Church leader, speaker, community advocate, and acclaimed hip-hop artist Legin returns with In This Moment, a personal and passionate musical response to racial injustice, political divisiveness, and disunity in the country. Produced by GRAMMY® Award winner Laquan Green and written by Legin, the EP was birthed during a prayer march which the artist helped organize and host in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia, following the death of George Floyd. The event brought together more than 100 churches, with more than 5,000 people participating.
Legin is a church leader, speaker, community advocate and acclaimed hip-hop artist. Holding a degree in biblical studies from Regent University, he currently serves as the Creative Visionary at CrossRoads Church in Norfolk, where he has preached regularly for seven years. In 2016, Legin and Pastor Kevin Tremper of CrossRoads formed the HR City Collective in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Through relationship building, panel discussions, and other gatherings, the collective has sought to help faith leaders engage in difficult conversations about race, justice and the Gospel.
In 2017 Legin helped to create the Safe House Project, an organization that works to unite communities across America to end domestic sex trafficking, while empowering survivors with hope, freedom and a future. As an artist, he has released 10 recordings, including 2017's Safe House and 2018's Dark Room EP. He has shared stages with Lecrae, KB, Tedashii, Nicole C. Mullen, and I Am They, along with pastor/author Matt Chandler, among others. Legin and his wife Tia reside in Norfolk with their two children.
Q: Legin, thanks for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself: besides your music ministry, you are also a community advocate, preacher and speaker. Tell us a little about some of your church and community ministries.
No problem, thank you very much for having me.
I also run a non-profit called Expect Renaissance, Inc., where we do what we talk about in the music: community outreach, producing events, supporting people in need, missions, etc. Other endeavors have come from that work such as Safe House Project, Inc., and the Hampton Roads City Collective, respectively. SHP is an anti-sex trafficking organization where we focus on restoring hope and giving a future to survivors of that horror.
We partner with over 120 organizations, as well as safe houses, in financial support and mentorship to give survivors safe places to go, and we offer training to help people spot and prevent trafficking. I'm a founder and board member. The Hampton Roads City Collective is an effort I founded with my pastor to help faith leaders dialogue about racial justice and the Gospel, which we started after the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the nine Dallas officers in Summer 2016.
Since then we've hosted a lot of leaders, lead dialogues in communities, churches, and campuses, and hosted a conference. In June of 2020 we organized a march of 100+ churches where over 5,000 people showed up, from all different sides of the conversation, to proclaim the need for "Jesus" and "Justice," which was our chant of the day. I've had the privilege to be involved in several related community endeavors as well.
Q: How then did God call you to the music ministry?
I met the Lord around 2006 and started making music for Him in 2007, so I'd call that the call to ministry. We were preaching the Gospel anywhere someone would give us a mic. I had the chance to go to Regent and finish my undergrad in Biblical Studies, which I received in 2010, and I had jobs at The 700 Club and the Crisis Pregnancy Center, and was a youth minister at First Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia, before going full-time with my own ministry in 2013.
Q: Your new EP was birthed out of a prayer march after the death of George Floyd. Tell us about this march and how the EP was birthed.
After that horrible incident, my pastor Kevin and I felt like we needed to host a March where the Church was the focus (but everyone was invited) to make sure we made this issue a focus, that we called for Justice, and that we clung to Jesus. When 100+ churches and 5000+ people showed up in less than a week, it blew our minds. It was the result of us having constant conversations about the topic of racial injustice, whether there were contemporary conversations taking place or not, and building a lot of trust around the topic. The March was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed; the Church in her mass representation, people from all sides of the argument, all colors, all dispositions, standing together not for a concert, conference or service, but for Jesus and Justice. I dreamed to see a day of unity like that my entire 14 years as a Christian. If I never see it again, I'll never forget it.
But shortly after the March 2020's toll caught up with me. I started the year running, and right as the year began I experienced losing my Grandmother, my mentor, covid-19 confusion, ministry and trauma fatigue, busyness and a lack of rest. The injustice of Ahmaud Arbery's murder, Breonna Taylor's inhumane murder, followed by George Floyd had taken a toll.
Constant conversations with my white friends who feel like these are new or isolated conversations about dark realities and how this feels and impacts Black people. Weeping over the shattered dream that the conversations my mother had with me I wouldn't have to have with my children, and preparing my heart for these talks. Reading the callous comments of people saying "he deserved it," "they're criminals," "there's always more to the story," and feeling the lack of grace or judgment. I also started counseling this year and had to face my feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection, all while having a place of leadership and platform in such a contentious conversation. 2020 had finally caught up with me, and though we were making great progress, I tripped and fell into a bit of a depression. I had to unplug.
