Nipsey Hussle: A Hood Pastor
Photo shows a tribute mural in LA's Arts District. Photo by Joey Zanotti. Copyright CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved. Retrieved from Flickr and cropped for use on Mosaic.
On Sunday, March 31st, 2019, I was sitting in one of my favorite vegan restaurants in Philadelphia scrolling through Instagram, while enjoying the Beyond Meat Smokehouse burger. While scrolling, I was suddenly bombarded with posts sharing the heart-wrenching news that Nipsey Hussle had been shot outside of his Marathon clothing store and was in critical condition. I proceeded to pray, but was confident that he would make it; I saw him as a superhero who had so much more to give to the Black community and, ultimately, to the greater populace.
When the news broke out that Nipsey Hussle died, I choked. I thought the news was a hoax. How could it be that Nipsey, one who has caught the attention of (Black) America and had so much more in him to give to the world, would die at age 33? As a fan of his music and a student of his consciousness and business practices, I felt Nipsey's work in the world wasn't finished. His death at such a young age felt like a robbery against the world. Nipsey went to the grave rich with ideas and concepts while the world remains handicapped because it didn't receive all that Nipsey had to offer. Nonetheless, Nipsey left an impression that has solidified him to being a Hood Pastor.
Can anything (anyone) good come from the hood?
Nipsey Hussle, like Jesus, came from the ghetto. A known member of the rollin’ 60s Crips of Los Angeles, California, Nipsey was born and raised in unfortunate circumstances. It is important for me to pause here to provide a unique perspective on gang culture within urban communities. As a proud ghetto kid from Crown Heights Brooklyn and South Jamaica Queens, New York, I am obligated to briefly offer contextual insights in light of the negative press gangs often receive from the media.
In the late 60s into the early 70s, while America had a war on Black people via the war on drugs, which disproportionately sent Black men to prison, leaving women and children helpless, having to provide for themselves and protect themselves from police brutality. This is one of the main reasons why gangs in urban America were established. Young girls and boys needed a family to protect them from the jungle they were forced to live in. When the power structures (government and big corporations) withheld resources, proper education, and opportunities from Black communities, Blacks were left to devour themselves in an effort to survive.
What I find interesting is that the gangs that are known in the hood are similar to the gangs on Wall Street, where the rich oppress the poor, or in Washington, D.C., where the political gangs would authorize the dropping of drones on innocent people in a foreign country for economic and authoritative prowess. As an entrepreneur and community activist, I am not afraid of my Black brother wearing a hoodie with a blue bandana hanging on the left side back pocket. I am more afraid of the White guy wearing a suit and tie with a smile on his face wanting to solidify a business deal with me.
Redemption in the hood
While big corporations and city officials are sweeping through the ghettos gentrifying the hood, Nipsey was “buying the block” (purchasing real estate), which slowed down the gentrification of Southern California. As a product of the hood, he saw the value that many Blacks failed to see, and he invested in it. Not only did he invest in the hood, but he also created jobs for Black people. He leveraged his corporate relationships to enhance the hood and educated his listeners on the endless opportunities of economics soundness and intellectual property ownership. He used his platform as a rapper to teach Black America—and people throughout the world—that life is a marathon. He gave us a blueprint for success in our own vernacular. He showed us that there is hope and redemption for those who have been marginalized, oppressed, and left to die in the ghetto.
Honoring our difference
Nipsey was, as I would like to say, a Hood Pastor. He was globally known, yet locally a shepherd to the ghettos in Los Angeles. He did not look like what society would call a pristine Christian or a devout Muslim; he stayed true to his imagine of a (reformed) gangsta. His appearance was an image that the Black community would identify as beautiful and normal, contrary to societal standards. Nipsey was as much of a hero to some Blacks as the Pope is some Catholics or as President Trump is to some White Nationalists.
Therefore, we must never judge a book by its cover. May we never discredit the heroes who live within different communities and who may not fit our image. May we stand in solidarity with our neighbors who hurt when their heroes have fallen asleep. May we learn to stretch our imagination to embrace the diversity of heroes who continue to influence, impact, and inspire the world.
In conclusion, as Jesus was killed by one of his own, so was Nipsey. As Jesus died at age 33, so did Nipsey. As Jesus’s death brought unity, Nipsey's death brought together Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, and other gangs. Nipsey, thank you for being gangsta. Thank you for your music. Thank you for your consciousness. Thank you for teaching us the gospel of Black health, economics, and collective responsibility. We hate that you was murdered. We are sorry for not protecting you. We are hurting for your family, friends, and fans, but what’s done, is done. So, we will “ride for you” as you would say and “continue the marathon.”