The focus of this blog is to share some of my own thoughts and reflections about Nipsey Hussle and how he meant so much to Los Angeles. I don’t really feel I can do him justice by what I share here but I hope we can gain some insight into the person he was and think through how we live our own lives.
It was Sunday afternoon and I had just finished playing basketball at church. I was checking my Twitter feed and noticed a triple shooting happened at Crenshaw and Slauson in front of The Marathon clothing store. I knew this store belonged to Nipsey Hussle and my first thought was “I wonder if Nipsey got shot….nah he couldn’t get shot in front of his own store.” Then I started reading that one of the victims was Nipsey and some reports were saying he’d been shot six times. Soon after I began seeing various twitter accounts posting “Pull Through Nipsey” or “Not Nipsey” or “Prayers for Nip”. As I kept refreshing my feed, I saw at least one victim was deceased. And then shortly after, I read it was Nipsey Hussle who had passed away. My heart just sank. I didn’t even know him and I had this feeling of deep sorrow inside of me, just staring at my phone, in complete shock. I was rocked that afternoon and it was one of those moments where I knew I’d always remember where I was the day I heard Nipsey died.
I heard about Nipsey quite a few years ago. I had seen him in some interviews and my cousins and I would bump his music sometimes when we were driving around. I wasn’t a faithful follower of Nipsey just because I stopped keeping up with most present day hip-hop. However, I still liked him as a standout artist and appreciated him for having actual purpose and meaning with his art form. He told stories and shed light not only into his own life but also the realities of inner city Los Angeles. In his interviews, it was easy to tell he was a voice for the voiceless as he gave insight into what really happens in the streets and some of the injustices that take place. Unfortunately he lost his life Sunday, March 31, 2019 around 3:30 in the afternoon in front of his own store in the neighborhood he loved and gave so much for.
Since that afternoon, the city of Los Angeles (and many parts of our country) has been in mourning. To see the aftermath from his death has been remarkable yet extremely sad. The mass of people that have showed up on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson everyday has been something to behold. Traffic blocked up, streets closed, people hanging out, coming and going to the vigil, and most importantly the overwhelming amount of respect and honor that has been shown to Nipsey at that location where he passed. The countless “R.I.P. Nipsey” tags and Nipsey murals everywhere throughout the city have gone to show how much this man was loved.
There was a press conference a day after regarding Nipsey’s death. During the conference the city mayor, various city council members, along with a few members of the police department all praised Nipsey for what he meant to the communities. I couldn’t help but think that this individual had city leaders and police officers speaking so highly of him because they recognized the good he was doing for his area.
Along with that, five days after his passing, various gangs came together to march in honor of Nipsey. These were various neighborhoods from all over Los Angeles, with rivalries and hatred all put to the side so they could come together to honor him. I found this incredibly powerful, that a man who came from the streets, became successful, and never forgot where he came from, had people from his same walk of life (some enemies mind you) come together to acknowledge and pay respects on his behalf.
And the truth is, Nipsey just didn’t have city leaders and gang members come together to honor him. He had Los Angeles itself, all of his fans, numerous athletes, entertainers, and his community all coming together because of what he did and what he meant.
Now as I reflected on his life and how important he was to communities throughout our city, a few thoughts came to mind about the church (generally speaking). There isn’t necessarily a thread that ties these thoughts together but I think it’s worth thinking through as believers, specifically when it comes to loving our neighbors and whether our communities recognize our devoted commitment to Christ and His glory.
Are We Known for Lamenting In Prayer?
I say this often but we should continue to develop hearts of prayerful lament for our city. The Bible isn’t short on the topic of prayer and lament. It speaks of the two subjects constantly yet how often do we put them in to practice? We might pray and lament for circumstances in our lives or in the lives of loved ones and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. God calls us to bring our burdens before Him because He cares for us. I wonder though if we ever extend the prayers and lament to other people or places in our city that we might not encounter. Do we think beyond our own immediate circles to consider what issues, pains, tragedies, etc., have impacted our city/neighborhoods?
When we currently think about the Crenshaw district, and our city as a whole, do we consider the fact that they are grieving? Are we mourning and praying alongside our city over the loss of someone so important to Los Angeles? Just because you may not be familiar with Nipsey doesn’t mean you can’t try to cultivate a heart that is burdened for people in our city. We can be praying and weeping over what Nipsey’s life meant to LA and to South Central specifically. We lost an icon and a person who brought change to an area that most people would rather disregard. As we look at Nipsey’s killing, it was also the climax of a week where 26 people had been shot, with 10 fatalities, many of which were in South Los Angeles. Are we also praying for the violence and brokenness that affects so many throughout LA and that took Nipsey’s life?
Sometimes we adopt an “out-of-sight, out-of mind” approach and neglect the hurts of people we tend not to consider. Areas of our city are dealing with so much brokenness and the church should consistently be ones who pray & weep for these issues, especially if we say we “love our city”. Familiarize yourself with what’s taking place. With this Nipsey tragedy, look up his story, see what he was about, and see why so much of our city misses this man and grieves for him. Allow your hearts to be intentional with prayer and lament for Nipsey’s family/friends and Los Angeles.
Are We Known For Our Love for Neighbors and Our City?
