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.

I Miss The Old Kanye …

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I miss the old Kanye…

… and apparently, I am not the only one. The level of disappointment that has been expressed from the black community in response to the inconsiderate statements that he has recently made has been considerable.

It feels like it was just yesterday when Kanye’s College Drop Out album came out. I was in high-school and it was the first rap album that I actually purchased with the limited teenage money that I had saved. Up until that point, it was my older brother who provided me with rap music from artists like The Fugees, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, Busta Rhymes, etc. I enjoyed his music and I enjoyed him as a artist. Kanye felt like a breath of fresh air — someone who was connected with and invested in the black community.

I don’t recognize this new person. The reality of the matter is that people change. The hope, however, is that we evolve into an improved and more self-aware person. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Kanye. He appears more self-conflicted than ever. But instead of taking the time to resolve this confliction, he is spitting out concepts and opinions that are ignorant and un-resolved. Instead of sitting down and figuring out what he wants to express, he uses interviews to rant out thoughts that have not been fleshed out. To have a platform such as his and make declarations that are not based in logic can be dangerous.

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These past two interviews have been the most hurtful and damaging. The TMZ interview where he made his “slavery is a choice” comment was the one that set social media and the news cycles on fire. Whether it’s what he “meant” or not, whether he “mis-spoke” or not, is irrelevant. The point is that he said what he said. No one cares about what he “meant” to say. In all honesty, it didn’t feel like he misspoke at all, but that it had been a thought that he had been chewing on for a while and finally had the opportunity to hawk. Little did he know how much his comment would spark a flame. I am just so glad that TMZ member Van Lathan was there to speak honestly and passionately. I am so glad that he was able to articulate what a lot of black people were feeling in that moment.

Kanye, contrary to his claims, did not demonstrate free thought, but rather idiotic rhetoric.  

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Listen here, Kanye, to be a “slave” literally means that you have NO CHOICE! What you are implying is that black people made a conscious choice to hop onto those slave ships chained and bound, to be stripped of our names, language, culture, and history, to be ripped from our family, to be raped by our massa’s, to have our children sold into slavery, to be beaten, lynched, killed, and then forced to live out the next 400yrs. in un-resloved trauma and fear, while trying to survive in a country that systemically structured society in a way that would blatantly benefit white people and keep black folks in generational poverty. 

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It was a slap in the face to our ancestors who were strong enough and DARED to live long enough to fight and die for the liberties that we don’t appreciate today. I wish Harriet Tubman would rise up and beat you silly. How dare you!

Maybe you should go to Ghana and visit the “Door of No Return” and acknowledge the horror that our ancestors endured.

Not to mention, young kids, who have no idea about the horrors of slavery and the struggle for freedom, will listen to him and believe him. As a teacher, and speaker I have to be the one to go in and further de-program these young minds and speak truth to power. Thank you, Kanye, for making my job that much more difficult.

Boy, Shut up! 

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In addition to that, during his interview with Charlemagne Tha God, he says, “Why we gotta keep bringing up slavery though??”

Nothing pisses me off more than hearing black people tell other black people that we need to “get over slavery” and that it “happened such a long time ago and has no barring on what is going on today.” Sit your Uncle Ruckus butt DOWN! It’s clear to me, that those black people are speaking from some place of privilege, ego, or ignorance. To make such statements lets me know how disconnected they are to the reality of the black experience and that they have no understanding of history and how history impacts the present moment.  
I refuse to “get over” something that I am still feeling the effects of. I refuse to “get over” something that our own government has yet to acknowledge or even apologize for! I refuse to “get over” slavery when I see how intentionally disenfranchised my community has been for centuries. I refuse to “get over” slavery, when we have to march and protest and create countless hashtags for my fellow brothers and sisters who were mercilessly shot and killed like animals. I don’t have to get over shit!
If the jews don’t have to get over the holocaust, then I’ll be damned if I have to get over something that effects me everyday.

Boy, Shut up!

It’s interesting how he is implying that we move on from slavery but admits during his interview that “we’re still dealing with racism”. Where do you think racism stems from, Kanye? That’s right — slavery. It’s interesting how he talks about being marginalized as a black rapper in the fashion industry and wants our sympathy, but can not seem to correlate what he’s experiencing as a result of slavery and being intentionally kept out of certain spaces of power or influence. But in all honesty, he’s probably being ostracized in the fashion industry because he’s a little cray-cray and because his fashion ideas are boo-boo. He is not a fashion designer. His clothes look like post apocalyptic-chic. It’s not cute — point, blank, period. 

