After 5 years of hosting Soul Food Cypher events at Wonderroot and Sound Table’s Space2, SFC expanded it’s One Hundred cypher sessions to the Annex Bookstore. This beautiful space, provided in kind by leading marketing agency HAVAS, increased the production value and positioned us in a high visibility area just off the campus of Georgia Tech University. We continued our mission of utilizing freestyle rap to transform individuals and communities by activating cyphers every fourth Sunday.
A cypher is a circle in which any art form or spiritual practice can take place, and has long been a staple in the black community. The cypher represents community – In Soul Food Cypher, its a place where freestyle emcees (rappers) and lyricists, under the guidance of meter and rhyme, share stories, exchange knowledge and speak freely. It’s a place where emcees improvise their lyrics and are challenged and rewarded for their quick-wittedness in lyrics, depth in content, and personality in presentation.
Our cypher sessions in the new space continued our tradition of curated programing that challenged emcees through lyrical challenges but also included conversations that educated and broadened the community’s exposure to ideas, perspectives, and life-saving information. Our cyphers became a place where black and marginalized voices could speak proudly, be heard, and more importantly be felt.
Stemming from a deep place of ancestral memory, the cypher continues traditions of old, in new, bold ways.
In the 1700’s enslaved Africans would meet on Sundays at Place Congo, continuing their African traditions of drumming and dance. Mixed Race New Orleanians trained in European classical music and instrumentation joined in; what is now called Jazz and the Blues born out of these sessions. Additionally, on the Georgia and South Carolina coast, the Gullah Geechee would circle up in what is called a Ring shout and through rhythm, song, and call & response kept traditions alive that was crucial to their survival through the horrors of slavery and Jim crow. With our cyphers, we simply continue and build on the traditions and practices of old. Providing Emcees with a safe and nurturing environment to share their message and pass this rich tradition to the next generation.
Photographs by Alexander Acosta

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