From The Final Call Newspaper

Celebrating a mighty son of Georgia and a mighty servant of Allah

By Eric Ture Muhammad Contributing Writer @etmuhammad

Service attendees respond to words of comfort and guidance from Min. Farrakhan. Photo: J.A. Salaam

ATLANTA—The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan officiated the janazah prayer service for Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad at the historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church, which was once pastored by civil rights legend Reverend Ralph David Abernathy.

The 87 year old beloved “Rock of the South” transitioned on April 22. The Nation of Islam pioneer was known affectionately as “Minister Rahman” or “Brother Rahman” inside and outside of the movement he loved and dedicated his life to. “We thank Master Fard Muhammad, for choosing another son of Georgia, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. And we thank the Hon. Elijah Muhammad for his fearless, uncompromising stand on behalf of our people,” Min. Farrakhan said with the church pastor, Dr. Toussaint King Hill, Jr., sitting near him.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan offers prayers during Muslim janazah (funeral service), for Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad. Photo: Eric Ture Muhammad

“It is his example that Brother Rahman followed. It is his example that made us men. It is his example, his teaching, that made us women. It is his teaching that made us soldiers in a cause bigger than ourselves,” said Min. Farrakhan.

The Muslim janazah or funeral service is a brief message and prayers said for the deceased, the family and community. In the service is supplication, asking Allah (God) for comfort and support for the living and offering gratitude for the one the Supreme Being has allowed to depart this earth.

Mother Khadijah Farrakhan (left) First Lady of The Nation of Islam, con- soles the wife of Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad during services. Photo: Erick H. Muhammad

The shock of Min. Rahman’s passing produced a sense of loss, but Muslims traveled from near and far April 26-28 to celebrate his life.

“Brothers and Sisters we are sad, but we are exceedingly glad that Allah sent such a beautiful soul our way,” said Min. Ishmael Muhammad, student national assistant to Min. Farrakhan. “We are a grateful Nation, a grateful family. We ask Allah to comfort the family. And we ask Allah, God, not to deprive the family and a grateful Nation of his reward. And to not make us fall into a trial after him.”

“Brother Rahman is alive, but we perceive not. His work and his legacy remains for us to carry on,” he added.

A son of Georgia and disciple of Muhammad

He was born Samuel Saxon, Jr., the second oldest of five children October 1, 1931 in segregated Atlanta. Although he grew up in a household where acquiring higher education was emphasized as a way for Blacks to excel, he opted for the streets. Seeing the contradictions in how Blacks were treated affected him deeply.

He first heard the Teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad in 1955 in Atlanta, but later joined the Nation in Los Angeles in 1956 along with his wife Mildred, who he later renamed Zarifah Rahman Aquil, an educator. He relocated to Chicago in 1957 after the Honorable Elijah Muhammad hired his wife as an educator at Muhammad University of Islam—the Nation’s independent school.

Guests, family and well wishers at Muslim janazah (funeral) service for Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad. Photo: Eric Ture Muhammad

In Chicago, he rose when Supreme Captain Raymond Sharrieff made him a Lieutenant and then First Officer of the Fruit of Islam, the name given to the military training of the men who belong to Islam in North America. He and others established an Honor Guard for the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, an FOI squad specially trained in the security and personal safety of the leader. He served on the security team for a decade.

When Messenger Muhammad called on the Believers in Chicago for greater help one night, it was time to go. In 1961, he decided to return to the West Coast after Muslims from Los Angeles approached him. A stop in Miami revealed a struggling temple and he started working there. He was made Miami’s FOI captain. He stayed in Miami until 1969. It was in Miami that he “fished” Muhammad Ali into the Nation of Islam. Mainstream media erroneously credits Malcolm X for recruiting the young boxer, but it was “Captain Sam X,” as Min. Rahman was then called, who nurtured and advised the young athlete in boxing and faith.

The Rock of the South

From 1969 to 1975, Min. Rahman was sent to Atlanta as the minister and Southern Regional Representative of the Nation of Islam. His region spanned everything South of Washington, D.C., to the deepest U.S. southern border in Texas. It was in Atlanta that progress was made in economics and education. He led the Muslims to build a strong mosque, four restaurants, three fish markets, one bakery, a haberdashery, boutique, and a sewing center.

Unity and productivity resulted in two tractor trailer trucks and a refrigerated unit to transport fish. “We sold 100,000 pounds of fish a month,” Min. Rahman told The Final Call in 2004. The imported fish was captured into international waters, frozen and shipped to Nation of Islam mosques for sale under the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s economic program. The Muslim school went to the 12th grade with 18 teachers who never missed a paycheck. Mosque attendance was 1,100 to 1,500 every Sunday at both mosques under Min. Rahman’s leadership.

It was the early 1980s when Min. Rahman stood back up to aid Min. Farrakhan in the rebuilding of the Nation of Islam after major changes in 1975 and the total dismantling of the Nation, its economic program and rejection of the message of Elijah Muhammad.

He helped to bring the Nation back.

A life well lived

“To the beloved family of whom I am a member, to the beloved friends and followers of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad and to all those that his life touched: I know that if you could speak, you would have so many wonderful things to say about our journey with Brother Rahman,” Min. Farrakhan said to the audience packed into church pews. “But in Islam, our funerals or janazahs we are not permitted to do eulogies. … Because God knows the pain. He is the author of life and no soul comes to life without His permission and He also is the author of death. And none of us can die without His permission. … It is God who calls time, but ofttimes with our help,” he said. How we decide to live our lives largely sets the term for how long we live, the Minister explained.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and Assistant Minister Ishmael Muhammad con- duct services at the historic West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. Photo: Eric Ture Muhammad

The powerful message laid out the beauty of God as the giver of life offering guidance for life, accepting the will of God as the way to peace, gratitude for existence and proper service to God as exemplified by Minister Rahman. Prior to the funeral at the church, the remains of Brother Rahman lie in state at Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta.

“This was the best janazah I ever heard,” said Nation of Islam Student Southern Regional Representative Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad, who is based in Atlanta. “I think Christians, Muslims, Agnostics—everybody should take something from that. It was so clear. Everyone should receive that.”

Witnessing The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speak Saturday raised my reverence for The Author of Life and The Author of Death (God),” began Ms. Ankhet Amber Williams, founder of The Art of Esteem, an Atlanta-based international youth program. “As the Minister explained, ‘If you’re not at peace with God, then this (the loss of Minister Abdul Rahman) becomes a terrible, terrible event in the lives of those who are left behind. We are not here to fall down in sorrow. We are here to praise God for the life that he gave Minister Rahman,” she exclaimed.

“Hearing the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, drew me closer to understanding and left a sense of duty on my heart. The Minister reminded us, Minister Abdul Rahman lies here as an example to us of how he used the time that God gave him ... Rahman left with the praise of God on his lips!” and later the Minister asked, “who will take the baton? My heart raised it’s hand,” she closed. Ms. Williams added how thankful she was for being present for the janazah describing it as a “special moment.

Comforting words and meaningful memories

Service attendees respond to words of comfort and guidance from Min. Farrakhan. Photo: J.A. Salaam

Annie Muhammad, a Nation of Islam Pioneer and very close family friend of Minister Rahman and family, joined Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in 1969. “I was very pleased, I thought it was a very good Janazah because the Minister gave us some beautiful words. What Minister Rahman had done in this city and a lot of us were not aware of the things that he had done nor did during his administration. I know he had all the businesses; I know that, and we worked hard to make a mark in this city and that was some of the highlights that I really enjoyed hearing him speak of.”
She reflected how her children and Minister Rahman’s children grew up together. “With me being in the mosque a lot and helping, they all became friends. We are like family. They grew up together and Otha, my oldest son and Minister Rahman’s oldest son were best of friends. They all went to Howard University together. They came out together and his second home was Minister Rahman’s home. So I am blessed and happy that we were able to be here with his children during this bereavement. All of my girls came to this funeral and we went over to the house to help support them,” she said.