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During the Charlemagne interview, a Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. comparison was made. Now, I don’t know who in the hell tried to compare Kanye to either one of these instrumental leaders but they were clearly out of their minds. Kanye is no Malcolm X or MLK. But Kanye’s response to this comparison was that some historical “figures are out-dated”. Really!!! Are you kidding me??!! Meanwhile, he compares himself to Walt Disney and Mark Zuckerberg and other white billionaires. However, these white billionaires aren’t “outdated” but Malcolm X and MLK are? The things that MLK and Malcolm X fought for like justice, equality, safety, and dignity for their people is somehow outdated?! Really, Kanye??!! 

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Guess what, Kanye, you’re the one who is out-dated. You ideas are old and tired, and your concepts are stupid. Sit Down, Sir. You wish your concepts and theories could come close to the brilliance and passion of Malcom X. Malcolm X was no sell- out.

Lastly, during his Charlemagne interview, he talks about “free thought” and being a creator that doesn’t care about and rebels against the status quo. But in the same breath he talks about how he seeks validation from society. Charlemagne asks him why must we seek validation from white people, to which Kanye had no clear answer because he knew he was contradicting himself. Listen, dude, do you want to be mainstream or do you want to rebel against it? Because, right now, you are going back and forth. I will need you make a stance and be consistent.

 
Kanye then talks about how when he sees people sporting brands he sees people who are not free thinkers. Kanye says, “When I see branding, I see insecurity”.
Ummmm correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the same man who is creating a clothing BRAND and shoe BRAND that he wants people to buy and support?! During this same interview, didn’t he talk about how he looked up to Gucci and Tom Ford? WTF Kanye?! Which is it?
So I guess people who rock brands other than yours are the “insecure people?”

Boy, Shut up!

The only insecure person I see here is you, Kanye. Your desperate need for love and validation from the same people that you criticize — like former President Barack Obama — is incredibly clear.

I don’t know if Kanye is truly suffering from mental illness, or if he is actually being calculated in his efforts to create controversy. Either way he needs to sit down. And Kanye being a “musical genius” does not erase the damaging statements he has made. I think Kanye knows better and that is why he is conflicted.
He knows!
He knows that he is not being honest and speaking truth to power like he did with former President George Bush. He knows that he is being hypocritical. He knows that he is not walking his talk. He knows that he has evolved into the same disconnected, fame hungry, attention grabbing celebrity that he often criticized. He’s fake. The black community recognizes this and is serving as his conscious. We are throwing his hypocrisy and lies back in his face and loudly denounce his ideas. We are the therapy that he is trying to avoid. His craziness is a result of the lies he’s told himself , and unless he stops, he will never be at peace.

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No matter how much we miss the old Kanye, I think it’s safe to say that the old Kanye is gone. He will not advocate for us. He will not affirm our plight. He, along with every other artist, should not be placed on any pedestal. They are human just like us and are subject error. Kanye West is narcissistic, and is drowning in his own delusions of grandeur. He is dying for our attention, and after this stunt he deserves no more of it.

I will not buy what he sells.
My prayers are for his children. How will they ever know who they are if he has lost all understanding of who he is? We can’t count on their mom — Kim Kardashian — to teach them about black life or history. We can’t count on her to expose them to that part of who they are — that was Kanye’s job. Instead, you have two shallow people who lack any depth and can’t see anything past the next shocking headline that they concoct. God Bless their kids, they have my deepest sympathy.

Kanye is in the sunken place and we tried to build a ladder of support to help him free himself, but it looks like Kanye has lost the will to climb any higher and is there to stay. 

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Colorism?…But at the Club, Though?

