Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Falling" (Back) in Love with Old Favorites (feat. Preston Perry and Jackie Hill Perry's "The Fall")

When I started writing poetry back in 2014, husband and wife duo Jackie Hill Perry and Preston Perry were among the first spoken word artists I studied. Jackie, an ex-homosexual, and Preston, an apologist, present Jesus in a very uniquely unapologetic way. Jackie speaks openly about her journey to deliverance from the gay lifestyle (even in spaces where her views are considered controversial), and Preston uses his BOLD Apparel clothing company to spread the gospel through hoodies, pants, and t-shirts inspired by bible verses and Christian doctrine. His best selling pieces feature the "Jesus is God" design, which, quite literally, speaks for itself. The words "Jesus is God" are fittingly written in bold print, and just underneath them, in a smaller font, is an invitation to challenge that statement: "I dare you to tell me otherwise." Talk about a conversation starter!

The Perrys are phenomenal as separate artists (Jackie's sophomore album, Crescendo, is available for pre-order now), but together, they are a force to be reckoned with. Their electric chemistry and superb poetic delivery brings life to "The Fall," a piece the couple co-wrote for Passion 4 Christ Movement (P4CM)'s 2014 Rhetoric showcase. "The Fall" is an imagined dialogue between Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In the piece, husband and wife are arguing, each shifting the blame of original sin onto the other until they realize that both of them are at fault. I'd like to offer commentary on the piece (lyrics courtesy of Genius), but first, check out the Perrys' performance below:

Eve (Jackie) begins the conversation in confrontation, "So I guess it was convenient for you to turn your back on the woman who held your spine," to which Adam (Preston) responds, "Woman, you were brought forth from my side--created to support me like the gravity-stricken moon does to the brisk breath of nightfall--but when fear clawed its way into my heart when He called my name in the garden you shrunk and hid your shameful body--" Then, together, "Where were you?" There are so many things to unpack here.

First of all, let's talk similes and metaphors. Jackie's reference to the spine refers to how Eve was created from Adam's rib. The first seven rib bones are connected to the spine. Preston's "moon" simile refers to Eve's role as help meet to Adam, suggesting that she was taken from his side to stand beside him and support him. The conflict here is that neither Eve nor Adam felt supported, asking each other, "Where were you?" I love that they say this line (and several others in the piece) together. I think it speaks to how relationships were then, and how they should be now. Even when Adam and Eve were at odds, they could not deny their oneness. That's so powerful.

The dialogue continues. Now it's Eve's turn to blame Adam. Jackie interjects, "Where were you when the prince of night found his way to your star? You watched him lie…I watched you sit and set like sun you morning of a man. You can't even see the nightmare you have become." This is the most clever play on day and night I've heard in a long time, an extended metaphor that caused my inner word nerd to leap for joy. The "prince of night" is Satan, and Eve is the "star." Here, Eve is saying that the fall was Adam's fault because he watched the serpent lie to her, and, like a sunset, he shrank down. In that moment, in her eyes, Adam transitioned from "morning of a man," the embodiment of light, to a "nightmare," dark, and even frightening. At this point, Eve feels like she can't trust him to stand up for her.

Several times, Eve speaks to Adam's inability to lead her. At one point, she says, "[God] gave you authority. He made you the head of us but you became neck. I can still see the apple stuck in your throat, Adam. Swallow your pride." At that moment, I had to pause the video because the wordplay was too much (in the best possible way). God made Adam the head, the leader, but he became neck, the body part beneath the head, and men have Adam's apples. I was DONE!

Throughout "The Fall," Adam and Eve express their concerns for what the consequences of their actions will be, not just for themselves, but for their posterity. They wonder how their wrongdoing will affect how brothers will treat sisters and how wives will submit to husbands. Eve talks about how she--and other women after her--struggle to make themselves attractive to men for validation, and speaks to Adam's inadvertent, albeit, toxic idolization of her. The entire poem is an amazing commentary on a lot of heavy subjects related to how men and women coexist. Ultimately, though, it is a model of what a godly relationship should be: Two imperfect people serving a perfect God. At the end of the piece, Adam and Eve tackle the root of the issue: Forgiveness. They had to forgive each other because they realized that neither of them was solely responsible for the fall. They resolved to share the blame because they were guilty of trying to be their own god, and they had to ask forgiveness from God Himself.

The symbolism and intensity of "The Fall" make me fall in love with it each time I watch it...and it was even more incredible watching Jackie and Preston perform it live at The PIA Tour in 2015.

PIA Tour 2015

Fun fact: When the Perrys performed "The Fall," Jackie was pregnant with their first child (and she's currently pregnant again, due in May). After writing this powerful piece, it was only fitting that they named their now-3-year-old daughter Eden.

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