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Why Nipsey Hussle Was Exactly Who We Need Right Now

"Neighborhood Nip passed us the baton and it is up to us to finish the race."

I will be 33 years old next month.

Some refer to it as the "Jesus Year."

The Jesus Year is the year that many scholars believe Jesus of Nazareth was probably arrested and crucified in Jerusalem after starting a spiritual, political and intellectual revolution. The Jesus Year is now also becoming the age in which young people  —  not necessarily only Christians, but everyone in this multicultural society — decide it’s time to get serious about life, and time to accomplish something. Ermias Joseph Asghedom, best known as Nipsey Hussle, accomplished a lot.

By 33, some of us have maneuvered through our 20s, learning lessons, failing fast, dusting off and trying again and again. Keeping In line with Nipsey’s marathon mindset , we kept going.

At 33, in the midst of a budding rap career, pouring back into his community, and being a loving father and husband, Hussle lost his life to gun violence in the very community he worked so diligently to uplift. When your nickname is “Neighborhood Nip,” there is no mystery to where your alliances lie. But history would remind us that no good deed exempts you from violence, even at the hands of your "own people”. ( See: Jesus Christ, Malcolm X and Julius Caesar) To quote author Britney Cooper in her book Eloquent Rage, “Black people can do terrible harm to each other when we aren’t clear who the enemy is.”

Sometimes your light is too bright for people who have become accustomed to living in darkness.

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There are many conspiracy theories surrounding his death. I find no need to speculate. We already have the facts. I often refer to an analysis of the U.S. census by the New York Times that found there are 1.5 million missing black Men.

“For every 100 Black women not in jail, there are only 83 men … More than one out of every six Black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old, have disappeared from daily life …They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars.”

Unfortunately, Nipsey, like many other Black men his age, was the victim of both the criminal justice system and death at a young age. I think what pains most of us about this loss, is that the story is all too familiar.

I was 10 years old, when Tupac and Biggie were murdered. The whole east coast vs. west coast beef is a whirlwind of a fiasco I’d much rather forget, being too young to fully grasp what was going on, but old enough to notice a painful shift. Growing up in a single parent household ran by my mother, “Keep Your Head Up “ was our mantra, and the world could have really benefitted from more years with Pac.

Biggie’s upbringing in a West Indian household was all too relatable.  I, too, “used to read Word Up! magazine ... Hangin’ pictures on my wall.” Both artists resonated with their communities, but were taken from this earth over ego and petty beef. The world hasn’t been the same since.

In his song, Count Up That Loot, Hussle raps, “Can’t say my name wit’ n***as who labels enslaved ‘em,
You say my name wit’ n***as like Malcolm and Jesus.”

Indeed, there are similarities between all of these men. Above all, each knew they were put on this earth to pursue a calling far beyond any personal gain. Angelique Smith, Hussle’s mother, recently spoke with the LA Times, where she shared Nipsey "recognized at an early age his own capability. His own potential. He has always known.”

Years ago, I heard of some rapper from L.A. who was charging $100 for his mixtape. My first thought was, “the nerve.” But before know your worth memes flooded Instagram, Nip already lived it and reaped the benefits.

As a creative, you are constantly second guessing yourself, wanting to put out only your very best. Nip empowered all of us to bet on ourselves. Constant themes in his music include, staying the course, consistency and self-empowerment. Nipsey Hussle was an advocate for Black ownership and independence. He owned the masters to his music; he was actively buying up the block. He was a stand-up guy. It pains me to use past tense when speaking of him, for he is exactly who we need right now.

Nearly a week after his murder, a full peace treaty between several rival gangs resulted in a march of solidarity to show support for the slain rapper and activist. There hasn’t been this kind of peace between so many L.A. gangs since 1992. This week, Congresswoman Karen Bass entered Hussle’s contributions to society on the House Floor, where it will be part of United States history forever. Even our forever president Barack Obama sent his condolences via a heartfelt letter to Nip's friends and family. Ermias was able to touch so many lives, just by the way he lived his own. His marathon mindset pairs perfectly with the many initiatives he put in place.

In a relay race, each leg is run by a different member of a team. The runner finishing one leg is usually required to pass on a baton to the next. Neighborhood Nip passed us the baton and it is up to us to finish the race. The marathon continues because no one ever really dies; and Nipsey will certainly live on through all of us.

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