Nipsey Hussle: How Black Folks Respond to the Murder of a Ghetto Champion

The bold assassination of Nipsey Hussle has triggered heightened reactions from those in the Black community.

Response #1: Fear

The first part of these reactions begins with a question:

Once you “make it” or become successful, should you come back to help others from your community?

Let me begin by saying that the fact that Black people, the most structurally oppressed people in America and globally, are questioning whether or not they should come back and help other Black people is beyond RIDICULOUS! If we don’t help each other, then who will?

We have been one of the main groups of people who have struggled to unify. Granted, this was not a problem that we originated. Since the moment African people were stolen and shackled into this country, there have been consistent efforts from outside sources — aka White America — to keep us dismantled. We were conditioned to see each other as opponents instead of as family.

We are historically aware of the forceful attempts to divide us. With this knowledge, why would we allow the evil actions of one person to separate us further? The fact that Nispey’s killer has got Black celebrities and influencers fearful of continuing with their philanthropy in Black neighborhoods is beyond enraging. Cutting ties with the same community that made you, supported you, and celebrated your potential when no one else would makes you a selfish coward committed to no one but yourself. You will gladly step on the backs of our people to reach heights that you are unwilling to make available to others.

I’ve heard some Black celebrities talk about how they’re not trying to “keep it real” anymore, and that “keeping it real” places your life at risk. Seriously!? This has nothing to do with “keeping it real”. What does that phrase even really mean? I assume it means that you adhere to your old ways of behaving so as not to be seen as a sell-out by your people. But this is dumb. No one is suggesting that you engage in ways that are foolish and reckless. No one is advocating that you neglect the wiser person that you are now for the ignorant person you once were.

Nipsey wasn’t “keeping it real” by doing dumb sh*t, he was simply standing outside of his place of business — a business that he used to help employ other Black people. This situation has nothing to do with “keeping it real”, but it has everything to do with not taking advantage of your community by getting wealthy off of them and then leaving them in the same chaos that made you rich. It’s about values. It’s about not only looking out for yourself.

What’s even more devastating is that young, Black kids are witnessing the fearful retreat of Black celebrities — their role models — and they internalize it. Days after Nipsey’s death, I returned to a high school in Compton where I was facilitating weekly workshops. Needless to say, the students were not interested in working. They needed to vent, to release their pent up frustrations. While in passionate dialogue, one student said, “We all should just leave and not come back.” Another student in my class said, “Ms. Bethanee, I’m not trying to go to college right now, I’m trying to survive.” My heart shattered.

My students feared gang retaliation. They feared for their safety — for their lives. They couldn’t wrap their minds around such a tragedy. I was like a sergeant watching all of my soldiers shrink down from the warriors that they had become. How do I resurrect their spirits during a time such as this?

I understand their fear and confusion. The question essentially becomes:

1). Why do good, if no one appreciates it?

2). Why should I risk my life to do good?

I get it. Your safety is a priority. You must be mindful of your surroundings and who is in your space. There will be times when you must keep a safe distance. But you do not abandon your community. You always come back to help if you can. We are not crabs in a barrel. We are a people with so much power & beauty & influence who only need to learn how to work & harness power together. We must trust each other — When will we trust each other?

If a soldier dies on the battlefield, do you run away in fear, or do you pick up the sword and charge forward? This is not the first time that a pillar of the community has been slain. Their deaths shouldn’t stop our progression. You pick up the baton and you keep going. We are fighting a war — a mental, political war. We are fighting against the racist structural forces around us, while fighting against the negative stereotypes and lies the world has taught us to believe about each other.

In response to my students, I say this:

You do good because it is the right thing to do. You do good because you are manifesting a bigger picture, a greater vision that goes beyond you. You do good because it enchances the joy within yourself, not because you need validation. There will always be people who will acknowledge and appreciate your good work. The community appreciated Nipsey. One person shouldn’t hinder others from receiving blessings.

When you are doing good things, with the right intention, you are not risking your life. You are fulfilling your life’s purpose. Be smart. Be intentional. But do not be afraid.

Response #2: Conspiracies

The second part of these reactions stems from Black people criticizing other Black people for providing conspiracy theories surrounding Nipsey’s death.

Listen, I don’t know the full details or reasons behind Nipsey’s murder aside from what has already been reported. Would I put it past the government to do some shady sh*t? No. Would I put it past an evil soul to commit a heinous act independently? No. Would I put it past an evil soul and the government collaborating? No. Again, I don’t have the answer. However, don’t criticize Black people for thinking there is a conspiracy.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a conspiracy is: “A plan secretly devised to accomplish an evil or treacherous end. A plot. Implies careful foresight in planning a complex scheme.”

