As part of our Upstander series, I want to acknowledge Nipsey Hussle, the hip-hop artist, entrepreneur and community activist, born Ermias Asghedom, who was killed in an act of gun violence in South LA on March 31, 2019. His death has shaken the Los Angeles community and beyond, especially among young generations who were inspired by his messages of positivity and possibility. He was deeply rooted and invested in his community and spoke openly about his past gang affiliation, using his personal experience to carve out a different path and bring others along with him.
As thousands of people crowd into the Staples Center and line the streets of South LA to pay their respects to Nipsey, I'm thinking specifically about the young people in our classrooms:
- What are the lessons we can take from his music, his activism, and his life?
- How can we support the efforts of those inspired by Nipsey to be changemakers and to build on his legacy?
- How can we keep them safe?
If you are a teacher, please share how you are thinking about these questions in the comments below.
In the week prior to Nipsey's death, there were 10 other shooting deaths and 26 additional shooting victims in and around South LA. And there has been more violence since. How to tackle this epidemic and address the root cause raises even more questions. In seeking wisdom, I found myself returning to Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy and especially these words:
"Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”
What questions are you grappling with after Nipsey Hussle's death? Share your thoughts below.