The Good Book says life and death is in the power of the tongue, but in J. Ivy’s book, the power is in the pen. Hailed as “Hip Hop’s Favorite Poet,” the Grammy Award-winning spoken word artist from Chicago didn’t fully begin to take the world by storm until he put pen to paper, pain to poetry and released the perfect storm of hurt, anger, confusion and misplaced love brewing in his spirit over the complicated relationship with his father. What began as a letter transformed into a critically-acclaimed poem,”Dear Father,” and his words have, literally, taken him all over the world. But, the greatest destination he’s seen yet (and don’t get it twisted – he’s been to some DOPE places) is a place called Forgiveness.
Now, with his recently released book Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books/Beyond Words 2015), James Ivy Richardson II is telling the full story behind the letter that inspired a movement and challenging a million more people to “check themselves” and find their own joy to be free.
“It definitely saved my life because it just allowed me to see ME,” said J. Ivy, reflecting on the impact writing the poem “Dear Father” has had on him. “It allowed me to let go. It allowed me to focus. It allowed me to value myself; to see my worth, know my worth. Have confidence in myself. It allowed me to just be grateful for this life, for the life my father gave me and for the life God allowed, for the path He allowed. It just allowed so much.”
“And because of that, shortly after that moment is when I wrote ‘Never Let Me Down’ for Kanye’s project and I don’t think i would’ve been able to write that poem if I hadn’t written ‘Dear Father.” I KNOW I wouldn’t have been able to write that poem. But that poem, ‘Never Let Me Down,’ was the epitome of how I was feeling after breaking through ‘Dear Father.'”
Dear Father Letter Writing Campaign: “One millions letters written, one million hearts healed”
There’s a quote J. Ivy references throughout his book: “If you don’t deal with your emotions, one day your emotions are going to deal with you.” Writing a letter and opening himself up to forgiveness was the first – and most important – step in his healing, and he is on a mission to extend that same freedom to others. A million others, to be exact.
“By tapping into our creative expression, I believe we can find peace and forgiveness,” said J. Ivy. “Going on this journey helped me to face my issues, and the outcome has been a constant blessing.”
Many have called fatherlessness an epidemic, particularly in the Black community. More than 24 million children in the U.S., or 1 out of every 3, do not have a father physically in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The change in the community that we’re looking for,” says J. Ivy, “it starts with individuals. It starts with, ‘If I can get myself together, that means I can help get my household together. If I can get my household together, then I can help get my block together, my community, and my city, and my state.'”
Through the Dear Father Letter Writing Campaign, people can share their stories about their relationship with their own father. Whether the memories are good, bad or non-existant, the key is using creative expression to open up a discussion that’s been swept under the rug for far to long.
Write a letter, a poem, a song, make a video, draw a picture – just tell the story.
So, what story will YOU tell? To join the Dear Father Movement and submit your letter (or other form of art), visit www.DearFatherLetters.com. You can also reach out to J. Ivy On Twitter @J_Ivy, follow him on Instagram @j_ivy and connect on Facebook.