Under the Most Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Minister Rahman’s accomplishments in the South were unparalleled.
“He did such a work that when God called him to walk no more, to talk no more; he said enough. He did enough, that we can feed on the works of such a man and be inspired with the time that is left for us,” said Min. Farrakhan. “But he had a baton in his hand. Who will live the life that I lived? Who will walk the path that I walked? Who will suffer for the sake of truth like I suffered?” (See related story page 20.)

After members of the FOI and family hoisted the casket of ‘The Rock’ into the air, their chants of “Allah U Akbar!”—God Is the Greatest!—as the men loaded the remains of beloved Min. Rahman into the horse driven carriage that carried him to his internment at the Lincoln Cemetery.

Casket of Bro. Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad. Photo: Haroon Rajaee

After prayer and final words from the Minister, funeral goers placed earth on top of the casket with friends, Believers and family following suit. The casket was lowered, and the grave was filled in. Children of Muhammad University, whose photos adorn the walls of Minister Rahman’s welcome desk in the lobby of Muhammad Mosque No. 15 in Atlanta, lined up to help shovel earth.

“He’s (Min. Rahman) a good guy,” said Shahid Muhammad 11, of Muhammad University of Islam. “He represents the Nation of Islam and I’m glad that the Minister came here and spoke for him today. So he could honor him and what he did for the Nation of Islam and for Atlanta.”

“We knew him as ‘The Rock of the South,’ because he knew how to build and pull people together and get them to work,” reflected Abdul Wahid Muhammad, a pioneer and helper to Min. Farrakhan and a longtime friend of Min. Rahman. “He (Rahman) built the empire for the Nation of Islam in the South under the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad in the ’60s. He started in Miami, then was sent to Atlanta, and when he got there he went to work. He laid a strong foundation for the Nation,” he recalled.

“Even though I was in L.A. on the West Coast, we were always in competition with the Believers in Atlanta with Rahman and New York mosque under Minister Farrakhan. It was hard to beat the Atlanta mosque fishing and producing. They were strong competition and Rahman always challenged other cities to try to out-soldier them. He had the South wrapped up and the people loved and respected him.”
“I came in ’81,” Anjahil Muhammad told The Final Call. “Minister Rahman was back in the Nation shortly after that time. As much as he had accomplished and did and the people that he had knew in his life, he didn’t act like ‘I’m the Big I and you’re the little U.’ Everybody was just equal with him,” she said.

Anjahil Muhammad raised sons by herself. “My son said that he (Min. Rahman) would take them aside and I didn’t know this. When they were young and growing up in the Nation growing up without a father, and he would in part give words to them, encourage them and teach them to help them, you know to feel good about themselves and to be stronger young men. He had an impact on so many people, but he just was laid back and never talking about how wonderful he was. He was just wonderful.”
Throughout Atlanta you can find The Rock’s influence, in particular “The Bluff,” a Black neighborhood Muslims are working to revitalize with the 10,000 Fearless Headquarters of the South, which is devoted to making Black communities safe and decent places to live. Nearby is Blue Seas Restaurant, Your Supermarket and, of course, Muhammad Mosque No. 15, which Minister Rahman served for so many years.
A freshly painted mural adorns a wall of the Abdul Rahman Muhammad Fellowship Hall, painted by pioneer Theresa Muhammad of Mosque No. 15B.

Carriage escorts casket of Bro. Abdul Rahman Aquil Muhammad. Photo: Haroon Rajaee

Willie A. Watkins, funeral director and owner of Willie A Watkins Funeral Home in Atlanta handled Min. Rahman’s body transport. They had been friends since 1971. “I was a loan officer at Citizens Trust Bank, an all Black bank,” Mr. Watkins recalled. “When all of a sudden one morning, everyone ran upstairs telling me I had to do something. About ten Black men walked in the bank demanding to see the manager. Well, I went on down and took a peek, and it was Rock,” he chuckled. “Rock had $10,000 cash he wanted to deposit with the bank. Nobody in 1971 Atlanta had ever seen Black men coming to banks, handling money like that.”

He and The Rock were fast friends ever since. He worked with the trailblazing Muslim selling clothes at the Muslim clothing store. “He taught me business and how to be a man,” added Mr. Watkins.

Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens presents proclamation honoring Minis- ter Rahman Muhammad whose daugh- ter Rasheda Muhammad accepted on his behalf. Photo: Erick H. Muhammad

Minister Farrakhan thanked Pastor Toussaint Hill of West Hunter Street Baptist Church for making the church available. “Our thanks to you, dear pastor, for always opening the door of this historic house of worship to allow the Muslims to come and speak here; bury our dead here, marry and go into life’s journey from this sacred place,” he said.
The Minister also acknowledged the great liberators and fighters for Blacks who hailed from Georgia. “We could name all the great ones, but the Rock—of all the wonderful men and women that Georgia has produced, great spiritual guides, and teachers and warriors—I must be a little personal: Of all the warriors that Georgia produced, it is this warrior (Min. Rahman) that I believe it will be borne out that he was the greatest of them all.”

(Brian Muhammad, J.A. Salaam and Donna Muhammad contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks
By Bryan 18X Crawford and Barrington Salmon

More and more, Black athletes and entertainers are looking to expand beyond the field of expertise that gained them fame, notoriety and riches, and leverage these positions to help them make their same mark in the world of business. There are Black people who successfully transitioned from their respective art or sport, turning themselves into well-respected businesspeople and a positive example of what entrepreneurship looks like. The life of the late rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle personifies this point.

However, Ice Cube, Nipsey’s West Coast predecessor and elder—or “O.G.”—in the rap game and one of the founding fathers of the hip-hop genre known as “gangsta rap,” has been blazing big time business trails of his own for the past two decades.

Many are familiar with O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his acting roles in popular movies such as “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” series of films. However, in 2017, Ice Cube decided to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting involved in professional sports as one of the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 teams coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of players who have all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has become one of the premier events for basketball fans during the summer, a time when there isn’t a lot of competitive professional basketball going on.

O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson

Now entering its third season, Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

“The BIG3 is not part of the old boys club and that doesn’t sit well with a company like Charter, which has been called out many times for unfair treatment of minority organizations and for consistent disregard of its own customers,” Ice Cube said in a statement regarding his investor group’s bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN). The channels include networks in markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Ice Cube and the BIG3, should they win the bid, would then have the foundation in place to build a brand new national network with original programming, sports, and other culturally relevant content.

In an April letter written by the BIG3 to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the company accused Charter Communications of interfering with the BIG3’s investment group—which includes Ice Cube, fellow hip-hop legends LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg, basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler, tennis star Serena Williams, comedian Kevin Hart, and other prominent figures in sports and entertainment—bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks currently owned by Disney, which the company acquired in its recent merger with FOX. Disney has until June to sell the RSNs if they want to avoid antitrust issues in the future.

(l-r) LL Cool J, Serena Williams, Julius “Dr. J” Erving

BIG3 said that Charter threatened to drop the RSNs from the cable networks it owns should they come under new ownership. Preemptively making this threat would effectively lower the current $10 billion price package. However, what makes the move curious is that Liberty Media, Charter’s largest shareholder, is also bidding for the RSNs. Charter has been accused before by a Black man for biased practices. In 2016, Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination suit against the company, accusing them of not giving networks owned by minority groups the same broadcasting opportunities as White-owned media companies.

“In response to our filing, Charter says they are willing to talk to ‘whomever.’ Given their consistent animosity toward diverse ownership groups with inclusive messages like ours, we say we don’t believe them. Anyone who looks at the facts won’t either. They have done everything they can to keep us from owning these RSNs and that’s why we have asked the FCC and the DOJ to investigate,” Ice Cube said in a statement.

