“Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”
— Cesar A. Cruz
That is the kind of art you should expect to hear from Hip-Hop and Spoken Word artist Kelsey Ogbewe. He was born to a Nigerian father and Haitian mother in Silver Spring, MD, grew up in Gaithersburg, MD, and spent most of his life around people—from babysitters to teachers to family friends—from all colors, cultures, and creeds. He is a Christian—or in his words a “follower of a brown-skinned Middle Eastern-Jewish Messiah.” Kelsey’s beliefs and experiences shape and mold his life, and by extension, his art. Art that serves to function in three specific ways: To challenge preconceived notions, to express both the beauty and pain of life, and to cultivate spaces to share new ideas. Kelsey seeks to use his pen and voice to compel people to think critically about God, life, purpose, race, justice, friendships, identity, and much more. He does not claim to be the final authority on any subject but aims to produce what he calls “conversational art.” That is, art that asks tough questions more than it gives concrete answers; art that invites the listener to actively engage with his or her own and Kelsey’s perspectives. And finally, art that promotes a communal understanding of the world.
Kelsey’s upbringing has helped him appreciate the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” While he understands that we are all our own persons, he also recognizes that we are interdependent; we need each other…to learn, to grow, and to prosper. That includes learning to value all people’s unique and complex narratives. Through poignant and creative storytelling—telling his own story and the stories of others—Kelsey hopes to deliver an empathetic listening experience. A shared experience that will be uncomfortable, sharp, and jarring yet comforting, unifying, and beneficial. He intends to “disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed” through song, poetry, and other forms of writing. For more information about Kelsey, check out the interview below and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.