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​#RIPNipsey: A Look Inside The Legacy Of A Real One

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It never fails. At the beginning of every year, I say the same thing to one of my closest girlfriends—"I know some people are gonna leave us this year, but I'm never prepared for who." Y'all, we just got into the spring season and already I've been caught totally off guard. James Ingram. Kristoff St. John. Kevin Barnett. And, as a diehard Beverly Hills, 90210 fan while I was growing up, Luke Perry. But there was something about hearing the news of—attributes are not listed in any particular order of importance here—hip-hop artist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, community builder, father, man of Ms. Lauren London and friend to, have mercy so many (just put #RIPNipsey or basically any variation of the hashtag in your Twitter search field for evidence of just how many people knew and loved him) Nipsey Hussle that particularly stung. No, stings.

Aspects and Angles / Shutterstock.com

Before I attempt to do this mini-tribute any sort of justice, let me just say that as someone who lost my father five years ago and my fiancé on the same day that he proposed 24 years ago this fall, there is nothing more annoying than having someone who didn't personally know someone you loved try and tell you—or anyone else—about them. No, I've never met Sir Ermias Asghedom (his birth name). I've also never been to one of his shows or purchased anything from his store (although believe you me, I'll be finding some sort of way to give a few coins in support, in his honor, over the next few weeks). Still, he did make an impact on me in some pretty random-yet-relevant ways. I didn't realize just how much until today.

Nipsey Hussle as a Businessman

I'm pretty sure that most of us have heard the saying "Know your worth and then add tax." It's pretty much a mantra over here on this side. But Nipsey took it to a whole 'nother level when, once upon a time, he decided to charge $100 a pop for his mixtape; he reportedly made (count it) $100,000 in under 24 hours at his pop-up shop.

It shook (and probably shocked) so much of the business world that he was featured in Forbes back in 2013 (Forbes actually checked for him quite a bit afterwards. Also peep "Inside Nipsey Hussle's Blueprint to Become a Real Estate Mogul" that was published this past February). According to Nipsey, he attributed the idea to something he read in the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Jonah Berger). That stayed with me because it's a powerful reminder to make a lane rather than wait for someone to open up one for you. Oh, and if you don't know how to do that…READ SOMETHING.

Nipsey Hussle as a Community Activist, Supporter and Selfless Giver

Matthew 6:1-2(NKJV) says, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."

As I read a beautiful piece on Nipsey's life in The Los Angeles Times this morning, something about him reminded me a lot of Prince. I say that because just like Prince did a lot of giving that many of us knew nothing about until he was gone, so did he (check out "Prince, the Secret Philanthropist: 'His Cause Was Humanity'").

Indeed, tears came to my eyes as I read, not just about how Nipsey was in the process of opening a STEM center in the Crenshaw District or how he was also redeveloping a strip mall, but also how it was nothing for him to buy a pair of shoes for teens, provide jobs for the homeless or cover the funeral fees for people who couldn't afford it. Y'all, real giving doesn't need attention or applause. It just needs a source. Nipsey was living evidence of this very fact.

Nipsey Hussle as a Bold AF Voice

Ida B. Wells once said, "The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." Listen, it's no secret that Nipsey was going to produce a documentary on the late—and for many of us who aren't in the Matrix would dare say "great"—Dr. Sebi. In fact, last night, the good (holistic) doctor was trending on Twitter right along with the tragic news about Nipsey.

I'm not gonna get into all of the conspiracies; time will reveal what needs to be seen and known but in February of 2018, Nipsey went onto The Breakfast Club and (at the 26:53 mark) said some pretty…courageous things about the doctor and why he wanted to give his trial a (louder) voice. The things he said reminded me of something I read that actor Christian Bale once said: "I tend to think you're fearless when you recognize why you should be scared of things, but do them anyway."

To speak up against the government and pharmaceutical companies (Dr. Sebi) and then set out to shine a spotlight on him, Nipsey is fearless personified. Fear stifles. Nipsey appeared to have very little of that. It was even evident in the final tweet that he posted on yesterday—"Having strong enemies is a blessing." A blessing is a form of favor and mercy. I believe Nipsey has been granted both. In a myriad of ways. Some seen. Some unseen.

