The Twenty-First Century has indeed been full of trying times. Despite tons of intentional division and propaganda imagery, there has also been a banding together and a notion that we, as a people, must foster our own growth and progression. It is said that in the midst of turmoil, the air is ripe for the likes of a prophet; one who can ingest the struggle and obstacles of the time, and in return paint a portrait of a prosperous future. It is no easy task to be able to rise from police brutality, genocide and institutionalized racism, while still being able to see Nirvana and rouse others to do so as well. Insert: Messiah Ramkissoon.
A spoken word artist by way of Trinidad, this young man has accepted elevating the collective as his life calling. He started writing as a young child, and with the support of his family he has honed his skills. Idolizing the likes of Muhammad Ali, he has chosen to also use his skills to improve the world we live in. Thrice a ‘champion’ of Showtime at the Apollo, he contributes his successes to consistency. Much as his name suggests, his efforts truly reflect his desire to enlighten and uplift.
En lieu of enlightenment, he has gifted us with his latest work, a mixtape named ‘The Reminder’. A grail of sorts, Messiah intends for his work to ‘restore awareness’ to where we have been, where we are, and where we need to focus our efforts for the future. He addresses everything from recalling the loss of our civil rights heroes to rallying pride and unity in combat of recurring oppressive forces. In his own words from the mixtape, “As a collective, we are much more effective/ Kill the social contraceptive/ To live and let live is the ultimate incentive.”
When it comes to uplifting the collective, Messiah takes an approach even more personal. He has dedicated much of the past 8 years to prison outreach in Washington, DC, Baltimore and NYC. Coming face to face with our incarcerated males, he chooses to stand in where, often enough, there has been no one. A major part of the process is in fact within his ability to articulate conversation. In giving the young men a platform to express and reflect upon all aspects of self, true progress is made. His worlds often tie together. On ‘The Reminder’ he has dedicated a track to the late 16 year old Kalief Browder, who took his own life following wrongful imprisonment. In another case, a young man by the name of Asad Giles spent two and a half years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release, Messiah continued to provide support and resources. Asad is now employed and due to start school in 2016. He says of his philanthropy, “My goal is to empower each young brother I encounter… not only making change but taking the… example back to our own to duplicate this process of progress.”
An Artist in his own right, Messiah has not only chosen a life of dedication, but it seems to have chosen him. “I would like to leave a legacy as someone who loved his people, was passionate about his work, exuded excellence with each opportunity and [was] fearless… Fearless enough to accept any challenge which may arise on the road to providing true liberation and a better lifestyle for the babies! That would suffice.” Ashe, Messiah, Ashe.
Written by Lola Valentine
Photo by NayMarie Photography