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Life & Work with Bridget Webster

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bridget Webster.

Hi Bridget, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I suppose Hip-Hop Theologian’s roots took form while I was getting my undergraduate degree. I wrote for the school newspaper and my faculty advisor Adam knew I was a hip-hop music fanatic and loved how Tupac Shakur incorporated social/political themes into his music. When looking for a new story to write about, he encouraged me to write about what I was interested in. Incorporating hip-hop in academics started with the newspaper, then progressed to my personal challenge of incorporating Tupac into every class, which progressed into a mentor of mine suggesting a graduate school program that celebrated diverse curriculum and that is where Hip-Hop Theologian was really shaped. During graduate school is when I really started to highlight the theological principles in hip-hop music. I was exposed to new concepts I was previously unfamiliar with like womanism and loved reading materials that prioritized the Black and Brown community’s perspectives.

I believe that if I had been introduced to academic readings and resources that prioritize people of color sooner, I would have been even more interested in academics from an earlier age. I am interested in prioritizing the stories about people that look like me and speak about the experiences of myself and the people around me. Representation is crucial. I am a Black woman who never had a Black professor until I got to graduate school. That’s unacceptable. There are indescribable benefits that came with having educators that not only understand my background and my Blackness but also in seeing my community represented on an academic level. My father grew up in South Central LA, so I grew up hearing about intentionally created educational gaps and the lack of resources in schools located in the inner-city. That really bothers me–I come from a family of educators so education is very important to me.

Youth of color, and especially youth from underserved areas, deserve to be afforded the same educational tools and opportunities as their White counterparts. If they, like me, were not afforded the experience of a diverse educational background that prioritizes people of color, I want to help lessen that gap for them. I knew that I was learning so much and I wanted to be able to share this information with others from my home communities that may not have access to such information. I created Hip-Hop Theologian initially to share information and take others along for the ride that I was on. At first,​ it started as just me sending out newsletters that highlight a hip-hop artist and the theological principles that are highlighted in their artistry, then it grew to include social media accounts, a podcast, hip-hop meditation offerings, and (a soon to drop) hip-hop devotional/journal.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Oh no, this has not been a smooth road at all. In the beginning, the discouraging words of religious leaders used to really hurt my feelings because I approach my work from a pure space and have good intentions. Sometimes when religious people hear about me highlighting spirituality and hip-hop they give me a great deal of pushback. For some reason, they do not see hip-hop music as sacred. In my opinion that could not be farther from the truth. Of course, there are some hip-hop songs that may not fit in the spiritual category, but there are absolutely hip-hop songs that are created from a place of sacredness and a desire to uplift. A large amount of hip-hop artists come from religious backgrounds—surely their faith has shaped who they are as individuals, and thus, their music, to some extent. I think of songs like Picture Me Rollin by Nipsey Hussle, Slippin by DMX, Closer to God by D Smoke, Frequency by Jhené Aiko. These songs are steeped in spiritual principles.

I heard Nipsey Hussle in an interview ask, “Where do songs live before they are created?” “You’re going somewhere mentally, and you bring something back that people that aren’t where you just went can hear in the place that you both are.” I always think of​ the questions: Where does music live before it is created? Where do those sounds that impact me deeply exist before the artist creates them? It has to come from a source bigger than us. Even though I get push back, my response is always: Give my work a fair shot first, then let’s discuss. But as a whole, I don’t pay that too much attention. I receive a lot of positive feedback too, so I try not to let negative pushback hinder my work. Ultimately, I’m following the path I feel most called to.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Hip-Hop Theologian is an online space that celebrates the lives and legacies of hip-hop artists via theological reflections. Each month I send out a #FreeFlowFriday newsletter via the subscription link on my website bridgetwebster.com that provides uplifting reflections that center hip-hop culture and theological principles. Using hip-hop music as the backdrop, I explore spirituality and race relations while centering intergenerational resiliency within Black and Brown communities. Each newsletter is intentionally created to promote joy, theological reflection, and introspection while uncovering the spirituality and life lessons buried within the work of hip-hop artists. I also have a podcast that was inspired by #FreeFlowFriday newsletters quest for accessible theological education where I speak to guests about spiritual growth, life lessons, theology and of course, all things music. Well, I think what sets me apart is that I’m a woman that loves the hip-hop world, I love finding overlap between the secular ad the sacred, and I really do have a heart for providing accessible, life-giving theological perspectives that are relatable to people of color.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Hmm, I feel confidence and courage are important for success. It can be nerve-racking to share our gifts and passions with the world, but I do believe that when something is created with pure intentions, others recognize that and appreciate that vulnerability. I believe it takes courage to take that first step of creating and a certain level of confidence in the content to keep pursuing our passions and dreaming big even when we hit roadblocks.

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Bridget Webster, Hip-Hop Theologian

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