“We got turned down, we failed, had set backs, had to start over a lot of times. But we kept going at it. In anybody’s case that’s always the distinguishing factor.” – Nipsey Hussle
For the second night in a row, I can’t sleep at all.
I never met you … and at a first glance, we had very little in common.
You: an able-bodied; 3rd generation gang banger who considered the Hyde Park neighborhood his home turf.
Me: born with a physical disability; originally from the Bay Area into a family of privilege. My father, who was born and raised in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles, is a civil rights lawyer, and my mother is a university educator. I am a law school graduate and lobbyist in the State Capitol. My younger brother will graduate from law school next month.
You: Eritrean American who had direct links to his African heritage.
Me: the great great great grandson of slaves and sharecroppers from the American south with no direct connection to Africa that I can trace.
You: 6’3, tatted up all over your face, used drugs and smoked weed with fly gold chains.
Me: 5’7, no tattoos, never done a drug in my life and most would say looks like a square.
You: educated on the streets of Crenshaw with homies from Long Beach and Compton.
Me: educated in elite private elementary and secondary schools raised behind gates and on the shores of private lakes with my “homies.”
You: a “hustler,” willing to do what’s necessary to thrive.
Me: “hustlin” for others to earn a salary.
Nip, as much as others might not naturally see it or understand, I look at myself and see in you, my spiritual mirror image.
I haven’t cried uncontrollably over a death since my homeboy in high school, Kevin Murray died. It was the first time that I had someone close to me, who I really admired pass away … someone I had seen every single day and just knew I would be life long friends with.
For you Nip, I have had to close my door, I have had to go outside, I’ve had to pray and ask God “Why did he let such a good man die?”
Although we have so many differences, we have so many things that brought me to enjoy your music and enjoy you as a man.
1. Nip,you and I both have a deep connection to Crenshaw. My grandparents moved to the Crenshaw area from St. Louis, Missouri as part of the “Great Black Migration” of the 1950s.
Some could look at my life and consider me lucky. My paternal grandparents and my father, by virtue of their education and professional success, were able to further migrate from South Central L.A. They loved being there in the 50s, 60s and 70s but wanted to move to provide more economic and social opportunities for my brother and me. They also sought something extremely important to them … safety.
2. Nip, you and I both believe that our family history is vital and will help guide us to where we want to be in the future.
3. Nip, you and I both love music and sports, even though you were still rockin “throwback” hoop jerseys in 2019 lol, but I’ll give you a pass because it was Magic Johnson’s.
4. Nip, finally and most importantly … we both had an unwavering love for our community. For you it was Crenshaw. You had songs about Crenshaw, Slauson, and South Central. Many of your songs were not about California or LA or the West Coast. They were about the neighborhood that made you the man that you are and the man that I am.
I have spent the entire part of my early career working on behalf of Black people and people with disabilities. I have had to fight the idea that I would pigeonhole myself into only working on Black or disability issues.
It’s selfless, but I feel like I owe it to myself to speak for those who are not given their proper voice.
The first thing people want to do at a time like this is to make sense out of a senseless act. They place blame on the shooter, and then the “hood”, blame you for being there when you now have the resources to never have been there in the first place. Others may blame far fetched conspiracy theories; or the government; or the police because you were speaking too much truth.
Honestly, I can’t even think of those things. Just hurts knowing I can’t go to a Nipsey concert, I don’t know if we will have the Nipsey STEM center, be able to check out Nipsey property or watch Nipsey films. You were just about to blow up and be on a whole different level.
I saw myself in you Nip. I know most others wouldn’t be able to make the connection, but I knew that when I thought I was doing enough for my community … I would tell myself … “But Nipsey Hussle is buying property in his neighborhood and helping kids become entrepreneurs and educating the Black community on our history and connecting to his heritage and being a great father and still has time to be a Grammy nominated artist.” … guess in your words, I gotta keep “grindin”.
So yes, many people recognize you and can relate to you because your music inspires them and is a rare positive look on Black life in 2019. I look at you for your dedication to your community and a neighborhood that I’m genetically connected to.
I’ll play your music and support anything that your name is associated with. Fortunately you owned your masters to ALL OF YOUR MUSIC and the support you will get from fans like me will continue to fuel your legacy.
All love and blessings Nip. Thank you for doing all that you did the way you did it.
Your soldier for life – E
Hey Nip, just thought you’d like to know at the urging of California Assembly Member Sydney K. Kamlager-Dove, the California Assembly was adjourned in your honor earlier today. This tribute is reserved for only a select number of Californians.
Eric M. Harris, J.D. is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the University of Oregon School of Law. He is non-profit organization advocate in the California State Capitol after serving as the legislative advocate for the California N.A.A.C.P. He can be reached at email@example.com