In response to the letter, Charter didn’t explicitly push back against the allegations, saying, “Charter currently has an agreement to carry these networks and welcomes the opportunity to discuss a future carriage agreement for these networks with whoever ultimately owns them, including Big3. Regardless of who owns the programming, we approach all negotiations with the same singular objective of reaching carriage agreements that best meet the needs of our customers.”

Ervin “Magic” Johnson

The BIG3 met on April 17 with the antitrust division of the DOJ, two days after the deadline to enter bids for the RSNs. Others in the bidding include conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Major League Baseball in partnership with Liberty Media.

At Final Call press time, it was unclear if anything regarding the sale had been resolved.

Cori Harvey, an attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the mere fact that Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Serena Williams and other athletes and entertainers have joined forces to purchase the sports channels is deeply significant. He predicts a ripple effect on Blacks and the larger Black community.

“If this succeeds, even the attempt I think, represents movement along a much needed path,” said Ms. Harvey, a former law professor at Florida A&M University. It shows that it takes generations to shift into this space of access and mentorship. African Americans have had to build across generations. This is also our Horatio Alger story. Hip hop and sports is often how we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

“This is a coming-of-age story. This is an example of employees buying the company. It shows that many hands make light work.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed.

“This is incredibly, incredibly important if we’re ever going to have a chance of moving our situation forward,” he said. “We’re seeing major assets and more media assets falling into fewer and fewer hands.”

Dr. Leon, who teaches at Howard University, said it is gratifying to see this clique of celebrities coalescing around a common goal. It’s important, he added, that the group appears to have the financial wherewithal to withstand whatever challenges they may face.

“They are not immune (to being derailed) but their financial wherewithal gives them a definite mechanism to withstand challenges,” said Dr. Leon, the political scientist, author, columnist and talk show host. “These resources put them at another level. They’ll have resources to pay an attorney like Willie Gary.”

The most immediate challenge is apparently Channel Communications and Liberty Media. According to the New York Post, BIG3 accuses Charter Communications of conspiring with Liberty Media and the owner of the Atlanta Braves and was trying “to pollute the bidding process.”

Ms. Harvey said, without knowing all the details, if Charter and Liberty Media may have engaged in, these tactics, it may be simply cut throat business as usual.

“I think a part of this is learning how to function in this environment,” she said. “It may not necessarily be a race-based issue. This may be a competitive obstacle. Some people may react viscerally to Black people seeking to jump into the bidding, but the Black celebrities are dealing with people who have had generations of exposure to this playing field. We see people battling for six inches of land, not willing to give up an inch of ground. Business is no different.”
“This is the cost of doing business. Throwing money to thwart the opposition isn’t unusual. It’s a part of the game, a part of the business. They are creating barriers to entry for all competition.”

Dr. Leon said those entering business and other arenas should come prepared to make a difference. “The only way to change the game is that you gotta play the game,” he said. “And the only way to win the game is to play the game. It may be a White man’s game, but I’m not ready to give it to them yet.”

Ms. Harvey said she’s struck by the positive turn this development represents.

“What jumps out is this is a shining light because many of these ills in the Black community are because of the impact of the hip hop culture of consumerism and violence,” said Ms. Harvey, a former Philadelphia public defender. “This a good foil.”

Dr. Leon argued the ownership group should seek to use the venture as more than a more investment. “If your belief system is not focused on the liberation of your people, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

Ms. Harvey disagreed with Dr. Leon’s premise, while noting the importance of what the ownership group is attempting to do. “We don’t have enough archetypes,” she said. “I’m sick of the fact that the only available archetypes are the drug dealer, hip hop artists and athletes. We often don’t have enough role models at high levels. Fourteen-year-old Black boys’ role models need to be a Black man in a suit. The image of Barack Obama and his beautiful, strong, Black family is something all of us can aspire to. All we can imitate is what we see.”

From The Final Call Newspaper

Muslim entrepreneurs open beauty supply store in Rockford

By William P. Muhammad

ROCKFORD, Ill.—Nation of Islam entrepreneurs, Henry X, his wife Keishonda X, and family business partner, Celidal Barge, recently hosted the official grand opening of the Kikifer’s Beauty Supply, Salon and Conference Center, as the city’s first Black-owned and operated all-in-one business outlet. The goal of the new business venture is to serve the needs of their West Side community through the manufacturing, sale, and distribution of hair and skin care products unique to the needs of the Black community.

“(For) young Black people in this city and abroad, we’re showing people that regardless to what the enemy does, that there is a way to be successful in business, and that you can make a lot of money,” said Henry X, CEO of the Kikifer’s enterprise and brand. “You can do it legally, you can do it lawfully, you can do it ethically, you can do it morally, and it can be done in an upright manner,” he said.

“You don’t need to sell drugs, and you don’t need to turn to the street, you just need to turn to the God that created you, and call on him (God), and then after calling on him, call on yourself.”

Explaining how Rockford’s Black community recovers less than one percent of the annual $400 million it spends for local goods and services, Henry X believes that through equality of opportunity, the expansion of a Black business base, and by recirculating Black people’s dollars back into their own neighborhoods, will not only help to make local residents into stakeholders, but also into beneficiaries of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s ‘Do-for Self” work ethic.

Although the store began operating weeks before the official April 6 grand opening, lifetime Rockford resident, and first time shopper at Kikifer’s Beauty Supply, Geneva Stewart, said she was happy to see the opening of a Black-owned business. She told The Final Call she was impressed with the customer service and familiarity of being among friends and acquaintances while visiting.

“I’m excited for a Black business to be opening, and it’s new and it’s something that we need in our community because there’s a lot of other races that have come and make good money,” Ms. Stewart said. “Why not support our Black people and build and do more stuff for the Black community?” she asked.

In addition to the goods sold by the Kikifer’s Beauty Supply store is the “services side” run by Kristina Dismuke, a nail tech, whose business offers Rockford’s West Side residents’ quality, courtesy and excellent customer service.

She said she hoped to serve as an example for others to gain the skill sets necessary for becoming business owners themselves. Ms. Dismuke also believes that color is not a barrier to success when you work hard and care first and foremost about your community and the people in it.

“There are very few of us, so for me to be out here to maybe encourage somebody else of color to do the same thing, or to maybe get in something that’s involved with something similar to what I’m doing, I think it’s great,” Ms. Dismuke said. “Don’t let your color be a barrier, or a limit, to what you can do. Let your color give you more of an advantage to pursue your dream, to pursue what you want to do, and don’t let anybody stop you and tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.

Aprel Prunty, a local community activist and advocate for improving the quality of life for residents of the city’s West Side, agrees. “I am so happy for Brother Henry and Sister Keishonda, and I think this is a wonderful step towards uplifting the community as well as bringing the African American community together,” she said.

“It’s one thing to say it, and it’s another thing to see it and do it, and I think Brother Henry and the Nation (of Islam) has not only said it, they did it, and they are doing what they can to make sure that others have the opportunity to do it, too.”

Student Minister Yahcolyah Muhammad, the Rockford Representative of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, and local head of the Nation of Islam Rockford Study Group, said when people see words becoming deeds and talk becoming action, they are motivated and inspired to do likewise.

“For so long, many outside of our community have provided our basic needs and we’ve become a consumer people, but now that we are seeing that we cannot only be consumers but owners and producers, it can change the narrative, and it can change the psychology of our neighborhoods, Student Minister Yahcolyah Muhammad said.

“We have to get busy with doing the work of making our communities decent places to live, so the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s blueprint for economics and community development must be applied throughout the entire country and definitely here in Rockford,” he said.

