When people think of Lecrae, the image that often comes to mind is one of a Grammy Award-winning rapper, but it's his work outside of music that's quietly making the greatest impact on people's lives.
His vast community service work is helping several families come out of poverty and avoid the cycle that befalls so many who are living in impoverished communities across the U.S.
Lecrae said in an interview with The Christian Post that he hopes to be “a different picture of a black man in America.” Beyond his latest album Restoration, the Reach Records founder wants to help restore the black community.
"In America, if you know the history of African American people in America, it has been a pretty tumultuous history with a lot of trying times, from slavery to Jim Crow, to civil rights and even now the struggles that continue to persist,” he said.
"The hard part is a lot of people within the black community have subconsciously embraced this idea that they're lesser than. This idea that they can't ever attain any more than what's been put in front of them,” he said.
“I want to change the narrative. We are more than just superb athletes and entertainers, even though I'm an entertainer," Lecrae continued. "There's more to us than just those categories that get demonstrated, and [I want] to begin to help change the narrative, especially for the younger generation, so that they can see themselves as more than history has painted them out to be.”
Lecrae Moore, mononymously known as Lecrae, grew up in Texas in a single-parent home as drug addiction and incarceration ripped his family apart.
To get to where he is now, Lecrae had to overcome several hurdles in his path.
"It was a tough road for me to get to a place like that. I really did not come to that type of understanding until I was an adult," he told CP. "Oftentimes, we talk about our spiritual transformation and how we have a new identity in Christ, but I think the problem for many of us is that we don't exactly know what that identity looks like or how to flesh that identity out inside of the culture that we live in."
"Obviously, I had to get over some of the lies that were told to me — both in my community and outside of my community — about who I was. Though I'm embracing this new reality that I'm made in the image of God, how does that manifest itself or play itself out when I walk outside and people don't treat me in that way?" he said.
"That was a process, and it took a lot of therapy, it took a lot of reading, it took a lot of things along those lines. But now, I think I've grown comfortable with that type of understanding, and I can give back to people and help them walk in it."
The father of three said he encourages people of all backgrounds to take advantage of therapy despite the negative stigma it has among some, including in the black community.
"I think that's critical. Trauma is also found in our DNA. It's transformed genetically, so some of the traumatic things that your ancestors may have experienced sometimes get passed down. Therapy is a way to process that; therapy is a way to work through that," he said.
"Especially for me, having therapists who understand God and Scripture, they can find a way to help merge those worlds so that we understand that the mind, the brain, similar to the heart, is an organ and it is made by God," Lecrae added. "There's people, specialists who can help you process that and understand what to do."
Now residing in Atlanta, Georgia, the Reach Records founder is using his influence and resources to bring restoration to the black community. His work has helped launch a school in an underserved community, enabled families to attain housing they can be proud of, and provided them with financial literacy programs so they can maintain and build upon their new standard of living.
Students at Peace Preparatory Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. | Peace Preparatory Academy
One of the initiatives he worked on was the development of Peace Preparatory Academy, a K-5 school that he helped finance and open in The Bluffs neighborhood in Atlanta. For two decades, the neighborhood didn't have a school, leading generations into a life of crime.
Lecrae and the school's headmaster, Benjamin Wills, teamed up to make it happen. Wills, a black man of faith and area resident, had a desire to serve his community. When he presented the idea to Lecrae, everything came together.
"There was no school in English Avenue from 1995 to 2015 due to the school district's decision making regarding school locations," Wills told CP.
"The English Avenue Elementary school, like many schools in under-resourced and underpopulated areas, was closed and students were reallocated to other schools nearby," he said.
Lecrae added: "A lot of people say, 'Oh, are you trying specifically to focus in on the black community?' And I would say, 'yes and no.' I mean, yes, from the standpoint that I have proximity, I am a figure of that community, I come from that community. But then also no. I care about the marginalized, disenfranchised in general. It just so happens that, by in large, the marginalized communities are black and brown people. In Atlanta, it's the black community."
"So The Bluffs/English Avenue is a historically black community that has been just devastated by so many factors," he added. "There hasn't been a school in this community in over 20 years. These kids were choosing to just not go to school. If their parents wanted them to go to school, they had to get bused so far. It was a whole inconvenient circumstance that just wasn't realistic."
Because of the lack of education in the area, illegal drug crimes spiked.
This led Lecrae to partner with others to build the first school in that community in 20 years, and now things are beginning to turn around.
"We started with kindergarteners and now we've gotten all the way up to fifth grade," he celebrated. "Now it's moved outside of just a school to providing homes in the community that are affordable and good quality because we want people to have a sense of dignity."
In another humanitarian effort, Lecrae is helping to rebuild Atlanta’s West Side. He's buying up neighborhood blocks, tearing down old and vacant properties, and rebuilding new ones.
"So we're housing people. We're educating people, we're feeding people," Lecrae said. "To me, this is the essence of what Christ wanted us to do — to love and demonstrate love and grace toward the least of these, as far as society is concerned. So that's exactly what I'm trying to do in the community."
Lecrae described The Bluffs community as "night and day" from what it was after the Christian academy opened.
"My friends are now teachers there; friends who moved here from other states have become teachers there. The kids get to see a picture of themselves and the principal, the head of the school. Athletes and celebrities come into the school now because of relationships," he testified.
Along with providing education, Peace Prep serves children three meals a day, offers therapy and promotes family. The school is in the process of seeking accreditation, which is expected to be finalized in May.
The artist went on to share the story of a student who "always touches" his heart. When this particular child was a kindergartener, he was left at home alone while his mother went to work. Occasionally, he was looked after by a friend, a drug dealer.
"This guy had a heart for this kid and he was like, 'I don't want this kid going down the same path that I'm going down, but he's out here with us all day. Can I put him in this school? Is there room for him in this school?'" Lecrae recalled.
"We got him in the school; he is thriving in this school. He's a third grader now and it's just a night and day difference. He sees a different picture of what life can be. Prior to that, he was just hanging out on the street. And of course, he would have matriculated into that direction."
"It's just beautiful to see the transformation that's happened. Not just in the kids, the entire community is changed because Peace Prep focuses on the whole community," he emphasized.
"Families have changed. I've gotten to see mothers who have kids there. I have literally, myself, moved them out of one-bedroom apartments, gotten them their first job working outside in a stable job, moved them into a house, their first house that was built by my friends, and it's beautiful."
Seeing the kids light up is what touches Lecrae's heart.
"Their lives are just transformed altogether. And of course, it's a Christ-centered school, so they're hearing the truth about God and the Scriptures and their worth. So on and on goes the pattern. It's just a beautiful opportunity,"