 

 

darker_lighter_skin  There’s nothing like going out with your girls: twerking, two stepping, hip swinging, waist winding, all while singing loud and off key to all your favorite songs makes for a truly magical evening.  So, on this particular night,  I was excited to hit the city of L.A. with my favorite dance partners. We decide to explore the busy streets of Santa Monica, and so far, our night was off to a great start–we didn’t have to pay to park and there was no cover charge, which is not always easy to find in Los Angeles.  We stepped into one of the many bars/clubs on the block that was recommended to us and were surprised to hear some hip-hop music playing. The bars in Santa Monica are mostly inhabited by young white people, so typically there’s a lot of house and pop music. So upon entering this particular bar, we knew that this place was probably our best bet and decided to stay.
There we were, dancing our lives away on a crowded dance floor, enjoying every minute of it. We had made friends with another group of black folks from out of town, and one of my girlfriends ended up dancing with one of the guys we met. My friend and this guy — we’ll just call him Dante — had taken a break from dancing and were talking, while I was standing by the wall next to them. Dante motions me over, so I walk to him.  He leans in to my ear and says, “Hey, go talk to my friend over there; he’s kinda awkward. He told me he was feeling you, so you should go talk to him.”  I felt like Dante was just trying to get rid of me so that he could be completely alone with my friend. I was getting ready to tell Dante that I was just chilling and probably wouldn’t go over to talk at that moment, but before I could say anything, Dante continued, “Yea, my sister told me that I should dance with you, but, no dis to you, but I like light-skin girls”. My stomach dropped. My friend and I gave Dante a serious side eye like, WFT??!!

 

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Now, comments like this are not new to me. I’ve heard some black men say how they “prefer light-skin” girls and, normally, I just shrug off their ignorance and keep it pushing. But for some reason his comment was the final straw and I broke. I walked away from them and sat at the far end of the bar trying my hardest to hold back tears. I was really hurt.  The build up of these types of comments had finally taken its toll, yet I was embarrassed that his words had affected me to the extent that they did.

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I was hurt by the fact that it is 2017, and the Black community is still dealing with colorism. The fact that we, as Black people, have yet to appreciate and truly see the beauty of all the hues we come in is extremely frustrating, and the fact that some Black people are completely clueless to the effects of slavery and social conditioning on their romantic “preferences” is enraging. I was hurt because for the first time I really felt unattractive and unwanted. I was unwanted by a black man whose skin was just as brown as mine. It is beyond bewildering. I felt like I had been transported to another world where everyone was asleep except for me. There I was operating amongst zombies who had no idea they weren’t “woke”.

My question is, why did he feel the need to say anything at all?! He didn’t have to continue his spiel. If that is the mindset you carry, then there is no need to say it aloud and reveal your foolishness to the public. He literally told me that the reason he didn’t dance with me was because my skin was too dark. Why the f*%k would you actually let those words come out of your mouth?! Did I mention that his beloved sister was just as dark as me?  I’m sure that he thinks his sister is beautiful, but you mean to tell me that he wouldn’t date someone who had the same skin tone as his sister?!!  I just don’t get it! How could he not see that there was something seriously wrong with his comment

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I was done. Exhausted. Defeated. And at that moment the only thing I wanted to do was go home, lay down, and cry.
Luckily Dante’s friend, Eric, came and sat next to me and started talking to me. Even though a part of me wanted to be left alone, I greatly appreciated him being there, if only to preoccupy my mind with idle chit-chat and to prevent the tears from dropping onto my cocktail napkin. Eric was not like Dante and expressed a great appreciation for all things black. Thank you, Eric. You saved me at that moment with your conversation and you had no idea.
We stayed until the bar closed and then made our trek back home. I didn’t speak a word of what I was feeling to my friends. I wanted to keep the evening fun and light and I thought that I could move past the experience. However, the next morning when I woke up, I still felt the emotional weight of the previous night and I surrendered to that feeling and cried. I told my girlfriends how I felt and they expressed their empathy and said that Dante was an asshole. They allowed me to break and they used their loving words to piece me back together. Thank you to my girlfriends, my squad, my sistas … you know who you are. 636006945613581481-1906458683_image
I spoke to my mother as well, she is always there to remind me of who and whose I am. She was sad that I had to experience the same ignorance she had to endure during her younger years, but she reminded me that there are men out there who see and appreciate my blackness. She said, “Now Beth, if you are woke and can see the beauty in our people, then you have to know that you are not the only one. You have to know that there are other black people — black men — who feel like you do, who see the beauty, your beauty. You have to know this!”
My mother was right, deep down I did know. I know that there are black people out there, black men in particular, who are awake — who see the beauty within the spectrum. I know that there are men out there who would not dismiss me because I have dark skin, but who would be ready and more than willing to embrace me. Thank you, mom, for building me up and for reminding me that there is nothing wrong with me — for reminding me that I am beautiful. Thank you for straightening my spine and helping me to stand tall and proud in my black skin. Thank you for reminding me, that as I stand, I’m helping others to stand too.

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