Nipsey Hussle RIP by Ciarra Walters

L.A. Will Miss You Forever, Nipsey Hussle

A month after Nipsey's passing, Los Angeles is still grieving the loss of a hero. This is a tribute to Nipsey Hussle and the neighbourhood that he fought to keep alive; South Central Los Angeles.

Ever since the death of artist and activist Ermias Asghedom, better known as Nipsey Hussle, there has been a layer of heaviness coating Los Angeles. Last week, the weather shifted to match the mood: dark, cloudy and cold. The death of Hussle was no accident. He was gunned down and killed in the front of his Los Angeles store, The Marathon Clothing, on a beautiful hot Sunday. As confusion, anger, and grief swept over L.A., Hussle’s death woke us up.

 

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In the “Wild, Wild West,” a part of the city that is known for its gang culture, violence, riots, and the 1980s drug epidemic, South Central Los Angeles is a hard place to grow up. I only lived there a year and a half, and I quickly grew numb to the police sirens, helicopters, homicides, homelessness, and local drug problems in the hood of Crenshaw.

This Black-Eritrean man took the money he made from the stories he told in music to invest in his community

I chose to live in “the Jungles,” a neighborhood known for its gang violence between the Crips and Bloods. The area wasn’t that bad, the rent was cheaper and I wanted to live around all Black people. Living there rid me of my prejudice against my own people. They are misunderstood. Don’t we all have some type of prejudice against our skin color? Don’t we start acting different when we get money? Don’t we forget where and who we came from?

 

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Hussle’s death has impacted millions worldwide. But let us focus; this is about South Central. This is about uplifting the communities that seem undesirable and forgotten. His death represents the countless lives lost in the streets due to misunderstanding and misguidance. This Black-Eritrean man took the money he made from the stories he told in music to invest in his community.

“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope.” Barack Obama

Nipsey Hussle wasn’t like most rappers. He didn’t exploit his city and he didn’t leave after success. He gave us his own knowledge of gang culture instead of Hollywood’s biased version. He told us real stories that his community could hustle to, cry to, and use for motivation. He rapped for the people around him. He told the stories for people around him. His stories were their stories too.

 

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South Central is one of many places in this country where Black and Brown bodies suffer daily. In a city that has dealt with the leftovers of generational trauma and the systemic racism put in place to prolong racial injustice, Hussle held it down. Nipsey didn’t think his people were evil, in fact, he loved them and related generational trauma to misguided good intentions. Barack Obama noticed this too. He says in his open letter to Hussle“While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets, and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope.”

 

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There is more to South Central then just the racial and systemic injustice that has maintained vicious cycles of poverty and violence. South Central is the heart of Blackness in Los Angeles. It is a place filled with passion, pride, love, community, and culture. It is the home of some of the best soul food places. It houses Slauson Swap meet, where you can get the flyest and cheapest grillz. It has the most powerful, thought-provoking murals portraying Black power and Black life in all of California. It is home to one of my favorite galleries, Art + Practice, and has bred some of the most talented artists like Mark Bradford, Lauren Halsey, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac and, of course, Nipsey Hussle.

 

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Through the Concrete a Tree would Grow

 

The common saying is “through the concrete a flower would grow”. The roots of flowers cannot move concrete, but the roots of a tree can. In South Central, not many can break through the concrete structures put in place. Hussle’s loyalty to his roots helped reshape the stereotypes, culture, and neighborhoods. His influence and purpose broke the concrete.

According to German author and forester, Peter Wohlleben, through a complicated, extensive system of roots, known as the “wood-wide web,” trees communicate with their own species of trees and even neighboring trees. They alert each other when the disease is spreading. They share nutrients through their roots and most importantly create and maintain interdependent relationships with one another, which enhances the health of life expectancy of trees. They work together as a community to help each other survive. This sounds like South Central to me.

 

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Through the tough soil of South Central L.A., Hussle used this foundation to plant, nurture, and spread his roots through the neighborhood that raised him. He was that type of person. He was that type of artist. He lived it and had no shame sharing his story and uplifting those who listened.

Since the beginning, Hussle was known as “Neighborhood Nip.” It wasn’t hard to find him, he was always around the neighborhood, even after reaching success. Despite the harsh conditions of South Central, he embraced his people and community. In the years to come, Hussle’s roots spread throughout South Central through his music, investments, and advocacy for locals. He planted a tree that will continue to grow.

 

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In February of 2018, the day before Victory Lap was released, Hussle and David Gross, opened up their first co-working space, Vector 90, and STEM center, Too Big to Fail, in the Crenshaw district. Last year, Hussle shared with The Los Angeles Times why he felt it was necessary to create STEM programs in these neighborhoods schools. “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers…And that’s cool but there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg. I think that with me being influential as an artist and young and coming from the inner city, it makes sense for me to be one of the people that’s waving that flag.”

It’s no secret that young Black men are pushed more towards being a performer or an athlete. With the lack of funding because of zip codes, children’s programs are being cut in schools. Gross and Hussle recognized what these children were lacking and created a solution, in their own streets.

 

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Nipsey Hussle’s impact on the community has been undeniable. His roots flourished and spread throughout a community that has raised him. He educated, invested, supported and was there for his people. He even promoted health, starting the documentary on the late Dr. Sebi and quit drinking lean and alcohol and smoking weed. He was able to trace his roots back to Eritrea, his original homeland, but South Central L.A. was his homeland too. Hussle remained true to both. Nipsey’s body may no longer be here with us, but his roots are.

THE VIGIL

 

Thousands of people showed their respects at Nipsey’s Vigil, on the streets, and on the Internet. It didn’t take long before the murals and “RIP Nipsey Hussle” took over the walls of Los Angeles. Celebrities, fans, and politicians attended to pay their respects. As thousands outpoured their heartache over the young rapper, community was being formed in his wake. Last Friday, a peace treaty was signed by the majority of L.A.’s gangs, as they marched together in the street together. People Black, Brown, and White have come together to mourn as one.

 

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In the past few days, L.A. has had heavy winds. I believe those winds helped push away the heavy energy, as South Central laid his body to rest. It was a true celebration of life. His voice filled the streets of L.A. as the community came together to honor a member of the neighborhood. Nipsey Hussle and his death is not a trend. Hussle’s death was an opportunity for us to wake up and build the courage to help people, even when it is inconvenient or too painful. The death of Ermias Ashedom, a father, a husband, a son, man, a person, woke us up.

 

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Malcolm X

The greatest mistake of a movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first, then you’ll get action.

Interviewer

Wake them up to their exploitation?

Malcolm X

No, to their humanity, to their worth. It’s worth a try.

 

Hustle and motivate. Rest in Power to a King, Ermias Asghedom, Nipsey Hussle.

Ciarra K. Walters is a Los Angeles-based artist, photographer and writer originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is a former writer for Solange’s cultural hub, Saint Heron, Vice i-D, and has had three solo art exhibitions in both Los Angeles and New York. She focuses on the underfed narratives of women and POC, and asks the question why we are the way we are and how we become who we are. Her work is an invitation for viewers to explore the relationship between themselves and the story being presented.
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