Historically, we know about calculated efforts meant to destroy us. We know how the government has not only infiltrated our communities and organizations, but has infiltrated global communities to intentionally cause havoc — to intentionally keep people in a state of oppression all in efforts to maintain power.

Understanding all of this, you can’t blame Black people for responding in a way that history has taught us to respond. A history that veils the truth and swarms us with lies.

The very fact that we are questioning the narrative at all reveals the residue of a painful past that has yet to heal. Questioning the narrative is a reflection of our current national turmoil. We are living in a time where we don’t know what the truth is. We must question everyone’s story because so many people are LYING. Our own president is a blatant liar who showers our social media feeds with outlandish fiction. He is able to lie because his supporters allow it. We are living in a world of smoke and mirrors.

You can disagree with conspiracies but don’t act as though people are so crazy that they would create scenarios or plots that haven’t already played themselves out in our history. Whatever narrative you choose to believe, what cannot be disputed is the fact that Nipsey has passed away.

Response #3: Unity

However, his hopes and his dreams are still alive. He planted good seed and it is our job to nurture what has sprouted and aid in the growth of our people — to invest in our youth. Dreams only die if we let them. I’m so proud of the way my city came together to honor Nipsey, and to show the world that Black folks know how to rise as one — how not to retaliate against each other, how not to fear each other — that’s progress.

Let’s continue. Let’s uphold the vision. Let’s pick up the baton, and keep going. We can cross the finish line together.

Beauty Is Skin Deep

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I’ve always known that black women were secretly coveted by other people, but these instagram “influencers” have taken it too far. Stories have surfaced that reveal the true identity of certain instagram profiles and — surprise, surprise — these young women have adorned themselves with specific make-up, hair and fashion to appear Black — And the public believed them. There are a few points to make here:

 

 

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1). Yes, it’s offensive … and creepy. However, I can’t act as if I am totally surprised. As much as people publicly criticize and hate on black women, deep down they admire our melaninated skin, curvy frames, incredible fashion, and bomb-ass hair styles. We’re amazing and wield our black girl magic with every step we take.

WHO WOULDN”T WANT TO BE US??!!

This goes back to being a kid on the playground and being bullied for looking a certain way, when the cause of all that animosity was ENVY. They want to be us so bad! As the saying goes, “They want to be black, but they don’t really wanna be black”. They wish to enjoy and profit off of everything that we create — off of everything that we are — without wanting to experience or empathize with the black struggle or actually learn anything about black culture. People like this get to profit off of and receive praise for impersonating what I ACTUALLY AM. That is unfair. That is ignorance. That is racial privilege. What’s worse, is that these folks never show remorse for their actions. These incidents never spark enough curiosity within them to ask or find out why something like this is offensive. All they do is give an empty apology — if they give one at all — and go about their lives having learned absolutely nothing. It’s nothing new. All I can say is that I’m so glad that these people were exposed.

 


2). It just goes to show that we all must remember that not everything that is presented to us is real. Therefore, never long to look like or live the lives of anyone you see on social media. You don’t know the truth of who they are or their reality. You can admire someone and respect someone, but never place yourself below anyone. And apparently these “influ-LIARS” have no concept of reality either. After being exposed, one of these women said,

“I’m white and I never claimed to be anything else… I’m NOT a ‘posing’ as a coloured person as you claim…
I do not see myself as anything else than white… I get a deep tan naturally from the sun.”

Sis, come on now! I’m giving her ALLLL the side-eyes. No white person has a tan that runs THAT DEEP all year round.

3). You can admire, respect, and love a culture without the impersonation or the theft. Black culture is so dope and runs so strong in so many countries that you cannot deny our influence, our genius, and our beauty because it is everywhere. These women were mirroring what is cool — and BLACK is cool — but they were doing it in a way that was inauthentic and disrespectful. What would be lovely is if our influence was actually acknowleged and Black people — especially Black women — were given the credit for our beauty and creativity.

But I’m sure this story will eventually die, and soon another similar story will resurrect itself and take its place. And when that happens, I will be right here to re-affirm Black women. I will be here to reaffirm myself.

