The death of Nipsey Hussle has hit a lot of people I know really hard. The mourning is in part due to what an amazing person he was and what he was doing for his community. However, it also has to do with what his death represents to a lot of people: the dangers that black and brown men face in our country, specifically if they are rappers or community activists.
The stories of what he was doing in his community have blown my mind. Often we talk about what we would like to see people do or change in their communities, and rarely do we acknowledge the people doing it.
This article about how students at a nearby school were affected really hit me, both a reminder of how deep his impact was in Crenshaw, and as a demonstration of the way role models like Nipsey build up future role models. One student said that the first time she met him, she was shy. He said to her, “You know, you can’t be shy all the time, and you’ve got to speak up ... a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” The student said this inspired her activism and continues to motivate her.
The shooting comes at a time when I’ve been increasingly hearing stories about the disappearances and deaths of black activists. Being a black or brown activist or community organizer in this country is to put your life on the line. It’s terrifying that this is the reality, and it’s incredible that people like Nipsey persevere while facing that danger. It’s so agonizing when amazing people get killed. Especially in such an arbitrary and senseless way. Following the shooting, I stumbled across an ACLU article titled “The FBI Won’t Hand Over Its Surveillance Records on ‘Black Identity Extremists,’ So We’re Suing” that details how the FBI observes what it arbitrarily calls “black identity extremists” -- which is, as the ACLU article points out, “an inflammatory term for a group that doesn’t even exist.” The document that the FBI sent out to law enforcement around the country is remeniscnet of their formor COINTELPROprogram that targeted black activists, killing and incarcerating many. This comes at a time when many activists in Furgeson, particularily those connected in some way to the 2014 protests, have died or been killed under suspicious circumstances--prompting articles like this one by the Washington Post and this article by The Root website, questioning whether or not these activists are being systematically targeted. These activists are the future of our country, and many of them are facing incredible odds stacked against them.
How do we protect black and brown activists and leaders? I don't know, but finding the answer is incredibly important.