Kikifer’s Beauty Supply is located at 3424 N. Main Street, Suite A, Rockford, Illinois 61103, phone: (815) 708-7082. For more information, visit:

From The Final Call Newspaper

Nipsey’s Star Still Shines

By Richard B. Muhammad, Editor |

(L) The parents of Nipsey Hussle, Angelique Smith and Dawit Asghedom speak onstage during his Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California. (center) Samiel Asghedom speaks onstage during his brother’s Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California. (r) The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, speaks onstage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES—Hip hop’s prophetic voice is gone but the light that Nipsey Hussle offered to his neighborhood has spread and will light up the world, said family members, admirers, close friends, fellow artists and those who stood before thousands of people inside the Staples Center Arena to honor his music, his vision and his commitment to bringing life into the place where he grew up—and a place he never left.

The three-hour service was touching, inspiring and genuine as everyone from his mother to his father, his brother, his sister, the love of his life, his comrades, music greats, ministers and even former President Barack Obama spoke of the impact a man born Ermias Asghedom had and how his legacy must live on.

“The name Ermias in the language of the Eritrean people means ‘God Is Rising.’ The name Nipsey in that same language means ‘homie,’ a brother from the ’hood that never really left the ’hood. But now the world will embrace him as his life and his death changes the ’hood and produces a profound change in the world,” said the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, who offered words April 11 at a memorial service streamed online around the world and carried live on several TV networks, including BET Television and local TV stations in the City of Angels.

“Ermias was more than a hip hop artist. He was a voice a brilliant mind and the spirit of God was in his life,” said Min. Farrakhan, who was joined onstage by his Los Angeles representative Tony Muhammad and Nation of Islam Student Supreme Captain Mustapha Farrakhan. “His body is dead but the mind of Ermias Asghedom and the spirit of Nipsey is alive. Like a star in the universe that comes out of a black hole and a star dies, but the light of that star traveling 196,000 miles a second is still coming from space to reach us even though the star that produced that light is dead,” he added. (See related article

Photos are displayed during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life.

The Minister’s words were applauded as he urged the hip hop community and Black youth to turn away from violence in honor of Nipsey, who rose out of gang life in South Central Los Angeles and envisioned building a healthy oasis in the place where he grew up—and where many still struggle.

“Neighborhood Nip” might seem too simple for a man of profound work but his work was rooted in his neighborhood and crossing ’hood boundaries through music collaborations and supporting good works and progressive activity. He loved members of the Rolling 60s Crips, his homies, but worked with rival sets and Bloods, another street organization. The Crips and the Bloods once were sworn and deadly enemies, but Nipsey worked across the boundaries of the blue-clad Crips and the red-clad Bloods to keep gangbanging out of music and to present an example of how the groups could co-exist and have mutual respect. After his death March 31, allegedly at the hands of Eric Holder, Jr., who is a reputed member of the Crips street organization other gangs declared a truce and held a peace walk in Nipsey’s name. Mr. Holder is under arrest and charged with murder. 

Nipsey Hussle performs during his 'Victory Lap Tour' at The Warfield on June 27, 2018 in San Francisco, California.

Musical, video and personal tributes punctuated the service, showing Nipsey and his brother, Samiel, as children and their journeys to Eritrea, the homeland of his father, Dawit Asghedom. Two trips to Eritrea, one at age 18, had a profound impact on Nipsey, who was the son of a Black American mother, Angelique Smith, and an African immigrant father. Speakers shared how Nipsey showed brilliance as a child, testing for gifted classes at his own demand, building a computer from scratch and creating software to record his music and always having an entrepreneurial spirit. He would leave school as a teenager to pursue his music and was involved with neighborhood young people in street life.

Yet, he was different, charitable, humble, self-educated and willing to chart his own course. His first major label album, “Victory Lap,” was nominated for a Grammy Award earlier this year, but his legend is tied to how he used a scarcity model to promote himself. While others were giving music away, he sold 1,000 copies of his CD “Crenshaw,” for $100 each, with hip hop guru Jay-Z snagging 100 copies and sending him a check for $10,000. With money from that endeavor and others, Nipsey, joined by his brother and other partners engaged in business ventures.

Police gave them problems when they tried to turnaround an abandoned shopping center and make it a viable business center at Crenshaw Blvd., and Slauson Avenue, said his brother, Samiel Asghedom, at the service. But the owners of the L-shaped plaza, where Nipsey once sold CDs out of the trunk of his car, offered to sell the young hustlers the property, instead of evicting them as police wanted, said Samiel Asghedom. Somehow, said Nipsey’s older brother, they raised the money, purchased the plaza and opened the now iconic The Marathon product store, where ex-felons could find work. The smart store connects high technology to its clothing and other products, with customers able to scan tags for information and messages. Other blocks nearby were purchased and new businesses were started as well as an inner technology co-working space, Vector 90, which also houses a science, math and technology program for children and provides technology access for area residents. His work was also an example of how residents fearful of being pushed out of the Crenshaw neighborhood could resolve the problem by buying up the blocks.

Blue and white were dominant colors at the funeral but all colors were welcome with Nipsey’s casket surrounded by a wall of flowers with a huge screen in the background which showed home videos, family videos from trips to Eritrea, clips from his music videos and interviews.

“I know that we are all divine creatures. We are all divinity within. We don’t need to look to the sky for a God. God is within. I have perfect peace. I am happy. I am complete. I am strong. And if I can feel this way, so can you,” said his mother, who was dressed in white and exuded the dignity of her queen. She recounted the brilliance of her son, whose designation in her cell phone was “Soul,” with his brother designated “Heart.”

She poured a libation and asked the ancestors to accompany Nipsey on this new phase of his journey. “We’re burning, but we’re not destroyed,” she said. “I was talking to my cousin on the telephone. And one of the last things that I said to her was, ‘Belinda, the world that we live in is so wicked and evil. I feel so sad and I’m so troubled and it’s so very tragic that our children and our grandchildren are inhabiting this type of world.’ And I told her, ‘I really don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t know, but I think, I think that the only way to overcome the darkness is to be a light.” 

(l) Snoop Dogg speaks heartfelt words on stage about his fellow artist and friend. (r) Stevie Wonder performs on stage during Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center on April 11.

Music was performed by Stevie Wonder, which reflected verses from a song Nipsey wrote that mentioned playing the musical giant’s music at his funeral. Marsha Ambrosius offered an emotional rendition “Fly Like a Bird,” later Anthony Hamilton offered a song as part of uplifting musical tributes. Rapper YG, who is a Blood, talked about how Nipsey was like a big brother with their conversations about raising daughters, business and books. “I’m going to miss you bro,” he said.

Dawit Asghedom and Stevie Wonder spoke out about the level of violence in America and the need to combat violence. Stevie Wonder called for stronger gun laws.

Father Thomas Uwal, an Eritrean priest, offered words of consolation, sometimes speaking in Tigrinya, the native language of Nipsey’s father, and then translating those words into English. “Ermias was young. Ermias was visionary. Ermias was energetic. Ermias was full of hope. Ermias was full of life. Ermias was full of dreams. Ermias’s leaving was sudden and unexpected,” he said. “In times of challenge, in times of trouble like this, we hold on to our faith because God can heal our heart. God can comfort us. God can meet us every step of the way. The scripture said, Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you and uphold you with my righteous hand.” Isaiah chapter 41, verses 10.

“The second thing is to continue lending hands to the less fortunate people, to show compassion to the poor. And I think that was the greatest strength of Ermias. He did that. He invested in his community; he helped the less fortunate one; and he inspired his neighborhood. When it’s all said and done, we are not going to be judged by how much money we have, or what kind of cars we have or how rich we are, or we were. We are going to be judged by the impact we made to our fellow mankind.”

