In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
A pair of students have made an impact at Tabor College this year by spreading the Word with a contemporary, lyrical approach.
Rapper Josh Murphy and spoken-word poet Sarah Wyckoff use their venue of choice to promote a Christian message.
While rap has become an established communication form in U.S. culture, the profile of spoken-word poetry is less established. It became popular in the underground African-American community in the 1960s and was adopted by college circles in the early 1980s.
Spoken-word and its most popular offshoot, slam poetry, evolved into the present-day soapbox for young people to express their views, emotions, life experiences or information to audiences.
“The main agenda in spoken-word poetry usually only reflects on the speaker, but Josh and I wanted to spread the gospel during chapel with what we did,” said Wyckoff, a Blackwell Okla., native who graduated this weekend.
The pair connected following a student talent show the previous school year. They hosted their first chapel session during the fall semester of this year, then led a second session this spring.
For the spring chapel, campus pastor Mike Brouillette proposed that it have more of an aesthetic quality to it. His department enhanced Murphy and Wyckoff’s presentation by revising the chapel with lighting and music to create a more receptive atmosphere.
“Students are always more attentive and supportive when it’s one of their own is sharing,” Brouillette said. “It’s a great way of communication for the speaker to take risks and it leads up to an emotional draw for students when peers are speaking to them.”
Wyckoff and Murphy alternated between spoken-word poetry and rap numbers throughout the performance.
Both students have performed in the past and discovered this creative outlet in varying ways.
Murphy said his rap career began when he was 7. He said he resorted to writing poetry when he realized he couldn’t sing. His art form eventually evolved into rap.
“I started performing in front of people in the high school talent shows—that was about it,” he said. “Then I got into college at Tabor and started off the same way—a talent show.
“Then, after I made a couple of songs, I decided to do something for chapel. They asked me and gave me the opportunity, so that’s how that came about.”
Murphy said the inspiration for his rap comes from the passages of Scripture that he’s reading at the time, and he uses his music as a ministry.
“It’s like when you put it in music, people are more likely to listen to what you have to say, so you can basically say whatever you want to say because everybody loves music.
“I just want to encourage people,” he added. “What I hope to communicate is Christ. I just try to plant seeds through my music. Different songs have different messages.”
Wyckoff’s poetry performance career began at last year’s talent show. She said she had written a lot of poetry and finally decided to perform it in front of people.
“What I wanted to get across and what I write about is always the truth,” Wyckoff said. “I like to talk about the taboo things and how the church and the world handle it.”
Brouillette said this spring’s student-led chapel was especially impactful because of the message both students shared.
“I feel like their message was that walking with Christ isn’t always a bed of roses and that’s OK,” Brouillette said.
Murphy and Wyckoff recently expanded their exposure among the greater Tabor College community by performing at the May 5 President’s Dinner for board members and college supporters. Wyckoff also concluded her “Senior Response” at Saturday’s commencement with a poetic challenge for her fellow seniors.
Using their creative expression of their life perspective will not end with the completion of this school year.
More of Wyckoff’s poetry can be found on her blog at swyckoff.blogspot.com. Meanwhile, Murphy has self-produced a couple of CDs of his work that he distributes among friends and fellow students.
“I just want to continue to use it as a ministry, and if it becomes a career, great,” Murphy said. “If it doesn’t, I’m still going to keep doing it.”
If I Was Noah Webster
by Sarah Wyckoff
If I was Noah Webster
I would have had the blind write the definition for
Because if the masters of Braille
Were entrusted with the duty
Of labeling beauty
Maybe our world would look a little different—
Would look a little different.
So if Beauty resides in the eye
Of the beholder
We all need corrective lenses.
Because we’re all pupils
Of what others say is beautiful
But I’m tired of learning;
And I’m finally done searching
Because I found Beauty
On the corner of Lies & Loneliness
Prostituting her character
But only growing in bitterness
She’s best friends with
And Beauty intimately knows Insecurity
She has permanent ties to
Don’t be tender
Just be tough
by Josh Murphy
Sitting kicking back relaxing I’m just thinking
About all the blessings that I recently received and I’m
So thankful can’t even complain
Thinking bout all the struggles that your boy overcame and its strange..
All the maturity and change
New people in my lane open avenues and opportunities that I can claim ain’t lookin for fame
But if they know my name the mission is easier to attain
And I keep it moving keep it stepping that’s the motto
Following his guide looking for a bright tomorrow
Even if today is dark and every other day you face is hard
play your part stay apart from misery and thank the lord
That you even got to see it
Cause its a lot of people right now who ain’t breathing
And I can be the first to witness
Cause it hurts I miss em and I’ll never forget em but I keep pedaling wit em
In my heart and mind this life is precious time
So be productive in it and let your light shine
I had a dream and with God I plan to get to mine
Yea you can call me young Martin of the present time
My dream includes more than me yea its bigger than self
So you know that I been getting some help
..Yea..and I plan to get more mass support but really all I need is my lord
In actuality all the packing and traveling back and forth for school and endeavors taught in reality
That life is a journey and you gotta prepare
For your goals acquire what you need to get you there
Nervousness like the plane ride it gets you scared
But its all worth it once you landed and u there
You ain’t gotta worry what you plan to do from there
If u following the father everything will be prepared
But In due time… not you time
Just rely on him to get through time
Believe me cause I rushed it a few times
And all I did was prolong it
And for the longest but it made me the strongest
And it taught me lessons educated the hard way
Can’t always have it our way
Life taught me’ lessons…educated the hard way
One thing I learned we can’t always have it our way our way
The fallacies ain’t attacking my reality
I do what I’m lead too my dream chasing after me
Jeremiah 29:11 is the path for me
The path that I’m traveling Its already mapped for me
preparation is key I’m steady practicing
On my craft but the cheese ain’t mattering
..Real talk and I know that seems baffling
But my perception of success is not financially
I’m trying to touch people ..impact
I’m cool if i I can take care of the family
Smile on my face for every fan I reach
Life is a journey I’m still traveling….