For Oak Cliff
Last week, our culture and community lost a powerful individual by the name of Ermias Asghedom, who was of Eritrean descent – a country in the Horn of Africa. Asghedom is a one of one type of individual, none before him and none to come.
The legacy that he leaves behind will forever be embodied by those who strive to be great and understand that the life we live isn’t a race but a marathon. He was born in Crenshaw, Los Angeles, where he was a member of the Rollin 60’s, which is a neighborhood fraternity that embodies “Community Revolution in Progress.”
Crenshaw is where he adopted the name of Nipsey Hussle and began his rap career, as well as his real estate and clothing business. Growing up in Crenshaw comes with many hardships and difficulties, but that’s just the reality coming from a systematically oppressed community. Hussle found a way to wiggle out the maze and traps by working hard, having patience, and being dedicated to his family and community.
Last month, we had the privilege of hosting Hussle at the For Oak Cliff Community Center located in Glendale Shopping Center. As an organization, we’ve worked with different individuals, such as Mark Zuckerberg and J. Cole, to name a few. But Hussle was just different. He had just earned a Grammy nomination for his debut album, Victory Lap, and had recently purchased the shopping center where his clothing store would be located – at the corner of Slauson and Crenshaw.
When we received word from radio personality Hollywood Bay Bay, everyone was excited, including Al Herron, the owner of Glendale Shopping Center. Days before Hussle arrived to Dallas, Forbes had written an article about him being a real estate mogul and how he would leverage opportunity zones to build up to 100 multifamily units on top of the center.
Hussle was not your typical rapper. He was a brilliant businessman and he took that gift and used it to improve his community.
The time we spent with him at For Oak Cliff was meaningful and impactful. Hussle stated he was impressed with the For Oak Cliff model and believed it could be scaled to other communities. We were working on a data packet to present to Hussle and his team for later this month to help improve the educational attainment in the Crenshaw community, which mirrors South Oak Cliff.
Hussle also visited Pan-African Connection while he was in Oak Cliff and purchased a number of books and other products that derived from Africa. In a conversation with the store owner, Akwete Tyehimba, she told Hussle how powerful his message was and how he was giving so many hidden jewels that our people were subconsciously learning through his music.
While in the store looking at books, I told Hussle about how one of those jewels made an immediate impact on my life. It was because of one of his verses that I purchased a life insurance policy for myself and my family. I told him about this and he stated how life insurance is essential for building generational wealth.
I sensed Hussle felt at home and comfortable in our community. While checking out, he stated that he would come back every time he came to Dallas.
It saddens me to write this about Hussle, knowing that his family won’t ever be able to embrace him again, and that his community won’t be able to catch a glimpse of their shining star that was shifting the paradigm of the Crenshaw neighborhood.
As I talked to Al Herron this week about the tragedy, he recited Proverbs 13:22, which states, “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.” This scripture is the embodiment of Hussle and what he represented.
In a recent interview, Hussle talks about his brand, The Marathon, stating, “The journey is where you’re at right now and where you’re going, everything else in the middle doesn’t matter.”
Our brother has crossed the finish line and is now taking his victory lap. Hussle promoted Black ownership and entrepreneurship and collectivism as a people, and we must keep that in our hearts for us to be victorious. Hussle gave us his best and most authentic product, and I appreciate and love him for it.
As Hussle always stated, “The marathon continues…”
So in Neighborhood Nip’s spirit: Get up, get out, and “hussle” and motivate.
Rest in peace, Cuz.
Taylor Toynes is the founder and executive director of For Oak Cliff, whose mission is to liberate Oak Cliff from systemic oppression. He can be reached through http://foroakcliff.org.