Rapper Snoop Dogg, who asked the audience to bear with him as he spoke of his brother and friend, shared how Nipsey’s initial approach was different, instead of promising to make a million dollars like most rappers seeking a record deal, the Crenshaw-bred artist simply asked Snoop to listen to his music. That was different, but Snoop didn’t listen at first, but later he did—from there came a relationship and collaboration.

Nipsey was so far thinking that he advised Snoop to start his own theme park based on Snoop’s brand and his music. The Long Beach, Calif.-bred rapper admitted he didn’t fully understand. But, he said, Nipsey built his own version of the theme park with his business, The Marathon Store, and his brand. 

YG and DJ Mustard attend Nipsey Hussle's Celebration of Life at Staples Center. Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed in front of his store, The Marathon Store, on March 31, 2019 in Los Angeles.

The service and the influence of Nipsey Hussle was illustrated by a letter sent to the family and read during the memorial from the first Black president. Former President Obama said he learned of Nipsey through his daughters, respected his work and called for its replication. The crowd applauded with gusto as the letter was read by blogger Karen Civil. “While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that even through its flaws taught him to always keep going. He chose to invest in that community rather than to ignore it,” Mr. Obama wrote.

Outside thousands pressed to get inside the downtown arena where vendors outside offered food, t-shirts and keepsakes, but the throngs were anxious to get in, despite heavy security and a lockdown of the arena. Not even the media could enter an outside working space, unless they had tickets. Nipsey’s music floated over the din of voices and congested traffic in the streets near the Staples Center as people posed for selfies, embraced one another and asked a passerby if he had an extra ticket.

Nipsey Hussle departed this life at 33 years old, which his sister, Samantha Smith, noted mirrored Jesus’ lifetime on earth and that was no coincidence, she said. His relationships went beyond Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the country as he toured to pursue his music and business ventures. Nipsey, in his teens, by his own accounts, began taking care of himself, hustling on the streets of Crenshaw to survive. According to media reports, there were over 101 million live streams in the two days after Nipsey’s March 31 passing. Streaming and purchasing the music was encouraged because the income directly benefits his estate. Victory Lap, his latest album, sold 64,000 copies the week of April 1. Other popular songs that were streamed included: Racks in the Middle featuring Roddy Rich and Hit-Boy (11.8 million); Dedication featuring Kendrick Lamar (9.6 million); Double Up featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy (8.5 million), Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG (7.1 million) and Hussle & Motivate (2.9 million.)

The proud West Coast rapper began his career in the mixtape circuit, selling his albums from the trunk of his car in Crenshaw. They were a success and helped him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. In 2010, he placed on hip-hop magazine XXL’s “Freshman Class of 2010”—a coveted list for up-and-coming hip-hop acts—alongside J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and others.

Nipsey, once signed to Sony’s Epic Records, hit a new peak with “Victory Lap,” his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several best-of lists last year, from Billboard magazine to Complex.

At this year’s Grammy Awards, “Victory Lap” was one of five nominees for best rap album in a year that saw hip hop dominate the pop charts and streaming services, and debates ensued about which rap albums would get nominated since a number of top stars released projects, including Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, Nas, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Migos and DJ Khaled. Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the honor in February, while the other nominees alongside Nipsey were Travis Scott, Pusha T and Mac Miller.

T.I., another Atlanta-based rapper, took to his Instagram Live account to talk about Nipsey and take questions from his fans. Nipsey, who had a reputation in the hip-hop community for being both studious, and an avid reader, was known to give books to people. When asked what book Nipsey gave him to read, T.I. answered, “Message to the Blackman by Elijah Muhammad.”

BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z, legendary rapper Master P, and rapper Meek Mill were among stars at the Staples Center memorial—where many pointed out the only larger funeral was the 2009 homegoing for Michael Jackson.

Perhaps the most touching moments during the funeral were when actress Lauren London, with Nipsey’s children and her children by her side in their blended family took the stage. Baby Kross, who is the product of the love of Nipsey and Ms. London, grabbed the mic several times though he could not fully speak. Nipsey’s daughter Emani, from a previous relationship, declined to speak but Kameron Carter, the son of Ms. London and rapper Lil Wayne, shared a dream he had about Nipsey after his passing.

“I realized Ermias told me what heaven was like. He told me it was paradise,” Kameron said. He asked the crowd to join him as he counted down from three to one and asked the crowd to repeat the word “respect,” a special saying he shared with Nipsey.

The hearse carrying Hussle’s coffin went through a 25-mile lap through the city, including past the property where Nipsey had planned to turn an aging strip mall into new businesses and affordable homes. Thousands of people crowded the streets, some on bicycles and motorcycles, following and surrounding the vehicle as it slowly wound its way to the funeral home. The silver Cadillac passed the rapper’s childhood home in Watts. It came to a halt at times, unable to move in the vast crowd of people.

The Fruit of Islam of the Nation of Islam, who were present throughout the weekend giving away nearly 150,000 free copies of the Nation’s Final Call newspaper, keeping the peace and consoling mourners at the memorial in front of The Marathon store where Nipsey was shot, shepherded the hearse through the massive crowd. Tony Muhammad, who has been serving the family, was right up front, helping to ease Nipsey’s journey. Perhaps as a sign of the work yet to be done, police reported an April 11 drive-by shooting of three people in the Crenshaw neighborhood after days of relative calm. One person died, according to police.

Still it didn’t dampen spirits, it bore witness to the powerful testimony of Ms. London who remember Nipsey as her protector, soul mate, and love. “The marathon continues!” she said, closing her heartfelt message as the Staples Center crowd roared its approval. Nipsey’s signature saying was life is a marathon.

(Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Nipsey's Life A Hussle That Motivates, resonates around the globe
By Bryan 18X Crawford | Contributing Writer | @MrCraw4D

The life, death and legacy of Nipsey Hussle not only deeply touched those who live in his Crenshaw community and the Greater Los Angeles area, but people across the country and around the world were mourning the 33-year-old man whose work in the streets and the suites was inspirational, and rooted in a commitment to build and help his people make progress.

Ermias Joseph Asghedom was seemingly born to be a bridge that connected people to worlds that seemed distant and in some cases, carried warning signs that read, “Do Not Cross.” The distance might have been as far away as the Horn of Africa or as close as blocks that surrounded the house where he grew up.

Born in 1985 to a Black mother from South Central Los Angeles, and a Black father from Eritrea, a country situated on the Red Sea in East Africa, Nipsey carried the DNA of a revolutionary, in his genes. His father, Dawit Asghedom, fled his home country in the midst of war where the combatants’ faces all looked the same, and landed in the U.S. where he would become politically active. In 1975, Dawit was photographed in New York City holding a sign that read, “Down With Apartheid and Imperialism.”

A decade later, his second and youngest son would be born in a place fighting a similar war in which the combatants’ faces, once again, all looked the same, and the son would embody a fearless spirit opposed to oppressive forces in South Central Los Angeles.

The name Ermias is Hebrew and when translated means “Sent by God.” A cursory look at Nipsey Hussle’s life, his works and response from the Black community and Black world in the aftermath of his death seems to bear witness to the meaning of his name.

Nipsey was born and raised in Crenshaw which is controlled by the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips; a community that is basically bordered on all sides by rival factions of the Bloods street gang. He joined the group. However, despite being affiliated with the Rollin 60s, unlike most members of Los Angeles street gangs, Nipsey was able to move, relate and associate seamlessly with those who were, by street code, the opposition, with essentially no beef—something unheard of in a city where having the wrong color rag (bandana) could lead to dire, and sometimes fatal consequences. He collaborated with artists in “rival” gangs and in media interviews talked about how he and others in Los Angeles built intentional relationships across gang color lines to keep conflicts out of the music and provide an example of how to enjoy mutual respect and mutual success. Those relationships went beyond Los Angeles and spread to other parts of the country as he toured to pursue his music and business ventures.

