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2019 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 3

Source: Rich Fury / Getty

These days, when I hear Kanye West’s name, I attempt to ignore it. For some time now, it’s been painfully clear that not only is Kanye not well, he doesn’t have the proper support system around him to ensure that he seeks and gets the help he so desperately needs.

In the past few months though, it’s been increasingly harder to ignore and avoid Kanye because, as is usually the case, once he starts creating new music, his critics and naysayers fade to the background, in order to appreciate his undeniable musical talents without guilt.

I won’t lie, the music is good. These futuristic remixes of gospel songs, complete with a full choir are fire. They sound great. But just because Kanye is getting back in touch with God, through music, doesn’t mean that we should forget everything he’s said and done—particularly when even his recent foray into gospel has been problematic.

This past weekend, West performed one of his now famous Sunday Service concerts at Coachella. According to Pitchfork, after West performed a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do,” and the Gap Band’s “Outstanding,” the group segued into “Ultralight Prayer,” “How Excellent” and “Father I Stretch My Hands.” With it being Easter Sunday, it made sense. And I’m not mad at Kanye employing dozens of Black musicians and glorifying the name of the Lord at the same time. We all need God and church folk will tell you that he inhabits the praises of his people. So God was there. And who knows how he moved in that space with Kanye, his musicians and his choir as a vessel.

The problem, to me, has more to do with the merchandise he was selling in conjunction with the concert.

Under a tent labelled “Church Clothes,” West sold sweats, t-shirts and even socks. Some of the shirts read: “Trust God” and “Sunday Service.” The tube socks he was selling read, “Jesus Walks” and “Church Socks.” I thought all of this was appropriate and even clever.

But one of the $165-$225 sweatshirts reads “Holy Spirit.”

I’m one of those people who recognizes the spiritual component in most everyday experiences and the idea that the “Holy Spirit,” the entity that connects us as human beings to God, the divine, would be plastered on a sweatshirt and then sold for profit doesn’t sit well with me.

When you think about selling merchandise, you want to know that people are selling original concepts or repurposing old ideas in new and innovative ways. Kanye West doesn’t have a corner on the Holy Spirit, which is a gift from God to all of us. And puttting it on an overpriced hoodie doesn’t seem entirely right.

There’s a fine line for which people can bridge commercialism and spirituality in a way that is not tacky and exploitative. And in this sense, Kanye fails on that front.

Then again, there is also the argument that Kanye wanted to rep for the spiritual force in our lives. But if that were the case, the very least he could do is use the profits from these sales to give back to others in a way the Holy Spirit would approve.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a point Scottie Beam made. To be honest, I don’t know if she was referencing Kanye directly or not, but the message applies.

“Using God as a ploy to get Black people to forgive you because a lot of people do that. And a lot of people bring up God, pull out God whenever it’s convenient for them because you done f*cked up so bad the only way Black people can f*ck with you is when you bring up our Lord and savior.”

Given his history, we can’t write this out as a possibility.

What do you make of the Holy Spirit sweatshirts?

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