Article originally written for and published by BlackDoctor.org
What makes us feel for people we’ve never met? What makes our hearts ache in partnered pain with people whose stories we only know the highlights of? These are only some of the questions I’ve been asking myself since the untimely passing of Ermias Ashgedom, lovingly known by the world as Nipsey Hussle. I’ve never met Ermias, nor am I familiar with most of his music…but I do know his community work and passion. For a week, my heart has been heavy as my mind has raced to make sense of many things. At the forefront, now, like many others that have never met this man, are my feelings.
In 1996 I was 8 years old sitting in front of the television, in my Bay Area home, when the news anchor announced that Tupac had been shot. I sat in front of the TV for days to come as the life expectancy percentages dwindled down. I hoped and prayed for them to go up every night, and every night, my heart sank lower into my chest as I saw my favorite artist slipping through the bounds of this life. On March 31, 2019, I was that 8-year-old girl, again. I waited with bated breath while news outlets kept us updated via social media. Another pronouncement of death, another heartbreak, another man I’d never met, and yet…I knew him.
I know him. The way he thinks and talks reminds me of my brothers. The way he smiles and lights up a room reminds me of my dear. The way he brought people together for a good time while also dropping knowledge on them reminds me of my best friend, and his entrepreneurial spirit reminds me of so many Black men that I know including my father. When Black men, like Nipsey Hussle, come to the forefront of our communities they bring with them our hopes and dreams. They tell our stories for us and allow our collective voices to be amplified in a way that we felt couldn’t be done, until it was.
People around me, and even I, have been asking one question over and over again: Why do we cry for strangers? The answer is because they’re not. Nipsey Hussle, Tupac, and many others within our communities and in the world around us, are not strangers. They are our brothers, our loves, and our best friends. When we see them win we know they’re moving the culture forward and they carry us with them. When we see them win we get excited because we know it’s possible for ourselves and those around us. When we see them win, we mentally take notes because as they make moves the blueprint is being given to us on a silver platter, that they reminded us we deserved to eat from.
Angelique Smith, the mother of Nipsey Hussle, said that “we are a traumatized people.” In my opinion, some of that trauma comes from the frequent rise and fall of those in our communities at the hands of our community. Seeing prominent Black men ruthlessly taken away from us makes us want to shield the Black men we have, protect them from the world, and go silent so as not to draw any attention to those men that we wish to keep around longer for ourselves. She also talked about how we are royal- regal.
It was then that I realized we can’t hide their light even if we want to. It’s a tough dance to do, but the music is perfect and we all, as Black people, have great rhythm. Don’t feel ashamed for being affected by a man you’ve never met. If after all of the work that Nipsey Hussle had done we weren’t affected and effected, then what was the point? Feel all of your emotions and take care of you the best way you can. This work is bigger than all of us and now it’s OUR turn. So, once you’re ready and have wiped your eyes, The Marathon Continues.