“If he met you, you were his people. That’s how he made you feel, and we don’t have a lot of people in this rap game who are like that. That’s why nobody is saying anything bad about Nipsey,” Terrance Randolph, a Chicago-based social media brand manager and influencer, known in the hip hop music industry as Hustle Simmons, told The Final Call. “I don’t know what purpose God had for his life, but he must’ve lived it out.”

By the time Nipsey Hussle was 14, by his own accounts, he had left home and begun taking care of himself, hustling on the streets of Crenshaw to survive. By the time his rap career had begun to take off and people started to recognize his name, acknowledge his talent and respect his art, Nipsey made sure to let everyone know, as the lyrics of one his songs go, he was a man with a different thought process, personal blueprint and unlike the usual “rap n****s” in the game.

“[We had a] real war in the streets. It was heavy. We were knee-deep into something real and it was about surviving and defending our opportunities,” Nipsey said in a 2018 interview with Mass Appeal. “I’m conscious that there’s an intentional pushback against people that look like me. I’m supposed to be in jail or dead. There’s a whole prison complex [that exists.] Then, you think about as an artist, there’s a business model that exists in the music industry that prevents you from having ownership; that prevents you from being a partner in the lions’ share of the profits. … When I said I was the Tupac of my generation, Pac was intelligent, but in our culture—street culture, especially in his generation—intelligence is viewed as weakness. So, how do you get the people affected by what we’re really trying to solve, involved?”

For Nipsey, the answer was being an example of what Black ownership meant and looked like, which in itself, was a game changer, especially for those from his community. With family and partners, he purchased the strip mall where he once sold CDs out of a car trunk, opened businesses, advocated for children and created a shared work space for techies in the hood.

According to media reports, there were over 101 million live streams in the two days after Nipsey’s March 31 passing. Streaming and purchasing the music benefitted, was encouraged because of the income directly benefits his estate. Victory Lap, his latest album, sold 64,000 copies the week of April 1. Other popular songs that were streamed included: Racks in the Middle featuring Roddy Rich and Hit-Boy (11.8 million); Dedication featuring Kendrick Lamar (9.6 million); Double Up featuring Belly and Dom Kennedy (8.5 million), Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG (7.1 million) and Hussle & Motivate (2.9 million.)

The proud West Coast rapper began his career in the mixtape circuit, selling his albums from the trunk of his car in Crenshaw. They were a success and helped him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. In 2010, he placed on hip-hop magazine XXL’s “Freshman Class of 2010”—a coveted list for up-and-coming hip-hop acts—alongside J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and others.

Jay-Z even bought 100 copies of Hussle’s “Crenshaw” for $100 each in 2013, and sent him a $10,000 check.

Nipsey, once signed to Sony’s Epic Records, hit a new peak with “Victory Lap,” his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several best-of lists last year, from Billboard magazine to Complex.

At this year’s Grammy Awards, “Victory Lap” was one of five nominees for best rap album in a year that saw hip hop dominate the pop charts and streaming services, and debates ensued about which rap albums would get nominated since a number of top stars released projects, including Drake, Eminem, Kanye West, Nas, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Migos and DJ Khaled. Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” won the honor in February, while the other nominees alongside Nipsey were Travis Scott, Pusha T and Mac Miller.

Touching South Central, America and the world

With his passing, his revolutionary and inspirational spirit traveled beyond the borders of the Crenshaw district, Greater Los Angeles, and touched Black communities throughout the U.S., and as far away as Africa and Canada.

“We have to move and act as a fraternal organization, as businessmen, and people that care about our communities and make an actual investment like Nipsey did,” said rapper Killer Mike at a Nipsey Hussle memorial vigil held in Atlanta just days after his death.

Killer Mike added, “We have a choice. We don’t have to be nobody’s savages. We don’t have to be their examples of the wrong way [to go]. We gotta be no thugs that’s been thrown away. That rag that’s over your forehead or [hanging] out of your left pocket, is better served wiping the sweat off your head for the work you’re doing on behalf of your community in a way that does not murder other Africans.”

“A sucker took out a king. … A real king to this era,” said Harlem-based rapper Dave East for an impromptu memorial gathering he organized to commemorate the life of Nipsey Hussle. “I was a kid when Big and Pac died, so I couldn’t feel that. I feel this. … Don’t let his name die.”

Other vigils were held in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Birmingham, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, San Diego and as far away as Vancouver, Canada,

In Houston, more than 1,000 people gathered in the Midtown section of the city, at the behest of Houston-based rapper Trae The Truth, all clad in Blue, to release balloons in honor of the slain star.

“Some people loved him for the person he was, some people loved him for his music. But regardless, people loved him as a partner, as a brother, as a father. Anything he was, he gave it his all and it was genuine. And these days, you don’t find too many genuine people,” Trae The Truth told NBC News affiliate KPRC in Houston.

T.I., another Atlanta-based rapper, took to his Instagram Live account to talk about Nipsey and take questions from his fans. Nipsey, who had a reputation in the hip-hop community for being both studious, and an avid reader, was known to gift books to people. When asked what book Nipsey gave him to read, T.I. answered, “Message to the Blackman by Elijah Muhammad.” Nipsey’s respect for the Nation of Islam isn’t something that was widely known publicly, but he never shied away from it. He, along with his friends, once famously threw rocks at the Los Angeles Police Department in defense of Student Minister Tony Muhammad of Mosque No. 27, who showed up after a young man was killed in Nipsey’s Crenshaw neighborhood.

“I remember some years back, one of our close friends from our area got killed and [Min. Tony Muhammad] came on 10th Avenue,” Nipsey Hussle explained in video posted on Min. Tony Muhammad’s personal Instagram page. “The police had put a cover on the young man’s face, and the cover was going up and down. There was people who knew the young dude telling the [paramedics] that he was still breathing, that he was still alive. But they just sat there and let him expire on the scene. But Tony Muhammad showed up and represented our community and he stood up. But he ended up having an altercation with the LAPD, but people in our area and myself specifically, always respected him for that.”

Said Min. Tony Muhammad in the caption for his video post, “I will never forget our Brother, a Giant ‘Nipsey Hussle’, he stood up for me years ago when we had an altercation with the LAPD in his Hood! Now I will continue my work of bringing an end to the killings of each other, in his name.”

While the impact of his death hit hardest here at home, it also resonated and affected those of Eritrean descent who live here in America and Africans on the continent.

Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones went online and uploaded a freestyle video devoted to Nipsey Hussle.

In Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, candles were lit during a memorial service for the beloved artist. “With poems and speeches, Ethiopians have held an emotional farewell for murdered rapper Nipsey Hussle, whose roots in neighbouring Eritrea won him admirers in both countries,” AFP reported April 7.

“ ‘When we heard there’s an Eritrean rapper out there, we were fans before we heard his music,’ ” said Ambaye Michael Tesfay, who eulogized Nipsey at the event held in a darkened parking lot. “ ‘He was an icon for us,’ ” AFP said. Despite conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia before a peace pact last year, Ethiopians shared their pride about Nipsey’s music and impact. “‘We’re all one people,’ ” Nemany Hailemelekot, who organized the gathering that drew hundreds of people, told AFP.

Eritreans paid their respects to Nipsey Hussle with many offering their feelings via social media. Journalist Billion Temesghen tweeted April 1: “Ermias Asghedom AKA Nipsey Husle was an Eritrean rap star, a preformance phenomenon, who had just returned home. In my pleasant talk with him I was delighted to learn of the Eritrean & African pride he carried deep inside him. He is a legend. compassionate compatriot. We miss him.”

“#NipseyHussle stood for #Eritrea when he was alive & he is still standing from heaven. His life is reinvegorating Eritrean youth to follow his footseps to stand for country &people despite all enmity thrown at them. Nipsy is rendering all anti-Eritrea campaigns mute. Rest in P,” tweeted Amanuel Biedemariam, who often writes for an Eritrean website.

