A Conversation about Rap, Race & Faith

Jill Anschutz

As 2016 closed out, I spent time reflecting on the major headlines of the year – not just the headlines written by major news outlets, but the themes that captured my attention and would stick with me in the new year.

One of those headlines went like this: “I Still Have a Lot to Learn About Race in America.” Earlier this year, Denver Institute hosted “The Artist’s Voice: A Conversation about Race, Rap & Faith.”

In addition to hearing from Sho Baraka, an Atlanta-based rapper and one of the creatives behind Humble Beast Records, we hard from one of the nation’s best spoken-word performers and poets to join the conversation. Ayinde Russell – a Denver native – performed live.

Russell travels the world as a vocalist, musician, and celebrated speaker. As a part of “The Artist’s Voice,” he gave a spoken word performance. He gave us permission to share “Champions,” a composition he created for Issachar Center for Urban Leadership, a program of Mile High Ministries that shapes young adults from low-income urban communities to become servant leaders.


our champions carry mountains on their backs. they leave behind a heavy tread in the earth.
footsteps wide as the ocean. crosscurrent titans straddling tide and shore.
i know them. complicated monuments of the dust we are made from.
the here forevers but gone too soons.
men and women who break the mold. they are at their best when they are at their worst.
I've known them... giants
my parents wore white collars with blue collar swag. my father put weight in my feet.  he was always more show you than tell you.
he didn't know sleep
he knew days by work-shift
he knew my mother bed-ridden in the hospital after giving birth to me
he knew we might only have each other soon
so he became a bough that could not break
and cradle that could not fall
I know giants.  they raised led me.
my mother translated sunsets
opened the palms of God from her hospital bed and sipped Jesus through her IV.
the drip was communion wine.
she made it back home.
she made our home and translates sunset.
did not believe that God ridicules us with dark times.
she had no problem facing the night.
on my best days I am my mother's child.
a miraculous contradiction.
the wineskin of my stomach is full of God's tears.
I am flood.  I am ark.
I am the one prayed for. I am one praying for others.
we are all round stories in worlds that flatten them down
but there are too many of you to keep your voices low
too many of you
to keep them down
there's room enough to hear you all on our docket today
remember this
when it is inconvenient to house the resistance song in your throat
remember this
when your hands would practice retreat
we need people who are willing to get uncomfortable for change
we need giants.  imperfect.  holy.
men and women who break the mold.


Jill Anschutz

Convinced that “those who tell stories rule society” (Socrates), Jill logged 10 years of experience in influencing public opinion and perception through strategic communications. While serving as a principal at SE2, a Denver-based communications agency, Jill discovered the joy of integrating the Christian faith with her day-to-day work in the marketplace. In her current work as a freelance consultant, she now tells stories about Denverites bringing the gospel to bear in diverse industries.

Jill is a graduate of Taylor University, an alumna of the Impact Denver leadership program, a deacon at Fellowship Denver Church, and a Kentucky Colonel — an honorary commission given by the state of Kentucky to “individuals noted for their public service and their work for the advancement of Kentucky.”