a concert at the school in the evening, using songs from his latest CD, How a Wound Bleeds. He closed with something a little different — a blend of hip hop and acoustic, a song called “Tears.”

“For me, it’s a testimonial song,” Lefnesky said. “This is the past I came from.”

Lefnesky likes to incorporate different styles of hip hop in his performances, and the acoustic style helps people understand the words a little better than some rap because it’s slower and more articulate, he said.

 Ticket proceeds went directly to his inner-city ministry and urban youth programming in the United States.

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