BRAWLEY – A day-long festival graced the empty lot near Barbara Worth Junior High School here on Friday, April 21, as the first of what may become an annual event occurred.
The Real Love Community Festival brought together 9 Christian hip-hop artists, 1 popular social media influencer (Mike Servin), 10 sponsors, and over 350 attendees in local nonprofit, in Christian-based homeless ministry Brawley Feed The Need’s first collaboration with born-again local “Joe Cross Hoods,” as a nondenominational Christian outreach to local youth.
Brawley Feed the Need CEO Rosalind Servin said the event was more of a “festival” than just a Christian concert because of the various outdoor activities, including graffiti art, jumpers, KIDs Corner painting on canvas, games, giveaways, free haircuts, food vendors, and merchandise vendors and resource tables from different local and visiting Christian ministries.
“Brawley Feed the Need has been helping the homeless for almost 8 years now, and lately the Lord has been impressing upon me to continue to do that but He has also charged me to reach out to the youth and families with children,” Servin said in an interview with IVP on Sunday.
Servin said Brawley Feed the Need has been holding more family-oriented outreach events in recent months, but this collaboration with local Joe Cross Hoods, whose real name Jose Cruz Barrios, is the first time Feed the Need has held an event of this size, she said.
“What we were trying to do is look for opportunities to just encourage and reach people … It wasn’t necessarily to direct them to specific churches but to direct them to God,” Servin said.
“Everyone has a need and needs help in different areas, and we just want to show that Jesus is the answer to life’s problems and to anything that they might be going through,” Servin said, “and not just children but young adults, adults and older people.”
Servin said while the majority was Christian hip-hop, different styles of the genre were present in both English and Spanish.
“We tried to just make it really easy going and fun,” she said.
“This was an event for people that didn’t know God but people who already know God too,” Barrios said. “We don’t really have a lot of these kinds of stuff going on in the Valley.”
Barrios, currently a Brawley resident who was born in Los Angeles and grew up Calexico, said he has held two similar events at two of the campuses of the church he attends, Christ Community Church.
For Barrios, the idea to whole the festival was a way to give back to his community and God after being caught in a destructive pattern earlier on in his life.
“I’ve been sober 8 years from drug addiction and I was homeless 8 years ago,” Barrios said. “I was out there on the streets, talking to myself, I was in a very bad, very dark place. I was one of those guys you’d see on a bicycle with a backpack in all hours of the night, drug addicted. I was a criminal my whole life.”
Barrios said as he was on the brink of losing his mind, it was the sole playlist he had with Christian music – music from a Christian rapper named “Sevin” – that helped him stay alive.
“I was already losing my mind, talking to myself, being attacked demonically, and that one playlist of Christian rap music was what kept me connected to God,” he said. “Eventually I ended up going to a rehab, getting myself better and getting closer to God.”
“So just like that music is what got me to leave the streets and getting away from all the darkness that was out there,” Barrios said. “I felt that was something we need in our community because of all the drugs, homelessness, and gangs.”
“I used to sell drugs but that’s not me anymore; I don’t want to poison the community like that anymore,” Barrios said. “That’s why we called it ‘Real Love,’ because real love comes from God, and that’s the reason why now I want to give back in a positive way. That music saved me, so I wanted to give the same to the community.”
Barrios said he and Feed the Need, with the help of their sponsors, were able to bring Christian artists from as far as Dallas, Texas and other parts of Mexico and the U.S. Southwest to Brawley for the Community Festival.
“The whole idea is to try and share that light in these dark times, and give the community an alternative of what the world offers and what the world gives in music,” Barrios said. “All you hear in the music and TV is … I see it as filth. That’s what sells so that’s what they play; and all this influences our kids.”
“Christian hip-hop is nothing but love, positivity and making a change in ourselves and our communities,” Barrios said. “That music was my church because at the time I didn’t go to church.”
“A lot of people got blessed with the music and testimonies (on Friday),” Barrios said.
Servin said, like Barrios, many of the artists were “good at that, coming up and talking to people,” sharing their personal testimonies of how God has impacted their lives. She said though it was hot during the daytime, many people “stuck it out” and continued doing their ministry throughout the event.
“You just saw a lot of people grouped up and praying throughout the whole day and evening,” Servin said. “We were beet read in the fast but it was awesome.”
Barrios also marveled at the fact that two people who gave their testimony spoke about how they were at one time in local rival gangs, literally at each other’s throats trying to kill each other, but they have since both come to God, and “it was beautiful seeing them hugging and sharing their testimony together,” peacefully, as brothers anew in Christ.
“People were blessed through this event,” Barrios agreed. “I know I got blessed just making this happen.”
Both Barrios and Servin hope to continue these type of free community festival events in the future, they said, with Barrios hoping to incorporate other forms of Christian music to reach out to more Latinos, including field workers, through Christian genres such as corridos, banda, cerreño and mariachi.
“All this is to point people to God; we do share our testimonies but the main thing is we always give God the glory for what He did for us,” Barrios said.
“People were blessed through this Real Love event,” he said.