I went dark a bit, cancelled some preaching engagements, stopped having conversations, and wrestled with where I was. I was processing. Shortly after, I called my friend, producer Laquan Green, to revisit a song about racial understanding that we never finished. I went to his house to finish it and he started playing me some new beats, and ideas just started flowing. I started processing all of my feelings, several conversations I had, and my Gospel resolve around these contentious topics and put them to song. In two writing sessions and recording sessions, we swiftly created an EP called "In This Moment" that speaks to where we are as a country and where I was when we created it. We put it out quickly so its release lined up with its creation, "In This Moment."
That's how the EP came about.
Q: How is racial injustices still prevalent in our society and churches today? Can you give us some examples?
Yes. Elijah McClain, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Sandra Bland-no justice was served in these cases against law enforcement. The handling of Ahmaud Arbery's case is criminal in itself. The fact that there have been no arrests made for Breonna Taylor. The fact that we have to ask for it. The fact that we have to ask for justice in the first place is shameful. We shouldn't have to talk about this.
The larger Church in America being disconnected from feeling these issues is evidence that while the Gospel is universal, our church cultures are not. And that's ok in one sense. But when these issues cannot be addressed because their acknowledgement sparks outrage among evangelicals, it's evidence of racial injustice and discrimination in our churches. We shouldn't have to convince my white brothers and sisters in Christ that Ahmaud Arbery or Tamir Rice are issues of injustice. But I have to make apologetic arguments for it with the same strength that I have to convince a non-believer that Jesus is the Christ. That's not only draining, but evidence that these injustices are prevalent in our church cultures.
I used to work for a pregnancy center, and I agree and am fully aware of the racial injustice of abortion, the horrid history of Margaret Sanger's eugenics, the Negro Project, and Planned Parenthood's foundation. The White Church loudly fights against abortion as an egregious evil, for which I am grateful, and I join them in this. This is God's work.
Unfortunately, my brothers and sisters' incredible silence towards issues of racial injustice that are equally as clear is bothersome. One, because it hurts. It hurts a great deal. There are no other words for it. Two, since abortion has become a political issue and not a biblical one, it underlines the accusation that my white brothers and sisters care about the social issues that align with their political passions more than their biblical ones. Many don't want to hear what we have to say about racial injustice unless we're addressing issues they care about, like abortion. Many of my black brothers and sisters aren't interested in the abortion conversation, because you won't lift a finger when we cry out regarding racial injustice. And if you only care about "black" people when they align with issues that you care about, then you don't care about people, you care about issues. Even if you use people to justify what you care about.
What keeps us so separated? Political idolatry. Our gods are our sides and our issues, and we can't unite because they are in control. I don't have the privilege to pick which I care for, abortion or racial injustice; I have to grieve and fight against both. Because Scripture would have me to.
Q: What then is the answer to these issues?
We have to come out of our corners. We are each in corners with people who look, think and act like us. Who share a similar worldview, interests, and voting sway. On the other side of the room is another corner, with another gathering of people who look, think and act like each other. Similar worldview, interests, voting. And that's ok. We're naturally tribal people. No problems there.
But due to the varied shared experiences and worldviews, we filter life and interpret things differently in our corners. So one corner hears "black lives matter" (the phrase, not the organization) and needs to hear it, because they have lived with a feeling of lesser-than or neglect in their historical and contemporary narrative. But the other corner hears it and is offended at the assumption that suggests something is wrong in the land that's loved them so well. They hear it as anti-American rhetoric. So they respond with "All Lives Matter," which is true and biblically accurate. But the other corner receives this as another slap to the face, that you can't even tell yourself or your corner that you matter, and you're reminded again that you don't. The same happens with "Heritage, not hate," "Liberal v. Conservative," etc., etc. And we keep yelling from across the room and missing each other.
Again, our sides are valid and our experiences important. But without the other side of the room, they're just fundamentally incomplete. So what do we do?
We must come out of our corner. We must come to the middle of the room, exchange lenses, build relationships, and develop genuine care and concern for someone in a different corner than us. We must do this to feel what someone feels and see what they see. We must care enough to walk.
It will never be perfect, it will not be pretty, won't be easy, and may not be a 50/50 effort. None of that matters. What matters is walking and being willing. To turn from a limited way of caring, loving and living, to a more biblical way of seeing each other. In short, we must repent and believe (Mark 1:15). We must humble ourselves, pray, turn from our ways and seek His face, then He will turn to us, hear us, forgive us, and heal us (2 Chron. 7:14).
Until the Church does that, we're wasting our time.
Q: How do the songs on your new EP help us to understand and respond to these issues?
My prayer is that the honesty of it, the rawness of it, and constant clinging to Christ of it, will draw people out of their corners. That they would reevaluate the one-sidedness of their positions and consider coming towards one another. In Jesus' name.
Q: What can we as individuals do in the midst of such political and racial injustices?
Come out of corners. Repent of political idolatry and believe in the King. And stop thinking that you've done that enough already. Do it again. Humble yourself (2 Chron. 7:14). I'll do the same.