Nipsey’s two visits to his father’s native homeland, once as an 18-year-old young man still trying to figure out who he was and his place in the world, and the second time as a recording star had a profound effect on him.

On his last visit to Eritrea in 2018, Nipsey was treated as a dignitary who seemed to understand who he was and what he represented, while being fully aware that he was both a voice and example for two distinct peoples with a long history of fighting against injustice and oppression, not just one.

When asked by Eritrean journalist Billion Temesghen to describe in his own words what hip-hop is, Nipsey Hussle’s answer was both deep, and profound.

“[Hip-hop is] a form of expression for young people who have so much to be told. It is a vocabulary, it is an art and it is a culture that originally was only of young people in America but now has gone global. The neighborhoods from where Hip Hop came out had unique environments and situations that made people search for a real and efficient form of expression. From police brutality to gang cultures, the riots, racial discrimination and more unique events that urged the growth of Hip Hop in terms of music and Hip Hop in terms of culture and identity.”

He added, “The story of Hip Hop is similar to that of Jazz. Music in America was an expression of our struggles; being black in America. And I, as an Eritrean American, I feel connected to this aspect of the African American history. My father is from Eritrea and we have always been in touch with our Eritrean ancestry and culture thanks to him. However, we still grew up in South Central LA all of our lives. So our exposure was to the culture of Los Angeles, which was gang culture. I was born in 1985 and grew up in the 90s. … All of the social issues that took place back then happened in our backyard.”

When asked what it meant to have roots and ties to a place that has experienced its own share of violent struggle in the fight for independence, Nipsey’s answer poignantly encapsulated the parallels of life growing up in South Central Los Angeles, where the expectation for Black men is a life that leads to death, not one that can garner the love, respect and admiration of millions all around the globe.

“I am proud of being Eritrean. The history of our country, our struggle and the underdog story, the resilience of the people and our integrity is something that I feel pride in being attached to,” he said.

“He embodied Pan Africanism. He was a bridge between the two worlds of East Africa and the hood, which is really important,” former professor and Los Angeles native Kwame Zulu-Shabazz told The Final Call. “So, he was hood but also very Pan African, and he was proud of it. That’s something that we need more of, too. Part of the reason that we’re lost in the U.S. is because we’ve been disconnected from our roots, and brothers like that can help us reconnect and affirm that Africa is a positive place, and that there are positive things going on in Africa that can make us proud of our heritage as African people.”

His family and close friends, while understandably still mourning and trying to make sense of his tragic death, seem to all take some solace in reminiscing on the good things he did for himself and his family, but also the positive impact he made in the lives of others.

“He recognized at an early age his own capability. His own potential. He has always known,” Nipsey’s mother, Angelique Smith, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I would like for him to be remembered as a humble, spirited, respectful man who had, since his childhood, an extraordinary and unlimited intellectual capacity.”

Said his brother, Samiel “Blacc Sam” Asghedom in the same LA Times piece, “There’s a lot of politics within the area that we grew up in, but he stayed the course and showed what he was about. He made something work in an area that was run-down, that people were scared to come to, and he turned it into a landmark.”

Lauren London, mother of Nipsey’s two-year-old son Kross, told the newspaper that her fiancĂ©e, “was a protector and wanted us to be our best at all times. He was a truth seeker and truth speaker. I’m going to keep my head high and always represent for my king to the fullest.”

Dawit Asghedom remembered his son this way.

“It was like he was sent by God to give some love to bring us together because that’s what his lyrics were saying, always,” the elder Asghedom said, adding, “He’s not shy to tell the truth even though it might not look good. He wasn’t scared of anything. [God] sent him to send a message. It looks like, ‘Your time is up because you have completed what I sent you to do.’ We all have a plan, but God has his own plan. So he had completed what he needed to be doing and he did it early so [God] probably wanted to take him early too.”

From buying up the block, to creating businesses that employed Black people, aimed to educate them, and give them a space to be creative and help develop and realize their dreams, Nipsey Hussle was a man of the people because he was a man who saw what their needs were and took it upon himself to do what he could to help provide opportunities and a platform for others, because at one point in his life, he was looking for someone to give him the same opportunities and guidance. His death has seemed to galvanize the Black community, and this was evidenced by the recent gang truce that happened in the wake of his death. Over the April 7 weekend, hundreds of Crips, Bloods, and members of L.A.’s various Hispanic gangs, all marched through South Central together, gathering in front of Nipsey’s Marathon clothing store and standing in solidarity with one another as brothers and sisters in the same struggle, committed to carrying on the legacy of independence and ownership, which was Nipsey’s messaging in the final stages of his young life.

“My recent music is about the reality of the business; the challenges of working for your own business and how to be a Black young successful entrepreneur,” he told Ms. Temesghen. “I want my music to be an inspiration of individual growth in the economic sector. That is the path I took as I grew up and I want to put it in music. My life is different from when I first came out as a teenager with expressions from the teenage perspective of young men in the streets. Now, as I grew older and became successful in music and business my perspective changed accordingly. And so my art evolved with it.”

Ms. Temesghen explained to Nipsey in their interview that Eritreans had translated his name in their native Semitic language of Tigrigna, to “Nebsi,” which means “self,” and in Eritrean slang terminology, loosely means “homie,” giving his name dual-meaning in the country among Eritrean people: “Self Hustle,” or the “Hustle of Homie.” Ironically, this dual meaning of Nipsey’s stage name in Eritrea, fits perfectly with who he was back in America: a self-hustling homie whose fearlessness motivated and inspired others to follow his lead and do the same.

At Final Call press time, a memorial service was planned for April 11 at the Staples Center in Los Angles, which holds 21,000 people. It was expected to be full.

(Final Call staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

From The Final Call Newspaper

Rebuilding and Buying the Block
By Bryan 18X Crawford 

The entertainment world, and the Black community at large, collectively felt the loss and pain of the tragic and untimely passing of 33-year-old West Coast hip hop artist Ermias Asghedom, known professionally as Nipsey Hussle.

“Neighborhood Nip,” as he was commonly referred to, was gunned down, shot multiple times on March 31 in the parking lot outside of his clothing store, The Marathon, located in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles.

Nipsey Hussle owned the plaza where the business was located, which is situated near the intersection of Slauson Ave. and Crenshaw Blvd., one of the busiest in Los Angeles.

In the 1980’s Crenshaw was one of the most violent sections of L.A. due to the influx of drugs and gangs, most notably the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips.

The shooting occurred at approximately 3:20 p.m. PDT, a little more than 30 minutes after Nipsey sent an eerily cryptic tweet that read, “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”

Born in 1985 in Los Angeles to an Eritrean father and a Black mother, Nipsey Hussle rose to prominence in the world of hip-hop in 2005 with his debut mixtape, “Slauson Boy Volume 1.” From there, Nipsey went on to release a bevy of underground mixtapes that quickly established him as next up in a long line of MCs from the Los Angeles area. Nipsey reached the pinnacle of his music career with the release of his “Victory Lap” album which was nominated for a Grammy in 2019.

However, in the process of rising up the ranks of hip hop, Nipsey seemed to find a bigger purpose that moved beyond just making music, and that purpose was giving back to the community that raised him and the people who helped shape him.

Businesses, buying property, independent building brands

Nipsey was widely seen as an authentic and relatable person and was true to his stage name.

He was a hustler in every sense of the word. And given the conditions of the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw section of Los Angeles, he had to be in order to survive.

Crenshaw has a population of almost 31,00 people, 72 percent of them are Black, and seven out of every 10 people living in the area, are renters. In Crenshaw, the unemployment rate is double the national unemployment at 6.7 percent.

