Nipsey Hussle: Black, Eritrean, African American and from the Hood

Nipsey Hussle w hood as background

The fact that thousands and thousands of Black youth in the US and abroad mourn and celebrate Nipsey Hussle speaks to his life, his work and his art as a source of inspiration. He was the embodiment of Black pride and Black self- determination.

Against all odds, he broke the chains of selfish preoccupation and self- hatred, and was committed and dedicated to the uplift of his south LA hood. But it extended beyond that, he was committed to the uplift of Black people: wherever they were from.

The crowds gathered, the vigils and memorials were held to say ‘here was a Black man who loved himself, his family, his Hood, his Set and his people: ALL of them!

The pain is palpable. Gone is another young Black man, a positive Black man, with a vision, who overcame the obstacles that come with being Black in America: felled again, by one of THEIR agents.  Agent is not a reference to any particular conspiracy theory, which some were quick to concoct after Hussle’s death. (But the conspiracy theorists aren’t completely wrong in assuming something foul was at play.)  Blame should be laid at the feet of the system of capitalism buttressed by White Supremacy, which exacerbates divisions among us and encourages violence between us, while discouraging unity and brotherhood. It may not have pulled the trigger, but it may as well have.

In the midst of darkness and madness that sometimes inexplicably explains the sometimes unexplainable goings on in our Hoods, Nipsey Hussle was a light, a sober break from the abnormal routine .

“God I love this man, he truly changed me. The album Victory lap really help me beat depression I got out of feeling sorry for myself and got my real estate license after that album and passed it the first time,” wrote a young woman in the comments section of his song “Victory Lap” on You Tube.

“As much I am a Black person from America I am a Black person from Africa,” Ermias Asghedom, (Nipsey Hussle’s  birth name) once said in one of his many radio interviews.

Ironically, at a time when native Africans, Africans from the diaspora and Africans who descended from US chattel slavery, are attempting to distance themselves from one another (to our own detriment), we mourn the loss of a young man who embraced his African- ness, both his Eritrean self and his African American self. He was Black,  Eritrean (African) American, and yes the son of an immigrant, who saw himself as just one of us and likely died because he was determined to be one of us until the end.

Most people, who make a little money or get a little success, put the Hood in their rear view mirror. But Nipsey refused to leave the Hood behind. Rumor has it that he was shot not long after he had gone to his Marathon store to outfit a Homie who had not long been released from prison. Whether the story is true or not is not important, the point is it rings true, because it is consistent with his character

Although he likely would have appreciated former president Barack Obama’s remarks (read at the home going service) which said that Hussle “saw a community through its flaws” he would have disputed that assessment.  It’s apparent that when Nipsey looked out upon his community he didn’t see flaws or shortcomings, he saw possibilities, he saw potential. And unlike the former president he did not talk about “hope and change,” but rather worked to bring about change in South LA and in doing so he provided a ray of hope.

Nipsey understood that if given the chance a real opportunity that most folks would succeed in putting their best foot forward. In one of his many  interviews he astutely  broke down Maslow’s” Hierarchy of Needs,” pointing out that much of the problems in the Hood stemmed from the struggle to get its basic physiological needs of food, shelter, water met, the very first step in the pyramid. In doing so he implicitly condemned this society for depriving his people of the equal opportunity to acquire the resources to meet those needs.

Nipsey’s gift was he was able to interpret the world around him for others. He said in an interview with HOT 97 that he no longer smoked weed or got drunk and noted that he was not against weed, but he wanted to do his work sober  with a clear mind. He said he understood that the abundance of drugs and alcohol in our community fed “someone else’s agenda.”

In that interview he explained that he figured out that as a gang member when he went on a mission and was looking for his enemy, he was looking for somebody who was “dressed like him, with the same body language.” He said, “You see him and say ‘there he go, get him.’ You were looking for yourself, just on the other side of town” He pointed out that the violence being played out in the hood was subconscious self -hatred. Algerian revolutionary and psychologist Frantz Fanon explained this phenomenon saying that the colonized  the oppressed see the oppressor in one another.

The artist entrepreneur once said, “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers.’ …but there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg.’ His point was that Black folks too should be innovators, inventors, visionaries and seek to “do for self.”

While most are giving the entertainer/entrepreneur/humanitarian his due, there is a temptation by, some of the more conscious among us, as part of what some call “cancel culture” to point out his flaws and the flaws in his environment. Someone writing ironically for NBC, thought it appropriate to blame his death on “toxic Black masculinity,” others took shots at occasional homophobia or misogyny in his music.

Hussle’s art was a reflection of his experience. Truth is if we really want a society free of homophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, xenophobia etc. we have to get rid of it at its roots. It is hypocritical and cowardly to attack the branches, but not the real source of the problem: a hateful, “hatin” foul, social/ political/ economic system.

While he was not a revolutionary, his legacy was revolutionary because he showed what could be done with a little vision.  And it is damned near revolutionary to actually love Black people in a society that teaches one to hate all things Black; including one’s self. He wore Crenshaw and Slauson with pride.

His murder was an attempt to dim his light, but they failed! In death his light shines even brighter. The violence after his funeral and at his LA vigil (which the Big Business media was quick to report) are the last gasps of the forces of evil pushing back, because they know their days are numbered. We shall not always sleep, but will one day wake up and claim our rightful place in this nation, in this world and on this earth.

We honor Ermias Asghedom aka Nipsey Hussle’s memory by working to bring into a being a system that won’t make people like Nipsey the exception, but the rule, one devoid of  ghettos and messages that teach us to hate ourselves. No doubt we have a long way to go, a marathon is how Nipsey would have described it.

justice then peace


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