TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Nipsey notes | Think Piece

in Major Collaborative Project/Nipsey Hussle by

“This Brother was a Good Brother. He didn’t’ get into an excessive amount of trouble…”

If you know that song and the album its on (Ice Cube’s “The Funeral” on “Death Certificate”) then you can finish it in your mind and realize how appropriate it is for the fallen Brother. Nipsey Hussle’s spirit has energized the City of Angels, its inhabitants and its sons and daughters abroad.

As a transplanted Washingtonian, I’m one of those sons of Los Angeles who lives in another time zone. After moving to DC, I went to Howard University. When I finished, I continued my career in education by working in local school systems.

The daily undertaking in DC schools takes much of my energy, so I haven’t seen my beloved City since September 2010. Yet, moments after reports of Nipsey Hussle’s shooting death traveled, it hit me like the bad news of shootings that I still  remember while growing up. I was mentally transported to Slauson and Crenshaw, a corner that I’ve sold incense, talked to girls in my teenage years and been arrested on as a young adult. I’m familiar with that intersection.

Growing up in this kind of environment, my experience was sort of like this: you hear of a shooting, you see the results then contemplate the aftermath. However, in so many ways, this was different. So many déjà vu type events have occurred since his passing.

For example, this generation of youth that followed Nipsey are unfortunately having a “Tupac” experience. Nip referred to himself as “This generation’s Tupac” and now his own words have proved prophetic. The memorials abound and the mourning will continue for some time. If you look at some of the Facebook dedications of my friends that still live in the heart of Los Angeles, you’d quickly get a sense of how much Nipsey meant to his community, to my community, to our community. Both by people that were close to him and those who were in other geographical locations but in close psychological and spiritual proximity to this powerful symbol of community effort, drive and accomplishment.

The transition of Nipsey Hussle into the ancestral realm initially triggered many people’s PTSD from having lived in urban war zones. Individuals like myself who have repeatedly lost friends to senseless gunfire, felt the death of Nipsey as if he was a friend, a brother and yes, a young homie.

Unfortunately, I started getting acquainted with losing friends, schoolmates and neighbors to gun fire at around the age of fourteen. It was 1991 and it was Kevin who was shot several times. He stayed on life support and subsequently passed away. That was a shock because at 14 years old, that was the first friend I lost.

Later in 1992, it was Karl, then Bernard, then Snoop. All good brothers involved in community organizations also known as gangs. They weren’t known for being violent they were killed because of where they lived.

As I look at the exemplary life of this young brother who used his Hussle to elevate himself economically and promote an effective economic model for South Central Los Angeles residents to empower themselves, I see the exponent of a long running culture.

Nipsey is one that was able to take his game to the next level. Many special qualities made him stand out and shine. Consider that he had the blood of East Africa running through his veins. East Africa is the birthplace of humanity and civilization. It’s significant, especially to many Pan-Africanists that this brother of partial East African origin was culturally aligned with the men and women of Los Angeles that he grew up around. And at the same time, he is a product of that South-Central culture that teaches you to be wise and about your business.

From the Great Migration up to the early 2000’s, there is a South-Central Culture that is well known to those raised there. The culture that brought me up was a loving group of families, churches, Islamic temples, Rastas and a host of other represented cultures that came together to promote an atmosphere of unity, strength, and self-determination. This culture gave birth to countless, musicians, scholars, activists, actors and many other cultural contributors and players on the world stage.

South-Centralites are proud of our culture and don’t shy away from the good, bad and ugly. We know our worth. And some of us are particular about the use of South-Central vs. South Los Angeles to describe the history and location of our unique Southern California vibrations. Nipsey was a product of this rich culture and history. His life exemplified it and his transition solidified it.

Gang Truce

Not since 1992, has there been any significant effort from Los Angeles gangs to truce. In the wake of Nipsey’s death, the brothers and sisters in the community felt inspired to gather and commemorate his life with efforts to create a “peace treaty” type atmosphere.

Symbolism

I’m not here to tell you that I know his whole catalogue of music or that I closely followed his rise in the music industry. What I can say is that his life and death have strongly impacted the people of Los Angeles and now the world. He has left a living legacy and a blueprint for economic and political empowerment. He is the embodiment of raw hustle, grit, grind and determination. He did it the hood way. Literally.

A testament of the Pan-African spirit of unity, there are underlying factors that bring people of African descent together. European colonization and systemic racism imbedded in our education, teaches individuals that they are separate and apart, when in fact, we descendants of Africans whether born on the continent or in the diaspora, have an unbroken spiritual tie that the forces of slavery, colonialism and oppression have never been able to fully eradicate.

Nipsey’s spirit further connects that spirit of Africa from the homeland to the Southland of California and transmitted back to the globe. The spirit is universal, and the contributions of Brother Nipsey, now our ancestor will live on in perpetuity as the next generation seizes the lessons from his blueprint and create a new reality in their own image and likeness. Ashe.

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