 

 

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“Ain’t I A Woman?!” : The Murder of Black Women and a World that is too Slow to Respond

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Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain’t I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women’s Rights Convention, Old Stone Church (since demolished), Akron, Ohio

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”

 

Nia Wilson Rally March to KTVU Oakland

Nia Wilson was savagely murdered while waiting with her sister to catch a train at Bart Station in Oakland, California. The news of her death spread throughout social media. I learned of her murder through Shaun King’s (@shaunking) Instagram long before I heard about it on any major news platform. (Thank you to Shaun King for spotlighting Black news and for helping to keep us informed about things we wouldn’t otherwise know about).

The buzz of her death eventually made it to national headlines, but that was also due to the fact that Nia’s story wasn’t just being talked about in Black circles, but in white circles as well. White celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Sophia Bush, who have sizable platforms and influence, talked about the horror of this occurrence. Anne Hathaway singled out her white counterparts and called on them to acknowledge their white privilege and to serve as allies against the inhumane treatment against Black people. Her statement was surprising yet greatly appreciated by those in the Black community.

You see, Black death is rarely acknowledged by those outside of the Black community. Our murders, our tragedies, our targeted crimes go unacknowledged and un-announced. Our problems are seen as our own, and our fight against injustice is our fight to face alone. Rarely do people from other communities wish to get involved and offer their voice or their support. So when Anne Hathaway made her comment, it was a pleasant surprise because most white people in her position would remain silent and unbothered. Many in her position usually are unaware that such things are happening — hell, many people regardless of  their position are unaware of these happenings because Black stories are usually not newsworthy unless we are the criminals. 

Despite Nia’s story gaining traction and despite her murderer being caught, as a Black woman I felt sad, scared, and emotionally exhausted. Hers was another Black life taken at the hands of some evil, deranged white man and the world was slow to respond. Had the Black community not expressed our anger, who knows if this story would’ve received any spotlight. Our collective Black cries resounded once again belting out the name of our fallen sistah. And again, I was exhausted — tired of consistently mourning.
Like a lot of Black people, I needed a break. I needed to disconnect from the experience for a little while. But the same questions kept popping into my head:

What has really changed since Sojourner Truth gave her speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851? When will Black women finally be identified by the full weight of their humanity? When will Black Women be a prize worth fighting for in the eyes of the global community?

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The truth is that, in spite of the Me Too movement, the protection of Black women is still not being advocated for with the same force. Both nationally and globally, White femininity and Black femininity are viewed and treated very differently. White femininity is more protected and is treated as something to be revered, and Black femininity is simply not. Black women were often seen by white women as something to define themselves against, and to set themselves apart with higher regard.

Black femininity has not always been associated with womanhood. In the eyes of some, we are not provided the luxury of being viewed as a full woman. This justifies others treating Black women poorly, because in order to treat another human being poorly, you have to see them as something separate from you — as different, as non-human. That’s why when Black women are raped or beaten or kidnapped or killed it is not responded to with the same level of urgency, or treated as serious an offense as it would be if we were white. It’s as if people believe that our bodies were somehow made to handle such brutality — as if we are at fault for our misfortunes — as if we are empty shells that can be tampered with because our shells house nothing valuable … nothing worth saving.  

 
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Well I am not an empty shell. I am a human being. I am a woman. My mere existence means that I am valuable. The lives of Nia Wilson and the lives of all of my sistahs, both in the U.S. and globally, have value. Life itself started in Africa, therefore, to denounce Black women is to denounce the power and the ancestry that begot the rest of humanity. It is time to acknowledge and respect the divine force that is the Black woman.

So, even though I am tired of shouting the fallen names of my sistahs, I will not stop. I know that there will be times where, for my own sanity, I will have to disconnect from the consistent outpouring of sad news. However, I will always return and take my rightful place as my sister’s keeper and call out their names hoping to shake the world awake and into action. However, if the world continues to slumber, at least I know their names will resound within Black communities. And our collective bellow will reach heaven where the names of our sistahs will finally rest amongst the brilliance of the stars. 

 

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Top, L-R: Dr. Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, Samyah Copeland, Rashanda Franklin, Kendra Moore, Quanta Nashall Chandler, Shaquenda Walker and mother Deborah Walker, Latonya Robinson Moore. Bottom L-R: Alicia Trotter, Latina Herring, Gale Verner, Shanice Williams.  (photos from Ebony Magazine)

 

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Photos from left, clockwise: Angelica Wysinger, Angelia Mangum, Ke-Erica D. Bolden, Antquonette Hale, Tjhisha Ball, and Korie Hodges. (photos from HandsUpUnited)