Nipsey’s death brought to light so many stories of how he loved his community. Stories of how he owned properties and businesses that were for people in the neighborhood. Hiring people from within his area to work in his stores. Hiring a homeless man to sweep and clean up the storefronts in his shopping center. Helping to fix up schools in his neighborhood and buying shoes for students in the school. Opening a workspace in his community for young entrepreneurs in his neighborhood. Los Angeles native Propaganda wrote a blog on Nipsey as well and mentioned how he met a woman at the vigil who knew Nipsey. This woman told him she came down with a terminal illness and Nipsey paid for all her medical bills. He also sought ways to reduce gang violence and was scheduled to meet with LAPD the day after he was killed. When he was shot, he was meeting up with a friend at his store that just got out of prison after 20 years. He was going to get his friend some clothes so he can go see his family but unfortunately, in the midst of that kind act, he ended up getting shot.
The thing is, there are probably so many more personal stories from his people, his family, and his community that we will never know about. I have never seen a candlelight vigil as big as the one for Nipsey. It’s taken up most of the parking lot and even the businesses and corners nearby had vigils too. He built a legacy and people didn’t just love him because he was a famous rapper. Instead he was deeply loved and known for the ways he gave back and loved the community that raised him.
Now as I thought about how Nipsey was recognized, it made me start thinking about whether we as the church are known for the way we love our neighbors, communities, and city. This doesn’t mean we do all those things Nipsey did. I’m not saying we just start buying up properties or anything like that. But as our neighbors and communities see our churches, do they see a place of compassion, love, and hope? Do our neighbors see our churches as places of refuge and a place where they can come and feel “safe”? Do we seek the welfare of our city as a whole? Do our neighbors and communities look at the church, and at us individually, and see a group of people characterized by radical love for others? Have we taken time to get to know our communities and the people there? Do we love the poor and the broken? Are we willing to abandon comfort for the sake of loving our city?
Many of these questions came to my mind when I saw the reaction to Nipsey’s death and how so many people loved him because of what he did. The church should also stand out as a pillar within our communities and city for the way we love and minister to our neighbors. We can see the good in what Nipsey did and learn from that. Ponder those questions and think through how we can continue to effectively love our neighbors and Los Angeles.
Is God's Love and Glory Known to Others?
This love we’re called to display must be rooted in Christ. That’s the foundation from where our love pours out. We love because He first loved us. He loved by healing the sick and ministering to the poor and broken. He wept for others. He went and intentionally ministered to the people that most people wanted to avoid. He radically loved us by coming to this earth and dying in our place, taking our punishment so that we might have a relationship with the Father. He loved us when we were His enemies and completely unlovable. We didn’t deserve His love yet He willingly came to lay down His life for us. That was the love Jesus reflected.
For us as Christians, do we love people and do so in a way where they see Christ? Are we so radical in our love that Christ is the One who stands out and is glorified? Do our neighbors, communities and cities see the hope of the gospel by the way we live and love those around us? I think there’s a trap Christians can easily fall into where we set up a comfortable structure that doesn’t always reflect a radical, Christ-infused love towards others. We set up our own “rules to live by” and structure our lives in a way that doesn’t ever really challenge our own comfort. Is Christ seen in that? We should live a life where people not only recognize how we live/love but ultimately see the root of that love found only in our Savior.
There are some final thoughts I wanted to close with. First, I do recognize there are Christians who do radically love and point people to Christ by how they live. I don't want to disregard that there are many fellow brothers and sisters in the faith who are making Christ known amongst their communities/city. We can be praying and lamenting for our city/neighbors and intentionally looking for ways to love them so they can know the hope of the gospel.
In regards to Nipsey, one thing I keep going back to was how he was living out a dream to give hope to people who came from where he came from and struggled through the same struggles he went through. Coming from the streets, he could’ve easily sought comfort in staying far away from that area once he found success. But he stayed plugged in to the people of his community to inspire them and help bring about change.
I have never seen a funeral response for someone the way I saw it for Nip. They sold out tickets to his ceremony in a matter of minutes (held at the Staples Center). They did a 25-mile drive afterwards through South Central, Watts, and Inglewood and the number of people lined up, crowding the streets for him was beyond incredible. I saw social media updates all day, many filled with sorrow as they grieved and paid respect to Nipsey. It was televised on various TV channels and I know many people who tuned in that day because it was such a momentous occasion.
I remember seeing these types of ceremonies usually when a president would pass away or big time entertainer/leader. To see a Rollin 60 Crips member, community leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist, rapper, and Los Angeles hero get the same treatment goes to show us how important this man was, far more important than we might even realize. When celebrities pass away, people think of how they as a star will be missed. You don’t normally hear stories of how they impacted a community or city. It’s more focused on their career. Nipsey surpassed that and his music basically took a backseat to the work and life he lived for his community.
Again, I don’t know if I really could do him justice with these thoughts but I hope that we can recognize the good he did and how he really loved his neighborhood and the people there. He will be sorely missed and I pray for our city and his family/friends as everyone continues to grieve. Rest in peace Nipsey. You will always be an icon in Los Angeles.
Danny Neiditch is the founder and CEO of Prodigal Sons, Inc. Born and Raised in LA, Danny is a diehard Dodgers, Lakers, and street tacos fan. You can find him on Twitter @dannyneiditch.