After leaving home at age 14 to begin living on his own, Nipsey learned to turn negatives into positives—and cold hard cash. Some stories are legendary.

In 2013, he made $100,000 selling 1,000 copies of his “Crenshaw” mixtape for $100, something that was unheard of, especially in an era where artists gave mixtapes away for free on the internet. Crenshaw sold out in less than 24 hours, with Jay Z, another rapper who made a name for himself in hip hop as a legendary hustler, buying 100 copies of the tape as a way to show his support.

Nipsey then took that money, created his own record label, and released another mixtape, “Mailbox Money,” under his All Money In imprint, pressing up just 100 copies with a price tag of $1,000 each. He sold 60 of them.

Just this year, Nipsey and his business partner, another Black man, purchased the shopping plaza where his clothing store was located. When he was younger, the owner of the plaza wouldn’t let area kids hang out around the stores. This angered Nipsey so much that he had a desire to one day own it.

And he did.

In addition to an upgraded version of his Marathon clothing store, Nipsey’s final vision was to add a barbershop, a restaurant, and fully redevelop the property into a six-story, mixed-use residential and commercial building, all in an area of town already going throughout extensive amount of development and change.

“This is us trying to disrupt retail, create a theme park for the brand. This is us trying to create a retail network to become vertically integrated. This is us trying to super-serve the core with an upgraded experience. This is us trying to fuse hip hop, fashion and tech,” he said of his vision for the shopping plaza. “So I think that we’re just putting our chips on experience. We think this is where retail is going. So we want to be one of the leaders.”

Last year, Nipsey and his partner in the real estate project, created Vector90, a 47,000 square foot co-working space, cultural hub and business incubator, featuring high-speed internet, conference rooms, tech training, and a professional development program and launch curriculum for startups. It also offers technology to neighborhood residents.

“Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody—not to give me anything—but somebody that cared. Someone that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside of their own self interests,” Nipsey said at the Vector90 launch. “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,’ and that’s cool. But there should be something that says, ‘Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg,’” he told Forbes magazine.

Nipsey also launched “Too Big To Fail,” a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program for youth in Crenshaw that he wanted to turn into an academy situated in the same space as Vector90. Ultimately, Nipsey had planned to take the program to other cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

“I remember feeling, like … Maybe I’m tripping. Maybe I’m not even supposed to be ambitious; maybe I’m not even supposed to be thinking this big and thinking outside the box. That’s a dangerous thing,” Nipsey said in a Forbes interview, explaining the thought process that led into the creation of Too Big To Fail. “I would like to prevent as many kids from feeling like that as possible. Because what follows is self-destructive.”

Nipsey was an early pioneer and investor in cryptocurrency since 2013. Believing that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency were on their way to mainstream adoption, he invested in Follow Coin, a crypto company based in Amsterdam.

“Because this currency is not linked to central banks. It’s unregulated. That means a lot for the power structure that exists now,” he explained. “People that’s in power—the central banks, these fiat currencies that are traded globally—they got influence over the messaging and the narrative in the media. When you see people on Fox and traditional investors saying, ‘Don’t invest. Don’t put your money in these coins,’ that’s not actual financial advice. That’s political rhetoric.”

Nipsey gained quite a bit of notoriety for not only his business sense, but the many ways in which he was committed to leveraging all that he knew and learned, by giving back.

He used money earned from his rap career, combined with his business acumen, and charted a course toward creating a blueprint to generational wealth that other Black people could follow.

“Nipsey Hussle was very rare. There aren’t too many successful, young Black men who have dedicated and committed themselves to uplifting their community. His is an irreplaceable loss because we don’t often get that kind of a brother in the hood very often,” Dr. Kwame Zulu Shabazz, a former Knox College professor who was born and raised in Inglewood, just a few miles from the Crenshaw District, told The Final Call.

“He had the potential for being a revolutionary model for what Black people could do. A lot of people, when they get successful, they try to get out of the ’hood. But Nipsey stayed in the muck and mire of the wilderness, trying to do something different. He had the potential for greatness and was on the path towards that, he just got caught up.”

“Nipsey was one of us. He was for us. It’s rare that you get those rappers who are for us; the people,” Terrence “Hustle Simmons” Randolph, a music industry veteran in the areas of social media marketing and brand management, who knew Nipsey Hussle, told The Final Call.

“This is definitely one of those Tupac and Biggie moments, not just in music, but in Black history. The one thing Nipsey had that a lot of rappers didn’t, was the ears of the young people. The people who were willing to sit down, listen and learn something. He was telling them about entrepreneurship. He was teaching them about Dr. Sebi, which a lot of them didn’t know about. He taught them how to stand for something. He taught them that it was cool to make your money and then come and buy back the block. He spoke about economics. He made it cool to love your girl and be out in the public with her, holding hands. He was about family in an era of men jumping from woman to woman.

“And, he was Eritrean. For him to be of true African descent, and from South Central LA, and to see him do all the things he did, his loss, we feel that. It hurts.”

“This is terrible loss for the hood because he’d really tried to pick us up with him on his rise to the top,” Mr. Shabazz said. “But we need to follow his example and try to carry on as best we can. Nipsey laid out a road map, and he has a legacy, and hopefully we can use this galvanize ourselves and do something about the violence and try to continue on and honor his legacy… Nipsey should also be a reminder that there is so much talent in the ’hood, it’s just misdirected by design.

“But there’s lots of brilliance in the ghettos of the U.S. masked as lost potential. We just have to figure out how to harness and maximize that potential and not allow ourselves to become distracted by all this craziness out here.

“South Central is one of the oldest, and largest Black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and Nipsey was well respected there,” filmmaker and LA resident Tariq Nasheed, told The Final Call. “He created business opportunities for the people, he gave a lot in terms of his time, his expertise in the world of business and music, he gave a lot of money to people; this guy was beloved throughout the whole community, and it transcended the different gang lines. Everybody loved this brother.”
Despite being a known Crip, Nipsey seemed to be immune from gang-related beefs involving himself directly, and he garnered respect from many associated with various factions of Bloods active in Los Angeles.

“I’m not the most well-versed in the Crips and the Bloods culture, but he was the type of person that gave so much respect to people, it made you have to give that respect back to him,” Mr. Randolph said. “That fact that Nipsey being a Crip and YG being a Blood, could work together and use their influence to get brothers to unite and see the bigger picture of what can be done by coming together, and the power associated with that, based on respect, was powerful.”

The pain of losing another Black man to gun violence, let alone one who in addition to being a talented musical artist, was also a forward-thinking visionary and entrepreneur, was palpable in the Black community; and not just in Los Angeles, but across the country.

Legendary Houston-area rapper Willie D, who rose to fame in the early 90s as a member of the group, The Geto Boys, was visibly shaken speaking about the slain hip hop artist.

“We talk about giving back. Here’s a man that made it out, went back, and helped as many people as he could,” Willie D said. “We are at war. We can’t afford to lose soldiers, especially the good ones. We gotta protect our soldiers at all costs ... Nip was solid, man. He was in the industry, but he wasn’t industry. He was self-made, loyal, consistent, just an all-around good dude. I don’t know what happened or what it was about, but I know ain’t no way Nip did nothing to deserve that.”

“There’s a cloud over the community right now. Everybody is extremely sad. The energy is off,” Mr. Nasheed said. “He was such a great dude; the kind who would give you the shirt off his back. He was very rare and you don’t come across very many people like that. And he was young. He was only 33, but he’d already accomplished so much.”

The Game, a Los Angeles native and well known rapper who was close to Nipsey Hussle despite their opposing Crip and Blood affiliations, recorded an emotionally charged Instagram Live post driving down Slauson Blvd. at 4 a.m., emotionally shaken over the death of his friend.

“I can’t sleep behind what happened to Nip, man,” The Game said. “I’m disgusted!”