So what will happen to Nipsey's passion project now? Nick Cannon vowed on his IG that he would pick up the baton. It's touching. It's also a reminder that fearlessness is catching. That's just one more thing that moves me about Nipsey's life.

Nipsey Hussle as a Lover

My fiancé died in a freak car accident. It was so freakish that it's a book all unto itself. One of the strangest things about it is he died at a Shell station on Bell Road in Nashville. What's the big deal? If we had married, my name would've been "Shellie Bell". My nickname growing up was "Shell Bell".

***Deep breath***Last week, I watched the absolutely-adorable-and-totally-infectious GQ video featuring Nipsey and actor, Nipsey's lover and mother of one of his children Kross (he also has a daughter from a previous relationship named Emani), Lauren London. She had to ask her man 30 questions about her (he got 24 of 'em right, by the way). I got chills when they discussed that they met "On Crenshaw and Slauson, at my store."

Whew. One of his "creative babies" is on Crenshaw and Slauson. He met the love of his life (and later created more life with her) on Crenshaw and Slauson. He lost his life on Crenshaw and Slauson. Trust me, unless you lose "the one", you have NO IDEA what it's like. What you may even try and conceptualize doesn't begin to crack the surface. I must say that it did bring some warmth to my heart that Lauren loved a man who was again, fearless, in expressing his love for her; so much so that there is cyberspace documentation that no one can question.

On the red carpet at this year's GRAMMYs, Nipsey captioned a pic with her on his IG that simply said, "Isis and Osiris". On Lauren's birthday back in December, he posted a shot that said, "Happy Birthday 2 A Real One". Last summer, in a pic that had Lauren looking as beautiful as ever (and usual), his caption said, "Been thru a lot...Never folded on me. Love and respect that for life." It's not a ton of words but, let's be real— it's more than a lot of men are willing to publicly declare. Big ups to a man who leaves no doubt as to who he wants, is into and is down for. Big ups also to the men who recognize how real the love between two people are. Black men know how to love Black women. Nipsey made this point very clear.

Nipsey Hussle as a Man with a Short Life Yet a HUGE Legacy

33. Whenever I hear that someone has died at the age of 33, it jolts my spirit. Yehoshua the Christ died at 33. And, so did other people who made an impact in their own special way. Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway are just two people who immediately come to mind. But when I thought about how one of my friends reacted when he heard the news, I knew that if there was one word to sum up what Nipsey positioned himself for, even in a little over three decades, it's legacy.

Me: "Dude, did you hear about Nipsey Hussle?!"

Him: "I can't believe it! I just bought a shirt at his store a couple of months ago."

My friend is a GRAMMY/Emmy/Dove award-winning producer by the name of SHANNON SANDERS. Because he's been in the industry for so long, we have interesting chats about the smoke-and-mirrors of the scene. But when I asked him what shook him so much about the loss of Nipsey, what he said about what he found to be the genuineness (not perfection but genuineness) of him is how I think I'll bring all of this to a close.

"My grandmother was a part of one of the first graduating classes at Crenshaw High School. Two neighborhoods I know like no other are South Nashville and the Crenshaw District. What I want to know at this point is, how many times do we have to see this narrative? It's so senseless and what I really hate about this instance is [Nipsey] represented the best among us in terms of community aspirations."

"To be killed outside of the doorstep of the empire that he built? It just hurts. But what I pray is that his loss will have a 'dandelion effect'—that what he did will inspire others when it comes to caring for people and building up their own communities. That if there is a silver lining to this tragedy, it's although he went to sleep, it has reminded many of us to wake up."

Hmph. I can't help but apply SHANNON's last line to the final scene in Spike Lee's School Daze. WAKE UP, indeed.

Rest in Peace and Power, Nipsey. We're holding you in our thoughts, hearts and prayers, Lauren. You come from good seed, Emani and Kross. We're up. We're woke. We promise.

Featured image by Andres Tardio.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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