By SAM RAPPAPORT
Local pastor and hip-hop artist Julian DeShazier, also known by his stage-name ‘J.Kwest,’ recently won an Emmy for his role in a short film commemorating the 75th anniversary of the classic Billie Holliday song “Strange Fruit.”
In late June, DeShazier was one of a team of filmmakers that received an Emmy in the category of Historical/Cultural Program or Special from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Lower Great Lakes Chapter.
DeShazier said he signed on as a writer and musician for the project, entitled “Strange Fruit,” after being contacted by SALT, a Christian, not-for-profit production company.
DeShazier said the conception for the short film grew out of the current climate surrounding police violence in African American neighborhoods.
“There was this intense racial tension coming into the spotlight,” DeShazier said. “The song Strange Fruit also came from this intense racial moment, we saw a parallel. We asked ourselves, ‘What is the artistic response to what is happening now?’”
In 2010, DeShazier was named Senior Pastor at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave., becoming the youngest pastor in the congregation’s history.
DeShazier said more pastors should form a deeper connection to the communities they serve.
“We need pastors that are more deeply connected to the conversations of the community,” DeShazier said. “I think church is a powerful institution. It’s not about making more Christians, it’s about what faith can do in a community.”
Visit hpherald.com to stream “Strange Fruit” and listen to DeShazier in conversation about the themes of the film.